High school season! St Marys, ECHS, AHS, ???

Hello parents of current frosh and sophomores at St Marys College HS, Albany High, and El Cerrito High. Looking for current thoughts on academics, campus/classroom control, extracurriculars, COVID safety and adherence to protocols, other thoughts on these three high schools in particular or others within a reasonable commute! BHS not an option (can't transfer in there, I hear). Let's assume the student is average, but serious/not prone to goofing off, and not a religious family but heritage Catholic on both sides. Into band and math. Not into most other organized activities, alas. Thx for your thoughts!

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I've had kids at both AHS and St. Mary's. I think it depends on your kid but for us, St. Mary's was a much better, more supportive, more engaging school. Albany High is great for kids who are internally motivated and don't need lots of individual attention. It's not great for kids who are super bright but not motivated - my child definitely was not seen and had a pretty bad experience at AHS. The school culture is improving but wasn't great when we were there (graduated 3 years ago). My child came in to Albany as a 9th grader and had a really hard time making friend and breaking into the social scene (despite being pretty social in elementary & middle school). St. Mary's was a great experience for my other child, in terms of social-emotional, school spirit, engaging teachers.  However, it was not that academically challenging. That didn't bother us, though, as our child is very internally motivated and did great. We are not religious at all (atheists) and had no issues with the Catholicism. Good luck!

El Cerrito High is a perfectly fine public high school with a lot of very good teachers, an involved parent community, a good principal, and it generally feels safe and is a nice place to go to school. I have a 2021 grad who is at UC Berkeley now and a current student both of whom had/are having good experiences there. Band and math are actually particularly strong at EC, especially advanced math. There are band and jazz band classes, along with an after school beginning jazz band class and the Gaucho Band that plays at the home football games. The band also goes on trips pretty often and is a social place for many kids. EC is on a block system so kids take either 3 or 4 classes each semester, doing a year's worth of work in one semester. There are pros and cons to the block system, but our family has liked it. Band and dance both are half blocks so kids take these classes all year. The block system means kids can double up on math or science in junior or senior years if that's something they want to do, taking for example, Calculus AB and BC in one year. The languages are Spanish, French and Japanese--my kids take Japanese and love the teacher. This year class sizes have been reduced somewhat and we got two more counselors, one who just focuses on college and career. At about 1600 kids, it doesn't feel too big or too small. Vaccines have just been mandated in our district, everyone wears masks in and out and kids eat outside only, there is COVID testing every week (it's been kind of a mess setting it up but I think it's working now). Good luck with your decision.