BUSD Middle School options

Hi Parents -

I hope everyone is hanging in there and feeling hopeful about 2021.

My child will be entering 6th grade next year and we are currently zoned for King. However, I hear that the zoning is being reconsidered...does anyone know what's happening with that and/or when the plan will be finalized? I'd also love to hear feedback about Willard and Longfellow. Our current 10th grader went to King so I know what that experience is like in general. Input about the other two schools (from families whose kids were there within the last few years) would be very much appreciated.


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RE: BUSD Middle School options ()

Both my children went to Willard (one a current 7th grader and one now at BHS) and we love it. We heard a lot of negative talk about the school before my older child attended with everyone asking why we didn't try to get him into King. We had faith in the then-head of school who was fantastic and we ended up being very happy with our decision. It's a warm school community with fabulous teachers, who have only gotten better in the past five years that we have been at the school, and a responsive and responsible administration. Its smaller size than King is an advantage I think. The campus isn't as nice and green but the kids seem to like it. It has great elective classes and teachers and staff who know all the students by name. I've heard from other teachers at BUSD that Willard has the reputation among district staff of being the middle school that has its act most together and I believe it.

RE: BUSD Middle School options ()

My kid is currently at Willard, and we've been very happy there. Like the other poster, I heard a lot of negative things about it and a lot of questions from my child's friends about wasn't I worried that my kid wasn't going to King. I was also made extremely apprehensive by the former principal, who, when I took the requisite school tour, proceeded to talk for something like a solid half hour or more only about discipline and security. However, that hearsay and negative first impression quickly disappeared once my child started there. The community is friendly, the staff has been excellent, including during the chaos of last spring and this much better organized ongoing year of distance learning, and with one exception, the teachers have been absolutely excellent. The one thing I've been less than thrilled about is the socio-economic disparities between Willard and Longfellow vs. King (see Natalie Orenstein's April 17, 2019 article in Berkeleyside for some details, including some eye-opening numbers about the different amounts of money raised by PTAs at King vs. Willard and Longfellow). I look forward to the district's revamping of the middle school assignments to address these disparities (which, I strongly suspect, are behind the negative chatter about Willard and Longfellow).

RE: BUSD Middle School options ()

My child was at Longfellow for sixth grade last year. I don't know about the current zoning situation or when that will be resolved. I believe BUSD has been assigning all or almost all late applicants to Longfellow. At 2019 fall registration they were still making up student schedules on the fly and said it was very challenging because BUSD had sent them 70 or so kids at the last minute.

The school has some really amazing teachers (also Ms. Ayesha), but from what I saw they did not have adequate resources to effectively support the students in that year's sixth grade. I had the impression that this was a fairly new development, but I can't say for sure. Under principal Wyatt the focus of sixth grade seemed to be socio-emotional type issues with academics being a much lower priority. (E.g. there was a year-long "study skills" class that all students were absolutely required to attend regardless of whether this was useful for them.). That said, Ms. Wyatt seemed very devoted to the school and the children, and my child always spoke of her in glowing terms. Ms. Wyatt resigned near the end of last year (I infer because of disagreements about the "zoning" issues) and the school has a new principal now. The beginning of seventh grade "distance learning" was disorganized and there was a notable difference in the outreach from Longfellow versus my other child's school (more effort to engage from the other school). We are no longer participating so I can't say whether it has improved with time.  

I'm posting this because I had a really hard time finding up to date information about the situation at Longfellow when BUSD assigned us there. Yet when I spoke to people there seemed to be a well-known concern that it was not on par with other BUSD middle schools. I don't think it's fair that families moving into the district are at an information disadvantage. I also don't mean to suggest that it wasn't a valuable experience for my child in many ways, but there do seem to be inequities across the three middle schools that need to be addressed by BUSD.