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John Muir Elementary School (Berkeley, CA)
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So, we were assigned John Muir. Not one of our choices, and we are not very happy about it. We will of course wait list our first choice, but we also need to prepare ourselves for the good possibility that we will end up at John Muir. It seems everyone we talk to either loves JM or knows someone who loves JM. On one hand we can understand that, there were certainly strong points about the school, but there were red-flags to us that really put us off. Most concerning for us while on our tour was what seemed to be a lot of class time spent on behavior problems. Is this an issue at the school? This may sound strange, but we'd love to hear from people who did NOT love JM, and hear why. Too often it is the cheerleaders who are loudest, and we want to hear if our concerns regarding the school (including the one we mentioned above and a handful of other smaller issues) are actually well-founded concerns or did we just tour on a bad day. Also, while we aren't slaves to test scores, it was disconcerting to use that to realize we were assigned to a school with the lowest test scores in the zone. Why is that? Please dish: what's the real deal at John Muir, not just the PTA version? Thanks! So Disappointed...
Cons of John Muir is that the school is small. There are fewer parents to participate in the PTA, etc. It is a hard school to get to parking and public transit wise.
Overall, John Muir is a good school with a lot in the plus side. The teachers are great. The aftercare programs are also great. The principal is very competent and involved. BUSD is a lottery so the chances are as good at * any * school that there will be children with discipline problems.
I would not put too much weight on the 3rd grade reading scores. John Muir's are the lowest in the South East Zone, but all Berkeley schools scored well on this test (I believe LeConte has scored lower the John Muir historically). The API score is an average of how well the kids that took the test that day did. JM parent
I toured John Muir which is one of the schools in our BUSD zone, for kindergarten. I so wanted to love it because of the 9 am start time, the small size of the school, and the location. But I just didn't. Do any current or former parents have thoughts to share? Do you love it or is there in fact sometimes not a great vibe at the school, and if so, what is going on if anything? Thanks so much for your thoughts. southeastern zone mom
I'm sure there's room for improvement. Volunteer parents are always in demand for fund raising, helping out in classroom, organizing staff appreciation lunches, art auction etc. etc. etc. But that seems true of all schools in the district. Good luck finding your true love or perhaps you'll give John Muir another chance... Barbara
To piggyback on a recently posted question about Berkeley elementary schools in the Southeast zone-- John Muir vs. Emerson -- I am wondering what parents think of their respective after-school programs. Since the after-school portion of the day could be almost as long as the school portion, it seems like prospective parents should pay almost as much attention to the after-school offerings. Which has the best enrichment programs? How do you feel about the supervision? Is there enough running-around time? What is the balance between structured and unstructured time? What opportunities are there for gifted kids? (More responses to the original post would also be appreciated!) south berkeley parent
The afterschool program at John Muir is run by Kids in Motion, which is not part of the school district. It's a privately operated program. Your kids can bus from Emerson to John Muir, if you look at both programs, and you prefer Kids in Motion. It does not work in the opposite direction -- your kids cannot bus to Emerson from John Muir for the afternoon.
In my experience, there are some kids who thrive in both programs, some kids who prefer one over the other, and some who don't like either. I think both programs are good, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Your experience of the program is more related to your child, than the program itself.
This may or may not be pertinent for you, but BUSD also buses kids to other programs throughout the city. We are Jewish, and our kids could get on the public school bus and go to our synagogue's after school program, if we chose.
This year, we have a babysitter taking the kids most days because it's not more expensive than having both kids in afterschool programs, and we can choose more freely to have play-dates, hang out, or take a class somewhere else.
My point is that there are quite a few choices, and something that works for you and your child will be available, no matter which school you attend! emerson parent
I can speak about the Kid in Motion program, the privately run program that functions out of the school cafeteria. It has been fantastic for our daughter who is now in 5th grade. The fact that she still likes to go to her after school program at the age of 10 is impressive to me. Troy, the owner, and Gina, his main side kick and the whole team are good folks, the kind of people you would want your child to be around. They facilitate soccer games, bike riding on the campus, board games, visiting the creek, arts and crafts, and of course, completion of at least 30 minutes of homework (yay!) Most importantly, my daughter loves the sense of freedom to graze amongst activities. You can't go wrong at Kids in Motion, and hopefully the BEARS program is wonderful, too. I imagine Emerson's program is similar to our BEARS program. Sarah
My husband and I are considering moving to either the Elmwood District of Berkeley or the Uplands with our almost five year old daughter who will start kindergarten next year. I wondered if there are any parents who live in that area and have Elementary School aged kids who are in the public school and could tell me about the quality of the schools and the likelihood of getting your first choice of schools, as I understand that you list your first three choices and you are not all that likely to get your first choice. So I guess I am wondering if the quality of the schools are that different in these districts such that it is a real problem if you don't get your first choice. It would be great if parents could weigh in about the public elementary schools in these districts. Thanks, Lisa lisa
Why did we pick John Muir? John Muir is a small and intimate school, the smallest school in Berkeley with 250 students, so the kids and teachers all know each other. John Muir has a great group of teachers who work together to provide the kids a great learning experience. John Muir has a beautiful campus, with a grass field, an historic auditorium, and a creek that is used for science (and play). Finally, John Muir has a late start time (9 AM) allowing us a more leisurely morning and even time to finish homework in the morning. Plus, for our family, we can walk to the school.
