Moving from BUSD to private middle school

Our family has been happy with the BUSD for elementary school.  As our child is approaching middle school, we are feeling less than enthused.  The complete absence of accelerated classes in the public middle schools combined with larger class sizes are prompting a look at local private schools.  We certainly intend to go to the various admission events but at this point I would appreciate any feedback from parents whose children made the transition, particularly from a BUSD school to The Berkeley School, Black Pine Circle or Prospect Sierra.  Was your child one of the few new students transferring into 6th grade?  Was it hard for him/her to make friends?  
Please no comments critical of a decision to move to private school.  We are huge public school advocates but want to explore all options for our child.

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Black Pine Circle is very small. Prospect Sierra has an influx of kids I think about 6th grade. 

they expand from 2 classes at each grade level to 3. Reasonable school, ends at 8th grade.

Tres expensive and remember their tuition will increase annually. 

good luck.

Hi there,

we did exactly as you are doing.  Our two younger kids moved from BUSD to Black Pine Circle for middle school.  They had a wonderful experience there ....socially and academically.  It was small but had plenty of opportunity to make friends.  My younger is now a senior at BHS.  Both girls transferred back into BUSD for high school.   Here is something they each said to me going back into the public system for high school :  The found  it more difficult in HS socially as many of the peer groups/friend groups get solidified in middle school.  They made friends n high school but they mostly hung out with other private school kids entering into the public system.  My older daughter told me she regretted going to private school for those years even though we though it would serve her better that staying in BUSD.  I dont know if we did the right thing.  It certainly was not something we thought bout or considered when we were making that decision.  We thought since she continued with soccer and other outside activities that connected her with her public school peers, she would have those relationships already in place.  We were not exactly correct in that.  


We were in the same boat (and looked at the above schools) when we decided to transfer from WCCUSD to the Berkeley School last year for 6th grade. We too had been committed to public education but increasingly saw my son checking out/not feeling stimulated/doing the bare minimum and were concerned about the trajectory that would take once he moved into a bigger middle school during a tricky time of life and could likely slip through the cracks. I wasn't sure whether, as a 6th grade newbie it would feel like he was entering a well-established social and school system but the Berkeley School staff, kids and community have been so inclusive, welcoming and kind from the beginning that my son never experienced any transition issues. I think the school is very conscientious and does a great job teaching and living its values and as a result, newcomers seem to integrate pretty well. The class size has been good too: We were hoping for something not too small and not too big to ease the transition. It seems like the middle school has drawn a lot more new students this year so I definitely would not be concerned about your child being the "only" new kid. TBS also matches up new families with current families so that new students at least have one familiar face when school starts. I have been beyond impressed by how welcoming this community has been towards my family. We actually just moved our (very anxious) 3rd grader there this year and have had the same positive transition experience. TBS has made both of my kids feel excited about learning again and it really is such a nice, no-drama community of good kids and grownups. This was definitely one of the best decisions we've made. My sense is that because these schools see an influx of kids for middle school, they are all probably pretty good at helping incoming 6th graders integrate so it's more a question of finding a school that feels like a good fit for your child and family. Good luck!

My son moved from Malcolm X (six years of being very happy there) to Prospect Sierra  for sixth grade last year and it has been fantastic. The school does a great job of integrating the new kids and there (they bring in roughly 25 new kids, so it is not a tiny number) and the "old" kids seem to be thrilled to have a fresh group of friends.  My son, who did NOT want to go to private school and desperately wanted to follow his friends to Willard, has been very happy at Prospect and it has been a great experience for him. 

I am happy to talk to you about our experience there if you'd like.  Please feel free to contact me via my BPN user name.


Black Pine Circle expands from an enrollment of ~20 (in 5th grade) to an enrollment of ~60 (in 6th grade.)  So 2/3 of the 6th grade class is new to the school.  The newcomers integrate well with the students coming from 5th grade, energizing and tripling the class size. It's a great school!

Consider expanding your reach to include school's in Oakland. If the diversity you see in the Bay Area is critical, consider St. Paul's in Oakland. It's a K-8 independent school near Lake Merritt. 

You might in your considerations give thought to the importance (or lack thereof) of academic acceleration in middle school. These years are so much about social development, and where it feels happy counts for a lot. Not sure if you have older children, but as the parents of highly-academically successful kids, our experience was that what happens in middle school is not going to make or break your child's academic trajectory. Our oldest child did the private route and our youngest went to King. King was by far a more rich learning experience overall and there are consistently wonderful teachers there. Overall, King was the happiest school experience either of our children had at any level. All the BHS middle schools do a great job of making 6th grade still feel safe and "small". So, not judging or critical of your process - just suggesting that if you are "huge public school advocates", to be open to the possibility they do serve your needs for these years.

My daughter moved from BUSD to Prospect Sierra this year. There was a large cohort of other kids (I think about 1/4- 1/3 of the class) who entered at same time, from a variety of places (Berk and Oakland public schools, other private schools).  There are now 4 6th grade classes, about 18 kids each. The school does a wonderful job of making the new kids (and families) feel welcome. There is a 3 day orientation just for the new students before the school year officially starts, where they become acquainted with each other and the culture of the school. She has become friendly with many kids, though only actually considers herself real friends with one other girl, who also started this year (that reflects more my daughter's introverted nature though than the school-- the school creates a variety of groupings which help the kids to get to know each other and feel supported). I think overall it has been a really good move for her, though maybe she would have thrived at King middle school as well. Hard to know. Overall though, she definitely seems happier and I am pleased with what she is learning and doing. She loves that art and drama and language are all part of the regular curriculum (not electives), as she loves all of these subjects and doesn't want to choose one!

I decided to move my daughter to private school for reasons somewhat similar to yours-- I wanted her to have more academic challenges/opportunities and she is also a kid who needs more individualized attention. She really needs to feel that her teachers see her and get her in order to thrive. She was also very sensitive to any disruptions in the classroom, which were unfortunately frequent in her elementary school career. I say all this because I have another child, now at Berkeley High, who did great in BUSD elem and middle school, learning a lot and really enjoying himself all the way through. And he loves Berkeley High too!  It was really hard for me to get my head around considering private school for my second child, because my first was so successful in public school. But so much depends on the child.  I anticipate my daughter will end up at Berkeley High for high school as well, but for now, she needed something different. 

Good luck with your decision!

Escuela Bilingüe Internacional is known for integrating new kids warmly. The school is open to all levels of Spanish learners. There are two tracks, one for the already bilingual students, and another track to learn Spanish. There are also many classes in English. Though Spanish fluency is important to me, the International Baccalaureate program is really the most astounding part of the school for its depth and support of deep learning. 

Crestmont School is expanding to a K-8 starting with their first 6th grade class for the 2017-18 school year. Our daughter has attended since K and is now in 3rd grade there. We're super excited about the program and curriculum being developed. They are hosting an info session on Dec. 3. You can sign up to attend and learn more on their website. Hope to see you there!