Alameda High School vs. Encinal Junior High

We recently relocated to the Bay Area and we are looking to buy a house in Berkeley or Alameda. My oldest son is a rising 9th grade who has had an IEP in place since 5th grade to meet his academic needs due to ADD (inatentive type). Mostly the IEP has served to provide him with extra time to complete in class assignments/exams. As every parent here, we are looking for a supportive environment for his emotional and academic well being. The variety of academic offerings of Berkeley High is very attractive to us, but the school size seems overwhelming. Alameda High seems manageable, but the housing inventory on that side of the island is very low at the moment. We know very little about Encinal Junior High and would like to learn more about it. It's hard to go by the Great Schools rating (they differ quite a bit) since we know that those sites many times are not as reliable as people think they are. 

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My son went to Jr. Jets last year so I don't have direct experience with the high school but my overall impression of the school was that it's an absolute gem. It's a smaller school with a strong sense of community. The diversity there on every axis is great - racial, income, family background, everything. My son also has a very light IEP, and that transition from elementary school was lacking, so you might need to advocate to make sure that everyone's tuned into that. FWIW I've also been impressed by Alameda USD's process of figuring out what instruction will look like next year. I would definitely put Encinal on your list of possible schools.

My daughter went to Alameda High and did very well there, but took mostly AP classes and didn't require extra support.  My son chose to go to Encinal because it's smaller, and much more diverse. He just qualified for an IEP, and I've been very impressed with the special ed staff so far (though who knows what support will look like now in the age of Covid). FWIW, my kids are mixed race. Both schools have some wonderful teachers, and both have ones that should definitely find a new line of work. Encinal just replaced their principle, so I don't know what that will do to shake things up.  I think the class offerings at Encinal are much more innovative than at Alameda high which tends to be more traditional.  As far as buying a house on the island, the west end, generally speaking, has a cooler vibe, but there is definitely an East/West divide and racism and classism are real here.  

My son went to a charter middle school on the West End and is now a rising Senior at Alameda High.  He has a 504 that also allows him extra time for long class assignments and tests.  We have been quite pleased with AHS, so far.  The principal is a strong leader and manager, and is approachable though he and his assistant principals seem to carry a very heavy load so it's hard to get their attention sometimes.  

Most of our son's teachers have been good - very good, a couple have been exceptional, and a couple have been subpar.  He's taken honors and AP classes, and all of those teachers have been very strong.  And his guidance counselor has also been very supportive and responsive, even though she also has a very heavy student load. 

Yes, AHS is less diverse than Encinal (which is one of the reasons why we opted for a middle school across town) but his friend group has expanded and now includes pals who come from a wide range of socioecnomic backgrounds, which is a great thing.  Both schools have started offering really interesting pre-college electives -- AHS offers Biotechnology courses, Sports Medicine courses and AP Computer Science.  They are both excellent schools.  One difference though is the school size.  AHS has about 1800 students and EHS about 1300 so by virtue of its larger size, AHS is able to offer more AP classes and sections and I'm guessing, more extracurricular activities. 

All that being said, next year is obviously going to be wildly different from anything we have ever known.  But as another reviewer mentioned, I have been so very impressed with the way our Superintendent and his incredible staff have tackled this impossible task for figuring out how best to proceed.  They have gone above and beyond to solicit input from all stakeholders multiple times, they've been methodical and transparent, and have come up with what I feel is a terrific plan.  Unfortunately, we likely won't be starting off with the hybrid Flex Option and Remote Option in August and instead will be going Distance Learning and Remote.