Since starting at John Muir, we have discovered a wonderful parent community and great teachers, and, this year, we are very excited to have an amazing new principal. Our kids have participated in lots of special activities, including quilt making and a play in kindergarten, a Shakespeare play for 4th and 5th graders, dance performances throughout the year, and attending Zellerbach performances as well as other field trips each year. John Muir has a PE program through Playworks, which teaches PE and also organizes recess sports and after school sports. The PTA sponsors lots of great weekend/evening activities, such as a bbq at Back to School Night, Mayfair, an Art Auction (of the kidB- art), and Beach Day. We are looking forward to our kids going to Outdoor School for a week in 5th grade. We also love the after school program that our kids attend at John Muir (Kids in Motion). Happy John Muir Family sC
We are sending our daughter (now in first grade) to John Muir and we are very happy with it. It was our first choice in the SE zone because of the beautiful campus and how small it is (and close to our house too). The teachers are wonderful & the school manages to have all kinds of ''extras (not sure if paid for with Berkeley's high property taxes, PTA money, or grants (or all 3)) like dance, cooking, gardening, sports, theatre, science, acting, etc. Plus, all of the kids learn at least some sign language because it is the region's school for children with hearing issues. Personally, I think private school is a waste of money if you have access to Berkeley's great public schools, unless you want something really specific like Waldorf.
I've heard great things about Emerson too, and would have been happy to send my daughter there, but we didn't get in.
FYI, both schools are hard to get in (luck of the draw because it's a lottery). But if you don't get in at first, make sure you get on each of the waiting lists; some people don't get in until a couple of days before school starts. -anon
My daughter has a moderate to severe hearing loss, has one hearing aid, one C.I. She will be starting 1st in the fall. She currently attends a Total Communication program in Vallejo, is mainstreamed with an interpreter and stays for an extended day in the Deaf/HH class. What can anyone tell me about the John Muir Elementary program for Deaf/HH kids? We're hoping to move to Berkeley to be closer to family, closer to my husband's work, but want our daughter to continue to receive good support services. Thank you!
In the two K classrooms (40 kids total) there's only one deaf kid (with cochlear implants). He is accompanied full time by an interpreter (provided by the school). I don't know how many kids are in the upper grades but I think they do a combined 4th/5th classroom that's just the Deaf/HH kids.
There are interpreters at all the assemblies I've been to, and the entire school seems to take pride in the program. All the kids are taught basic signs, and some signs (like yes & no) are used in lieu of having the kids shout out answers. Also, at assemblies everyone is encouraged to ''clap'' in sign, which is actually very fun.
I hope this helps, and I'd strongly recommend that you stop by the school and talk to teachers and parents. Call the office to find a good time. JM mom
Hi, I'm looking for recent comments on John Muir School. There is only one post on the website from the past 3 years. We are not terribly interested in test scores, but want bright, motivated, caring teachers who will make learning fun. We care about a good library and the arts in general (visual arts as well as music and dance -- loved Malcolm X) and would like a school with a community feeling.
Our daughter went to several very sought-after preschools and she really seems to love John Muir more than the pricey schools she had been at. I was really nervous about her starting kindergarten, but she is thriving! I can't believe that people pay to send their kids to private school when our public schools here are so wonderful, and seem to be pretty well-funded with Berkeley's high property taxes.
PS - we didn't get in off the waiting list until a couple of weeks before school started, so don't give up hope if you don't get in initially. -anon
My son will be kindergarten age this coming fall and I am seeking advice/feedback on Berkeley schools in the Southeast zone. I plan on touring of course, but I'd love to hear feedback and am especially interested in hearing from anyone who knows info about schools accomodating those who may need a ''little'' extra support. Due to hearing loss, my son has had speech therapy for the last couple of years. Although he is talking NON stop now and has been in a private preschool without support (speech is away from school), and doing great we/they think he may need some support in some areas that might be a bit behind due to him playing catch up in others. Thanks!!
