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Advice about Bay Area Public Schools

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Moving to the Bay Area - which public school system?

Nov 2012

My husband and I are relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area from Central Illinois in January. We have two children ages 7 and 9. We absolutely LOVE their current school which includes class size of 20 students, PE everyday, recess everyday, drama, technology, art, music, and strong teacher autonomy. It is a University lab school and there is no tuition. Our biggest concern about moving is finding a similar school. We have heard horror stories about California Public Schools. We will not be able to afford private school tuition. I am open to home schooling but would really like to have them in school if we can find one that meets our needs. Can anyone recommend an area or specific school where we are likely to find the things that we love about our current school? My husband will be working in San Francisco. We are assuming that we will be living somewhere in the East Bay area. Jennifer


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
If you are working in San Francisco, you should consider RENTING a place in Marin County (Mill Valley School District, MVSD). The rents are not much more than other parts of the Bay Area and you don't have to pay for private school. It's very expensive to own a home, so many families rent. Many families are moving to the area for the excellent schools, so the class sizes are starting to increase, but the class sizes are still smaller than other parts of the Bay Area. Mill Valley is an easy commute to San Francisco with excellent public transportation options (nice commuter buses and/or the ferry). The five public elementary schools in Mill Valley are excellent (high test scores, PE/Recess everyday, Arts/Music education, etc.). Parent

Oakland vs. Berkeley vs. Danville for the schools?

April 2012

We are an Indian family( east indian from the sub continent of India) currently live in San Francisco in the outer mission area( so we suffer a lot of fog, and we drive everywhere)..we currently rent and have two boys( 4 years and 16 months), and my oldest will be starting K next year..we really cannot afford private education and would love to send our kids public all the way until High School?( we can probably do private for high schhol). The current lottery system in SFUSD is whacky..but we live in a low test score area and m ight have a good shot at a good elementary school..but not beyond. I am kinda getting tired of the fog, small home and lack of a useable backyard..we do have one but we hardly use it since it is mostly cold..we have veted the follwoing

1) Oakland hills: Love the area, the diversity and the beautiful green all around: Not sure: Crime in the hills, lack of middle school. We stumbled upon Hillcrest and was excited(k-8), we could probably rent there, but what if dont get in due to oversubscription to the school..we would have moved our family across( increase our commute:I drive to foster city two days a week), but still ended up with only an elementary option. Also it seems like the oakland hills is not very condusive to walking and we still might have to drive everywhere, and might not get a real yard..i so want Oakland to work for us..but it just seems like the odds are aginast us!!..or is it??

2)Berkeley:Heard that the 580 -80 interchange is really crowded in peak time and could affect our commute time..we dont actaully get a bigger house and is still lottery

3) Danville:Great house, great schools, great weather..but i am not sure we are ready for real suburbia yet..sometimes i think we should just do it and although we might not fit in there our kids would love the yard and benefit from good schools, but i worry about diversity.. Lafayette: I would have moved here in a heartbeat if I were white!..love the rural appeal!..but we are indian sand i am not sure how my kids would feel in the school, and how we would be welcomed in the community

So as you can see after several nights of debating, reading blogs, parents reviews of schools.we still have not found a place for ourselves in this is beautiful and expansive bay area???...


