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Parents DISH on Local Schools

Choosing a private or charter school can be nerve-wracking. Sure, you read their marketing materials and talk to the principal, but what’s the real deal? We went straight to Central Florida parents to get the inside scoop on local private and charter schools.

Engaged Teachers

Abagail and Ms. Cindy

“As new parents, it was easy to choose StarChild Academy, Wekiva. Our friends recommended it highly, and it was within walking distance of our home. After three years, the decision to continue with StarChild is just as easy. Our daughter’s care and education are highly valued, not only by us but by the entire staff as well. Parents are encouraged to engage with teachers, making the learning process a team effort. StarChild also goes above and beyond to teach non-academic values like patriotism and responsibility.”

Scott and Amy Evans of Apopka; Parents of Abagail (3)

Focus on Independence and Creativity 

Topelski Family

“It’s hard to put into words what a blessing Galileo School for Gifted Learning has been to our family. As a former teacher, I love entering the classrooms and seeing the kids in hands-on learning environments and fully engaged. Many of the teachers use flexible seating choices with yoga mats and exercise balls, so you see children completing their work all over the classroom. My children love the independence with which they are entrusted.

Outside time is valued and given more than once a day. Teachers pay attention to the whole child and all of their needs. 

Creative Productivity is a time that truly sets Galileo apart from other schools. The children get to choose from six different activities that interest them. Some of kids’ favorites are robotics, origami, candy making, team sports, project runway and musical theater, to name a few. 

I truly believe that any child could thrive in this learning environment, and I know my children are getting the very best education. More importantly, they are learning to give back, be kind to others, and become contributing members of society and overall better human beings.”

Nichole and James Topelski of Sanford;
Parents of Kyliee (10) and Kaiden (7) 

Individualized Attention

Hurley Family

“Both my children attended The Parke House Academy from age 3 through fifth grade. When they first walked through the doors at the school, they felt as if they were home. I love the small class settings, where children are taught and shown love, structure and discipline with the ability to move ahead or obtain extra help on an individual basis within the school’s academically challenging and creativity inspiring curriculum.”

Shannon and Rex Hurley of Winter Park; Parents of Parker (11) and Tanner (14)

Beyond Academic Excellence

Dennis Family

“Our family chose Lake Highland Prep (LHP) for many reasons, but a few of them beyond academic excellence was the sense of community that Lake Highland offers and the innovative teaching and cultivation of character that the school instills. There are so many opportunities for you to get involved and participate at LHP. My daughter, Piper, started in pre-K and is in first grade now. Piper’s favorite thing about Lake Highland is when their class gets to go to the iLab (Innovation lab), where students create, build and explore. There is something for every child at this school — swim team, chess club, STEM activities after school, sports teams and Odyssey of the Mind. This is a major draw to the school. We couldn’t be happier with our choice of school. Go Highlanders!”

Megan and Will Dennis of College Park; Parents of Piper (6)

A Nurturing Environment

Bessette Family; Photo: LM Photography

“We love Sweetwater Episcopal Academy (SEA) and its sweet, nurturing environment. The teachers are the heart of the school and truly love their jobs. They are extended family to our children. We love the KIND Zone, where everyone is kind to each other, and if someone is not, then other kids step in and remind them. It’s a big part of SEA’s culture. Also, we love the Rainbow Awards, which are given to kids who are caught doing random acts of kindness. The awards are presented in front of the entire school and parents at chapel each week.

I’ve enjoyed being involved in the Parents Club and getting to know other families. My kids love going to school and are always eager to learn. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing they are safe, happy and in good hands while receiving a first-class education.”

Ellen and Leo Bessette of Longwood; Parents of Gianni (20), Elizabeth (11), Katherine (10) and Madeleine (7) 

Hands-on Learning

Pagan Family

“What our family loves most about O2B Kids in Altamonte is the hands-on learning! Each Friday, our soon-to-be 3-year-old daughter has show & tell, where she is encouraged to bring in an item based on the letter, shape or color that she’s been learning all week. It gives us the opportunity to go on a treasure hunt at home and gives her a chance to tell a story about her item at school. It really helps us as parents connect with what she’s learning in class in a fun and meaningful way.”