There are also a couple of kids who go to speech therapy. Of course I don't have the details on why these kids are going to speech therapy, and how the therapy is helping, but I know that it's not new or different at John Muir.
Good luck finding the right school. So far, we've been really happy at John Muir. JM mom
Re: John Muir or Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley
As the parent of a Kindergartener (boy) and a third-grader (girl), I can enthusiastically recommend John Muir Elementary. This is a wonderful school community, with great teachers, an active PTA, and a terrific, diverse, and caring student body. There is regular instruction for all grade levels in Cooking (we share an instructor, Chef Carrie, with Emerson), Gardening (Farmer Jasper), Dance (Ms. Valerie Gutwirth), Sports (Coach Robin from the Sports4Kids program), as well as Music and Art. There are two after school programs at John Muir, Kids' Village which offers a range of enrichment classes (current offerings include Cooking and Gardening, Lacrosse, Chess Club, Creative Movement and Mask, and Soccer) and Kids In Motion which is more oriented towards games and sports; both programs, of course, provide time and support for homework. I have been very impressed with the differentiated instruction at all grade levels, which ensures that every student is challenged to do his or her personal best. In short, this school is a gem! Please feel free to email me if you have any further questions I might be able to answer. ks
Re: Public school better in berkeley
My child attends John Muir, which is a public elementary school in the South East zone of Berkeley. Your questions regarding ''teaching to the test'' and ''teacher - student ratios'' are probably quite uniform between Berkley public schools. The mandated student to teacher ratio is 20:1 for gr k-3. All public schools are affected by ''No child left behind'' and required to have regular testing (unfortunately.) I can speak about what I find unique and special about John Muir. Despite being the smallest elementary school in Berkeley, John Muir has a beautiful campus with a creek, a large playing field and two playgrounds. People get to know one another here and the teachers, staff and principal have been responsive to our son's needs. My son is an avid reader and a very strong student. He also enjoys cooking and gardening; it makes me happy, he's learning such healthy eating habits and developing concern for the environment. Kid's Village, the afterschool program, has a terrific staff and all sorts of creative and academic activities that enrich the education at JM (Mural Painting, Capoeira, Chess, Science Projects, Homework help.) Finally, I really enjoy the diverse and involved parent body. Both my son & I have formed many friendships and always feel welcome at the school. Rachel
My daughter will be entering kindergarten Fall, 2008 and we are interested in John Muir Elementary School in Berkeley. I would love to hear from current parents about the school. Thanks. Laura
Re: Choosing between public schools in southeast zone
My son is currently attending Kindergarten at John Muir School. He is having a wonderful year, learning to read and write while also having time to play and making lots of new friends. He loves his teacher and is excited about his new school. He has also been enjoying the many extracurricular activities at John Muir, including biweekly assemblies with student performances (dancing and reciting poetry) and special guests (such as the Red Panda Acrobats and a performance about the school's namesake -- John Muir); dancing with a fabulous dance teacher who has had all the kids performing at the assemblies; gardening with Farmer Jasper, PE with Coach Victoria, and cooking with Chef Carrie; visits and a performance from the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra; and a field trip to Tilden Park. As his mom, I am enjoying the John Muir community, which has lovely families and an active PTA. We have enjoyed the community activities, including a barbecue at the beginning of the school year and MayFaire in the spring. We are thrilled with our choice of John Muir and would definitely recommend the school. Happy John Muir Parent
Does anyone have kids at John Muir? We live in the area and will be looking at schools next year. Thanks. A Mom
Re: Respectful behavior at school
My 5 year old attends John Muir Elementary School in Berkeley. They have a schoolwide ''Lifeskills'' curriculum that has received national recognition; it focuses the whole school on things like respect, integrity, responsibility, caring, etc. I was very skeptical of the whole thing on my first visit after we were assigned to the school last year -- I am a big supporter of it, and of the school, now. My daughter is having an excellent kindergarten year, with a wonderful teacher and a really great community. At the weekly assembly, children are singled out by name and cited for their successful use of lifeskills; even the fourth graders (usually the age most prone to nasty stuff because they are all so uncomfortable with themselves) sit quietly and with nary an eyeroll, and stand proudly when called upon. John Muir is small (220+ kids), and size can be a factor at times in the springing up of (and lack of dealing with) bullies. I think what happens is that with fewer kids, all the kids are more visible. In a community where respect is encouraged and embraced, lack of respect is immediately dealt with -- and if there are fewer kids, there are fewer places to sneak around. This is not to say that small schools don't have bullies: they do. It's what the culture of the place tolerates that makes the difference. There is a large program for deaf children at John Muir, and the whole school learns sign language as a result. Many of the deaf kids have other physical issues as well; I have never seen anyone treated disrespectfully in any way. Valerie
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