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597 Central Avenue 1-650-618-8527
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

School website
(408) 475-1024
(650) 618-8527
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Map of Helios New School address.

July 27, 2015
For a few years the school has been growing 50% per year, and is not over its growing pain yet. At this rate of expansion, the school is in general dysfunctional and disorganized. For weeks after moving to its current location students were told to do "quiet choices" daily--that is, they can do whatever they want as long as they are quiet--while the teachers were busy unpacking boxes or shelving books. For months there was no drinkable water--the school was too cheap to improve the system. The new campus is large but looks like a dump--no sports facilities or landscaping, only an ugly building and a parking lot covered by concrete. Teachers are not valued enough and are constantly coming and going. There are lots of non-teaching administrators who boss teachers around, and a whole band of ever-changing, disqualified and ineffective part-time teachers responsible for foreign languages, music, and technology and PE (curiously considered as 1 subject). There is no art--you need to pay to join the after school club for art. For a school charging almost twice as much as others in the area, only slightly less than Nueva, this all seems unthinkable. Not worth the money.

- submitted by a parent

June 04, 2015
Our child has been with Helios for four years and it has been a fantastic experience. The academics are completely solid. They track the students according to ability and then encourage them to stretch from there. Standardized tests are used to identify areas of weakness and provide parents with a measure of comfort that the kids are tracking to state standards, notwithstanding the lack of regular quizzes, tests, etc. As an example, our child is working the Singapore math curriculum two years ahead of grade level. At the local public school, this would equate to the child sitting through (already covered) grade level math during the day and then taking a supplemental course at night. Instead, our child does all of the work in school, very rarely has math homework, and progressed on track by the end of the year (i.e., stayed two years ahead). This meant no boredom during the school day because the math teacher is fantastic, and more time for activities or play after school.

- submitted by a parent

April 20, 2015
Our family has been with Helios for several years now and couldn't be happier. By design Helios is informed by best practices in gifted education. Helios understands that the goal is not to push kids to extract the most achievement but rather to nurture and support them so that their own curiosity can flourish. We have found at Helios a unique combination of teachers, staff, curriculum and community that, in concert, result in a truly special place. The kids are engaged. They form relationships with peers that are deep and genuine and beautifully complex. The teachers and staff care about and understand each child. The community of families includes some of the kindest, most supportive and most interesting parents we ve known. Perhaps the best testament to the impact Helios has had on our kids is seeing their joy and enthusiasm to go to school every morning and how, during school breaks, all they can talk about is getting back to school and their friends. We feel very fortunate to have found Helios.

- submitted by a parent

April 11, 2015
A young school can be an occasionally rocky place to teach, but I ve turned down several other attractive job offers in my years at Helios for the opportunity to stay and help build this remarkable program. What makes Helios such a great place to teach? There s solid trust between colleagues; Helios has a notable absence of the office politics that can consume faculty lounges. I have rewarding, multi-year relationships with families. Our head of school recognizes teachers strengths and places them in positions that play to those strengths. I ve worked at both traditional and progressive independent schools. The traditional schools tended to discourage authentic respect for children; the progressive schools, while caring, were frequently short on intellectual rigor. Helios has an exquisite balance of both that permeates the school's culture, distinguishes it from its peer schools, and makes Helios a fantastic place to teach. There have been some growing pains at Helios, but they are normal for a school at this point in its evolution, and they re nearing completion. What is emerging is one of the strongest, most humane schools I ve seen in a long time.

- submitted by a teacher

March 28, 2015
We liked the idea of project-based learning, synthesizing all subjects excluding math under one broad topic with interconnected stories. There is no textbook, no notebook, and almost no homework. The positive reviews by kindergarten parents show that it works for them. But as you get to higher grades this approach turns out to be problematic. There is not much teaching or learning in the classroom, but a lot of fiction reading and creative writing. Science becomes science fiction, and history becomes historical fiction. Foreign language is simply a failure. We do want our child to be imaginary and to have fun, we do dislike rote memorization, but we also feel that he should be studying something real as he moves on to middle school. That the students are gifted and can learn on their own is no excuse for substandard teaching.

