CLASS Academy is a small, for-profit private school across from Montgomery Park in Northwest Portland. It has two classes per level, with classes that average 12-13 students and are capped at 15. All students wear uniforms at this school. While its levels roughly correspond to traditional grades, CLASS groups students by ability rather than age and so avoids the normal terminology.
The Half-Full Scoop
CLASS Academy offers a well-thought-out program that will appeal to many families. The facility, while somewhat limited by its small footprint and urban location, is bright, colorful, and open. It includes a small indoor gym to allow for physical activity on even the rainiest day.
As noted above CLASS offers small classes, allowing for more individual attention. It breaks each class down further in the early grades for reading, with students generally working in small groups of about five for reading instruction. Reading success in the early grades is strongly correlated with long-term academic achievement, and this individual attention helps ensure no student slips through the cracks. The CLASS curriculum is also rigorous and somewhat advanced, which will appeal to many parents. CLASS’s system of grouping students by ability rather than age may also appeal to parents with a child who just misses the September 1 birthday cut-off for kindergarten entry, as the school is willing to assess these students for individual placement.
CLASS also offers all students art, music, science, and p.e. every day. Further, all students have two recesses each day. This, coupled with a specifically designed educational system in which the day is divided into 30 minute lesson blocks that are further divided into three to five teacher-led activities that often included games and physical movement, ensures students have a lot of changes to move and be active during the school day. Students also move throughout the building over the course of day, visiting “specials” teachers and going back and forth between the two classes at their grade for various activities.
Finally, CLASS offers a unique year-round schedule that will appeal to many working parents, as well as students who crave consistency. With the exception of brief breaks at the beginning and end of the summer, school continues uninterrupted throughout the year. During the summer the programs transitions to a different, less academic mode that more resembles many camps and even includes swim lessons. This is a relief for many working parents, who aren’t scrambling for childcare coverage during the summer. Many children also benefit from the consistency this offers. Unlike many schools, CLASS also offers full-day care as part of tuition, with teachers providing before and after school supervision, rather than outside providers.
The Half-Empty Scoop
First, with annual tuition and fees ranging from $11,330 to $11,810 depending on grade level, the school is a significant financial commitment. Parents should remember, however, that this covers both year-round school and full-day care, however, saving working parents other childcare costs. For parents who don’t need the extended day care, however, it may feel like paying for a service they are not using.
CLASS’s facilities may also be a concern for some families. While the building is open and colorful, it has limited natural light and can feel a bit like the concrete box that it essentially is. The school also has exceptionally limited outdoor space, with only a small playground. Similarly, there is very limited parking at the school, which may be a concern for parents.
While CLASS’s unique schedule may be a positive for many parents, it is important to not that the summer program is not optional, which may be a negative for parents who have more flexibility to be home with their children during breaks, or who have children who look forward to participating in the wide range of summer camp options available in Portland. Parents have also expressed some concerns about a high level of staff turnover, which may result from the long hours required to provide the extended day and summer coverage.
The school’s focus on teacher-led rather than inquiry-based instruction may also be a significant negative for some families. Similarly, the intense academic push may not be an environment in which some children thrive.
Finally, the fact that the school is for profit may be a concern for some families. The vast majority of private schools are nonprofit enterprises; for-profit schools naturally raise concerns about how the school balances what’s best for the students with the bottom-line.
The Final Scoop
CLASS Academy may be a great option for parents looking for a year-round school and extended day coverage, as well as those who like its balance of active, developmentally appropriate learning with its teacher-led instruction. It has limited facilities but makes the most of them to offer a well rounded curriculum with lots of opportunities for movement, music, art, and science.
Do you have a child at CLASS Academy? Share your experience in the comments!