Fairmont Elementary School (El Cerrito, CA)
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Fairmont Elementary School (El Cerrito, CA)
Feedback wanted about Fairmont vs. Harding
My daughter will be going into kindergarten next year and we live in the
Fairmont district in El Cerrito. I am having a hard time finding current
feedback, but have heard that the makeup of the school changed significantly
since the closing of Castro a couple of years back (new principle/teachers). I
am also concerned about the school closing soon so they can build a new
I would like to hear from anyone with kids attending this school in
kindergarden or first grade. What has your experience been like.
I am also wondering about Harding. Is it at all possible to request a transfer
to this school and receive it?
I would also like to hear from parents with children in this school as well.
Thanks in advance for you feedback.
Mother of a PreK
I have a child in 1st grade at Fairmont, and another who will be in K there next
year. We have been happy with Fairmont. I don't know what it was like before Castro
closed, so I can't speak to exactly how it has changed. But I do think that the
school attracted many experienced teachers that came along with the principal when
Castro closed. I have been quite pleased with my child's teachers both last year in K
and this year in 1st. The teachers do have to deal with high enrollment, but this is
true also at Harding and all other WCCUSD schools. I think that the parent
involvement is good at Fairmont, and I have heard from parents who have been at the
school longer that that is something that is definitely changing for the better over
the recent years.
My son attends first grade at Fairmont and my daughter will be in kindergarten next
year. Our experience has been pretty positive and we have been pretty involved with
our son's classes. We've met a lot of wonderful kids and families and have been
happy with our son's two teachers. Our son loves it and is proud of his school.
It's not the newest, shiniest school on the block and there isn't a lot of excess
resources, but the people we have met there have great attitudes and are doing the
best they can with what they've got. We love walking to school and being a part of
My understanding is that many of the Castro faculty (including the principal) came to
Fairmont when Castro closed. As for the rebuild, I don't think the current Fairmont
campus will be closing anytime soon - maybe not for another couple years.
I know a few families who have been successful with a transfer request to Harding. I
think it's likely you'll get it if you ask for it. But, I don't know this first
hand, so hopefully, someone else can chime in on that.
I'd love to talk with you more about the school, if you are interested. My daughter
would love a playdate with a new friend, especially someone who might be in school
with her next year! Please email me if you'd like to meet up for a playdate at
Cerrito Vista or Castro Park or somewhere else.
We have a kindergartener at Fairmont. Overall we're pretty happy with what he's
learning. There are other middle class families in kindergarten. I can't speak much
to the whole school community as we are so new to it. Nobody can predict the future,
but this year the Transfer Office was telling people no intradistrict transfers were
approved. I do not know if this was true or not.
My daughter is a first-grader at Fairmont and she loves going to school. We are happy
with the school also. Her reading and math skills continue to grow significantly.
Just walk by the school during recess and you will see kids playing all sorts of
games in a cooperative manner. They have a great program there, Playworks, that
teaches kids games and, by extension, being respectful to one another. The school is
the full-inclusion school and my daughter, just from being there, is learning sign
language! The school is scheduled to begin reconstruction when Portola is finished
(groundbreaking for that happened this past June and is supposed to take two years,
possibly less). When that happens, the school will stay together at a new location,
probably the lower yard of the old Portola site, until the school is finished (two
years, and more probably less). We aren't worried about it.
Happy Fairmont parent
I currently have a first grader at Fairmont and have been very pleased. Warm, friendly
community and strong academics. My son has made great friends and has enjoyed his two
teachers. He is reading and writing very well, excelling at math and is allowed to
explore his passions (science) during his free reading time. Absolutely love the full
inclusion aspect of the school, it is fun to volunteer on the yard and see kids tending
to their friends. My son is also learning sign language in class, which helps the kids
communicate with their non-verbal classmate. The students are very proud of their
ability with assisting their classmates and that they are able to communicate with
I have volunteered on special projects at the school that exposed me to a wide range of
grade levels and the students were impressive. They were thoughtful, smart and
enthusiastic. The teachers were equally impressive in the manner in which they helped
their students explore the projects we were working on.
We love Fairmont! It is a special place.
Happy Fairmont Mom
Before and after school care at Fairmont?
Our son will be starting kindergarten next year at Fairmont. With long commutes, we were
counting on the before and after school programs to cover the gaps. But not only do they
appear to be very expensive, it appears that there's a waiting list to get in (per the
language on the EC recreation department website), and also we heard that the before
school program does not always happen if there's not enough demand. Can anyone provide
information about recent experiences with Fairmont's program?
Have you spoken with the City of El Cerrito Rec Office about your questions?
Obviously they will have the most recent info. That said, I have found the EC
Rec office staff to be not particularly responsive/accurate all the time.
