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Crestmont School (Richmond, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Crestmont School (Richmond, CA)



March 2014

Re: First grader says he hates school - change to private?

Moving from a public to a private school is a decision many consider in the Bay Area. There are a lot of ''c''s to consider: Culture, Community, Commute, and Cost were the ones we debated.

In the end we chose a small private school, Crestmont Elementary. Our child is in 3rd grade and thriving. Our child too has struggled with being motivated and is more an ''outdoors'' than ''indoors'' personality. The hands-on approach to learning has certainly helped. Also, while there is homework and focused preparation for middle school in 5th grade, the homework or test taking is not overwhelming nor the primary focus of teaching.

What we like about Crestmont in the ''4Cs'' order:

- a ''whole child'' approach that adapts to the different learning styles of children. They have an on-site learning specialist to provide individual, one-on-one learning assistance as needed.

- the healthy amount of outdoor time. Recess is at least 45 minutes a day, and there is structured PE as well. This has been severely cut back in public schools. We also love the frequency of day and overnight field trips -- a big part of school tradition and a tremendous learning experience.

- it's a cliche, but the school -- as a co-op -- really creates and sustains a sense of community. My child knows not just every fellow student, but their siblings and parents. People are amazed at how well and confident he is talking to adults.

- We live in El Cerrito, and so the commute is about 10 minutes. The school is on the Arlington in the Richmond Hills near the El Cerrito border.

- Cost was a big consideration for us. Tuition is much lower than other private schools, but as a co-op you participate in the operations and maintenance of the school to keep costs low. (Not teaching, as the school has a director and credentialed teachers.) This can range from fundraising to volunteering in the classroom to editing the web site. This time commitment works for some families, but not all.

The greatest thing a school can do is to instill a love of learning. The East Bay offers a great range of private and charter schools that may provide a better fit than the one your son is at now. Also, EBISA is a good resource for private school info. ELC Family


Jan 2014

Re: Kensington Elementary School for easy going girl?
If you're private-school curious you may be interested in looking at Crestmont School, which is short drive down Arlington from Kensington in Richmond View. As an affordable independent school, Crestmont attracts mostly families for whom the local public school wasn't quite right and who were seeking a more enriched school environment. The K teacher is very warm and nurturing, and small class sizes, classroom aides and parent participants ensure that the students throughout all the grades (it's K-5) receive focused, positive, individual attention. It's offered what we've wanted for our kids, who never want to leave at the end of the day! And as a co-op it also attracts parents who want/are able to be extra involved in their child's schooling and willing to put in time throughout the year to help make the wonderful school work. The best to you and your daughter! EC mom


Nov 2013

Re: Progressive schools in El Sobrante area?

We were in a similar situation. There are several private schools in El Sobrante, but they have religious affiliations. We wanted progressive and secular. It came down to two choices for us -- East Bay Waldorf in El Sobrante and Crestmont School in Richmond. Both have great music and arts programs. In the end we chose Crestmont, but probably would have been happy at either. Crestmont was a good match for us with small class sizes, focused attention on the student, and the amount of learning that happens OUTSIDE the classroom with field trips and other outings. Affordability was also a deciding factor. Crestmont is a co-op so parents run and maintain the school (but don't do the teaching). That keeps tuition lower than similar schools. I did hear they hired a director recently, though, so tuition may have gone up. Crestmont really creates a community where all of the students in the grades know each other, and know the parents. For some, they may find the school maybe too small, as there is just one class per grade. Waldorf has a beautiful campus and a larger student body. It has a distinct philosophy of educating the ''whole child''. The teacher stays with the class from grade 1 to junior high. That to us, could be fantastic, or not so good, depending on how your kid interacts with that teacher. Our children thrived at Crestmont, but it's not for everyone. It's for families who want to be involved in their child's school. You should also check out an organization of independent schools in the East Bay for more options. Good luck! El Sobrantian


You are so lucky to be moving to El Sobrante because you will be close to one of the most amazing schools in the Bay Area: Crestmont School, a parent coop that has amazing emphasis on experiential learning, the arts and creativity in every aspect of the school's curriculum. Go visit and see how amazing this school is. My son went there K-5 and I was the music teacher for a few years. Our family fell in love with Crestmont and we still sing its praises even though my son is now in high school. Good luck with your search, but don't miss this rare opportunity to experience one of the Bay Area's educational gems: http://crestmontschool.org/ Jeffrey
We live in El Sobrante for the very common reason of not being able to afford a house in one of our preferred school districts. Then of course we faced the issue of finding the right school for our two girls. The long road of looking into all the options, trying to get into the top rated El Sobrante Schools and asking for transfers left us with a dead end for our needs. But in that process we were given the name of Crestmont School; a very small, slightly alternative, progressive cooperative school in Richmond. Little did our experience know that we had circuitously found the school that I didn't think we could afford. The fact that the school is a co-op lowers the cost for a private school. Yes I am a full-time working parent with a flexible schedule, but the financial encouragement to participate in the classroom has exceeded my expectation of how involved I could be in my children's school life and academics. The school has very small classes, with a teacher, aide and parent in every class. The curriculum is creative, full of the much needed arts and inspiring for my children. They love to learn and what more could you want when starting your kids on the long road of education? Happy parent in El Sobrante
Dec 2012

Re: Evaluating academic strengths of local private schools
My son went to Crestmont & is in 8th grade at East Bay School for Boys. He is not behind in math and is doing quite well. (I taught music for 3 years at Crestmont while my son was there for 6 years). I saw a few parents worry and ''freak out'' about math or science preparedness during our 6 years there and it ended up being a parent issue not the school's. Crestmont always hires top notch teachers that do an amazing job preparing students academically and emotionally (the latter is an amazing bonus unique to Crestmont). Our love of Crestmont will be for our lifetime as they helped shape our son in an amazing way. Good luck with your search as you have named several really good schools. Be sure to choose the one that fits your child the best. Jeffrey