I don't know much about Oakland, but I know all of the Montclair area elementary schools are good, and even the middle school is good nowadays. (Montera?) You'll get more on that from others. But I also wanted to put in that the commute from Berkeley to SF is not bad at all -- there are a couple of public transportation options + casual carpool! It's going to be waaaay worse through the tunnel from Danville or Lafayette. And Berkeley is great, with good schools through all grades. Last but not least, we have friends whose kids are half-Indian (one parent Indian; one white) and they fit in just fine in Orinda. I wouldn't be worried about being Indian or Asian in the burbs -- just black or Latino. Why are we all so worried about schools?
We live in the Chabot Elementary School district, just down the hill from Hillcrest. I know people in Hillcrest's district don't always get in, my daughter had a friend who went to Chabot for two years, but who lived in the Hillcrest district. Her friend got into Hillcrest after a couple of years. Chabot, Kaiser and Peralta are all good schools, so you could take the position that if you move to the Hillcrest district you will most likely eventually get into the school, even if your kids have to spend a couple years at another good elementary school in the meantime. Having said that, my daughter has a coach who is also a teacher at Hillcrest and his impression is that not that many kids go to Hillcrest through 8th grade because it's small. I'm not sure what that means, but you might want to go to a PTA meeting, take a tour, to find out what the chances are that your kids will really stay through middle school. Oakland has decent middle and high schools, but if you are really relocating for the schools, and you're already thinking of living in a place where you will have to drive a lot, then maybe you should move to Danville. I think you would be surprised by how many Indian families live in that area. just know a little bit
I'm an Oakland public school teacher and connected with a wide range of schools in the district. From that perspective, I would strongly encourage you to explore many possibilities in OUSD, not just Hillcrest. It seems like a tiny handful of hills schools get a reputation as the be-all, end-all, only option or bust, district wide, but the most gifted, creative, and child-loving teachers I know teach at a large number of other sites. Check out Cleveland, Glenview, Montclair, Sequoia, Kaiser...the list goes on. Middle school is always a big change and a big challenge, but very good things have been happening at a number of sites. Best wishes to you! Oakland_Teacher
If you want walkability and diversity and a strong community that supports (and is built and held together by) its public schools all the way through, come on over to Rockridge! Chabot and Peralta are already high scoring schools, built on community support, and Emerson is growing and building itself up with the help of another group of hard-working, butt-kicking, community building families. A significant portion of these active parents then converge at Claremont Middle School and continue their community-building, student-promoting work there, supporting kids through the daunting middle school years and then sending them on to the great programs already well-established at Oakland Technical High School.

I spent a lot of last week driving in to appointments in San Francisco, and reminding myself how lucky I feel to live somewhere where I very rarely have to drive anywhere. We walk to school. We walk to the grocery store. We walk to the drug store. We walk to the library. And everywhere we go, we see friendly faces from our local public schools. I really love it. BART and the freeway offer relatively easy access when you absolutely must go over the bridge. Rockridge Public School Fan


If you want walkable neighborhoods and universally good schools, probably Berkeley or Albany are your best choices. The down side is that the houses are more expensive, but that's because more people want to live there. The commute to the South Bay is more difficult -- the interchange is crowded, and the more miles you drive the more likely you are to encounter problems. BUSD parent
As a berkeley mom, my thoughts are that ,yes, you would have to deal with a lottery, but each of the 10 elementary schools have good attributes...but not all neighborhoods are as walkable as others. For example, the Berkely hills are not so convenient. But northbrae and westbrae and thousand oaks and elmwood and other neighborhoods are. Berkeley is diverse ethnically and for income levels. But may be tough on your commute. No harder than Lafayette.

In the oakland hills you may find the area in the montclair neghborhood to be walkable, but just outside that are curvey streets with no sidewalks, and some with fast traffic. ..and dont limit yourself to Hillcrest. There are many other good elementary and middle schools in oakland.

Albany is very walkable and diverse., with good schools. Lots tend to be small, but many parks. Same as north berkeley for your commute. Alameda is very walkable and bikeable - very flat - with good schools that are sometimes overlooked. Nice to be by the water. May work well for your commute.

From what i know of lafayette, the area near to the shopping district is walkable. I beleive you would be very welcome there. The population is probably more open than you are imagining. Many well educated folks live there. it likely has more income diversity (middle to upper income) than in danville. It is probably also not as hot in the summer as danville. But to commute you would have to deal with the tunnel and then with the Maze or with hwy 13. Hope you find a nice spot in the east bay. Anon.


I think that your question is a good one! I bought my house 10 years ago in order that my daughter attend Hillcrest. For certain reasons not relevant now (campus under construction, half day kindergarten), I chose to send her to a private school for Kindergarten. Then when I looked into attending Hillcrest for first grade, I was told by the principal at the time that since I didn't ''track in'' at kindergarten, I couldn't enroll her because classes were full!!! I live ONE HOUSE away from the school! Imagine my frustration. So I kept my daughter in the private school until I could no longer afford it. I pulled her out after 3rd grade and tried again to get into Hillcrest (for fourth and fifth) but was told again by the principal and district that there was no room. After some protest, the district assigned her to Thornhill, which is another excellent school but I instead chose (and lobbied for) Montclair Elem school. I couldn't have been happier. So the long and short of it, if you can't get into Hillcrest, then there are a few other ''Hills'' schools which are just as good and maybe even better.... Happy Not To Be At Hillcrest

District Boundary Maps for AUSD v. BUSD v. WCCUSD?

