East Bay Areas w/ great public schools for Muslim/Hispanic mixed children

Hi BPN members,  I've been researching on my own for months and I feel like I need some advice on questions that a realtor just can't answer...

our family of 4 is looking to move to the East Bay in roughly a year.  We work in the alameda area, bay farm island, next to the OAK Airport and currently live on the peninsula.  Looking to decrease travel time and increase family time.

looking for a 4 bedroom house up to $1.5M, prefer a two story house, good schools - (great schools rating 8 and higher please) - safe area with entertainment activities that would appeal to our kids as they grow.  Our children are heading into middle school years and I want them to be able to have some independence as they get older and I'll of course feel more comfortable if entertainment like movie cinema, etc is relatively close by and safe.

my husband and I both grew up in very urban settings with urban problems and we'd like a safer environment for our kids.  We're originally from the east coast but we've moved around a lot.

our kids are great students, really kind people, on their way to being great citizens I hope!  Here's one of my biggest concerns though and something I can't really speak freely to a realtor about.  We are Muslim and my kids are currently the only muslims in their respective classrooms at school.  We are very liberal and progressive but as our children get older they make comments telling us that all of their classmates are Christian and they don't want to tell people they're Muslim, it concerns me, I want them to feel comfortable in their own skin.  

I am a white hispanic and my husband is of a mixed Indian and Arab origin.  I speak Spanish and our current school is heavily Latino so most people assume our children are Latino but they don't speak Spanish.  They understand some Urdu, Arabic, and Spanish because of grandparents visiting for extended stays but they only speak English.  I feel like the middle and high school years are really tough and I want my children to feel like they fit, right now they feel like outsiders.  One of our children looks more like mom - white/Hispanic and the other looks just like dad - people often Assume Afghan or Persian.

i've looked in Piedmont and Montclair but I just don't know if these are a good fit even though the commute would be easy and the schools seem good...  any advice would be very much appreciated.  Anyone in the same boat????

 The only other family I know that shares our mix homeschools, ha!

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I've read your post a few times now and still can't quite tell what you're prioritizing. Do you want 1) an ethnically mixed school, where your kids' mixed race won't stand out? 2) to be part of a progressive/liberal high-income Muslim community? 3) to be in Alameda? 4) to be in a very high ranked school? 5) to connect with (or live near) other families who are Hispanic/white/Arab/Indian? I feel like you and your spouse should try to nail down which of these in the big picture are your top 2 or 3, and then hone in on areas that meet those needs first. Off the top of my head, I'd think the Peninsula might be a good bet, or Fremont/SJ, but I am not super familiar with those areas, nor with the progressive Muslim community.

My kids go to an extremely ethnically diverse public school (WCCUSD) and it's great, but it is truly very mixed, about third Asian, third Latino, sixth Af-Am, and sixth white. It's also low-income, which may correlate with ethnic diversity. Is that okay with you? As I'm sure you know, these Census-based ethnic categories do not ask what one's faith is, so there's no way of measuring "Muslim" population as they may self-report as any race/ethnicity. You may want to attend Muslim cultural events in the East Bay/Alameda, and ask around where the kids go to school.

In the meantime, as far as the East Bay goes, if I wanted cultural/ethnic diversity in my public school, and was looking in the $1.5M range for a 4-bedroom, I'd certainly look into Berkeley (can you still get a 4-bd there for under $2M?), or the hidden gem of Point Richmond, with bayfront views, a neighborhood which feeds to Korematsu JH in EC and ECHS, both quite ethnically diverse and academically solid if not the 8 you have targeted. Or you could try to get your kids into application-based magnet high school Middle College HS in Richmond, which is a 10 and can get your kids college credit as high schoolers. (Obviously a high score on GreatSchools does not mean a welcoming school to everyone, just check recent news articles about Albany High and Piedmont High.)

Or move to Alameda next to your work, and spend more time volunteering at the schools and bringing the diversity personally.

Lots of options once you figure out what's most important to you.