Crestmont does lack a gym and groomed playing fields but that was far outshadowed by the quality of the education that my child received at Crestmont. Crestmont gave my child the gift of creativity, exploration and self-confidence--gifts that have kept on giving academically. Crestmont's core values plus a small teacher-student ratio and a caring, dedicated staff translate into excellent academic skills that lead students to UCs, Ivy League, and other great colleges and universities. While PE at Crestmont is a weakness, Crestmont students do not lack for challenging and interesting physical activities such as working in a community garden and hiking in the regional parks. Parent of Crestmont Grad
Oct 2012

Re: Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?
I want to recommend Crestmont Cooperative. It meets all your criteria with a special emphasis on hands-on learning, nature-oriented exploration, family involvement, social/identity development, and project-based curriculum. There are plenty of field trips and opportunities for children throughout K-5 to interact with each other, including a buddy exchange. The tuition is about half tha of many private schools, and you can even ''participate'' to get a further tuition deduction if you don't qualify for financial aid. It is a diverse, warm and friendly learning environment in the Richmond Hills. A Happy Parent and Child


I can highly recommend checking out Crestmont School on the Arlington in the Richmond View neighborhood! I have had 2 daughters go there (youngest is a current 5th grader) and the balance of field trips, language arts, reading, spanish, music, and PLAY time is fabulous. The teachers are creative, fun, and get the kids out into the world to explore and experience their community.

It is a parent owned co-op, so the community is very strong and involved, which means every child is seen and heard. For your husband concerns, the cost is 50% less than other private schools because of the co-op structure. We LOVE the Kindergarten teacher, who is so warm and caring and fun (we actually love ALL the teachers!!). A great way to enter elementary school.

One of the best parts of Crestmont is the ability to adapt to each child, and their learning needs. The homework for a 5th grader is less than 15 min a night, and then reading each day.. no pressures or 3 hour evenings of homework.

My other daughter, who graduated from Crestmont, is an 8th grader and is thriving educationally, as well as socially, and loves going to her school, which I credit Crestmont in helping give her the love of learning, and the environment to grow. scott


One school you will want to look into is Crestmont School in Richmond View. Our son graduated from Crestmont four years ago. After coming from a school that emphasized frequent and escalating test-taking, we were looking for a school that had instead a hands-on, experiential learning focus. We found that focus at Crestmont, where there were wonderful field trips, hands-on projects, and creativity incorporated into the daily learning. There was also a community focus at Crestmont, and the mixed-age classrooms (he was in the 2-3 class and then the 4-5 class in his 3 years at Crestmont), excellent teachers, parent involvement, small class size, and many community events really added to his (and our) experience at this school. As working parents, we were also very appreciative of the caring environment of the before/after school program. Crestmont Alum Family
Wow, you could be describing Crestmont School! My son is in 2nd grade at Crestmont, and I can tell you it has everything you are looking for. The curriculum is hands on and project based, fostering critical thinking and engagement. Class sizes are small, allowing teachers to work with different learning styles and not be forced into a ''one-size-fits-all'' approach. There are 1 to 2 field trips every month! There is no homework in K or 1st grade, and very little in the other grades. Art instruction is integrated into the curriculum, and there are Spanish classes, PE and music several times a week. There is also a learning specialist. There is a very high importance placed on social-emotional learning at Crestmont; the teachers create this curriculum together based on current research and proven practices. My son feels very safe and respected at Crestmont, and has displayed some impressive conflict resolution skills. Because Crestmont is a parent cooperative, the tuition is around half that of other independent private schools. There are coop responsibilities each family has to fulfill, but they are not onerous, and there is a real sense of community that develops from the coop structure. And, Crestmont is minutes off I-80 in the hills of Richmond. There are upcoming tours and information events; see our website (http://crestmontschool.org/). I hope you'll check out the school, I think you will love it! Crestmont parent
Like you, we were looking for an elementary education for our children that would expose them to all the highlights of the youngest years of learning: a focus on core elements of science and math, an immersion in art, an introduction to music and the foreign languages, AND we wanted it all tied together in a community that would surround and envelop my son with a smart mix of warmth, encouragement and the teaching of real-world decision-making skills. We found that, and have been for six years at Crestmont School on the Arlington Ave. in the Richmond Hills/El Cerrito boarder. Though we considered homeschooling, what changed my mind was the breadth of focus at Crestmont: the abundance of fieldtrips, the chance to study and play outdoors in a multivenue learning environment, the focus on the fact that different children learn differently and the ability to tailor teaching methods based on that principle. There's also a strong focus on taking care of one another and genuinely welcoming those around us, no matter how different they may be. Last week was anti-bullying day, and every child wore bright orange to show that not only are they against bullying, but more importantly, they can recognize what it is and take a stand against it. Crestmont is a parent teacher co-op, so there's a real hand-in-hand aspect to building the right kind of environment together. It's been a hidden gem. Shhhh! Susie A
Sept - Oct 2012

Re: Mira Vista or Crestmont School

We have sent both of our children to Crestmont School and our youngest will be graduating this year, as she is in fifth grade. Our experience at the school has been excellent, and we strongly recommend that parents consider touring and coming to information events to learn more about it. At Crestmont, children thrive in a ''small village'' environment, with support from teachers, instructional aides, specialty teachers and participating parents. There are many multi-age activities and opportunities for developmentally based, differentiated learning. Both of our children have loved school, and our oldest, who is about to graduate from high school, developed confidence in herself and a love for learning that has guided her through the challenges of adolescence and middle and high school. Crestmont is a little jewel of a school - it's the oldest parent cooperative elementary school in the West and has been around for over 40 years. And last, being a parent at Crestmont is an education for the adults, as well - in cooperative learning and interaction. This learning community has enriched our lives far beyond the role of a traditional school. Susan & Rafael