Nov 2011

Hello wise parents of the BPN. I am in the midst of house hunting to relocate to Berkeley Hills/North and I am trying to find maps for Albany vs. Berkeley vs Kensington school districts. I have been to the websites for the school districts but still can't seem to find this information. Am I missing something? Thanks in advance! New to the East Bay


The AUSD website has a list of streets and street numbers, rahter than a map. Here is the link: http://www.ausdk12.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=92418&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=173231 Happy house hunting. Joy
It's very straightforward - houses in Albany use the AUSD, houses in Berkeley use the BUSD - Kensington, I'm not sure about, but would assume the same. I'd ask your realtor on that last one. That's it! East Bay Resident
The Albany school district is bounded by the City of Albany, i.e., if you live in Albany, you're in AUSD. That would be, more or less, any address in the 94706 zip code, though there's a small section in the east of the City that has 94707 (normally Berkeley) zips. AUSD parent
Boundary maps for WCCUSD are at http://www.wccusd.net/2277106213343997/blank/browse.asp?a=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&c=56910&2277106213343997Nav=|&NodeID=426 Berkeley does a lottery within zones. Not sure about boundary lines for elementary schools in Albany. getting ready for K!

Affordable neighborhoods with good schools?

Nov 2011

Hi, I'm considering moving from San Francisco to the east bay this summer, and will base my decision about where to live based on both a good neighborhood and proximity to a good school. I do not have a high income, so that rules out many locations with better schools. My husband (we are seperated) works in Oakland. What resources can I tap to start the school search? Or does anyone have any good recommendations for schools? clueless about how to start!


I don't think Berkeley does school assignments by neighborhood... for elementary at least, so where you live doesn't really influence where you get in Jean
We could not afford a neighborhood within the good school districts. We did move to one that had a decent elementary school with strong parent support. However, by the time our son was old enough for K the school was closed and we were rezoned to one of the worst schools in the district. After all our transfer requests were denied we ended up looking into private schools. We decided on St. Jerome in El Cerrito because their tuition fees are manageable and we are so happy we ended up there. ItC",E!s a wonderful school with small class sizes (my sonC",E!s class is 15), a caring staff, a good curriculum which includes art, music, Spanish, technology (smartboards in the classrooms and laptops for the students use), PE, and science, and a diverse student body. They also offer affordable before/after-care. http://stjeromecatholicschool.org/ St. Jerome Parent
If you're not yet using greatschools.org, that's where to start.

''Not a high income'' means drastically different things to different people. Here are some suggestions in different price ranges.

Alameda as a whole has mostly strong elementaries, and decent options for middle and high school too. It's also a lovely place to raise a kid, bit of a sleepy town without being blandly suburban.

Berkeley is another relatively strong school district, however elementary assignments are only partially based on residence. So not a good choice if you want certainty of a good nearby school.

Strong elementaries in Oakland that draw from non-wealthy 
neighborhoods:
Lincoln
Glenview
Cleveland
Bella Vista
Manzanita Seed
I think these all go on to Edna Brewer, which is a relatively good 
middle school in Oakland.
Good luck! bb

Alameda vs Albany Public Schools

Nov 2009

Hello, There are recent and older postings about Alameda or Albany schools, but we didn't see any comparisons of the two. We are thinking about moving to either Albany or Alameda from Oakland because of the good things we've heard about their public schools from k thru 12. We both work in Oakland, so the commute will not be much of an issue. We were wondering if anyone else had those two places in mind when choosing to move for the schools and how or what made them decide on one over the other. Also are there any pros or cons about either school districts or communities? We'd love to hear of your experiences. Thanks! undecided bet. Albany and Alameda


we were in the same situation two months ago when we started looking for a new home and ultimately, i think the school systems are comparable. what it came down for us, was location. alameda feels very far removed from everything else. and we like albany for the solano area and the proximity to berkeley. it feels more quaint than alameda to us. i don't think you can lose either way. good luck! been there
We just bought a house in Albany and did briefly consider Alameda (as well as Berkeley, but not Oakland due to the schools.) I work in Oakland and my husband works in S.F., so Alameda would have been more convenient for us, from a commute perspective, than Albany is. You also get more house for your money in Alameda than in Albany or Berkeley. Ultimately, however, we chose to not look in Alameda for two reasons. 1) All of Alameda is in the liquifaction zone in case of an earthquake (check out the shake maps online). 2) Getting on/off the island on a bike (our preferred mode of transport) with a baby in a trailer is very unpleasant and unsafe. I don't want to live in a place where I feel like it's a pain to leave. Now if there were just a bike bridge over the Estuary to Jack London Square.... my $.02 worth
I am a teacher in Alameda and have a child in the Albany School District. So, I am familiar with both.

