Part I: I was going to wait until the end of the year to write my review but I realize that most parents are making their decisions now and how stressful that choice can be. We chose this school after looking at several great schools in the Salt Lake City District. While this school is a very nice fit for our family and our parenting style, it is definitely not for everyone (and no we are not hippies - not at all). We chose this school because of the following: we liked the philosophy; we wanted to be involved - and had the time to be involved - in our child's education; the small class sizes with a lot of small group interaction with both peers and adults; the blended classrooms (our daughter will be in a 1st/2nd split next year); and we liked that it is a K-8 school. The kids and adults that I have worked with this year have been very engaged, respectful and open-minded. Unfortunately, you will have the occasional adult that is not as engaged as they should be, but that is the case in all aspects of life ... Our daughter has really thrived here and has made a lot of wonderful friends.
The idealistic approach of "The OC" is a great concept. It is however just that idealistic. The countless hours required of "co-oper's", (parents in the classroom) and the endless meetings and committee assignment are the equivalent of a full time job. The open aspect of the community is again a great idea, but if you don't fit the "hippie" lifestyle, YOU ARE OUT! Carolyn the head teacher is the bright shinning star here. The counselor Rose is great too. The rest of the staff claims compassion, but fall short. It's not a complete failure, but a very different method. It did NOT prepare my 9th grader for the rigors of high-school. This was a disappointment to me.
This is my 3rd year at the OC, and I think it's a great fit for a certain type of parent/child team. It's wonderful for our family, because I am involved in his work, know his friends and know all of the teachers, the principle, the janitors, the lunch ladies at his school. It's a community, and you get out of it what you're willing to put into it. And sometimes, instead of griping about the quality, you have to use the 'Open' nature of the OC to improve the quality in the places you see a need. I am a biologist, and the science curriculum in my son's class is heavily influenced by me. If you're a writer, and you don't like the level of literacy instruction, you can campaign to change it. As a matter of fact, if you don't, I think you're a passive consumer of education, and this school requires participation. The kids are confident and capable, and will rise to meet the rigor. This is a special place, but it won't fit the type A, early entrance to Harvard at all costs, parent. It's a community-based, whole child education. That said, my 2nd grader reads at the 7th grade level and is doing multiplication and division in his head.
We are in our 6th year at the Open Classroom and love it. It truly is a partnership between parent, teacher and child. Both of my children are excelling in reading and math. They love school! They have opportunities to do independent research projects and teach their peers. How many schools give your child the autonomy to create their own projects? I am in the classroom 3 hrs/wk per child. I know their classroom, friends and the school community. We've had a few obstacles, but since I am there, I was able to address them head on. They have an amazing full time school counselor, and the teachers have been great about making themselves available. The OC isn't for everyone, and the time commitment is huge, but if you are looking for a place to give your child an excellent education while still letting them be children, this is the place for you.
The O.C.(Out of Control) My wife and myself have been extremely disappointed in the Open Classroom as a whole. The interaction with parents, teachers, and students is an amazing idea. The social skills kids learn is great and all but the actual learning is non-existent. No homework, no actual constructive interaction with teachers and students. The co-oping parents couldn't care less about any kid aside from their own.....it's a joke really. Teachers using the entire day as social hour among themselves. It is basically not worth the effort from a parents perspective....1 day a week in the school....constant meetings....and for what? Our 8 year old daughter has asked us on numerous occasions why they don't actually do anything at school like her other schools? why haven't i been learning anything at school? why do we only play and mess around? Anyways hope people read this and choose the way we did.....look for your house based on the school districts....it's a pain here in the SLC valley but the only way:-)
The OC fell short of my expectations. I liked the pre-school but it was pricey for all the time I had to put in and the kindergarten was not great. My child basically learned nothing during the school year. The teaching methoud was very traditional (worksheets, talking and writing on the board ect...) which didn't work for my very creative daughter who was bored and tuning out. a lot of the parents were very apathetic and not helpful in actually teaching the kids (for example not correcting mistakes ect...) There was a lot of bullying on the playground, and since the mostly apathetic parents were the playground monitors, very little if nothing was done about it. There was also a lot of subtle girl type bullying. In the end I left when the crazy semi-permanent sub was letting the class turn to chaos and losing kids (for hours and not caring about it). I hope my experience was atypical, so I still give it three stars because I did like the pre-school.
The Open Classroom is a Child directed learning program. Parental involvement is compulsory. Co- oping once a week per child and parent meetings is a bit of a commitment but very rewarding. It is a great community to be a part of and I would recommend it to anyone who has the time to be heavily involved in their child's learning experience.