My daughter started at Crestmont last year, and we are very happy with the school in general. She asks if we can get there early and if she can stay for aftercare because she has so much fun at school. The current Kindergarten teacher is calm, warm, loving, and great with the kids. All of the teachers are very good at communicating with the parents. The school doesn't really have an administration - it is run by a board made up of parents, and every family has a job that they're responsible for to help keep the school running. The curriculum for K includes pre-reading skills, art, science observation, early math (counting, patterns, ones, tens and hundreds places), Spanish, singing, sewing, drama, and free play. There are 1-2 field trips per month. Class sizes are small, with one teacher, one aide, and one participating parent for 10-15 kids in K and 1st grades. Most parents spend a lot of time at the school between the (optional) classroom participation, membership meetings, maintenance work, field trips, and all-school special events. On the one hand, it's hard to find the time to do everything. However, all of that work results in a real feeling of community, and it's great to know almost all of the families at my child's school. 1st grade parent
My son is currently at Crestmont in 4th grade and he loves it. My daughter also went there and she is now in 7th grade. What I like most about it, besides the great education my children receive, is the community and the class size. The two go hand in hand. The community is so strong and caring that I know my children will always have someone making sure everything is all right. With the class size between 10-15, it is a perfect blend of big enough for a good social pool and small enough for children to not feel lost. They treat every child as an individual and work with their strengths and their style of learning. My son loves school and is ready to go each morning and I have to drag him home each afternoon because he wants to stay and play with his friends. Jennifer
I am have two children at Crestmont and have been extremely happy. The environment is small and nurturing which allows for a lot of time to attend to the emotional and social needs of the children. In addition, due to the fact that it is a co-op, the parents are super involved which creates a strong sense of community that often is lacking in many cities. The teachers are wonderful and allowed the space to be creative in their curriculum. I feel so lucky to have found Crestmont and that my kids have had such a great start to their education. Good luck with your decision!
Hi - We faced the same decision a few years ago and went with Crestmont since it was a better fit for our family, and haven't second-guessed the choice.

We wanted a full-day kindergarten since our child was coming from a full time preschool program. We needed the before/aftercare Crestmont offers (it's on-site and drop-in, staffed by long time classroom and daycare aides - there are also afterschool enrichment classes like yoga, kung fu and engineering). We feel lucky that Crestmont was affordable for us at half the tuition of other independent schools.

We value the small class sizes, the specialty programs (Spanish, Music, PE, and lots of time for art), the creative curricula, the many and unique field trips, the tremendous parent involvement, the warm and nurturing environment it offers the kids and the great attention paid to their social and emotional learning.

The students are a nice group of kids, and there are lots of opportunities to get to know each of them and their families whether or not you participate in the classroom.

The current teaching staff is probably the strongest it's been since we started, and last year Crestmont created an academic program coordinator position to hold the arc of the curriculum together from K-5.

Being in a cooperative can be an intense experience, but overall we've found it very positive and rewarding to be part of such a dedicated group of teachers and parents all helping to run the school. Our second child started K at Crestmont this year and is thriving.

P.S. We also love our El Cerrito/Richmond Hills neighborhood - welcome! Happy at Crestmont


My son is in 2nd grade at Crestmont, and my husband and I are very glad we chose this school for him. Like other independent schools, Crestmont uses a hands-on curriculum that promotes critical thinking and engagement, and also puts an emphasis on social-emotional learning. Our son loves his school, is excited about what he does there, and feels safe and respected. The school is a parent cooperative, which is why the tuition is more affordable than most private schools. The coop structure requires parent participation; just like in all schools some families do a lot while others do the minimum that's required. Parents provide the administration of the school, but NOT the teaching, which is done by professionals. The environment at Crestmont is one of kindness, respect, responsibility, curiosity and enthusiasm. The students are so very kind to each other, but this isn't surprising because the school spends real time helping kids develop tools of empathy and respect. There are some information sessions and tours coming up, if you're interested in learning more or visiting the school (http://crestmontschool.org/). Happy Crestmont parent

Editor Note: reviews were also received for Mira Vista Elementary School


Nov 2011

Re: Looking for Developmental Multi-age School for 4th grader
Our son had a wonderful experience at Crestmont Cooperative (he graduated a couple of years ago). Crestmont provided a very creative, hands-on environment with excellent teachers and lots of family participation. It is multi-age with mixed grades in the classroom, on the playground, and at all the many school events. Our family loved the Crestmont experience and felt the school provided huge gifts and a wonderful education to our son. I encourage you to check out Crestmont. The school website ishttp://crestmontschool.org Former Crestmont Family


ADHD: Madera, Montessori Family or Crestmont?

Sept 2011

We have a boy who in 2012-2013 will be in the 2nd grade and who has some ADHD characteristics (not on medication). We are currently considering three schools: Madera Elementary (public), Montessori Family (private), and Crestmont (private). I was hoping to hear from families of ADHD kids about your experience with these schools.


Every school has its advantages and disadvantages. When we were looking for our son (who has ADHD), we ended up with Crestmont -- and are happy with that decision. The school has small classes with many adults involved (both teachers and parents). Each child has the opportunity to be recognized for his/her uniqueness -- but also to be brought into part of a larger community that supports the child. Time is spent not only on academic learning but also on creative play, social development, and many field trips. Also, there are other students attending who have ADHD (or other learning issues) so my son sees that everyone learns and thinks differently, with no one style being better or worse. He enjoys school -- which is probably the best that can be said.

We looked at Montessori, but I found its philosophy ill fitting for my son. Montessori education fosters children by allowing them to respond to their environment with a significant degree of independence. My son needs a bit more structure, however.

