Which part of Berkeley for schools and commuting to SF?

I am planning to move to berkeley and have kindergartener. Can anyone shed light if there is much difference in elementary schools in northwest zone vs other zone. I am also looking easy commute to SF. Thanks!

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Hi, I have a first grader and I toured most elementary schools in Berkeley 2 years ago. Basically, Berkeley maintain consistency in all its schools.

Actually, they differ very little and not in any significant ways. For example, Washington has access to high school volunteers from across the road.

Jefferson has access to music teachers from the neighboring music school. Things like that. Two of schools have 9 am start and 8 have 8 am start.

This being said, you do not have much control over the placement, especially if you have not applied in a first lottery. You indicate your first choice, second choice, third choice, that is all. I was assigned to my last choice, even though I applied before the first deadline.

If you are commuting to SF you probably want to be near a bart stop or a transbay bus stop. And there's a bart stop in each school zone! My sense is that people are happy with all of the Berkeley schools - they intentionally mix them up in terms of demographics, and I think that's good for all the kids. I think most people base their school preferences on location and start time of the school rather than anything about some schools being "better" than others. We commute by bart and based our house search on proximity to any of the bart stops in Berkeley - we wanted to be in one of the Berkeley schools but don't care which one!

Hi! Welcome to Berkeley!

The short answer is that all of the Berkeley public schools are considered great. Some families prefer one of the smaller schools, and some like the big schools, but there's no real difference between zones. The Berkeley school lottery's specific goal is to have all of the elementary schools have equal racial and economic distribution.

My kid is finishing up kindergarten at Malcolm X, and he and I love it there.

All the schools seem very similar to me. For an easy commute, live near a BART station or a casual carpool pickup point. 

They're all pretty much the same.  And within a zone, you have a 70% of getting your first choice. Which, if you don't get, you can get waitlisted.  And this system makes it so that each school as the same proportion of economically disadvantaged kids- implying that no school is better than the others in terms of PTA fundraising and parental involvement.  They're all fine. 

Easy commute- there's a ferry out of the Berkeley Marina you might consider.

We're also relocating to the Bay Area and considering Berkeley and its suburbs. Wondering what you’ve found in your research intern or good places to live and schools. We’re lookinf for high school which seems much more hit or miss. Since our daughter has been in small schools overseas, we’re particularly concerned about dropping her into a big public high school. 

Vwry intwreste dif you have any insights ro share. Many thanks. 


In terms of high school, Berkeley High is a good school for strong students -- that is students who are academic, or who have activities they enjoy (theater/sports/robotics/music/art/etc.) Academic support is readily available. The school population is diverse in terms of income, race, and interests, which most of us see as a feature, not a bug. Trouble can be found by those who are looking for it, though from what I can tell, no more than at other area high schools. The independence it fosters is good preparation for going to college, particularly the UCs, and other larger, competitive colleges. Each year many students are accepted by UCs, the Ivies, and other highly competitive schools. Other students graduate and go on to CSUs, Community Colleges, and gap years/work. As in most places, these placements more with family income/parents education level than student characteristics.

For the posters that have not already moved to Berkeley, or are considering other cities, have you considered Alameda?  Easy commute to SF via two ferries on opposite ends of town and AC Transit with three transbay lines.  Unfortunately, BART involves a car ride and the gymnastics of parking in one of their lots.  The island is walkable and has differing levels of affordability, depending on whether you choose the west end (cheapest),mid island (higher), or east end or Bay Farm (highest).

Forgot to add:  All schools are good, including several school district run charters (which means no extra tuition).  Some of the awarded elementary schools include Edison (but can be hard to get into), Paden, Haight and Bay Farm.  Alameda High has consistently high test scores and college admission rates.  Encinal High a little less so, but has improved *drastically* in the past 7 to 10 years from being the red-haired stepchild of the system.