Commuting to Get to School

Parent Q&A

  • We live in SF and are considering a move to Orinda/Lafayette. We love our school in SF and find it a good fit for our son (4th grade) with ADHD and other learning differences. It also happens to be right off of BART (1 block). We will likely put our other son in the public system in Orinda or Lafayette. Just wondering if others have done the commute into SF for schools and any advice. My husband works in SF so will also be taking BART in each day.  We are still looking at East Bay schools options  for our son, but just trying to figure out if it is reasonable to think we could commute at lest for a year or so until we find a good school fit closer. 

    Since 6th grade my son has been commuting to school in SF on BART. He currently gets on in Oakland, but he previously got on in Lafayette. Except for the trains being very full, he's never had any problems. A teacher from the school meet his at the station in SF.

    As a regular BART commuter on the line that serves the "Lamorinda" area, I have to weigh in that riding BART into SF every day is not pleasant. Almost daily the cars are jam-packed, riding in and riding home. I did this commute for 10 years, and it's gotten noticeably worse in the last 2. If you can beat rush hour on the way home at least, it might be more bearable. Good luck! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Nearby charter school or private school further away?

May 2012

Dear Parents I am hoping to get a little bit of perspective and feedback. We are currently trying to decide between 2 schools for our son. He has been in private Montessori since he was 3 and currently he is in 1st grade. Unfortunately our school isn't doing well and we need to change. We found an alternative we love, also private(not snob at all), but solid, and that is k-8 that would require a 20mn/30mn commute. I was ready and prepared for it but then our son's name came up in the lottery at the local Montessori charter. 10mn from home and free. However, it's only been around for a few years and while it's doing well, it probably is not ideal. It's a complicated decision to make because the tuition saving would in fact make a difference to us, yet we don't want to make such an important decision based on that. I would love to hear both experiences from people in charter school and also people who commute with their kids for school, and do so only because of the school. thank you anon

We commuted for years (25-30 minutes one way) to a private school. This year we switched to our local public schools. We think it is great, in no small part due to the commute. The kids spend less time in the car, and therefore have more time for free play, for activities/sports/lessons, for sleep, for homework, for family time. The adults spend less time in the car, and therefore have more time for volunteering, for yoga lessons, for work, for sleep, for family time, for responding to BPN posts. The commute is twice as long for the driver -- both ways every time. I did find carpooling fun. A great way to get to know people. But it wasn't always reliable, which is a bummer if the career/job is demanding. Getting to school meetings was also a bear, and contributed to poor attendance at these meetings. Sadly, this created a bit of friction. Some other plusses I didn't expect: My kids are able to get themselves to and from school. This has given my kids a real sense of confidence and school pride. My kids are in 5 and 7th grades. Being involved in our local community has felt really good. I am impressed with our public schools in ways that I didn't know I would be. And there is the obvious -- gas is getting more and more expensive. Good luck in your decision, Walkin' Woman

Have you researched the charter school? Met the principal, understand/agreed with his/her philosophy. Gotten feedback on the teachers. The students at charter schools are going to be the children of parents who are engaged. A good thing.

Personally, if it seems like a fit, I would give it a try. Seems like a dream to have the school so close to you. Instead of commuting, you'd be able to spend 2+ hours a week contributing to the school. Engaged parents are so important for making a school what it is. PTA, engaging with principal, teachers, etc. . charter school believer

Our children attend a local charter school. It is a short drive from our house, but many families commute long distances to attend it. It's a great school, but I don't think it's worth it to spend what adds up to quite a few extra hours each week in the car. Whenever I meet a new kindergarten family that lives 30 minutes away, I know they probably won't last through second grade. That's two hours each day in the car! It takes a big toll over the long run. As a kid, I attended a middle school that was an 8-mile traffic-filled commute, and I hated all the time spent on the commute! I'd go to the local school, where you will be able to volunteer more easily and thus feel more of a connection. The closer, the better

I forgot to add my general thoughts on charter schools! Of course, they are all different. Our school is relatively new, and there are always growing pains. Things change every year, generally for the better, but not always . . . and it helps if you take a long view, go with the flow, and feel comfortable with a bit of experimentation. They may not have all the bells and whistles that you would get at a regular public school (ours does not have instrumental music, for example), and because they are public, are subject to the same budget cuts that affect all public schools. Presumably, they have some focus that is the reason you're there (for us, it's the family-friendly homework policy; for you, it sounds like the Montessori curriculum). Personally, I think kids get so much more out of a public school experience than they would at a private school, but that's my own personal bias. Fan of the local public school

This one is easy: Take the school that is closer and less money. Not only will you save yourself tuition, but you will save: gas money - stress driving - wear and tear on car - and - you will be more able to build friends and community for your child. (and money is not a bad reason to decide, by the way, saving money means more money to spend on your own kid if needed....) Sandra

Sorry to chime in late. Commute or pick a local school in our experience depends on the possibility of finding a good fit for your unique child in a local school. What does your child need to thrive, and can you find that close by? In our experience, there are things which can make a good local fit difficult. We have a kid with anxiety disorder who only thrives in a tiny school where he is not afraid of the other children. After 2 other local school tries, we found one where our child has been gloriously happy - a 20 minute drive away. And if children have special needs, ranging from learning or behavior challenges to the profoundly gifted, a drive might be well worth while. Gotta find a good fit for each child