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We currently live in Piedmont but are thinking of moving to Berkeley, and are looking for opinions comparing the two public school systems. We're especially interested in the experiences of those who have moved from one district to the other--i.e. who can really compare pros and cons of both systems rather than just speaking to one. Both my husband and I are college professors: Academics are very important to us, but so is socioeconomic and racial diversity and exposing our kids to real-world experiences. We've lived in Piedmont for a year and have found it a bit country-clubbish (though everyone is very ''nice''). It just doesn't feel like the right fit for our family. Our older child will start kindergarten in a year. Thanks! Piedmont parent
Re: Moving to the Bay Area - which public school system?
You should really take a good look at Berkeley. BUSD has very good schools from K-12. They are not perfect, but we are educated (dad is Ivy-trained physician; mom has Master's degree), and are very happy with the education our 3 kids are getting. It is a well-rounded, enriched district, with gardening, art, cooking, dance, PE, music, excellent teachers, principals, & staff. Each school varies slightly in which programs they offer, but all offer a variety of ''extras''. There are no ''bad schools'' in Berkeley. The city buses the elementary kids, to ensure racial and economic equality across the city. BUSD mom of 3, ages 7-12
Hi, Thanks for creating this wonderful network. We have benefited a lot from it, in areas such alternate medicine and child care.
We will be moving back from India to California at the end of 2012, relocate to Berkeley and apply for admissions in BUSD for our two girls (5 and 8 yrs old) for academic year 2013-2014. Our questions are related to our older daughter, currently 8 years old, and studying in a school in India. She is Sept born, and will be 10 years old in Sept 2013. We would like to know the following:
a. Which grade she will be eligible to enroll in?
She would have completed her 3rd grade in India school by Mar 2013.
b. Are they any mark-sheets or reports required from the school in India?
c. Are there any testing requirements from BUSD before she would be considered for enrollment?
Looking forward to your responses. Thanks KK
We are moving to Berkeley July 1st and have secured a rental property to live in. Of course, I am anxious to get our 8 year-old enrolled in a school right away (he'll be in 3rd grade next year). We'll be living in the Central Zone, which I believe has some excellent schools. My main concerns are as follows: 1) How can I make an educated decision about which schools to list as my top choice when I won't be able to tour any of the schools before we arrive? 2) Does it even matter if I come up with a list of ''top schools'' for my son, given how late in the process we will be enrolling him? 3) Are we guaranteed a school within our zone, or does the late date of enrollment mean he just goes wherever there is space? 4) Even though we have a firm address for our residence starting in July, do we really have to wait until we have lived there long enough to receive bills, etc. before we can start the enrollment process? I am consoling myself with the belief that any Berkeley elementary will be ''good,'' but I'm still feeling a little overwhelmed and confused. Any and all advice about navigating this process would be much appreciated! -Stressed about schools
Hello, We are moving to North Berkeley from San Francisco in November 2011. We are wondering how the school placement would work. Our daughter is in middle school and our son is in the 4th grade. Is school placement based on where you live? We are considering purchasing a home in North Berkeley. Not sure where I should start w/regard to schools. Our kids are coming from private schools in SF. Thanks for any advice. Emily
There are three middle schools - two are geographic based, with the northern zone school being King. Any student can apply to Longfellow (which also has the District's dual immersion middle school program) through a lottery. All 3 middle schools have API's over 800. King has 900-1000 students while Longfellow has about 425.
