Berkeley schools vs Piedmont schools


We are considering moving to the area. I have a middle schooler. I would like to know about the pros and cons about the two school districts. My son is an advanced student, and I have heard both high schools can be competitive. I would like him to have a positive well-rounded high school experience, rather than "very competitive" environment.

Also, it seems Piedmont is safer in general. However, going in and out needs to go through Oakland, and I have heard that Oakland has been going down hill. Is this a concern for people living there? 

Thank you

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I live in Piedmont and have a middle schooler.  Can't speak for Berkeley, but I also considered it an option when I moved to the Bay Area.

I ultimately chose Piedmont because of the ability for kids to roam with a high degree of independence, the convenience to the city, and the fact that because of its small size, all the schools are neighborhood schools so we wouldn't have to do a big shlep to get to school each day... which is important (particularly for single working parents).

 My sense is that the two experiences would differ significantly. Berkeley is a lot bigger, probably more well-rounded place to go to school; your child will have exposure to a lot more variety and opportunity across all dimensions (probably a wider selection of AP classes, for example, and a lot more kids across all walks of life), but the downside would be that it could be overwhelming.  Piedmont feels like a small town, with only about 200ish kids per graduating class. I've found it to be welcoming ... it is a small community and many of the kids know each other since they were tiny and root for each other to be successful in a way that is meaningful to them as individuals. Also, the degree of independence for kids is high. The downside is that there isn't as much economic diversity, not as much variety, the black population is under-represented, and you have to work hard to make sure your kid understands that some of the wealth they see displayed on a daily basis is not the norm for 99.99% of people.

I haven't had a problem with Oakland, personally.  It has its problems but I go out in Oakland all the time and think it's great. It has the same problems as San Francisco (challenging situations with un-housed people, car break-ins).   I definitely don't leave anything visible in my car, which can be a pain.  And pharmacies lock things up, so it can take longer to get your face wash.  But this is all the same for Berkeley.    

Hope this helps.

As a former Berkeley High student and an El Cerrito High school parent, I feel both were well rounded (good mix of academics, sports, clubs, arts). Neither I at BHS, nor my child at ECHS, felt that the environments were overly competitive. Students could push themselves, or not, there was no stigma. Unless you need to live in Berkeley or Piedmont for a specific reason, you may also want to check out the cities of El Cerrito, Albany, or Alameda, all of which are very walkable and have good high schools.

Without a doubt Piedmont. Look at the metrics but most importantly think of the context; Berkeley high is larger than most liberal arts colleges. Not exactly a cozy environment. And like any giant organization full of all sorts of people. In terms of going in and out through Oakland, I’m not sure what the statists say, but north Oakland feels about as safe (and occasionally, unsafe) as Berkeley. The areas of Oakland surrounding Piedmont are probably safer than most neighborhoods in Berkeley (maybe with the exception of the hills and Elmwood).

Generally, Piedmont High is considered more competitive than Berkeley High, and Berkeley High is larger and more diverse. Whether that makes one school or the other better for your child is a separate question, though, and one you may not be able to answer until he's older. They have different education models and course offerings, so it's worth looking at the programs at both. One difference at the middle school level is that Piedmont has only one middle school, while Berkeley has several and has a zoning system to assign students--so you aren't guaranteed a spot in a particular school, and may not be assigned to the school closest to your home. The Oakland neighborhoods that border Piedmont are filled with multi-million-dollar homes and arguably safer than some Berkeley neighborhoods, but it is true that the nearby commercial districts, restaurants, and even the library that serves Piedmont are all in Oakland, so if you aren't comfortable there, you may not enjoy living in Piedmont. You will find property crime in both Piedmont and Berkeley; violent crime is pretty rare in both cities. Piedmont is better resourced than Berkeley and far better resourced than Oakland on the public safety front, though, so they do respond quickly when there are issues. You may also want to consider Albany, which is a lower price point than Piedmont but similarly has a single middle and high school and a lot of the walkability that Piedmont offers. Each district has its own strengths and challenges, so a visit may help the most.