Came across this thread on Nextdoor and thought others might appreciate the wisdom. I removed the names to protect the innocent!
Middle School Advice?
Hi, I'm fairly new to the area and my 5th grader (rising 6th grader for next school year) has been accepted at both Plaza Middle School and Old Donation/Brickell Academy. We have attended some open houses and I've heard pros and cons about both, and I just wanted to ask for any advice/suggestions/cautions when it comes to making this decision. I'm most interested in hearing from folks who have children currently attending either school, or who have very recently attended (last 2-3 years). My son is very organized/responsible and driven, very bright, but a bit hard on himself. I think he needs a challenging but not cutthroat environment, if that makes sense. My biggest questions are, in no particular order:
1) What kind of workload should we expect?
2) What is the culture/peer environment like?
3) How responsive and professional are the teachers and staff?
4) Is the program genuinely diverse?
5) How did your child adjust to the longer school day + bus ride that's involved for many kids?
6) Were you and your child happy with your choice?
7) My child is not an athlete (tennis, but not school-sponsored sports). Will he fit in even so?
8) What else should I know?
My stepdaughter currently attends ODS as a seventh grader and also attended for 6th grade. Naturally there is a HUGE adjustment process from elementary to middle school...our biggest adjustment for her was the realization that she actually had to study and work for her grades instead of breezing through without looking in elementary(she's not happy about this part, but everything else she enjoys). The workload is much more than standard 6th grade, they are teaching at an 8th grade level so it is necessary for them,to grasp some concepts. The teachers have been phenomenal in responsiveness and engaging and understanding the parents that are more "helicopter" and want to be super involved with grades and activities but also letting parents who stand back and let their child be responsible for their actions. Based on what your child is interested in, they offer various arts and tech classes and clubs and activities so even if you're child likes something "weird" I guarantee someone else in that school likes it too. As far as bus service it's not so bad to ODS since our area is the last stop before they head to school in the mornings. The long days only get dicey when other extracurricular outside of school get scheduled close to bus drop off so we have snacks and gear ready. Message me privately if you have more questions.
I’d be happy to meet with you upon return from Spring Break. I have two 6th graders at ODS now. They both attended John B Dey 1st-5th. I work at Great Neck Middle, so have a good understanding of differences/similarities between those two, although I have no personal experience with Plaza MYP (mine was also accepted at both, but chose ODS).
Our daughter is at Plaza in 7th grade. She missed her friends the first year but LOVES this year!!! The best advice I would have with that is sit with people you don’t know the first two weeks to make friends. She has not had a lot of homework. Her bus ride is not long. We’ve been happy with teachers. They have a lot of clubs if you aren’t into sports. It’s a great well rounded middle school experience. I would totally recommend it!!!
My daughter was also accepted to both and we sat down and weighed pros and cons and I let her choose. I told her that we could always make a change down the road if necessary, although I understand for many it would be tough. She chose Plaza because she wanted to be involved in sports, ODS kids are bussed to their zone school for sports, and the day is longer at ODS. I think either would have been a good choice, but I think Plaza was a perfect fit for her. She sounds like your son, hard on herself but needs and enjoys the challenge. The workload is heavier than I expected but she is also a kid who goes above and beyond for every assignment. She swims 4 days a week so the workload may also feel heavy because she has a more limited time frame to work. She loves the work, her peers are just like her in that they enjoy social activities, sports, and academics. She has decided to attend the academy at her home school next year for high school instead of PA IB, and again I let her make the choice. It's great to have some wonderful choices!
I have two daughters at ODS. Both started in elementary, our oldest is now in middle. 1. For middle school the workload is not too bad. There is definitely homework, but it is manageable. My daughter dances 8.5 hours per week and has been able to keep up. I think the two schools (ODS and Plaza) are pretty comparable when it comes to homework. 2. Kids at ODS are VERY welcoming and there are all types of kids. Because of all the quirky personalities, kids are a bit more accepting of those that are "different". 4. I think ODS is very diverse, but I would suspect it would be the same at Plaza. Since kids are pulled from all over VB, there are many races and economic backgrounds. 5. The day is long, but my girls have been doing it for years. I think any kid who likes what he/she is doing in school will be happy to pay that price. 6. Both of my girls LOVE their school. There has never been an inkling of thinking it was the wrong choice. My daughter even said that she can not imagine ever going back to a mainstream classroom and the way they learn. 7. There are both athletes and non-athletes. There are many kids that play sports at their neighborhood middle schools. If your child is interested in chorus, orchestra or theater, all the programs at ODS are top notch! 8. You can not make a wrong decision choosing either school. I think the kids at ODS do have to be very self motivated and willing to work independently. The staff there requires that the kids take the initiative and responsibility for their learning. They want parents to be hands-off and for the kids to take the reigns. I would never call the environment at ODS cut-throat. Kids there are not too concerned with how the other kids are doing. In other words, I do not get the sense that it is overly competitive. Good luck with your decision. It really comes down to what type of kid your son is. I would lean towards the school where he felt most comfortable.
Love this thread - GNMS and Cox are great schools. Really won't make a difference - it is WHAT EACH STUDENT MAKES OF IT!! Many who go to ODS don't go to PA - they go to Ocean Lakes for Math and Science or back to their home school. Doing away with class ranks because of all the Academy Programs that hurt regular students so it really doesn't matter. Plaza is just a prep for IB at PA. IB programs are okay, but many colleges really don't look at that info unless it is international. Oh, btw - when our kids were at GNMS - their test scores were above every school except ODS. You all need to look at the big picture. Very aware that I will get a lot of comments - just don't care.