Socio- economically Alameda is divided and the schools reflect that. The west side has one enormous school - Ruby Bridges, and a few moderate sized ones Haight, Washington etc. I would hesitate to send my son to any. Paden which is also on the west side has a strong staff and a more diverse enrollment. The east side is the wealthier side. Houses are more expensive and the schools have a better reputation. I like Edison. It is small and has a neighborhood feel, but students have been turned away due to overcrowding. Otis, Lum and Franklin are standard schools with diverse enrollment. Bayfarm Island has two high performing elementary school - Earhart and Bayfarm. The students there are generally wealthy, and the parents have high expectations.

The three Middle Schools are large and to me, seem very overwhelming. Some students do well, and some just get lost. The High Schools seem much the same.

That said, I live in Albany because I prefer it, and we love the schools. There are three elementary schools, and basically you choose which one you wish your child to attend. I have never heard of anyone who did not get their first choice, although it might be possible. You can tour all three any Tuesday without notice. Just show up at the office and let them know why you are there. My son attends Cornell which is medium sized with an ethnically diverse student body. The sense of community is astonishing, and the staff are caring and innovative - the Principal knows my first grade son by name (and not because he is a trouble maker :o) That said, it is not a fancy school. I like to say the parents are underpaid professionals, such as social workers, nurses, teachers, graphic artists etc.

There is one Middle School, and it is huge (900 students), but my friends who have children there are very happy with it. I'm not to familiar with the High School, but it has a good reputation.


BART was actually a big help in deciding to choose Albany. We really love walking to BART, and I've heard that you either have to drive or take a bus to BART from Alameda, or walk through a sketchy area. We walk 10 minutes to our BART station, and love it. (This has also allowed us to easily have only one car).

Another factor is that pretty much everyone in Albany sends their kids to the local public school, which is one of the reasons why they're so good. In Alameda, a lot of people use the public schools, but a fair number also send to private & catholic schools there. For me, that doesn't build community as much, and I prefer a higher ratio using the local public schools.

Otherwise, they're both great areas. We love Albany - Solano Avenue, playgrounds, friendly people, etc., but I've heard wonderful things about Alameda also. Alameda has some really nice houses, and beautiful Victorians, which we lack:( Good luck with your choice!


Moving to the Bay Area - which school district?

March 2007

Hello Everyone, I just have to say that I love this newletter. My family and I are returning to the Bay Area and looking for a great public elementary school for my 5 year old who will be starting Kindergarten in the fall. Can anyone recommend any? We are looking into Concord, Plesant Hill, and Walnut Creek. We would like a school that has a strong curriculum, resources, etc. Also, does anyone have a preference of which of the three cities they recommend? And any advice on renting a house? Thanks so much! Janeth


Having just done this two years ago, this is my advice:

(1) Realize that CA's school funding formula -- which requires local funds to go to the state for redistribution -- makes schools terribly underfunded generally, and increases the inequity (rather than decreasing it, as was meant) because PTA's and local education foundations end up making the schools ''livable'' by raising money from the surrounding communities. So, sadly, what you're looking for is a financially generous community. This not only means that the community members have disposable income, but also means a low percentage of people who opt out and send their kids to private school as well as a high percentage of community involvement. (And you can go to the state website to get Annual Yearly Progress scores, which will give you an idea of the AVERAGE intellectualism of the students, though not much else.) You also should be thinking that you'll put in a minimum of $200-500/child annually in parent night requests for cash and other fundraisers.

The neighborhood I'm in -- which has top schools, but isn't in your area -- is $1000/month more expensive than an adjacent neighborhood with a worse (not terrible, just average) school.

(2) Renting: craigslist.

Last year saw 110's for a week in the area you're mentioning -- and it didn't really cool off much at night. Energy is expensive and getting more so. So I'd choose the smallest and most energy efficient space you can be comfortable with, and unless you're all VERY good with sleeping in a hot room, I'd recommend requiring air conditioning.

Get school district maps for attendance boundaries, and have them handy so you can know whether what you see on craigslist is in your target attendance area or not.

You can also call the school PTA and talk to them about the pros and cons of the school. (You should do a bit of volunteering for your PTA when you arrive anyway to connect to the local school community.)