(Brace yourself for many bills/receipts, not all of which will be right.) I
have a child in K after care part-time. We signed up in May and got a spot -
there is no waiting list now; they only start one after all the spots are
filled. Not a big deal. Applications are available in the early spring. The Ks
are segregated from the rest of the afterschool program, so I don't have any
concerns about my child's safety. I do have concerns about the overall
structure of the program, which seems very rigid and doesn't incorporate any
free play inside (the space doesn't have any toys), which I would think 5 year
olds would like. I also am appalled by the ''supper'' provided by the City
through the district - paging Jamie Oliver! You can feel okay but not great
about the aftercare sich - you may want to rethink those long commutes so that
your child doesn't have to be there quite so many hours. Finally, you have bad
info about the cost. Fulltime aftercare is dirt cheap thanks to a federal grant
they got. Part time care doesn't qualify for that rate but it's still around
$8/hour, not bad.
Re: Moving to El Cerrito or Richmond Annex
Looks like a couple parents asked about getting their kids into madera or Kensington. I
just wanted to put in a plug for Harding and Fairmont. Fairmont is the neighborhood
school for the Annex. We are having a great experience there. Don't let test scores
mislead you. There are so many other things that go into ''great schools.'' That being
said, I do think it is harder to transfer into madera. It isn't impossible- just apply on
the deadline and see what happens.
Our first-grade daughter goes to Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito, and we are very happy
there. We love the teachers and the wonderful friends we have made there. And it is really
nice for my daughter to have friends in her own neighborhood, several on our block.
An El Cerrito parent
Now that the school year is in full swing, I'm interested to hear current-family
reviews of Fairmont in El Cerrito, particularly K families. Do the teachers address
the full spectrum of learners? (I have a fear, which may well be groundless, that
the curriculum is oriented to average and the teachers aren't able to challenge
brighter kids) Thanks!
My kid is also in kindergarten at Fairmont. I'm not too sure what is happening in
the class, because my kid doesn't give me a lot of details. I do know the
teachers are hard pressed to address the full range of learning needs for 28 kids.
Imagine how different all of those kids must be and then realize that the teachers
must get all of those kids to the same point by the end of the year. Certainly,
some really bright kids won't be completely challenged during their 3 short hours
in the classroom. But for many of the kids, the curriculum is rigorous enough to
ensure they meet the state's standards for kindergarten. If you suspect that your
kid isn't challenged, you may need to find activities for him/her outside of the
I'm pretty happy with Fairmont so far. My kid is reading and writing
way beyond what he was doing in August. He loves going to school and asks me for
''homework'' every afternoon. We do worksheets from a kindergarten book and have
taken classes through the school's after school enrichment program. We can't
expect the teachers to do it all - they have too many kids, too many standards to
meet, not enough help, time or resources.
Hi-- my daughter will be going into kindergarten fall 2012 (she will be
five June, 2012) and we are zoned for Fairmont. We have spent a year
trying to buy a house in Albany but have not had any luck so now I am
looking into our home schools. I know several families who were also
zoned for Fairmont and they all chose to put their children on a waiting
list at other schools and ultimately taking them out once space opened
up elsewhere. I am looking for feedback from the community, both good
and bad, about Fairmont, and I am also looking for suggestions on how to
get on lists at other schools, should we decide to do this. Thank you
Mom of a soon-to-be kindergartner
Fairmount is a great school. Many of my friends have sent their children
there and have had wonderful teachers and friendly families and students.
We are Fairmont parents who were in your situation last year. We toured
many of the local schools and even put in a transfer request. But our
concerns were dispelled in just the first few days at Fairmont.
The community is great, with lots of interested and involved parents. The
PTA is working hard to support a fun and productive learning environment.
Dedicated volunteers are building a wonderful after-school enrichment
program. The teachers are extremely experienced, and compare favorably to
any school in El Cerrito or Kensington -- private schools included. My
understanding is that most of the teachers have 20+ years of experience.
The principal is wonderful -- knowledgeable, involved, forward looking,
and accessible. On at least two occasions she has given me close to an
hour of her time to discuss issues at the school, and she is in attendance
at after school and evening functions as well. We know families in all of
the Kindergarten classes, and all of them like their teachers. If you look
under the Fairmont page on this site, you'll see testimonials about the
school. And the school's web site shows that there is a lot going on:
special activities almost weekly, the Playworks program, family nights, an
organic garden, and much more. (There are big plans for the Fairmont web
site, as well, including tools to support more exchange between parents
and teachers.) Additionally, many parents have talked about how nice it is
to be able to walk (or bicycle) to school, and to easily include a drop
off in their morning BART commute.
We are very happy with Fairmont and hope that more dedicated parents and
students will join the Fairmont community.
