Need to make a choice: Newark Academy / Pingry / Kent Place


Our daughter who is currently a 5th grader in the SOMA district has been accepted at Newark Academy, Pingry and Kent Place for middle school. We are thinking through public vs private and thinking through choosing between these 3 schools if we decide to go private. We know many families at SOMS so we feel fairly well informed as far as trying to make the public vs private decision. What we really would appreciate feedback on are thoughts on these 3 schools. All three schools are very strong academically - a few differences here and there but fairly similar.

The differences we see are

Pluses: probably the best reputation of all three, stronger athletics program (although this is is not a big issue for us), more structured, probably the most diverse of all three
Minuses: seems to be more elitist, a bit of a hike from SO

Newark Academy
Pluses: strong arts program (our daughter loves dance and piano), closest to SO
Minuses: their administrative process was not as smooth as the other two during the application/interviewing process

Kent place:
Pluses: although our daughter is not keen on an all girls school, based on her experience visiting all three schools, she enjoyed the Kent place visit the most

Kent Place is a wonderful, wonderful place AND (HUGE PLUS), she can take the train. (I know about the busses, but those presume that your kid is coming and going at a particular time.) However, your kid can take the train to and from Summit easily and that will mean independence for her and sanity for you. Your child will learn to advocate for herself and they address any mean girl stuff right away, fast.

I think NA is good, but it's a meat-grinder. Kids go in as they are and are prepped successfully for college. It uses a process that works for the majority-- which means their way or the highway in all ways you can possibly imagine (including socially). Grads are generally great, but the sausage-making is a rough process. (One kid went there.) Huge sports focus, too. Your child will play competitively on three teams, starting in sixth grade. Not optional, which can be rough for some.

I know nothing about any of these schools, but I went to an all girls college (Barnard) and it was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. We're not planning to go private, but if we do feel the need for whatever reason I'd probably like my daughters to go to somewhere like Kent place based solely on my own all-girls education experience.

I can understand if they make the kids try different sports but how do they force them to play "competitively all through middle and high school? Do they only accept athletic kids or do they force a lot of kids to sit on the bench all year? Sounds strange to me.

I went to an all girl's high school as well (Villa Victoria in Ewing) and it was the best decision I ever made. I think all this mean girl stuff is totally overblown- particularly because it can happen in a co-ed environment just as much. I remember people in college asking if it was weird to now be with boys in class, and to be honest, I didn't skip a beat, I didn't really even register the difference. I also had people comment on how they were surprised I wasn't more shy around boys, as if I'd been locked away for 4 years and never talked or interacted with a boy. Good luck to your daughter on her decision!

@margosb: when a school is very small, as NA's middle school is, they need everyone to participate in sports to be able to field teams across the board. Kids do not end up sitting on the bench.

The benefits of an single sex education outweigh some of incremental advantages of the other options, in my view. My personal observation is that graduates of women's secondary schools and colleges possess greater confidence, sense of self, and ambition than do the female graduates of elite co-ed equivalents (myself included). It's a sweeping generalization, but I stand by it. I will encourage my own daughter to consider a single sex school when her time comes.

If she liked Kent Place best, that’s the place for her. Single sex aspect aside, it is likely to be more nurturing and more relaxed than Pingry. I do think Pingry is stronger academically but Kent Place is good enough to be worth the money. That said, if it is purely academic rigor you are looking for, I think you probably have to go with Pingry over KP, but if you are looking for a more balanced set of strengths, that is different and the conversation becomes more variable. I think my daughter actually benefited from going to a coed school but she was fortunate in having a very strong group of girls as peers and friends--smart, well-grounded, and nice. They outshone the boys in many respects while never having to think of boys as an exotic species. Probably would not choose NA over KP or Pingry; no compelling reason to do so. I can tell you from personal experience that you get used to that trip out 78 to Martinsville (now called Basking Ridge campus) very quickly. Incidentally, Pingry has a wonderful arts and performance program as well as the well-known athletics.

Thanks to all for your responses! Lots to think about. I will pm some of you to pick your brains some more.

@margosb. What is wrote is this, " Your child will play competitively on three teams, starting in sixth grade." For the MS years, every kid plays on three sports teams each year, one each season. These are not intramural, but compete against other schools.

^^That's not an uncommon philosophy at small independent schools in the area.

I'd love to hear any comments on how current parents make the logistics work.

It sounds like Kent Place you can get to via train/bus.
Does anyone know if there is a kind of bus option from Maplewood to Pingry/NA? or centrally organized car pooling by the PTA?

The private schools have contracts with private bus services from the various towns. My son goes to NA (7th) and there are a few M/SO families, so working out rides is usually very easy, at least for mornings. Afternoon sports can be a challenge, if both parents work and you want to avoid the bus and those costs. I am not aware of any centralized car pool, but the student class listing enables you to reach out to other local families.

By the way, at NA your child can opt out of sports for one term, if participating in another sport. Thus, my son does 2 of the 3 terms. The middle school sports are not competitive but build on skills and are very supportive. For example, in 6th grade most of the kids could not dive off the blocks and some could not swim. The team worked on diving and the growth was noticeable. The coach and team cheered for all swimmers, even if the child walked rather than swam the race. It was an amazing experience.

The public school district is required to provide transportation or aid in lieu of transportation, which can be used to cover a portion of private bus service. It changes from year to year depending on enrollment.

Understanding where you will fit in the economic aspect of the school should not be discounted, as with many private schools, you will be asked to make meaningful donations in addition to tuition.

All the families I know in town with kids at Pingry are clearly 0.1%ers.
Some Newark Academy families are making it work for their kid and are no where near 1%ers.

I know a girl who has since graduated Oak Knoll that felt quite intimidated by the wealth of her classmates and felt disadvantaged that she did not have the privileges. (most of these girls were quite nice - she was not looked down upon for her economic standing, however the discussion of winter/spring break vacations, she found depressing).

What did you decide? My daughter was accepted at most of the local private schools and she/we decided on Kent Place. She will be staring 9th grade and can't wit to go.

Any updated family experiences with Kent Place? We are looking for our daughter and Kent/Mobeard is at the top of our list. Thanks!

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