As for Madera, I hear its a lovely public school. . .but we were really looking for small class size, so I didn't check it out much.

Good luck with your school-hunting. It can be exhausting. Parent at Crestmont


My son with ADHD completed K thru 5th grade at Crestmont in the last few years. I was also a teacher there for a couple of years. Our experience was extremely positive. Since the school is set up as a parent/teacher co-op, the teachers are already very active in working with parents and the school community at large. We found the teachers to be very open to working with our son and family as he developed through the years. Self esteem can also be a big issue for children with learning disabilities. The amazing aspect about Crestmont is the whole community learns how to talk about their feelings, be creative, artistic, and promote experiential learning which is wonderful for a boy with ADHD. If you choose Crestmont, please be very involved and be active in the community. At the end of our son's 6 years there, we were all in tears as we looked back on what this wonderful school community gave to our son and to our family. We will be forever greatful for being held in the loving arms of the Crestmont community. We will cherish it always. Signed Crestmont parent for 6 years & teacher for 2 years.
My son has ADHD. He goes to Crestmont. He is now in 3rd grade. We have been there since 1at grade. They have been so great. They accommodate in any and all ways. When he had a hard time sitting still, they gave him time to ''run to the tree and back'', they put big rubber bands around his chair so he could tap his feet without disturbing anyone. He has never felt different or bad because of his condition. The other two amazing things are the class size and the learning specialist. With the small class size, there is always someone, teacher, aid or parent who is there for him whether it is to say you can do it or to just place a loving hand on his shoulder to diffuse frustration. The learning specialist helps him decode the world so it makes sense for his brain because we all know kids with ADHD see the world in a different way. I would definitely recommend Crestmont for any child that needs or any parent that wants smaller classes and great teachers, and the most amazing supportive community. Jennifer
March 2011

Re: Good Elem School(s) for Sensitive Boy?
We were really happy with Crestmont School (a cooperative in Richmond View adjacent to El Cerrito) for our son who has now graduated from Crestmont. The excellent teachers, small class sizes, warm environment and hands-on educational philosophy were great for him. In our experience, children at Crestmont were given the freedom to celebrate their uniqueness and were taught to respect that which made others unique. It was a very supportive environment for all kinds of kids. The result was that our child loved going school. The positive educational and social climate he had at Crestmont has been a strong asset to him as he has moved forward into middle school. Former Crestmont Family


My son is in third grade at Crestmont School and is thriving. He is consistently identified by other parents and teachers as the most giving, empathetic, and sensitive child they have ever met. I'd like to take credit for this, but really this is mostly just who he is and has always been. When we were choosing a school we looked for a community that would acknowledge and value his giving nature and not harden him out of his sensitivity. At the same time, I wanted him to develop some stronger coping strategies for working with kids who were not quite like him. At nine years old he has grown into a strong and still empathetic boy who can problem solve conflict well and who can speak up for himself and others. Crestmont is a good K-5 school with strong academics but with an added component of an extraordinary community of dedicated parents and teachers who want the childrens' educational experience to focus on the ''whole child''. The inclusion policy really works and you see kids of all ages playing games together on the playground happily. ''Honor all Children'' is one motto of the school that points to an individualized approach and an emphasis on sensitivity to one's community. I'd highly recommend you call them for a tour. crestmontschool.org Crestmont Parent
Jan 2011

Re: Seeking schools that have no homework, or much less
I assume that many have viewed the excellent film ''Race to Nowhere'' as it raises the issue of overworked kids. I'd recommend it to anyone who shares your concerns about saturating a young student's time. I am a college professor (15 years teaching) and I have seen in the past ten years freshmen students' capacity for reflection and unstructured problem-solving diminish severely and alarmingly. And, I think much of this problem is due to incredibly structured formative years -- homework, grades, and too many after school classes/activities at the expense of ''free'' time. I will be looking at the posts regarding your question about middle and high schools because I have the same concerns as you.

My own child attends Crestmont School (El Cerrito/Richmond hills). It is a K-5 Cooperative and supports the idea that kids and their families do interesting and educational things during free time. The cooperative nature of the school means parents are engaged in the education of their children and work with the teachers on all aspects of the school. Homework is limited in scope, it increases slightly by grade level to gently introduce the concept of organizing one's time and meeting deadlines as preparation for middle school. But the work is often given in a weekly packet (not daily) and is more creative than the worksheets that I see friends' children doing nightly for public school. My third grader is able to adjust his homework around other activities and he has time to play and relax after school. He actually has time to engage all of the educational toys and books that we have amassed over the years and that he works on self-initiated creative projects -- plus a little homework -- tells me that balance is there for him. My third grader chooses to film and edit his own movies, composes music, reads books, and builds ridiculously complicated Lego structures --all after school because he has time to do it. Crestmont honors the spirit of childhood encouraging fantasy, play, and imagination which I think allows each child's spirit to flourish in his or her young years and beyond. Crestmont has no formal grades nor tests and assessment is performed in written narratives, progress matrices, and parent-teacher meetings. If there are doubts about this style of education, Crestmont can show that our kids have historically done very well when they have matriculated to traditional academic settings in private or public middle schools. If you are interested in K-5, you can find more info about Crestmont at crestmontschool.org Parent at Crestmont


