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I've read through many recommendations for great areas to live and noticed that all recommendations/questions focus on finding a great elementary school. Do middle and high school not matter as much? Does everyone go to private school? We have been looking for a house to buy in the East Bay and in our price range we find many nice houses zoned for good elementary schools and not-so-good middle or high schools. For example the Redwood Heights neighborhood of Oakland has a highly rated elementary school, but the middle school these students are funneled to, Bret Harte, does not perform well (at least on paper). Having only pre-school aged children, we rely on the ratings/reviews/API scores to give us guidance- knowing that it is only part of the larger picture of future academic success for kids. Is it really about finding the sweet spot of a home zoned for great schools K-12th schools or is there something I'm missing. Any insight/ experience you would have to share would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Having said that, in the Bay Area, many children do go private for middle and/or high school. I'm only speaking from personal experience as an OUSD parent in the Chabot/Claremont/Tech area. I'm sure someone has hard data somewhere. So, to answer your questions: 1) ''Do middle and high school not matter as much?'' - Yes, they do, even more so because by then your child has much more particular needs, skills, interests, issues. But that could mean choosing a charter, moving to another district for public, transferring to another in-district school, getting more involved in their local, or paying for private. and 2) ''Is it really about finding the sweet spot of a home zoned for great schools K-12th schools or is there something I'm missing.'' Some folks have found a 'sweet spot' that works great for their family, but it's rare because frankly, we're not all the same and our kids' needs get more refined.
But what you can do: If you love the house and the elementary school, ease into getting involved in the middle and/or high schools, get to know what's going on, and if you feel compelled, start volunteering and getting things to change. That is how ALL the ''good'' schools got to be so good - by parents getting involved. I see it happening with a few families at Claremont. They see their time and effort as an important investment in their young children's future. And ALL middle schools really suffer a drop off in parent involvement, so your help should be extremely welcome! Mom of Two
My family and I are trying to assess whether we should stay in
our current home in San Leandro (where our public school is sub-
par, and we didn't get the intra-district transfer)and pay for
private school, or try to move somewhere (considerably more
expensive) where we feel good about sending our two kids to
public school. We're somewhat overwhelmed trying to get a
handle on all the economic variables, some of which are
unknown,at least for now (real estate market fluctuation,
property tax, interest deductions, private school tuition,
financial aid). Can anyone tell me how they approached this
decision? Did you use a financial planner? I realize there's no
way to make this decision with total accuracy, but want to
gather as much info as possible. I'd really appreciate hearing
about others' thought processes, as well as their end
results. . . thank you!
In a conundrum
One reason we like it here is because so many residents value
education, whether wealthy or not. Lamorinda is beautiful with
lots of open space. Most families donate money to the schools
which isn't nearly as much as the high cost of private schools.
You have to figure you'll need to pay about (gasp!) $700,000- $1,000,000 + in areas where the public schools are considered ''good''. But dont forget to factor in all of the equity you have in your current home, yet to sell. We purchased our first home in Lamorinda because I wanted my children to attend public schools. We couldn't be happier with how it is going. We still have to make small contributions to the PTA, to the classroom and give our time, but parents generally do enthusiastically, so it works out well for everyone. We have attended private school and I must say that I appreciate the economic and ethnic diversity that you find in public school. Also consider that when you attend your neighborhood public school, your child will form friendships with children who live within walking distance of your home. Families that attend private schools commute from different cities/further distances. That affects their availability for (and ease of) playdates and their availability to participate with your children in organized activities such as team sports and cub scouts.
And when looking at private school tuition, I would factor in that your school will likely depend greatly on family monetary donations and support. Perhaps several thousand dollars annually...
We made the move and we are so happy to be here. It is nice to know that private schools in the area are a second option for us if the public schools don't end up working out for us. Best to you in your decision.