More detailed information, such as how to apply to the lottery should be obtained from the District's administrative offices (there is also information on the District's website). Hope this helps guide you in making an informed decision for your children. I really encourage you to visit all of the schools that your children could potentially attend. Visit classrooms, check out hallways during transition times, check out the playground/lunch room time, go to a PTA meeting, etc. This will give you a good idea of which school best fits your child's needs (while academics are fairly equally strong, each school does vary in less tangible ways) based upon personal knowledge. There are a lot of urban myths and old information out there about particular schools - good and bad. Check it out yourself! And, look forward to your family joining our District community! School Board Member Karen Hemphill
Hello, I am a San Diego resident relocating to the Berkeley area for school. I have two boys, currently 4 & 6 yrs, who will be coming with me and I would greatly appreciate any guidance I might receive regarding schools/neighbrhoods in the area. I am coming from a small beach town where my oldest son attends a small public school that has a wonderful community feel. I live in a very safe area that borders some relatively affluent areas but also provides some diversity. I am looking for the bay area equivalent, but unfortunately, no one I know in the area has children and therefore they do not have much to offer in the way of advise for schools. I am a single parent, need to live somewhere with relatively decent access to transportation (although this is not a first priority), need to live somewhere where my children can safely play outside (family friendly), but do not need to be directly next to the UC Berkeley campus. I am willing to travel to school if need be...depending on the accessibility of public transportation. I would like the most well-rounded neighborhood & school possible...which equates to a quality education, a safe area, diversity, arts, parks, and so forth. Does this wonderland exist? If so, where shall I look? Thanks so much for your time & response. - Erinn
Bad news: you'll likely not have much, if any, choice of schools. Kids have already been assigned by lottery & many schools are "full". If you're moving to Berkeley during the summer, you may simply be placed into a school that has a spot. (That's my understanding, but talk with BUSD Admissions.) Don't assume you'll be assigned to your neighborhood school, or even one in your zone. Berkeley is divided into 3 school "zones" with 4 or 5 elementary schools per zone, (so you can live right next to a school, but get assigned to school across town that is also in your zone).
GOOD NEWS: Berkeley Unified is a desirable school district with great elementary schools that are well-rounded, generally small (less than 400 students) and diverse. Our schools are generously supported by the community through BPEF, PTAs, taxes... Thus, many schools have been able to continue enrichment programs (such as cooking/gardening, music, arts). While enrichment may differ by schools the general core curriculum is the same at each school. Naturally, families have different priorities/preferences as to schools, so advising you on which schools are best for you is difficult (but I would recommend all the schools in our Northwest Zone). We based our school selection initially because we liked a larger school, it was convenient & the playground had grass. Turns out there's a whole lot more to love about our school, namely the teachers and the community. As far as well-rounded neighborhoods, generally North Berkeley or anywhere in the hills. Public transportation is fairly good throughout the city. Hope this helps. Mama of 2 Thousand Oaks Kids in NW Zone
Hi - We are moving to Berkeley from the East Coast and are wondering in which section of Berkeley to rent. What is considered to be the best zone for elementary and middle schools? Thanks! -Jason
Regarding elementary schools, there are 3 zones, each with a few schools, each school with its strengths. Each zone crosses lines of household income, and parent education level; and has a mix of ethnicities. Students that attend a given elementary school come from throughout the zone. These zone boundaries can change over time, too.
Given all this, you may not want to base your decision about where to rent on which school zone you will be in. THey are all about equal. Which ever elementary school you end up at, please try to find time to volunteer. As you are likely aware, it will help you become a part of your new community faster, and it will help you better understand and support your student's school. There are also many great opportunites for volunteering at middle schools (writer's coach, fund raising, gardening, libraries).
And the high school is good, too, despite its own challenges. Welcome to Berkeley! another berk. unified schl dist mom
We want our kids in public school all the way through high school (also, can't afford private), and currently reside in a neighborhood with a very bad school. So, we are thinking of moving to Berkeley from Oakland.
I've learned that there are 3 zones in Berkeley and within each you don't necessarily get your neighborhood elementary school or your top choice. So, can anyone comment upon which zone has the best elementary schools or, conversely, which has the worst?
Also, if anyone has experience with the middle schools and can comment upon which are the best/worst that would be appreciated too.
We value diversity and good solid teaching tailored to the children above mere standardized test scores (although I know this differs from the State's approach to public schools). Thank you!
But I believe these good qualities are true at all BUSD schools --- we know BUSD families at pretty much all of the elementary schools and middle schools and most of those families are for the most part satisfied. Frankly I would not believe anyone who said one zone is better or worse.