Nov 2010

Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
Hi, I am a college art professor and I was looking for an ''out of the box'', creative education for my child. My son has been at Crestmont School for four years now and I am very happy with the progressive curricula at the school. Although the teachers are credentialed and know the state standards per grade, the school allows for the teachers to have creative freedom and uses an integrated curriculum model-- which means that a deep subject is introduced, such as space or the rainforest, and then arts, math, science, reading, etc. revolve around that subject. Students have deeper experiences of how various disciplines and skills are applied together into a single inquiry and studies have shown this greatly improves retention. There are no tests or grades but significant written assessment and teacher/parent meetings help you understand your child's growth and strengths. Also, instead of a lot of worksheets, curricular subjects often revolve around real world applications. I've been really happy with the academics at Crestmont. It is a private school, but it is also a parent-owned K-5 cooperative -- which means that the community at large is actively involved in our the education of our children and also that the tuition is significantly cheaper at our non-profit co-op than other comparable schools. The work involved in the co-op is typically less than what preschool co-ops ask for. And although parents are very involved at running the school, our teaching staff are credentialed and are definitely the ones designing and delivering the curriculum. It is worth checking out, but Crestmont School may be too far from the area that you are looking in -- it is in the Richmond/El Cerrito hills near a lot of other EBISA schools. crestmontschool.org For other info on private schools, I'd go to the EBISA website for a compendium calendar of various private school open houses; also scan BPN for chat on different experiences at different schools by name; and keep a calendar of when public and private open houses are.Sorry, you missed the EBISA (east bay independent schools association) fair, they have one every fall in which member schools all have a booth with info about their school-- but others scanning these posts should know to look for that in the fall. It has been in Berkeley for the past two years in October. I'll be at it in another year or two when I'm looking for middle school options. Good luck. carol


June 2010

Re: Looking for an affordable K-4 private school
Really, the best deal in private non-secular education in the East Bay is Crestmont School K-5 in the Richmond hills. Don't let the address turn you off, it is on Arlington Ave. and basically in the same neighborhood as many other private schools in El Cerrito area, but about one half the price of the comparable schools (family montessori, windrush, prospect, tehiyah) .

Crestmont is a co-op school and that is why it is so affordable but it is very different than co-op preschools. The staff of experienced teachers are credentialed and very dedicated and creative. Classroom participation is NOT required and but you get tuition remission if you do participate, so that is another way to bring tuition down. The education provided by Crestmont is creative and honors the whole child. It is a very special community and worth looking into. They still have limited openings for this year. crestmontschool.org Good luck, Carol (parent at school)


May 2010

Re: Private school that is not trying to prove itself academically
Hi, I'd recommend that you look at Crestmont School in the Richmond hills. crestmontschool.org -- It is a very community oriented school with a multi-age format. It is a parent-owned co-op but the staff are credentialed teachers. It is the only cooperative elementary school K-5 in the East Bay and the children are taught to be and actually model being loving, responsible, and accepting members of their community. The multi-age format of the school can support kids who are struggling in some areas and are at or above grade-level in others. The school also has a learning specialist who works with kids who need extra help in some subjects, in small groups during the school day. The curriculum is based on an integrative model in which a subject is examined through many lenses reading, research, math, science, and art. It can provide deep linkages among the academic disciplines and help open up kids to doing things like math without even realizing it. There is great attention to the whole child. My son has been there for three years and it has been a satisfying choice for us. A bonus to the co-op is that the school is about half the price of other private schools in the EBISA network. The workload as a parent in the co-op is honestly about what my sister-in-law commits to the public school where her children attend. Good luck in your search. Carol


May 2010

Re: Race to Nowhere - Questioning Public Schools
Dear Hopeful, Yes, such a school does exist! Check out Crestmont School, a K-5 cooperative in Richmond (on the Arlington, not far from the El Cerrito border). Our son is in 3rd grade and our whole family is very happy there. There are no grades or tests, though the 4th/5th teacher does help prepare the kids for testing since most of them will experience tests in middle school. I too saw Race to Nowhere and the overwhelming feeling I had while watching it was ''thank God we are at Crestmont!''. It totally confirmed for me all the reasons why we chose the school. Check out the website -- not sure about space for next year but it is certainly worth looking into. http://crestmontschool.org/teaching/philosophy/ Good luck! Happy Crestmont parent


I saw that movie too and I am thankful that YES such a school does exist and my son started there in Kindergarten and he is now finishing 5th grade so he & we have been there 6 years - that school? Crestmont School (www.crestmontschool.org) This is a wonderful school in the Richmond Hills off Arlington Blvd a couple of miles past Moesser. The school is built on experiential learning with no testing and focuses on learning through field trips, art, music, creativity and active learning. Creativity and exploring education in a non-traditional setting. Students sit with teachers and with the whole school and talk about feelings and how to treat others. The school is a cooperative, so the tuition starts at a lower rate than most private schools. Plus the more you volunteer and work at the school = the lower your tuition bill. You can volunteer during the school day, nights & weekends. Each time you volunteer the monthly tuition payment goes down. Academics? My son tested (through an outside agency) two grade levels above the average child of his age after just a few years there. There is a lot of cross grade interaction with academic projects, & creative activities. Please call the enrollment line at (510) 237-9336 - I believe there may still be some openings, but you have to call to be sure. I am now the music teacher there after being a parent there for four years, feel free to email or call me to discuss the school - I can't say enough wonderful things about all the teachers and the school!! Jeffrey
Jan 2010

I would like to learn more about Crestmont co-op in Richmond. We have attended the school's information event a while ago and have read the BPN reviews, and overall, have a very good feeling about the school. However, I still have some unanswered questions:

1) Where do students typically go after the 5th grade?
Windrush? Prospect Sierra? Public schools?
2) How difficult is the transition from no grades/no tests
environment to a more traditional system?
3) What are the school's weaknesses (I believe I've observed
and/or read about most of its strengths)
4) If you have pulled your child from the school, why?
5) Does the school deal successfully with high energy/less
obedient kids? In the information I've gathered so far there
is a lot of emphasis on shy kids, and not a lot about the
other end of the spectrum.
Thanks!
Our child is a graduate of Crestmont, now at Windrush. He attended Crestmont in third-fifth grades -- his earlier years were at public school in SF. Crestmont graduates go to a wide spectrum of middle schools, from public (in Albany, El Cerrito, Berkeley) to Charter (Manzanita) to private (a variety in the El Cerrito, Berkley area). For our child the transition to a school where he receives grades was smooth. Although he once said he misses the days of 'no grades', he is thriving in middle school and it was not difficult for him to get used to grades. I should also mention that though there were no grades at Crestmont, our son received regular comments and feedback on his projects/work and as parents, we received solid information that let us know how he was doing.