(3) Also as for budgeting, keep in mind that since land is so expensive, everything is: supermarkets, dry-cleaning, etc. - Sticker-shocked, but still happy to be back


How does the elementary school system work?

Jan 2007

My wife and I grew up and were schooled in Europe. We've now been through the US experience of day-care waitlists for our now 10 month old. Although I *hope* we are addressing this in time we are now thinking about schools for him. Could someone provide a basic summary of how the system works, at what age the child goes to school (about 4 in europe) and anything else we should be thinking about at this point. In case its relevant, we live in montclair. Thanks
ian


I am also European and had questions similar to yours. Our children are now almost 3 and 6 and I'll give you the info that I have (and that differs from the system that I am used to). In Europe most children go to a 2-yr Kindergarten which starts at age 4. Here they have only one year of Kindergarten which starts at age 5. The Waldorf system is an exception to this. They have a 2-yr program available, depending on when your child was born. The public schools often provide a half-day Kindergarten class only. There are some exceptions, though. Your child can also go to preschool. Most preschools seem to accept children at the earliest when they are 2 yrs and 9 months old and potty trained. We found a full-day (8:30 AM - 3:00 PM) preschool for our daughter when she was 3 yrs old. She only went 3 days a week. When she turned 4 she started going 4 days a week. And now, that she is 5 and in Kindergarten, she goes 5 days a week.

Most public schools have Kindergarten through Grade 5 classes. Grade 6, 7 and 8 are Middle School. Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 is High School. Some charter and private schools include middle school grades in their program, so the children don't have to go to a separate school.

Next to public schools, you can also check out Charter Schools and, of course, private schools. The following is just my opinion and is therefore very personal. I am not impressed with California's public school system. The current system focuses very much on reading and math only. The system is based on passing tests and teachers teach their students to pass tests - not to learn something comprehensively. Sports, music and arts are at best after- school programs and that can only be funded if the school has a very active PTA (Parent Teacher Association).

Wikipedia had a pretty good description of what a charter school is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_school They are basically a public school, receiving funds through their school district (there are no fees to enroll your child), but usually they have a ''private'' curriculum. They often use different teaching methods that are only found at private schools. They are accessible to all students. They often use a lottery process to allow children into their school. This means that children of teachers/staff get first priority, followed by siblings of current students. Children who live in the school district have priority over children outside the school district.

The Bay Area has many private schools to chose from. If you plan on going that route, I would probably already start doing some research on those, because you may find that they have long waiting lists or they may have preschools that your child may be able to attend.

Socio-economics vary greatly in the Bay Area. Though the average income is fairly high compared to the rest of the country, there is also a large group of people living in poverty. The school system seems to reflect that perfectly. Public schools in poor areas have little or no parent involvement and often perform poorly. Schools in more affluent areas often show heavy parent involvement and the students seem to perform accordingly.

Private schools can offer amazing programs. They can be very costly, though. The private schools that I checked asked between $12,000 and $17,200 per school year. I found a couple of websites that helped me in my search http://www.greatschools.net/ In the upper right corner you just type the school district that you are interested in and it will give you all the schools (public, private and charter) for that district. Another good site to check is this: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/si/cs/ap1/imagemap.aspx This shows what charter schools are in your county. JOJ


Your child may enter kindergarten if he is 5 years old by December 15th of that school year. Enrollment would be the previous January. The trend seems to be for parents of boys to hold them back another year (thus making the class quite an imbalance of younger girls to older boys), but you can go with your gut feeling of what your child would be best suited for. Having said that, kindergarten is NOT required for California children. Ellen

Moving to the Bay Area - where should we rent for a good school?

May 2006

We are relocating to Bay Area this summer from Boston and we are trying to find a place to rent close to a (public) Elementary School since my son will be entering K this fall. My question is (since we already signed him up here i Boston a LOOONG time ago) - how does it work in the Bay Area? Are you ''guaranteed'' a slot for your child when you move in to an area? It would be quite a disappointment if we found a good school and a nice house and it turns out that the Elmentary School close to the house is ''full''..?! How can I find out if a school has openings? Do I call the principals office? Any help and hints around this would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance :-)
Camilla


In Berkeley, there are three zones with three or four elementary schools in each zone. You are not guaranteed a spot in the school closest to your home. Families send in a form with their top choices early in the year (this past Jan or Feb) and have already been informed as to which school their child was assigned to. They have a better chance of getting into the schools in their zone. Some schools get requested more than others, so not everyone gets their first choice. However, many who don't get their first choice in the first round, get on a waiting list and do end up with their first choice by the time kindergarten begins.