For commuting to Bay Farm Island and diverse with Muslims as well, maybe look at San Leandro or Fremont. Seriously don't worry about the schools being 8 or higher, the higher ranking typically the less diverse the school; all the schools, even schools that are a 5, will have at least 20% of the students being high-performing and have challenging classes.

I'd recommend Berkeley - the schools are probably a 7/8 (not that great IMO) but the inclusiveness and diversity is unparalleled.

Have you fully explored the middle and high school options on the main island of Alameda?  The west end schools may have some of what you are looking for in terms of diversity of both religion and ethnicity.  It also has some really good schools.  And it is a nice combination of suburban and urban.  As another poster said, it may be helpful to figure out priorities.

What about Alameda? It would be a great commute for you, Alameda has highly rated and diverse schools. The main island probably has more of the diversity you're looking for - you could check in with our Islamic Center for thoughts. Encinal High seems somewhat more diverse than Alameda High, but you will certainly find other Muslim students at either, and at our several charter schools (Nea, ACLC, ASTI).  As far as housing goes, you could find a nice 4 bedroom house in that price range. Kids in my kids' classes speak several languages, are from many countries, and practice many religions. None of it phases any of the kids. Good luck with your search!

Hi! You don't say how old your kids are, but my kids go to Mira Vista in East Richmond Heights, where you would def find a beautiful 4-bedroom for that price range, and literally, literally I have a mom-friend at school who is a Spanish-speaking Muslim. Our school is diverse and has a healthy-sized Muslim population, plus a healthy-sized Latino population. I saw that someone else pointed out that some schools score lower precisely because they are more diverse, and that is true for MV. We wear that badge proudly. And the Muslim population is diverse even within itself, people are from all over, many different countries and traditions. 

We are Jewish and my kids also have that thing of feeling like the only ones in in the school, especially since we are so near Tehiyah, which eats up all the Jewish kids around here. It's painful for them! But that diversity is also valuable. When they complain about being the only ones not celebrating Christmas, I can at least say "Our Muslim friends are in the same boat." I really recommend you look around here. We are very near the Del Norte station of Bart which makes for easy commutes. And tho Richmond proper has some urban problems, honestly, I don't feel unsafe here (I lived in Brooklyn for 20 years - real Brooklyn, not hipster Brooklyn).

Also, the "hidden jewel" of Point Richmond is right near the refinery, you're much better off up in these hills. And we're zoned for El Cerrito High, though honestly I would prefer it if the local parents would just force the issue and send their kids to Richmond and JFK to make them better schools but that's another story for another day. :D You can contact me thru this site if you want to talk further. I wish I had your budget, there are some houses for sale here that I'm drooling over. 

Oh yeah, San Leandro is also a good place to look at! 

We're in Rockridge and our kids are at Peralta Elementary and Claremont Middle School.  There have been a fair number of Muslim kids at both schools throughout our time there (9 years at Peralta, 3 at Claremont).  The school communities are pretty diverse, both ethnically and economically (more so at Claremont than Peralta, but I'm aware of more Muslim families at Peralta than Claremont), and I would be shocked at kids in either school commenting on your kids' religion - most of the people we know at both schools either aren't religious at all, or if they are they tend to be liberal Jews or Christians.  I think you can still get a house in the $1.5 mil range in the Peralta/Claremont districts.  Good luck!

There is a vibrant Muslim community in Berkeley. In my son's kindergarten class at Malcolm X, 3 of the 18 students are Muslim. There was a 4th Muslim student but her family moved back to Yemen. Many of these families are second-generation Berkeley residents, so they are a longstanding part of our city's community. 

We are an interracial family,  live in El Cerrito and LOVE it.  My oldest is in first grade at Fairmont Elementary, where there is a HUGE diversity of students - Latino, Chinese, Nepali, Black, White, etc.  I haven't asked but would guess that many of the families are Muslim.  Several speak Urdu.  We have an annual multicultural community potluck/performance/celebration - the diversity is what many of our families love about Fairmont.