Justin and Claire Pagan of Altamonte; Parents of Jocelyn (2)

Shared Values

Bostedo Family; Photo: Simply Shelby Photography

“What I love most about The Christ School (TCS) is that we are a community of faculty, staff, students and families who share a similar set of values that are rooted in the Bible, and we truly care for and support each other. You know the saying,“It takes a village to raise a family?” TCS is my village. There is a sense of trust and commitment, and that is the foundation on which everything at the school is built.”

Jen and Mike Bostedo of Orlando; Parents of Jace (10) and Ellie (14)

Strong Academics and Real Conversations

Reuss Family

“There are so many things we love about Park Maitland School — from the strong focus on academics to the very special annual events tailored for each grade level. However, with today’s generation of young children so focused on social media and texting rather than having real conversations, we love that Park Maitland focuses on developing strong social skills. This quickly becomes apparent when visiting the school. Students are taught to look people in the eyes when communicating and to answer in full sentences in a reciprocal conversation. We love seeing how much adults appreciate it when our children answer their questions with a question of their own. We think these skills will give our children a strong head start to becoming successful and productive members of our community.”

Bryan and Jessica Reuss of Winter Park; Parents ofKensington (7) and Paxton (7) 

Feels Like Home

Klein Family; Photo: Emelie at Photo International 

“I was a teacher before having children and was immediately drawn to the atmosphere at Walden Community School (WCS). When we visited, I was comfortable and felt at home. It’s easy to see that the students feel the same way. The kids were learning and having fun. Some students had their shoes off. Some were lounging in beanbag chairs, and some were laying on yoga mats. A teacher was working with a small group at a table in a side room. Most importantly, every student was actively engaged in his or her work. 

When our youngest daughter, Eliana, visited WCS, she didn’t want to go home. She became a Walden Student the week after her visit, and I became a Walden teacher the next school year!”

Kristi and Matt Klein of Winter Park; Parents of Eliana (10) and Sasha (15)

Nurturing Environment and Staff

Bowman Family; Photo: Kabiki Photography

“I count my lucky stars every day that we found A Kid’s Gym Learning Academy in Oviedo. My two children have been students of the preschool and gymnastics programs for four years now, and we couldn’t be happier. Like every working parent, I struggled with mom guilt and wondered if I was doing the right thing by going back to work and not staying home with my children, as I did when they were babies.

Everyone from the director to the teachers and gymnastics coaches nurtures and cares for my children as if they were their own. My youngest struggled with the transition to full time daycare when he was two years old, and his teachers and the school staff supported us to ensure that he could spend a little time each morning with his sister to get him acquainted with his new home away from home. It was that small, kind gesture that set this school apart from everywhere else. 

They understand that every child (as well as this helicopter mom) has unique needs, and they treat them and their challenging moms accordingly. These qualities, along with their exceptional curriculum and teaching techniques, make learning fun. My children have thrived and have become independent, intelligent, healthy young people. Every day is a new and exciting experience at A Kid’s Gym, and we would never consider anywhere or anyone else to protect, nurture and care for our children. A Kid’s Gym and their fabulous instructors will always hold a special place in all our hearts.”

Jennifer and Jeff Bowman of Oviedo; Parents of Evie (7) and Jake (5)

Forward Thinking

Newbold Family; Photo: Daniel Kuykendall

“We love Windermere Prep School (WPS) because our school loves our kids. They teach and care for each of our children like the unique individuals that they are. I am proud that WPS, after the successful pilot program in our son’s class last year, has started mindfulness in the classroom.

Alongside the Young Yogi Program, WPS is creating an environment where our children can learn joyfully, self regulate and succeed. It’s this kind of forward thinking by the staff and administration that comforts me when I drop them off each morning.”

Danielle and Chad Newbold of Windermere; Parents of Miles (9), Violet (6) and Reed (4) 

Written by
Tracey C. Velt

Tracey C. Velt is a married mom of two children living in Heathrow. She's a UCF graduate and has been the editor-in-chief of regional and statewide magazines. In 2004, she start her own freelance writing and editing business, Tracey Velt Consulting. She's also a regular contributor of PLAYGROUND Magazine.

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Written by Tracey C. Velt


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