That is not to say all the schools are identical. But different does not mean better or worse, just different.
There are only 10 elementary schools and 3 middle schools. Go on a few tours, attend a PTA meeting, visit the school during one of the many school events: spring carnivals, concerts, etc. You will not know what is right for your family until you check it out for yourself. Good luck BUSD parent
My husband and I and our two children (5 and 2) will be living in Berkeley for 6 months from July - December while my husband is a visiting fellow at UC Berkeley. We live in sydney Australia and our 5 year old son Max has just started Kindergarten here. We would like to enrol Max in kindergarten while we are in the States, but are having difficulty finding any web information regarding processes for international student / short-term enrolments in elementary school. (eg we can't find any information on the Berkeley Unified website re this and haven't been able to get in touch with Berkeley Unified staff through emails / phone). Our other issue is that our accommodation isn't finalised yet but we are waiting to hear about a place in the Southeast district.
So I thought I'd try this email list just in case there is anyone out there who can provide any pointers which would be fantastic! thank you
Admissions and Attendance Office Central Administration Annex Building 1835 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94703 Phone: (510) 644-6504 E-Mail: Admissions@berkeley.k12.ca.us Hours: 8:00-12:00 and 1:00-4:00 P.M. Closed Tuesdays at 3:00 P.M. http://www.berkeley.net/enrollment/BUSD Mom
Greetings, All. My family and I have been exiled in LA for the last 3 years. We are in a public charter school down here,but now my husband is out of work and wants to move back to Berkeley. While I am happy to move, I don't want to move the kids mid-school year, so we have agreed to wait and come back next summer. Here's the prob: We need to have a Berkeley address by Feb 6th in order to get into the first round of the lottery. We can't afford to maintain two households, so that isn't feasible, which means we'll either make the second round, which is in May or something, or just come back in June and take our chances. I spoke with the admissions folks at BUSD, who pointed out that we're going to have an additional challenge , as we will have a 3rd and a 1st grader, so the spaces will be limited anyway. This is all for background,here are my questions: 1. Has anyone moved in the summer and still gotten the school they wanted, or at least one of their preferences? 2. Am I mad to just let go and let God, so to speak,rather than trying to move heaven and earth to make it all work in time for the first lottery? I could move by Xmas and home school for the rest of the year. 3. All the schools (elementary) seem to get good reviews of one sort or another, so is it reasonable for me to relax about it? Abbi
I wouldn't think you are mad to just wait and see what happens. I wouldn't stress my family and myself too much over making a certain date on a calendar. If you have the option to do homeschooling after you move back here, that's great, but I would still go to the BUSD office and try to enroll the children mid-year (no lotteries involved here.)
With a little faith and God's holy intentions, you will get the school that is best for your children. Wishing you the best.
The key is to get involved in your kids school, and pick one thing (at least one) that you can dedicate time and energy to there each year.
Welcome back to Berkeley, in advance. Whichever school your family lands in, and wichever neighborhood you land in, will be glad to have a caring and supportive family. Mom
Hi, we are in the process of buying a house in Berkeley. We have two girls, ages 4 years and 7 months. We would like to send our kids to public schools if the public schools are a decent option. My husband has heard that the schools work on a lottery system. Is there any particular area in Berkeley where we should look for a house to take advantage of the public schools?? Thank you for your help! Lori
Best thing to do is to visit, and then suss out your lottery choices based on that. And be prepared to be involved in your child's education. Busy BUSD parent
We are planning to relocate from Seattle, to Berkeley/Oakland area in the new year. Depending on the job situation we may move as early as Jan/Feb, or else later on, probably early summer. Either way we'll need to enroll our current kindergartener in school. I would appreciate ANY advice/first hand experience, on what to expect about this situation... I have heard that the Oakland schools are supposed to keep a few slots open for mid-year entries, but I expect at the more popular schools these may be gone. I haven't been able to find any info for Berkeley.... Vanessa
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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