Obviously my kids are much younger than yours, but I have read recently that Korematsu Middle School is the 6th most diverse school in California.  In terms of ratings, Fairmont, Korematsu, and El Cerrito High are all rated a 6.  Harding Elementary, also in El Cerrito, is a 7.  I think these lower ratings may have to do with having a high population of English Language Learners, as all the parents I've spoken with are very satisfied with the academics.  

Close by, Kensington and Berkeley schools have 8+ greatschools ratings, and Albany, right next door, has 10 for all their schools.  I don't know anything about their diversity.

Good luck in your search!  Feel free to contact me if you have more questions.  And I'll be curious to hear what you decide!

~Alison

I know this may offend some people, but if you want great schools with high great school scores (which, really only tells you about the demographics and income of the family for the most part) you would find those schools in places like Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, Danville *but* those communities are definitely not mixed race communities. I agree to try Berkeley, but that may be too urban for you. Great schools plus Muslim communities = Pleasanton, San Ramon or Fremont. Im sure those are too far out for your commute, but its what youre asking for.

PS Piedmont and Montclair will have good schools but mixed race is questionable as well, but will be better than Orinda, Lafayette etc

All of their classmates are Christians? I sincerely doubt that. Maybe they all put up "Christmas" trees in December, but that really has nothing to do with Christianity. It is a pagan custom adopted by the Christians. I bet that many of the kids have parents who are atheists or agnostics. Jews and Buddhists, too. How about you ask the teacher if you could come in and teach comparative religion for an hour. I bet that would open up conversations between the kids. 

I suggest that you move to Bay Farm Island. Easy commute. 

I don't think you will find much diversity in Piedmont. We live in Montclair and it feels pretty ethnically diverse, if not socioeconomically, but the great schools don't continue on into the middle and high school years and many families leave or go private. Maybe you could spend less on a house and budget more for private schools for 6-12 grade if you want to go the Oakland Hills route. Although Oakland Tech could be a great option for high school -- lots of strong programs.

Typically the higher the Great Schools score, the the more white and affluent the school is, because those scores reflect the standardized tests aggregates (which for a million reasons, aren't geared for the success of minorities or less affluent kids). So if high scores are you thing, maybe you should prioritize that.

if you're looking for a truly diverse student body, there are plenty of schools in the East Bay that will fit your needs. Look at the ethnic composition of Glenview Elementary in Oakland, for instance. It won't tell you how many Muslims there are, but my daughter goes there and there are quite a few students in hijab in her grade alone.

I've lived in the East Bay for 30 years, and I'm not sure I can think of a single neighborhood that meets all your requirements, but here are some ideas to explore: If you want walkability, restaurants and entertainment, Elmwood in Berkeley is nice. It's an urban neighborhood, though, and comes with the accompanying challenges, although I let my middle school kids roam there because they know the area well.

If you want an ethnically diverse school where your kids will be able to find their crowd and won't be the only ones of any category they might fall into, we've had good experiences at Montera Middle School in Montclair, and Montclair isn't too bad a commute to Bay Farm Island. Montera isn't an 8 on the school score card, but the scores don't tell the whole story of any school - I'd urge you to check out any school you're considering in person rather than just going by what's online. As another commenter noted, any school that's big enough to be diverse is going to have both high-performing kids and struggling kids. Next year Montera is moving to an International Baccalaureate model, which should add even more interesting classes and rigorous academics, as well as an emphasis on diversity and cooperation.

On the downside, Montclair doesn't have a lot of stuff for teens to do. For safety and a small-town feel where the kids can go to movies, etc., you can't beat Alameda - but I don't know how diverse it is; it's been a long time since I lived there. If you have time, it would be great to spend some family time in the places you're considering and see what feels most like home to you. Good luck with your search!

Hi, just wanted to thank all of you who replied.  We haven't been in the area very long so you've all given me so much info and lots of new areas to explore.  Thanks again

There are many hispanic families and also families from the middle-east in BUSD. Some from working-class families and some from professional families. In high school the professional Muslim families tend to enroll their students in BIHS (the IB program.)