The things at Crestmont that could be considered a weakness were actually a strength for us. Crestmont is small and therefore our child had fewer same-age peers than at a large school. A plus was that he made friends from many different grade levels and learned how to interact with a variety of kids -- his age, older, and younger.

The after-school program does not have a lot of ''specialized'' activities such as clubs, but has a warm, home-like atmosphere, which our child enjoyed as it allowed time for free-play, art, and socializing. Crestmont's curriculum has activities such as frequent field trips, drama/performances, music, language, PE, so we did not really need this function from the after-school program.

All the families put time, effort and energy into the school -- attending meetings, participating in field trips, and working at Crestmont. For our family, everything we put in at Crestmont was worth it, and came back to us in many ways. We felt a strong sense of community there that was important to our child and family.

As an intrinsic part of the curriculum, there is a lot of hands-on activity (kid-run flea markets, field trips, performances, and traditions such as Stone Soup) which allow kids to be engaged. Our son had great teachers at Crestmont, and we felt they were good at responding to diverse learning styles. In addition, Crestmont is small enough that learning is, to some degree, individually tailored. In our experience Crestmont offers a lot for a variety of different types of kids. Our son gained many strengths (both social and academic) and a lot of self-confidence through his Crestmont experience.

Good luck with your school search and definitely consider Crestmont -- it's a wonderful school. -- Parents of a Crestmont Alum


Feb 2009

I am thinking that my third grader might benefit from a small class size and a more nurturing school environment. I've always heard great things about Crestmont School in Richmond, but would like to hear from current families if some would be willing to share their experiences. The postings in the archives are a couple of years old and I know that some of the teachers have changed at Crestmont recently. Thank you in advance! anon


I have two daughters at Crestmont - 2nd grade and 4th grade. We love the school which has been here for almost 40 years. It's a parent cooperative - 4 teachers, 4 aides, specialty teachers and lots of involved parents. There is no administrative staff (which has its pluses and and minuses, mostly pluses) and parents fill those roles. There are no grades and no Star testing. The grades for our 65 kids are currently divided thusly: K, 1, 2-3 and 4-5. Questions should be addressed to Lisa Raffel our enrollment chair at raffelsmith@igc.org
David
My son is in 2nd grade at Crestmont and has been there since Kindergarten. I plan to send my second-born there too in another year. My husband and I are really happy with the small classes, the co-op based structure of the school/administration, the teachers...it all works. There has been a substantial teacher turnover during the past 3 years, which we haven't loved but the teachers that are now there are excellent (and seem committed to staying). My son is doing very well academically - there's no question in my mind that the curriculum is academically very strong. Socially, he's fine, too. Like any school, social issues arise (exclusion, teasing, etc - I am not aware of overt bullying). Crestmont prides itself on working with the children to address issues as they come up and has very specific language and strategies used to help kids ''figure it out'', and this does generally work. It is a small school and the teachers and parents do get to know the kids well. We have definitely felt our child has been nurtured and appreciated. He has always been very happy to go to school and hates leaving at the end of the day...for our family, being at Crestmont has been a very positive experience. Please come visit if you haven't already - I think you'd get a very good sense of how the classes work, get a pulse on the kids/teachers, etc by spending a bit of time checking things out. Satisfied Crestmont Family
Hello, Our son in in 4th grade at Crestmont School and we love the new 4/5 teacher! This would be a great class for a child who needs a change for 4/5, who needs small class size (18) and who needs individual attention. Patrick, the new teacher, has years of experience with these grades. He also in an actor who does loads of drama and music with the kids. Our son comes homes singing new songs and demonstrating Patrick's drama exercises for our family to do. He feels well supported with his learning issues. And he has a chance to shine with drama, poetry, creative writing and music. The language arts program is top notch--facilitating them into being analytical readers and writers. They go on lots of field trips (to the State Capitol, the gold country, nature trips, the library, Mission Delores, etc.) This is a co-op school so you need to contribute some of your time but not an unreasonable amount. And it's cheaper than regular private schools. I know there is still room in 4th grade for next year. Check out the website www.crestmontschool.org You are welcome to contact me with questions. Nancy
Hi, my name is Karen and we have two boys at Crestmont - grades K and 2. I would be happy to answer any questions you have. It is definitely small and nurturing! If you have more specific questions please e-mail me. KS
My older daughter (12 yrs old) is a Crestmont School graduate and is now in 7th grade in a public middle school (Albany) and my younger daughter (7 yrs old) is in 1st grade at Crestmont. Our family has been at Crestmont through the recent teacher changes and I guess what stands out for me is that this sort of a parent co-op doesn't just rely on the specific teachers to create a nurturing, loving, educational community. That said, the current teachers certainly bring their own passions and expertise, and my 1st grader is thriving at Crestmont. The long (almost 40 year) history of this school means that there is a foundation of experience, tradition, and commitment to draw on in designing effective and engaging curriculum and in guiding the invaluable contribution made by the MANY participating parents. As we often say, Crestmont is a village, where our children are being acknowledged and loved and educated by all of us. -- Crestmont Parent
May 2006

I would be interested in learning about the experiences of any parents with children currently attending Crestmont School, a co-op in Richmond, CA. What has been your experience with academics, atmosphere, and other aspects of Crestmont? We are considering public and private school options, and would love an opinion on this school...(there has been no posted feedback on Crestmont this year)
-- An interested parent


My son is in the first grade at Crestmont and we are really happy with the school. Let me say right off the bat, though, that Crestmont is a parent-teacher co-op and that means quite a bit of time, energy and involvement on your part. No slackers need apply! However, like most things in life, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. I don't want to sound too hippy-dippy, but the atmosphere of the school is along the lines of, ''It takes a village''. Everyone in the village knows your child and many of the parents will know most of your child's quirks, needs, challenges, gifts, etc. And best of all, your child will feel confident and supported by a wide variety of grown-ups and they'll be able to speak up for what they need or want in just about any given situation.