- submitted by a parent

March 28, 2015
My child is in middle school. I know of no other school with a curriculum that requires this level of original thought and work. Many parents equate rigor with acquisition of facts and progress through textbooks. Our family prefers an education that teaches students to apply the skills and knowledge they ve learned to solving problems. Helios excels at this type of education. One of the recent expeditions, titled The Nature of Change , began with an examination of systems using the concrete example of the redwood systems. Students performed a variety of science experiments on other physical systems to learn how changes in one part of a system affect the whole. They then moved on to the study of social systems. This included study of three major periods of change the Industrial Revolution, the American Revolution, and the Civil Rights era. Finally each student researched a person who had made important changes in the world, and built a website on the change-maker they had chosen. In math, my fifth-grader is working on pre-algebra and classmates in a more advanced group are working on algebra.

- submitted by a parent

March 25, 2015
I was amazed to read the 1 star review(s) of my son's school. We absolutely love Helios, and would encourage any parent of a gifted child to check out our school. Helios is incredibly innovative and thoughtful in its teaching. Our head of school, is an incredible leader. The leadership team has built such a solid curriculum, and has brought so much expertise, specifically with hands-on project based learning. The staff knows my child, they deeply care, and so do my son's classmates/parents. This is the last place I would worry about "bullying." I think you really have to see for yourself.

- submitted by a parent

March 16, 2015
Too much theory, too little practice. If you want to hear about gifted children s special needs, Helios is a great place they host many talks and workshops on visual-spatial learning, asynchronous development, SEL Giftedness is their branding and they just can t stop talking about it. But if you are a gifted child with precisely such needs the school does nothing to help you. If they spot it they screen you out and deny admission. If you get in, they stigmatize you and tolerate verbal and even physical bullying. Blame the victim seems to be the school policy. Unethical and unprofessional. It s hard to believe that it s all fake but we re not the only disillusioned family. A betrayal of gifted education indeed.

- submitted by a parent

March 16, 2015
I am a mom of a kindergartner at Helios and the school has done a wonderful job helping my son adjust to kindergarten - prior to this, he did not want to go to school. At Helios he is engaged, learning (reading at the 3rd grade level after starting the year at the K level), enjoying math (not learning rote facts, but rather understanding the concepts), learning how to play/ work with other kids and navigating social emotional issues that are common with gifted kids (and all kids) his age. Personally, I find the campus delightful - the kids and teachers work together to create a wilderness habitat, build bunny hutches and just this morning were building a fairly large working model of the Stevens Creek reservoir system. My son talks about the work they do to build areas that are meaningful to them - he is proud of his school. The school took over a new building at the start of the year and has spent weekends refurbishing the classrooms - yes there may be nicer buildings/ spaces around, but the children and teachers feel a real sense of ownership around what they are creating in Helios.

- submitted by a parent

March 13, 2015
My child started here last year in Kindergarten and we have been very pleased with the program. I love the way how kids are learning in a creative project based curriculum which is truly bringing out their love for learning. I can see my child's creativity coming out in various ways even when he is home. Imagine lab which is the makers lab is such an awesome tool for these kids to build and express themselves. He looks forward to going to school each and every single day. This truly is a school which does individualized and thoughtful education and does it well. Any time any issue has come up, school leadership and teachers have been prompt in addressing it and they genuinely care for all children. As far as what the earlier reviewer mentioned about calling this school campus a dump, you have no idea how hard it is to get a school campus in a central location and this campus is far from being a dump. Interiors have been beautifully remodeled and kids love the outdoor space. It would be nice to get Art as part of the curriculum but there is so much being offered and something will have to go to make time for Art in an already packed school schedule.

- submitted by a parent

January 15, 2015
A gifted child is a rare opportunity and a great responsibility. Its very important for gifted children to find a gifted friend, and at Helios my daughter has a whole classroom full of gifted peers. Gifted children really thirst for a challenge or they may become turned off to say math. Few schools will let a child work ahead more than a year or two, but Helios uses ability grouping and lets children work several years ahead if appropriate. Regarding the curriculum, Helios administers a test three times a year. Its an adaptive test called MAP. They let the kids explore, but they monitor their progress. So that feels grounded to me. Beyond academics, there is a deep knowledge base at Helios embodied not only in the staff but the parent community. Gifted children do have particular social and emotional needs, and the school community brings a wealth of experience to bear upon this. My daughter has grown to trust and express herself through her writing and her new friends. Helios has pulled together really a dream team of teachers. I don t believe more than a handful of schools like it exist.

