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Fairmont Elementary School (El Cerrito, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > West Contra Costa County School District > Fairmont Elementary School (El Cerrito, CA)


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2010 - 2014 Reviews


Reviews on Fairmont this year?

March 2014

We moved into the Fairmont district last year, and our son won't be starting Kindergarten until 2015, but I have been hearing lots of commentary about Fairmont in general, and would like to know more about the school. I would love both good and bad input to weigh in this decision! thank you.


We've been happy with our K child's experience at Fairmont this year. The class has gelled nicely as a unit with a very experienced teacher who really welcomes parent involvement, classroom participation, and feedback. I feel like my child has learned a lot (and that's on top of a very ''academic'' preschool) and is well prepared for first grade and beyond. We haven't seen any bullying or cliques in the class (not that we expected it, but one does hear about this things in other schools). Are there lots of resources lavished on the class? Ha. Are good things happening there and can your middle-class child do well? You bet. Fairmont Mom

Feedback wanted about Fairmont vs. Harding

Nov 2013

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 building. 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. Fairmont parent
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 the community.

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. Amy D


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 them.

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


Oct 2013

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. Anonymous


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

Before and after school care at Fairmont?

Oct 2013

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? Thinking ahead


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. my 2c
Oct 2013

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. Anonymous


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
Oct 2012

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! EC Mom


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 classroom.

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. fairmont parent


April 2011

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 in advance. 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. -Tim


Nov 2010

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!

2005 - 2009 Reviews


August 2009

I'm looking for info - good and bad - on WCCUSD and Albany Kindergarten teachers. 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. Anon


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. anon

2004 & Earlier


December 2003

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 information.

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 working out? Is there a sense of community among the parents? Thanks for any information you can give me! Linda


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. Golda

Jan 2002

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). Good luck. Ina


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. Thanks, Lucy
From: Molly

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


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