Late enrollment in El Cerrito elementary schools

Hi everyone, this is my first time posting on BPN. My family is moving from the East Coast to the Bay Area in July, and we are planning on living in El Cerrito.

My son is going into 1st grade, and I'm finding the school enrollment process confusing. I am lucky at the moment to have a choice between two rentals, one zoned for Fairmont and one for Harding. I know Fairmont has a waitlist currently, but it's unclear if Harding does. Does anyone have a sense of which one is more likely to be able to accept a late registrant this year? And do the schools give preference to students living in their neighborhood zone, even if they've been registered late? 

Just for some context -- all of El Cerrito's schools sound great, as does Mira Vista. I am a little nervous about being assigned Stege, which I have not heard great things about (but I am open to correction on that point). And the hill schools (Madera, Kensington, Mira Vista) are going to be tough to get to, since I am unable to drive.

Many thanks for your thoughts.

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An early welcome to the area! I am also an East Coast transplant and have been here since 2005. Love it here!

We live beside Stege and although we have no school aged children at the time, I second the opinion of no to Stege. It’s quite sad but it is really under resourced  and I would not want to recommend it to someone new to the area and is one of the reasons we want to move to an area where we can get into Fairmount or Mira Vista when the time comes. Best of luck to you!!!

You should snap up the rental you like best. It's too tough to predict what actual enrollment will be for Fall 2021 at any public school, especially at WCCUSD. Just sign your lease, move in, complete the school registration for your assigned site, and stay agnostic. Don't expect to have a confirmed slot anywhere until maybe the last business day before school starts - it will be an exercise in staying flexible and patient.

It's not that Stege is a bad school as far as I know, it's that Stege's catchment area is very low-income. The district has been putting a lot of resources into that school. That said, I am not aware of them ever diverting a student who otherwise would be going to Fairmont or Harding, to Stege. Typically Fairmont overflow gets assigned to Harding. Again, this is not likely to be a predictable fall season so try not to stress and just get happy with your living situation.

I am a Harding parent and I love our school and teachers, and we have a diverse community which I value.  I have also heard great things about Fairmont -- I think both will work just fine for you. I did just hear as of today that there are 1-2 slots per grade at Harding.  Good luck! 

We had planned on sending our child to a private school this fall but recently decided to go with our local school (Harding). We registered about two weeks ago and were immediately told he would have a spot (within about an hour, via email). I also called to confirm and the school administrator who I spoke with was very kind and welcoming. I would recommend calling both schools and asking about availability, but Harding definitely seemed to still have some and I was told that the plan was to be fully back to in-person schooling for the fall. I know people with kids at both Harding and Fairmount, and they have great things to say about both of them. Welcome to the neighborhood! I agree with the other commenter that you should go with the rental you prefer. Without a car, BART and Plaza proximity would also be a big consideration if I were you.