I'm looking for suggestions on areas to move our kids that have great schools. I welcome information about Lamorinda, Walnut Creek, San Ramon and Castro Valley. I have read the discussions on the parents network about about san ramon, CV and San leandro, didn't see much about Lamorinda. Oakland is still a possibility and we're in the Kaiser elem school district, any comments about Kaiser elementary school? I haven't heard much and the school scores are a bit low. Jennifer
On the positive side, the area is beautiful and ''safe'', etc. Also, it's true that there is alot of parent involvement in the schools. So much so, that friends of mine who teach in Lamorinda complain that the parents are over-involved (aka over-bearing). And, there is a lot of pressure for each family to contribute to the ''foundation'' (I think the going rate is at least 1000$/yr). I bet Oakland schools would be better, if there was a community foundation to support them!
On the negative side, the schools are almost like a factory to get kids into the UC system when they graduate (kids are pressured to take certain UC-favored courses in high school at the expense of other classes and interests).
If people stopped moving ''because of the schools'', and worked as hard as the Lamorinda parents (many of whom were living in Oakland and Berkeley and miss the city!) to improve what we have here in Oakland/Berkeley, I bet we could all make a huge difference AND like where we live! (As a previous person wrote, sory to get rant, but this is also something that I think is really important!) --Another City Mama
My husband, two children(girl 6, boy 10) & I will probably be moving to the East Bay in about a year--my husband is a tenured position here in Minnesota & has a lateral offer at UCBerkeley. We will be visiting with our kids in August & would like to focus them on areas we might like to live.
I would like feedback on the following questions: 1)Where should we be looking to buy (or rent for awhile, then buy) a house within an esy commute to Oakland/Berkeley if we are interested in maintaining our kids in public schools? and 2)If public schools really aren't an option, what private schools should we be looking at? Comments on aftercare available in conjunction with these schools would be appreciated, as would thoughts on housing prices. (Do not exclude the "pricey"--let us do that.
Background: we are a biracial family (white/Asian) as our kids were adopted from Korea as infants. They have been in multiracial, multicultural environments since infancy and have attended a public Montessori "magnet" school in St. Paul since age 4. Our son will be entering middle schoool (a crucial age) and has needed alot of attention--he is a pure kinesthetic learner (or at least he was at age 4 when he was tested) and has trouble staying focussed--not ADD according to his teachers, but at the restless end of normal. We think our 6 year old is gifted & her biggest problem will be that she is wilfully girlish & is going to have to be pushed to achieve. Mary Ann
Albany schools are well-thought-of. Nice, safe neighborhoods, but the town is mostly smaller stucco houses; three-bedrooms are rare and more expensive.
Berkeley middle schools, especially King and Willard, are good; Longfellow is smaller, newer, getting its act together. Will probably improve by the time you come. Elementary is more of a mixed bag, but you can do very well. You'll be at a disadvantage, though, registering in the summer. Berkeley K-5 school assignments are by zone (north, middle, south), and are done in March based on proof of residency supplied in February, so if you come in the summer, you'll get assigned what's left in your zone.
Oakland schools have some bright spots, but the overall picture isn't pretty.
The west Contra-Costa school district (Richmond, El Cerrito, etc.) has a lot of problems, except for Kensington's elementary school, and some folks like Harding in El Cerrito.
In any of these communities I wouldn't think your family would stand out as "different-looking". I'm a single white mom of two Peruvian boys, 11 and 8, and in our north Berkeley neighborhood and school, we're an entirely normal family. The same is not as true of communities over the hill (Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, etc.,) or in Piedmont, where the schools are better, but much less diverse (although what diversity is there tends to be Asian).
There are lots of private schools of every flavor in the East Bay, including several Montessori ones. But these are also much less diverse than the public schools (although they all claim to want more diversity). My experience is that private schools are not as good as public schools at handling kids that may need special ed. There are a couple new private schools just for girls that you may want to investigate for your daughter.
Afterschool care is pretty much school-specific; each school I'm familiar with has two or three options either onsite or reachable by district-supplied school bus, but you almost need to know the school you'll be in before you can get into specifics. There's Albany-Berkeley YMCA Kids Club, the Berkeley-Richmond JCC, several City of Berkeley programs, PTA-sponsored afterschool classes, etc. Quality and cost vary.
Housing prices are outrageous everywhere here, buying or renting, but are higher where the public schools are good (over the hill, Piedmont, and, to some extent, Albany). Most of the houses are older; lots of Berkeley and Oakland houses may remind you of the Twin Cities (I used to live in Mpls.).
Hope this helps. Jane
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