- submitted by a parent

November 02, 2014
My kid started at K and loves it because learning at Helios is so joyful. She is thriving in this environment. Every student is tested so their levels in math, reading are assessed. Then students are placed according to ability. Each child has her own individual learning plan which is discussed with parents. The school handles asynchronous learning very well. Big emphasis on social emotional learning and the kids learn Chinese or Spanish, music, science, imagine lab, writing stories, story lab. Their teaching style is project based so language arts, reading, and writing are all based on the topic/project the class is learning. We love the school because my daughter learns at such high level and it doesn't feel very academic because there is no homework yet she learns and absorbs so much! What brought us to Helios is that Helios really understands how to educate gifted children. There is no arbitrary age cut off, no focus on IQ test which are not a good predictors of giftedness. Instead, Helios looks at the whole child including other dimensions and sensitivities of the child that give clues as to whether the child might need a different approach to education.

- submitted by a parent

October 16, 2013
Helios is truly a unique school where each child is nurtured, challenged and encouraged to discover his or her true potential. The teachers are dedicated professionals who love what they do, and it shows! Many schools claim to foster a "love of learning" but at Helios this absolutely holds true. Our son, who is in his second year at the school, is thriving. He loves the hands-on learning, is developing strong skills in math, reading and writing, and is happy to go to school every single day! The team who is leading the school includes terrific educators who value and welcome feedback and community involvement. The parents at the school are a wonderful group of people who are tremendously supportive of each other and the school. We are delighted that we found Helios for our son and I am sure the school will continue to grow from strength to strength.

- submitted by a parent

September 30, 2013
The facts: - no individualized education plan as talked about. Every kid does the same thing at the same time. The individual is not celebrated. -constructivist employs student centered learning but again there is no room for student suggestion, interpretation or creativity. It is almost as if the adults fear it. -no feedback at all. While I love that they don't use traditional grades, it is clear that my child has no idea if what they have done needs improvement, how to improve, etc. they are not learning at all, but going through the work. - learning position is valued above all else. The students will tell you that to be a good student at Helios you should not talk, sit in learning position and not ask too many questions. - teachers have been heard telling students they should just "shut your mouth" - they spend money on two curriculum developers for 35+ kids; in most schools this size the teachers would develop the curriculum. - point systems are rampant in some math groups, Chinese, and home rooms - 4 principals in 4 years In short, this school talks a good game but fails to deliver. There is neither rigor nor a love of children and learning.

- submitted by a parent

March 11, 2013
Helios implements best practices in gifted ed, including ability grouping and subject matter acceleration. A 5 year old kid at Helios with a passion for algebra can have his current working level identified and be presented with the next concept he is ready to understand in math, working alongside other kids who are at his level even though they are 5 years older than him. And he can also be taught handwriting at his working level, read age-appropriate subject matter at his out of grade level reading level and be around other kids who want to play the same sort of complicated games that he likes to play on the playground. Our daughter is in her 4th year at the school and she remains the same happy and well adjusted kid that she was when she started K. Helios teaches kids how to get along with others, work in teams, how to construct arguments, and stretch themselves outside of their comfort zone . I like its focus on "habits of learning" where the kids learn tools that will help them in the long haul, such as how to read a text critically, write an essay, break down a research project into smaller parts, formulate an argument, and see an issue from multiple perspectives.

- submitted by a parent

March 09, 2013
My son has been a student at Helios for just over a year so far and we could not be happier. The project based authentic curriculum is both rigorous and engaging, and integrates meaningful fieldwork (field trips) experiences with in-class content. Helios' small size means that everybody knows everybody--teachers outside of my son's class share anecdotes about him with me, and students play and work together across age groups and classrooms. Teachers are able to really get to know their students and their strengths and needs. This (combined with regular real time assessments) translates into flexibility and individualization so that each student's unique learning needs are met. Beyond the academics, my son is a part of an incredibly warm and caring community--from his classmates, to the teachers and administration, to the parents--the people at Helios go above and beyond to make sure it is a safe, fun and welcoming place. The bottom line is that my son loves going to school at Helios.

- submitted by a parent

February 28, 2013
The school unfortunately has limited classroom and play/recess area space. For this reason, it is difficult to offer variances in the curriculum to the children for the high tuition price (note only slightly less than Nueva). There are some wonderful teachers, and another who uses a whistle. There is a lot of sitting and being still required. The board is made up of parents and their children seem to receive the most careful attention to the promised individualized education. Regarding the Chinese program, it works for some and not others. It's not taught in the most interesting way, but our kid tolerates it. What we don't like is hearing our child report that another kid gets stomach pains before Mandarin class. So it seems like others have really struggled without attention to their concerns. One standout is the parent community which is very involved and full of wonderful people.