Hi - anyone with a current review of Fairmont Elem? We have a couple years to go
before our son will be entering K there, but like to get a feel for it beyond
the PTA newsletters (which we've started getting). School community, teacher
engagement, administrative attitude... anything. thanks!
future Fairmont mom
I have two children at Fairmont and I absolutely love our school. My
children have had wonderful experiences with devoted and caring
teachers. The school population is so diverse economically,
racially, culturally, LGBT parents, and children with special needs
(it is a title IV full inclusion school). This creates an authentic
experience for the children to discover who they are in the world.
My children ask deep questions like ''why does so and so wear hijab
to school, or how come special needs kids ride the bus, or why do we
speak only one language...'' We have become a mid-size school
(around 500 students) which seems like a lot but there are staggered
recesses and a great program called ''Playworks'' that teaches
conflict resolution during recess. We have on site before and after
care run by the city of El Cerrito along with after school
enrichment programs like chess, spanish, art, baseball...our PTA is
active and there is a strong core of ''super' committed parents who
take on any and all extra duties like grant writing, school
beautification, and anything else that needs doing! Our principle
Galen Murphy is friendly, experienced and somehow knows the
kids--has a repoire with them in spite of such a large student body.
We joke that we are considered the underdog of this neighborhood,
with Madera and Kensington being so near. There is definitely a
grassroots feel to us...we do not have the budget or high income
student body as some of the schools in the neighborhood, but we do
have heart and our kids are thriving with the support of a committed
staff and parent community.
Wouldn't transfer out even if I could!
I'm looking for info - good and bad - on WCCUSD and Albany
We are moving out of state in the next year or two, so grades
beyond K don't matter, but we are going to enroll my son in K
here, just in case.
We currently live near Fairmont, so I'm particularly interested
in the class(es) there.
If you are in the Fairmont neighborhood, you are lucky! The new principal is Galen
Murphy, who was the principal of the excellent and award-winning school, Castro
Elementary School. One of the kindergarten teachers from Castro will be moving to
Fairmont. She is super! Fairmont has a fantastic PTA, community support, and a
stellar staff. Choose Fairmont!
Happy in El Cerrito PUBLIC schools!!!!
Unless you are an Albany resident (or teach in the Albany schools), it is not possible to
enroll your child in an Albany kindergarten class. The district has become very strict
about enrolling students proving residency with good reason -- the schools are
crowded. With class size going up due to state budget cuts, teachers and resources will
be increasingly stretched.
Fairmont Elementary is our neighborhood school (and the one
I attended in the 70's!). Now I feel like I know nothing
about this school! The posts on Fairmont are almost 2
years old and I was hoping to gather more recent, detailed
What is kindergarten like now? Are there two classrooms
(like when I attended) or are they down to one now? Do
they still play in their own yard? I remember we each got
a small carton of milk (if your parents paid extra for it)
in the late morning to go with our snack; do they still
have this service?
Way-back-when, we went to the school library once a week,
on field trips once a year, and had daily hot lunches in
the multi-purpose room (if your parents bought you a lunch
ticket). I also remember music class once a week, too.
Does the school still do these things?
I understand the school has a new principal... how is she
Is there a sense of community among the parents?
Thanks for any information you can give me!
Both of my children have attended Fairmont from Kindergarten
through 6th grade. My daughter is currently in 6th grade and
I am on the PTA board. I cannot say enough good things about
the teachers and the quality of the education both of my
children have had. It is a very nurturing environment with
many experienced teachers who really care. The advantage of
having your children at a school within walking distance of
home should not be underrated. Both of my children are in
the GATE program and have had curriculum enhancements. They
both test at the 99th percentile on all standard tests.
Children still can get milk from the school lunch program
for a small fee and a hot lunch for another fee but served
in the classroom at the Kindergarten level. The Kindergarten
class does have its own playground and they have their own
bathroom adjacent to the classroom. There is a new principal
and she has done a lot to encourage parent participation and
to foster a sense of community. Come to see for yourself.
My daughter attends this school. This is her first year there (4th grade),
and she loves it. They have a new principal, whom I had worked for at
another school. She is Great! She loves the kids, and respects the
teachers. The teachers have been there a long time, and this is a
good thing! They only have after school day care (no AM care).
To Leah: REF: Richmond Annex Schools: Fairmont Elementary Hello, my
grandchild has been attending Fairmont Elem. Kinder. and now 1st
grade. The teachers are caring and very devoted to the children, and
the principal is kind and dedicated. I suggest either Fairmont or
Harding Elem on Ashbury Ave. in El Cerrito - both good schools.
We bought a house in the Annex almost three years ago. Great
neighborhood. Nice neighbors, homey feel, friendly. We send our son
to private school though - I didn't hear much about Fairmont School -
I actually know someone who teaches there - we just wanted to send him
elsewhere. Good luck - love to hear what you find out. -Molly
this page was last updated: Dec 29, 2013
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