Oh, the dilemmas of life...
Both situations have pros and cons. The pros of the private school are that it's very familiar to her by now and it's very safe. The kids who go there are great and the parents are generally like-minded. The school has an environmental philosophy along with Montessori-like instruction all through the elementary and middle-school years with classes becoming more "school-like" as the students get older. Last year we had the opportunity to tour the classrooms through each level and see what students experience at each age. It was great, but was it great enough to justify all of the expense (because tuition isn't outrageous, but it's certainly not free) and all the driving?
As Sydney's getting older and starting to make friends, I really see the benefits of having her attend the neighborhood school. There are real benefits to having her friends be in our neighborhood rather than scattered all around the area. It would be great to be able to drop her off in 10 minutes round-trip rather than taking an hour twice a day to drive across town. Once she gets involved in extra-curricular activities, it would be really nice to have them down the street rather than 8 miles away. Not to mention, once Owen starts school, we'd have twice the tuition and possibly twice the driving depending on how much his schedule meshed with hers.
The main disadvantage of taking her out of private school (besides the friends she'll miss) is the miserable state of public schools in Portland. However, our neighborhood school is among the better in the city (we chose our house specifically for the schools) so it almost seems silly not to take advantage of it. I also like the idea that Sydney will be exposed to more diversity (although the neighborhood school is still pretty homogenous compared to other schools in the city) in public school than she would at private school.
We might end up going with the neighborhood school for environmental reasons if nothing else. The drive across town twice a day does bug me, even if we do fuel the car with biodiesel made from recycled oil. Sigh. I just don't know. Anyone have any useful insights for me?