Diverse, Progressive Private Elementary & Middle School Recs

We're a family of four moving from the East Coast back to the West Coast, to the Oakland/Berkeley area. As such, we're looking for a strong elementary/middle private or charter school that's *diverse, *progressive and has *strong but not too demanding academics for our almost 10 yr old, who will be entering 5th grade in the fall (I know we're late in terms of application dates, but we just found out we're moving and are letting the kids finish school where we are vs moving them mid-year...we're hoping to get on a wait list, find a school with openings or that takes late applications). Our child has attended a very strong, large diverse public school on the East Coast and in doing so, teachers have very recently recommended that she move to a smaller or private setting as they believe she's being left behind and is falling through the cracks in the larger setting. She's an average learner who works more slowly and needs one-on-one instruction and explanation of concepts (we're currently testing her for a mild case of Dysgraphia). In addition, she's very sensitive and benefits from teachers who are better able to connect with her emotionally. (In contrast, her older sister navigates a large public school very well as she works independently and quickly/easily and as such, will be attending Oakland public schools).

I've looked at Park Day and Redwood schools and while they seem wonderful, they don't seem all that diverse ... we're looking for a school that's more balanced in terms of race and ethnicity, i.e. having as many or almost as many students of color as they do Caucasian students (we're a multiracial family of Caucasian, Black and Latinx descent). Would love any recs that you all might have....thanks so much for reading and for your help!

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St. Paul's near Lake Merritt in Oakland sounds like it might be just what you're looking for. (Despite the name, it's not a religious school.) St. Paul's has an incredibly diverse community that prioritizes creating safe and welcoming spaces for BIPOC students, staff, and leaders. (This year's admissions materials say the school is currently 70% students of color and 60% faculty of color, which sounds consistent with our experience.) It is an urban campus, and can't match the grounds of Redwood Day or Park Day. Instead, SPES leans into the Oakland community and actively uses nearby Lake Merritt and its surrounding parks as part of its program. My child is in the rising fifth grade cohort, and while I don't know if there will be openings, the class does have a range of learners who move at different paces, and the school has a learning specialist who supports students who need extra help. We've been very happy with the school both academically and with respect to the social-emotional supports. I also deeply appreciate the intentionality with which SPES approaches the curriculum to ensure that students hear a diversity of voices and stories and understand the links between what they are learning and the city around them. Good luck with your search!

We just went through the private school admissions process for my daughter and I recommend St. Paul's as well. We also considered Redwood Day and Park Day and found St. Paul's to be, by far, the most diverse (although all of those schools have very inclusive, progressive approaches). For what it's worth, my daughter has a similar-sounded personality to yours as well as some mild academic challenges where she benefits from more teacher attention (hence our move to private), and we've chosen Julia Morgan School for Girls. It's middle school only so wouldn't help you for this fall but worth exploring in the future!

You should also have a look at St. Paul's in Oakland and Prospect Sierra in El Cerrito. (Prospect offers transportation from various locations in Oakland/Berkeley.) And Black Pine Circle in Berkeley. All 3 are K-8 progressive private schools.

I have a 7th grader at Prospect Sierra and can't say enough good things about it. It meets a lot of what you are looking for. Have friends at St. Paul's and they think it's pretty great. Staff and student body are more diverse than your average East Bay private school.

I suggest you consider a school like School of the Madeleine in Berkeley. Whether it could be considered progressive as a catholic school is up for debate, but I do think you're more likely to find the diversity you're looking for than at a secular private school (which often don't have a significant population of Latinx students.)

Do you want diverse or do you want private? Pick one ;-). Private schools in the Bay Area are not diverse. You may find more diversity than average at St. Paul's, as one parent mentioned.  One of my kids went to St. Paul's for elementary school and this attracted me to the school at first.  But the kids of color at St. Paul's tended to be the children of doctors, lawyers, and celebrities. To me that seems like a kind of cosmetic diversity. 

If you want to walk into a school and see diversity, visit any public school in Oakland or Berkeley. You'll see not only plenty of brown and black faces in the mix, but also kids whose parents come from every corner of the earth, from all income levels and with different customs and languages and viewpoints. What you won't see is a homogenous blend of privileged kids who happen to be different shades of color.  My kids went to Berkeley public middle school and they had a great experience and made lifelong friends with a diverse group of kids. We found many excellent teachers and terrific support for learning differences at our local public school. 

Check out Northern Light in Oakland. It’s tiny, but awesome. Most students of color, very warm and inclusive and welcoming vibe.

Crestmont school in Richmond has been great for us.  Very small, very individualized learning setting which has worked well for my multiracial child.  My child's class of 10 was 70% kids of color and the BIPOC kids ran the spectrum (some mixed race, some asian, some latinx).  There were also 2 gender nonbinary kids out of the group of 10.  It has a strong and diverse parent community (it is technically a coop) and the voices and roles of many parents of color have been strong and in front at times, and at other times less so.  The teaching staff is small (I think about 12 total) and I think 5 or 6 are BIPOC. 

St. Paul definitely has a reputation for its racial diversity too and worth checking out.