As to how the assignments are made I could explain that BUT it would take up a bunch of space...so.... that info (and a bunch of other info) can probably be found in the archives of this list serve AND through the Parent Access/ Admissions office at the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) main office. The web site (with maps and forms and etc.) is http://www.berkeley.k12.ca.us/OS/OS_enroll.html.

I recommend that you call Francisco Martinez and his staff at BUSD Admissions at (510) 644-6504 to see what schools currently have room, and what the process would be for you if you were to rent in Berkeley. The Principles have no control over admissions in Berkeley, and may not even know the number of new students they are getting yet.

We love our kids' elementary school, as do many families at many public elementary schools around Berkeley. However, if you want certainty in attending a specific school, you may do better to rent in an adjacent town.
BUSD Parent


Hello, I would recommend the public schools in Lafayette, Moraga or Orinda, which is just ''thru the Caldecott tunnel'' from Berkeley. Yes, call the school you would be in to be sure before purchasing your home.
All for public schools

One parent's observations (1997)



RE: local schools

My children have been in the Berkeley public school system since
kindergarten - 9 years altogether - and I have generally been happy
with their schools and their teachers.

To the parent who is just coming into the area, here are remarks I
have heard over the years from other parents and also my own biased
impression of the general situation:

There are a lot of excellent academically-oriented private schools
but they are expensive ($500 and up per mo) However, it is possible 
to get a private school education at public schools around here.
And don't forget all the wonderful "supplements" of the Bay Area:
concerts, cultural events, museums, parks, recreation, etc.

One person's ranking of local public school systems (1997)

1. Piedmont
	Just as good as private school but housing is EXTREMELY expensive
	and you may object to elitist "rich kid" mentality (which also
	may be found at private schools) Virtually no rental housing.
2. Albany
	Great schools but most neighborhoods are very homogeneous: white 
	and Asian middle and upper-middle class semi-suburban. Sizeable 
        contingent of grad student families and foreign students from
        University Village. Housing a bit higher than in Berkeley (?) 
	(this varies) Rental housing can be scarce - mostly 
	homeowners and single-family dwellings.
3. Berkeley
	Many schools are great but it can be very variable; neighborhoods
	range from rich Claremont/hills area to poor flatlands. Not much of 
	a middle class. More desirable elementary schools are in the
	wealthier neighborhoods: Emerson, LaConte, etc. Many families in
	these areas do support & attend public schools. For some reason,
	affluent neighborhoods in N. Berkeley don't seem as supportive
	of public schools as the ones in Claremont/Elmwood neighborhood
        so local schools there (like Thousand Oaks) aren't as of this writing
	considered as good as in SE Berkeley. Poor neighborhoods closer 
	to the Bay contain schools with lesser reputations.  However, this
	changes from year to year depending on level of parent involvement
	and principal, staff at schools.  Both junior high schools 
	(Willard, King) are considered pretty good now, with many private 
	school students returning for the 6th grade. Berkeley High is 
	considered alternately great (college prep academics, music, arts,
	team sports) and terrible (PC politics, racial polarization)
4. El Cerrito/Kensington
	Reportedly similar to Albany situation with more working class
	neighborhoods in El Cerrito. Few poor families. Kensington is 
	considerably more affluent but is in the Contra Costa school 
	district - I don't know much about what happens after 5th grade.
5. Oakland 
	Very variable. Depends on the level of parent involvement.
         Wild variations between affluent hills neighborhoods
	like Montclair & Rockridge and depressed flats. Oakland school
	district always in trouble financially so class sizes in even
	the better schools can soar unpredictably and resources can
	suddenly disappear. School board is prone to wacky political 
	pronouncements. Many elementary schools in "better" neighborhoods
	are great and, like Berkeley, are supported by families that can 
	afford private schools, but be prepared to pay private school
	tuition in some neighborhoods especially after 5th grade.
6. Richmond
	Some great neighborhood schools.  In other areas,
	be prepared for private school tuition.

Note: many people choose to move over the hills to Moraga-Lafayette-
Orinda. These are affluent neighborhoods reportedly with great public
schools, but: you have to enjoy the suburban life, living around a 
whole bunch of white people who may be politically more conservative
than in the East Bay cities.  Housing is expensive, with few rentals.

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