- submitted by a community member

January 17, 2013
We visited 10 schools before choosing Helios for our kids. Although may of the schools we visited claimed to differentiate their curriculum based on kids' abilities, Helios was the only one we found that could demonstrate that they actually DO it. We have been here 3 years now and have found that our children are continually assessed to ensure that the work they are doing is at the right level for each of them--challenging enough to be stimulating, not discouraging. Reading and math groups' average size is 3-5 children, grouped by ability level, not age, so material can be very closely tailored to kids' abilities. Each year, both my children have had the opportunity to move into a group offering more challenge, once they'd mastered the content at their starting level. Helios is also the only school we found that offered truly experiential education, with an interdisciplinary curriculum that enables kids to learn through meaningful, real-world projects. My gifted children are thriving at this school and I'm grateful to the school leadership for creating such a terrific learning environment.

- submitted by a parent

October 22, 2012
One cannot discount the value of the amazing teachers at this school. They are invested, dedicated, kind, creative and challenging all while keeping my daughter emotionally safe. We had struggled previously to find a school to meet her academic needs and support her love for learning. Helios has met that challenge a thousand times over. They took a child who hated to write because she struggles with spelling and has her now thinking about being an author. She adores writing now. Her first love is math and the teachers have been great in finding her a good group and supporting her personal achievement goals. They provide additional materials for her at her asking. Additionally, the community is amazing and supportive. This is a growing place that truly gets gifted kids. I wouldn't send my kid to any other school in the Bay Area. My only criticism is that the Chinese program is mandatory and does not fit the rest of the school constructivist learning style. I hope they will rethink this in future years.

- submitted by a parent

October 11, 2012
Helios is meeting the needs of gifted children with truly experiential education. This is our 3rd year at Helios, and our son is loving it. The teachers are talented, dedicated and really get the kids. Helios hits the perfect balance with its thematic approach and engaging, real-world projects on the one hand and continual skills assessment on the other. The community is extraordinary.

- submitted by a parent

March 02, 2012
I have a child who is thriving again. At a traditional public school, he was jaded by the rote learning models which rarely went to any depth and failed to addressed the curiosity of children. At Helios, the focus is on leveraging the child's strengths and supporting them as they develop other areas needed to be an independent thinker and learner. My child loves to learn and school is "so great"!

- submitted by a parent

May 26, 2011
Helios has been a terrific school for my second grader. At Helios, the kids learn, incorporate and use various subjects at the same time, rather than studying each subject in a vacuum. For example, his class is learning principles of geometry, writing, history, logical sequencing and team building by designing and building a maze. First they learned about the different types of mazes and then broke into teams to create scale models of student-designed mazes, and from those scale models they created life-size mazes in the classroom. I think this hands-on approach to learning helps him conceptualize the underlying lessons in a way that allows him to extrapolate the underlying principle to other situations. And most importantly, he has fun doing it. The school also provides very individualized attention. My son's teachers evaluate his progress in different core subjects (e.g., math, reading) and then accelerate or explore different instructional strategies to ensure he is heading on a trajectory that is appropriate for him in all subjects. So, for example, you could have third grader who is doing middle school-level math, while reading at third or fourth grade level.

- submitted by a parent

April 11, 2011
While we loved this school at first, it has changed significantly in the last years. Just the facts: First ~ The school director has left this school and as of this post, there is still no replacement. Second~ of the original 12 person staff that began the school year 2010-2011 only four remain and as of this post no official announcements have been made about any of them returning next year. Third~ At least 1/3 of currently enrolled students have not yet re-enrolled for next year. It is my opinion the changes in this school have to do with a push from the interference of it's School Board to change the school from a 'School for Gifted Education' to one more standard academic i.e. 'skills based' school.

- submitted by a parent

March 29, 2011
Our son has spent the last two years at Helios. At his previous private Kindergarten we were told that he was not paying attention and was being disruptive. It turned out he was probably bored, mostly by the drilling routine. His transformation at Helios was majestic. His teachers are amazing, interactive and totally immersed in bringing out the best in each child. He loves the project-oriented approach and has just bloomed, with the excitement just oozing every day. His reading level has jumped up at least 2 grades and I cannot believe how much math he has mastered, including 4th and 5th grade material, without all the previous drilling. Best of all, he is surrounded by gifted children like himself, hand-picked to generate a community of kids full of curiosity, imagination and excitement, who love to be challenged, and love being at school.

