District for good schools *and* a hills-y feeling?

We're planning to move from SF to the East Bay with our 3-year-old. We love the Oakland/Berkeley hills, and yearn for the feeling of being 'out in nature', but we do need to commute to downtown SF most days, and I don't want to spend hours in a car every day.

So far, houses on Zillow that have caught our eye are in Kensington, Cragmont, Montclair, and Glen Highlands; but we haven't really figured out the school situation. Our daughter's currently at a private Montessori, but we want to send her to public school, as long as she will thrive there. A sense of school community, and an environment that fosters curiosity, are more important to us than test scores. 

Someone mentioned Orinda as an option, so we're going to take a trip out there and see how it feels - I'm wondering if there's any other neighborhoods we're missing; or any in our current list that *don't* have good school options all the way through MS and HS, and we should avoid? Thanks!

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We live in Upper Rockridge (Oakland, zoned for Hillcrest which is a K-8) and love it. Much of the neighborhood burned during the '91 fire so won't feel as "woodsy," but there are exceptions, and many of the homes have views of the Montclair hills or the bay. Both my husband and I commute into SF for work (or at least we did, pre-pandemic) -- if you can swing a car with an HOV sticker, it's so worth it. With the sticker, my door-to-door driving commute to my office in Soma was about 30 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the evening.

Have you considered Piedmont?

Castro Valley may be a good option. It has a "being out in nature" feel, relatively very good value for money per sq footage of real estate, good rated schools and BARTable to/from SF.

Lamorinda: Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda all have good schools through high schools and are hilly

I live in North Orinda in Sleepy Hollow where the lots are large and so are the hills. Gorgeous views!

Oakland Montclair from what I have heard only has good elementary schools but not good after that

Also might be worth looking at San Ramon -- good schools, small hills in parts, very family friendly

If things return to the way they were before covid-19 not sure if you'll be able to get from Orinda or Montclair to San Francisco in under an hour.  You might want to add Moraga and Lafayette to your list. You should find Oakland schools acceptable for elementary grades, but will probably want Orinda or Lafayette by middle and most certainly for high school if academics are high on your priority lists.  But this might all be changing as universities are rethinking admission requirements.  UC system is dropping SAT and ACT exams.  And in five years might drop standardized tests.  Top universities are all looking at ways to increase diversity and are experimenting with metrics other than high grades and SAT scores. In the East Bay the school district that's known for top academics in the Bay Area and in the country that would be Orinda.

Hope this helps you in your quest. 

Have you considered Upper Rockridge in Oakland? It's a neighborhood just west of 13 (basically mirror location to Glen Highlands east of 13). We just moved here after looking in almost those same neighborhoods. When I mapped it, my son is in walking distance to the elementary, middle and high schools he is zoned to (https://oaklandfinder.schoolmint.net/school-finder/home, not a guarantee you'll get spots there, but that's another story), which I think is pretty unique for Oakland. Everyone we have met in the neighborhood talks up the local elementary, Hillcrest, which is walking distance from most homes in the area. We were hoping for Berkeley (school assignment is more equitable and school quality is more even), but lost out to all-cash bids for every home we offered on. 

Our house is quite a bit smaller than the same budget would have afforded us in Montclair or Kensington, but we have a view of trees and the bay AND are still walkable to College Avenue (and the Rockridge bart station) in about 20 minutes. There is also a small market and coffee shop off Broadway Terrace, so that I can trick myself I still live an urban lifestyle when I want to ;-)

If you are just considering schools, Orinda schools are more highly "rated" than Berkeley, Oakland, or Kensington. We visited a house in Orinda but it was too rural feeling for us. Best of luck in your search!

You could check out Albany hill in Albany.

The topic of public school is such a complicated issue I will not go into which neighborhoods don't have good schools. Public schools in general are underfunded, the more affluent neighborhoods have families with the means to make up for the short fall. So when you look at schools it's actually a reflection of the neighborhood. The home prices of a neighborhood is closely tied to the "quality" of the public school in the zone. This is especially true in Oakland and even the wealthy neighborhoods don't always have "good' schools because those families send their kids to private. 

If you need to commute to SF then I would look at neighborhoods along the BART line that are within your budget. Few things to consider when looking at homes in the hills. 1.  Lack of flat yard space for the kids to run around in. 2. Expensive homeowner's insurance or difficultly finding an insurer for the home due to being in high fire zones. 3. Lack of sidewalks and narrow hilly roads, lack of street parking (having a car is a must).

For similar priced homes, you can get a bigger house/lot across the tunnel with highly rated schools. 

Orinda - Orinda BART.  Lafayette - Lafayette BART.