Feedback about Fairmont Elementary

I am looking for honest feedback about Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito.  Our son is starting K there in the Fall and I just haven't heard much about the school one way or another.  I guess my biggest concern is that he is going to get lost or overlooked in a classroom with 24+ other kids (and 3 classes!).  Do you feel your kid is academically supported?  Emotionally?  Biggest positive/negative about the school?  Thank you!

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Hi! My daughter is in Kindergarten at Fairmont and we've been really happy with it so far. The diversity of the school is amazing and my mixed-race child sees kids who look like her; there isn't any one "norm" and there are kids speaking different languages, from different backgrounds, etc. It's a true neighborhood school that serves everyone, and we love being part of the community there. There's an active PTA and I've been impressed with all the resources they bring to the school: this year my kid has had drama, music, computer, library time, "Book Buddies," and Playworks classes during school hours, all funded I believe by the PTA, and they just brought on an art teacher and garden coordinator so she's started art and gardening during the school day as well. She also takes enrichment classes after school through the FASEP program (they also have this at Harding and Madera)...she's done soccer, art, dance around the world, and environmental science, and there are lots of other offerings. Another positive would be that I love going to my neighborhood school; we can easily trade off childcare with friends, are always seeing friends at the library, pool, store, etc.  She has also learned to read and write at school, which is pretty great to see, and my friends at Fairmont all seem happy with what their kids are learning. The biggest challenge is what you already identified - there are large class sizes. My child likes her teacher; she also happens to be fairly extroverted and made friends easily. But while the school has an anti-bullying curriculum and is generally a good-hearted, sweet kind of place, the teacher is responsible for 24 kids so it's hard to do the really robust social-emotional stuff my daughter had access to at preschool. The couple of times I've had an issue and brought it up, the teacher has addressed it, but it would be nice to have three teachers for the class the way her preschool did, sigh. The other thing I really wish for is a more robust social justice seems like some classrooms in the Berkeley Public Schools do that work well, but I haven't seen any overt conversation around gender, race, class, ability and disability, which I did see done at an age-appropriate way in her preschool. In general, though, we are happy there - my child wakes up happy, is happy to go to school, is happy at the end of the day, and is learning and thriving, so that's all we can ask for. If you're thinking you want to go the public school route, I would say to give it a try. My friends who have kids in other public schools have all talked about large class sizes, so unless you are going to private school as an alternative I think that would be an issue anywhere. Good luck and maybe I'll see you at Fairmont! 

I will second all the comments just made.  Our daughter has enjoyed all her years at the school and is thriving in 4th grade there now.  I will say that I was surprised to see how well the teachers managed to get all the kids in K to learn to read since the classes are large.  One thing to note is that the school has an inclusive program for kids with special needs.  So depending on the class your child is in there may be an aid in the class to assist a child.  That has been true for my daughter every year and one year the class had 2 aids.  So the size didn't impact her to much.  One nice size about the large student numbers is that there has been to many kids in the older classes, that they can't squeeze them in to 2 classes.  For 4th grade my daughter has had only 22 kids in her class, which is the average size for the three 4th grade classes.  It has been fantastic.  

I think the previous review was right on the money but I will add a few points. I'm a PTA board member and also serve on the SSC (school site council). I have a 2nd grader and a child in Kindergarten. I will say that while there is only one teacher, I have yet to see a class that doesn't have an aide in it. I'm sure it happens occasionally but the full inclusion model at our school means there are generally two adults in the classroom. Yes, it's a bummer that classes are so large but this is going to be true for all of the public schools. Will you find smaller classes and more one on one at a private school like Crestmont? Of course. That's why people pay $20k and if you have the money to spend and that's how you want to spend it, by all means, explore that option. If you are comparing Fairmont to Harding, I will say that they are practically the same. My son did TK at Harding and I like the people at Harding too. The district is working to get class sizes down and I believe it's supposed to get down to 21 over the next couple of year but that's still a large class. The biggest negative about Fairmont is the facilities. The school is just old and needs to be rebuilt and it has a very small play yard. This summer, the senior center beside the school will be torn down and portables (administrative mostly) will be placed in that are of land and the library portable will be moved to create a little more play space. One of the playgrounds is also supposed to be redone and we have some critical needs money which will be used over the next couple of years to replace flooring and other such projects. The biggest positive is the people. Fairmont has a "warm fuzzy" family feeling which I didn't get at Harding. It's like an extended family. People look out for each other and the diversity is amazing (which can also be a negative depending on what you are looking for). I do feel my kids are supported academically. Could they be pushed more if there were smaller classes? Yes. But realistically I'm not spending the money to send 2 kids to private school and I have cousins that went to private school and one drives a school bus and the other is a truck mechanic. I think as long as you are supporting your kids at home by reading with them and helping them with homework later on, it won't be an issue. When either of my children has had a bad day, I have always had the teacher walking up to me after class and telling me she is upset because XYZ happened and this is what we talked about. The other benefit of attending your neighborhood school is that your kid will have friends around the block and that really does make a huge difference in the quality of your entire experience. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I hope to see you at the Kindergarten play dates this summer!

This is our 6th year at Fairmont. We have two kids there. They both love school, so that's the important thing at the end of the day, plus oh yeah, I feel like their education has been amazing. Part of that is the curriculum compared to a generation ago when I was a California public school student; children now are taught to critically analyze and write at a much earlier age than in the past (3rd-4th grade), and the math scales up really quickly. All good, as far as I'm concerned, except that in a very socioeconomically diverse school like Fairmont, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are not always starting school prepared for school and that's a challenge for the teachers. Children who are prepared and supported at home thrive.

24 students is the maximum in K-3rd across the WCCUSD. Sometimes "class size" is used as code for not choosing public school from adults who are actually concerned about racial diversity or low income kids. Please make sure that's not in the back of your mind before rejecting Fairmont or any other school based on "class size".