I think what drew me to Crestmont was the level of intimacy, if that's the right word. I wanted a place where the teachers, staff and other parents would really know my son and ''get'' who he is as an individual. Likewise, I wanted the opportunity to really get to know and work with the other children in his class.

I love it that the teachers address the children's social and emotional needs in addition to the academics. In fact, I would say that one of Crestmont's amazing gifts is how the teachers really get to know what makes each child tick. And knowing how they tick means that the teachers are better able tosupport or challenge them as individuals. Academically, Crestmont is great. Untraditional in some ways (no grades, not achievement testing), but great. People should contact the school to observe the classes next fall, as seeing for yourself how engaged and interested the kids are in addition to the amazing and wonderful things they do in their classrooms says it all.

Please feel free to e-mail me directly if you have more specific questions. I could go on all day, but probably shouldn't. Please check out our website! www.crestmontschool.org
Catherine


Our son is just finishing up kindergarten at Crestmont and I can't find enough good things to say about it. The adult/child ratio (always 3 adults in a classroom of 15-20 or so kids) is a clear benefit, but more than that -- the children feel continually feel supported in their academic and social growth by this exceptional community of talented teachers and committed families. Your child comes to know most every parent and child in the community and as a parent you have the really rich opportunity to interact with your child's friends and peer group and to really know them as well.

Our son has made tremendous strides this past year in his social skills and his motor development and, most importantly, loves school and seems to really enjoy the process of learning -- which has not always been the case. He is a child who is easily frustrated and reluctant to try new things and his teacher has been able to really work with him on his specific issues, helping both to structure a learning environment and process that can work for him, as well as helping him to cultivate a set of tools so he can recognize when he needs to make his own adjustments (internally and externally) to facilitate learning. Conferences are allotted a full hour or so and the teachers make themselves readily available outside of this as well, so there is lots of opportunity to collect good information on how your child is doing -- from other parents as well, if you choose.

A co-op is a committment and it's definitely been an adjustment for our family to fit in the meetings, work parties, and very busy social schedule -- but the trade-off: A thriving child who loves school and a great enrichment of my own community of friends, has been more than worth it.
Valerie


Day after day I am thankful that our family found Crestmont for our son. First of all the love & caring support of the teachers, aides, staff and parent volunteers, but I know many schools have that as well. So what makes Crestmont so amazing? First it is the experiential learning. The first through fifth grade took a field trip to Ano Nuevo this year. Before going on the trip the teachers spent a lot of time reading material and studying with the children about elephant seals and then when the children returned from the trip they wrote poems, painted pictures, and had class discussions about what they learned. Each class did something special with their art & poems. One class made a bulletin board display, and another class made a book in the shape of an elephant seal that included all the paintings & poems. The academics are very high my son finished Kindergarten & First Grade knowing a lot more math, reading, writing, art, painting, than I ever knew at this age. I really like how all of the parents are involved in the school and support one another. There is a lot of processing of feelings that goes on with the children about daily life as well as different activities that happen throughout the school day. The children work actively to support a homeless shelter in Richmond and purchasing rain forest land. The First, Fourth & Fifth grade children had buddy activities at a local senior nursing facility this year. The children learned about senior life, wheel chairs, and developing rich relationships with a population that was deeply touched by their involvement. Please feel free to email me if you have any specific questions and make sure you go to a parent information event. Good Luck and make sure you find the school that feels the most comfortable to you and is the perfect fit for your child.- Jeff
Nov 2003

We have a 4yo son who is currently enrolled in a preschool co-op and are very interested in finding out more about Crestmont, the K-5 parent co-operative in Richmond for Kindergarten next year. I'd love to hear from other families who are currently (or have very recently) attended the school . . . our son is bright, sociable and very artistic/expressive. We are very involved in our current school community and are looking for another solid, committed community for kindergarten. We'd like a school where our son can get a good, well-rounded, possibly unconventional education in terms of learning to think for himself and foster his innate love of learning and the arts. We were previously interested in homeschooling but thought something like this school might meet our needs. What are other families' experiences, both good and bad, with the school and the teachers? Is there art, music, dance, etc? How do the students get along? What are the (dis)advantages to such a small student body? Is community service included in the curriculum? Where do the kids usually go after 5th grade, and how has their experience there affected them as adults (if anyone has made it that far yet)? I would love to hear as much input as possible, both positive and negative. Thank you! co-op mom


I'm writing in response to the person who pointed out the potential difficulties in resolving conflict when dealing with a disagreement with a teacher in a co-op setting. Good question! I imagine that every school that you mentioned handles the situation differently, but I'll try to explain the process at our school.

Crestmont is a parent-owned cooperative. That means that the parents are the administrators of the school. We have a very specific set of by-laws that guide the board when difficulties arise. By the way, I should mention that Crestmont has been in existence for 35 years, so we have certainly worked through our share of conflicts.