- submitted by a parent

March 23, 2011
Helios is a gem! The teachers, staff, and even other parents know my son very well and value his uniqueness. We were previously at a traditional school and while my son did well with the structure there was not enough rigor. I was concerned that Helios constructivist approach would not provide enough structure for my particular child. My worries were unfounded - he has been thriving at Helios for 2 years. Helios teachers are skilled at balancing structure and flexibility. They appropriately challenge my son in all areas and follow where he is ready to go, which is generally 2-3 grade levels above where he would be at a regular school. At Helios he gets to be neither ashamed nor proud of being academically advanced. The challenging core curriculum, foreign language, music and PE are interwoven with SEL components making for a full experience. Helios nurtures his love of learning. My son misses Helios in summer, holidays or when he is sick. A critical priority for any private school is selection of the right kids and families. Helios does an amazing job at admissions and uses a careful and rigorous evaluation methodology. The result is a strong and passionate community.

- submitted by a parent

August 30, 2009
Tuition aside, the school is amazing. Jo Ellis (head-of-school) is a real find. She get's it. She has vision, seeks to blend head/heart in the classroom, understands the needs of gifted kids (skew of high performance in one subject, poor in another, for some difficulty in sitting at a desk all day, ask 'too many' questions), willing to make personnel changes when warranted, absurdly responsive to parent concerns, long term thinker, and former veteran teacher. In class, the teacher ratio allows each child to work at their level (whether above/below/same as others). Project-based learning makes learning more fun and real-world (no death by worksheet). Great place for active learners. You'll see kids standing, sitting, lying on floor doing their work-all acceptable. Great place for a bright child that doesn't conform well to traditional classroom environment. Our child loved the time spent there.

- submitted by a parent

January 11, 2009
Our daughter is finally happy and thriving, thanks to Helios. She was counting down the days of winter holiday until she could go back to her Grade 1 class! The teachers are so responsive and respectful, letting the children guide the curriculum but also providing a wealth of their own amazing ideas and a safe, comfortable structure for the children. The constructivist school philosophy matches our desire to have our daughter continue to think independently and question the world around her. We are so thrilled to have found such a fantastic school and highly recommend it, especially when the special needs of gifted children come into play.

- submitted by a parent

November 16, 2008
Helios New School honor children as active learners. Our son is not stuck behind a desk like he would be in a traditional classroom. Instead he is on the floor telling the group a story using animal figures, 'working' in the clinic he and his peers set up in the classroom, writing a book to add to the library, singing with the music specialist or learning math 'hands-on' (no worksheets here). Our son now sings 'Happy Birthday' to family members in Mandarin. The best way I have found to describe his experience at Helios is to say that 'his brain is on fire'! The teachers are flexible and ready to explore new ideas. They make the children feel brilliant and honor each child as an individual. Yes, the school is small but the backbone of the school is strong, with great professional support. The parents are very active and welcomed!

- submitted by a parent

November 14, 2008
I visited this school and wasn't all that sure until I met some parents outside, waiting for their children. They spoke very highly of the school and the projects that these kids were doing sounded amazing - I wish I could have gone to a school like this! But the best part was when the children were whining and crying that they didn't want to leave!!!!! The parents love this school and the kids love it even more. I'm sold on it. I have visited lots of schools in the area and this is where I want my daughter to attend.

- submitted by a community member

November 14, 2008
Helios New School has been a great experience for our son. Helios New School strives to meet the needs of all students. Our son is now getting individualized attention. He is able to accel in math and receive the help he needs with reading. His energy is channeled in positive ways by using his hands to build projects, playtime in the kitchen, medical clinic and at the park. The teachers understand the needs of this group of children and meet the challenges that this intellectual and creative group presents.

- submitted by a parent
no rating
November 02, 2008
My son loves this school! He loves his teachers and the project-based curriculum. The great teacher:child ratio allows for high quality, individualized teaching. We are so happy to be at Helios!

- submitted by a parent

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About this school

Our project-based learning environment offers the rigor, depth, and complexity gifted learners need. Equally important, Helios children thrive socially. They have a community of peers who are willing to “go deep” and engage each other in their passions.

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Last modified: July 27, 2015

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Helios New School
597 Central Avenue 1-650-618-8527 , Sunnyvale, CA  94086
(408) 475-1024
Last modified Helios New School is a Private school that serves grades K-7
Helios New School Rating: 4 out of 5 based on 31 reviews. Top