If a parent had an issue with a teacher and did not feel comfortable addressing the teacher directly, their first course of action would be to approach our liason. The liason would then speak with the teacher and possibly facilitate a meeting between the teacher and the involved parent (unless the parent needed their report to remain confidential). If a successful resolution was not reached, a confidential meeting comprised of the board president, the secretary, the membership chair, the liason and the personnel chair would occur. Further meetings with the teacher and/or parent would occur. If resolution still did not occur, the issue would come before the board. If there was still conflict, it would be brought to the membership.

It can be a labor intensive, frustrating, yet amazing process. Yes, there are times that I wish that a paid administrator would just take care of the whole thing - the beauty and the curse of a co-op. But all parties are heard and resolution does occur. I have yet to see such conflict drag all the way to a membership meeting vote - apparently that did happen years ago - maybe the process is improving... The community works together and the job gets done.

I was not a ''co-op person'' prior to four years ago, when my first child started Crestmont. I had great trepedation that the school would be ''flakey'' and wondered how it could possibly work. I'm happy to say that, at least for our family, it is working beautifully. There are a lot of wonderful families that are interested in working together, some putting in many hours, some putting in fewer, some varying year to year, depending on their life needs.

It might not be the perfect match for every family, but if you are curious about how Crestmont works, come on a tour or to our information event on January 15th, from 7 to 9 p.m. You might be surprised at how appealing our school can be.

Crestmont School is at 6226 Arligton Blvd., in the Richmond hills. Call our enrollment line at 237-9336 or check out our website at www.crestmontschool.org. sara


Nov 2003

I am posting this message in response to a query put out earlier this month re private schools and diversity. This was written by Karen Pojmann, our Diversity Chair.

What makes Crestmont's brand of diversity special is our ability to provide an inclusive place for families who might not have one in the community at large, as well as for those who do. Our small, 67 student cooperative school currently supports 20 multiracial families, a dozen immigrant parents, six families with gay-lesbian/bisexual parents, and four families with adopted children. Our teachers integrate the celebration and appreciation of diversity into the curriculum daily.

We so highly value fostering a multicultural perspective that we have dedicated a board position, a committee and an annual parents' event to the topic. We look forward to broadening our horizons even further.

To learn more please come to our information event on Saturday, November 15th, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., or on Thursday, January 15th, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., or call 510) 237-9336 to schedule a tour. You can also check out our website at www.crestmontschool.org. For more information on diversity, please e-mail Karen Pojmann at pojmannova at aol.com sara


Jan 2003

We have 3 children and two of our boys have gone to Crestmont School on the Arlington in Richmond, our last will probably start there this fall in K. While no school is perfect, Crestmont offers families the opportunity and the responsibility to get involved in their children's education. It is a parent coop, teachers have sole say over what they teach, parents make up the board, help in classrooms, serve on committees or help in other ways, including scrubbing an occaisional toilet! The teachers are responsive, talented and enthusiasitic! The families are mostly loving, caring and interesting and so of course are their kids! I have loved the concept of developmentally appropriate learning that has let my kids move ahead and be challenged when ready and supported if needed. Wonderful emphasis on all learning including a strong art program! Check it out, it is a wonderful resource and a bargain in the private school world to boot! Jennifer


March 1999

I have been a parent of children attending Crestmont School for the past 8 years. I truly love the school. As well as educating my children it has educated, supported and nutured me as a parent. I highly recommend it. The school has just developed a web site http://www.crestmontschool.org. Please check it out. We still have a few openings. It is located in Richmond on the Arlington, with children attending from Pinole to Berkeley and even across the bridge in Marin (Terra Linda). Susan


October 1998

Crestmont School is having an information Day on Saturday, November 14 from 11:00 AM -1:00 PM. There will be an open house followed by a presentation by the teachers and parents. Crestmont is a small, nonprofit, nonsectarian parent-administered cooperative for grades K through 5.

The school was founded in 1969 with the goal of creating an environment that would encourage curiosity, creative thinking, and community spirit for children of all backgrounds. Crestmont's excellent, credentialed teachers have designed a strong curriculum in language arts, mathematics, sciences, social sciences, and fine arts. The academic curriculum is complemented by frequent field trips and opportunities for community involvement.

Crestmont is committed to ethnic, racial and economic diversity in its membership. The school maintains an active outreach program, scholarships, and offers participation credits to maintain affordable tuition.

Extended care is offered from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM. Crestmont is located at 6226 Arlington Boulevard in Richmond.

James


Nov 1996

I thought the UCB parents might be interested in the open house for Crestmont School. My oldest child age 14 (now in 9th grade) attended and my two younger children in third and first grade attend this school. I absolutely love it and highly recommend it. The classes are small (average 15 per class), with an aide and participating parent creating a ratio of approx. 1 adult per 5 children most of the time. What I like best about the school is that the children are allowed to learn at thier own pace. My oldest was behind (didn't read until 3rd grade) when he came to the school and he learned at his pace without feeling like he was dumb or slow. My younger children are both ahead in some areas and are allowed to move on without waiting for the class to catch up. Children are taught to accept each others differences and value them for who they are, not what they can or can't do. The school is located on the Arlington about 15 mins. from campus. I would be happy to answer questions regarding the school if anyone wants by email or phone. Here is the official blurb from the school:

Crestmont is a small, non-profit, non-sectarian co-operative school for grades k through 5.

The school was founded in 1969 with the goal of creating an environment that would encourage curiosity, creative thinking, and community spirit for children of all backgrounds. Crestmont's excellent, credentialed teachers have designed a strong curriculum in language arts, mathematics, sciences, social sciences, and fine arts. The academic curriculum is complemented by frequent field trips and opportunities for community involvement.

Crestmont is committed to ethnic, racial and economic diversity in its membership. To achieve this the school maintains an active scholarship and outreach program, and offers participation credits to maintain low tuition. Extended care is offered from 7:30 am to 6 pm. Crestmont is located at 6226 Arlington Boulevard, in Richmond. Enrollment phone 237-9336

Susan


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