Unhappy in local school- worth the price to move to Albany?

We have one kid in a public elementary (and a toddler), and are unhappy with our assigned choice and teacher, although we love our neighborhood. We know all three Albany public elementary schools are highly rated and are considering moving. We are homeowners, so we'd have to sell and a house of the same size in Albany is roughly $500k more. Has anyone done this? Is it worth the price? Another alternative is to stay where we are and pay for private school, which is probably just as expensive in the end. We've already tried to transfer in-district and transfer to another classroom in the school, but neither are options this year. 

Do Albany public elementary schools things like technology classes, foreign languages, art teachers, and music classes that all the private schools seem to offer? Is it worth it?

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I moved to Albany for my son to be in Albany for kindergarten...  Later, I wished my son had been able to go to Middle School in Berkeley. He ended up in private schools for all of his secondary years.   It can be worth the price if you think specifically as to what you are looking for.  There is no "best" for all families and children.  What works for you depends on your family and your values and what different kinds of things matter to you.  Some parents stay in local schools and pay for private after-school programs. 

For starters, try touring the public elementary schools in Albany and local private schools in the area and get a real sense what they are like, what you are looking for...

You can also try renting in Albany to make sure you really want to make the more permanent move.  I wish i had kept renting instead of buying a house in Albany, since we ended up in private school.  Other families are  very happy in Albany, others in Berkeley.  Do visit the schools.  Look at historical BPN posts all the area schools and visit as many as you can.   And, I'm sure you will get lots of advice from this question.  

Do remember, there is no one "right" answer for what is best.  There are many ways to give great opportunities to your children.

Best of luck

I wouldn't move to Albany with elementary school aged children (or younger). Albany just reverted back to half-day kindergarten and is rebuilding two of the three elementary schools and forcing the kids from those schools to attend classes at the middle school and the high school in the meantime. There are no foreign languages in elementary school. There are minimal music classes and art classes. We would have bought in Berkeley if we'd known then what we know now. 

Having put 4 kids through the Albany schools I have a lot to say! You don't say what district you are in now tho... Albany is great but it can be a bit provincial. If it was me and I was starting over I would send my kids to Berkeley schools as I have found them to be a bit more enriched with programs. Nonetheless, Albany is safe, kind and has resources. If you want to talk more feel free to email me:

sarahridgerealtor [at] gmail.com

Currently, earthquake retrofit construction is going on at 2 of the 3 elementary schools in Albany. So there's a little bit of chaos here too with kids at different locations than their assigned elementary school.

I currently have an almost 2yo and am thinking of possibly doing private K if construction isn't done yet. Feel free to PM if you want to talk about living in Albany. 

You could also apply for an out-of-district transfer.   AUSD has been approving more of them than used to be the case.   But know that the rebuilding of two of the schools means some kids will be rehoused in temporary facilities for the next few years.  

I think it's worth checking out nearby private schools.  You could stay where you are.  You wouldn't have to move or go through selling your house and finding another one, and you wouldn't be paying property taxes on another $500K of home value.  Our child went to Black Pine Circle in W. Berkeley, and we highly recommend the school.  Experienced and excellent teachers, great science and art programs, Maker classes, languages including Spanish in K-8 and also the option of taking Mandarin Chinese in 6th-8th grade, etc.  The parent community feels very Berkeley (inclusive, down-to-earth, low-key, a range of parent incomes and occupations).  The head of school, John Carlstroem, is a wonderful, warm, and visionary person who brings the whole community of teachers and parents and students along with him.  Definitely check out BPC.

With the extra $500k you could send your child to private school.

We have just left Albany. The district needs to make 2.5 million in budget cuts. There is no language instruction outside of mediocre afterschool programs. No dedicated art or music. 

They are highly rated because people come to Albany to avoid poor families, and families of color all of whom may suffer generational trauma, have many social needs and therefore bring down the district’s test scores. 

It’s a depressing situation. I would not recommend the schools. That are mediocre at best. Albany is not the utopia people envision. The houses are tiny and you’ll grow out of it soon enough. The city is not worth the hype. It’s a privileged bubble where you’ll be asking yourself what the point was since the schools are so basic.

honestly we moved out and couldn’t be happier. We made the right decision and I hope you find the right thing for your family too.  

After hearing so many people recommended private schools and how it would be cheaper and easier than moving. I had to chime in and I am at a loss on how that would be true. 22K for elementary school times 2 kids times 6 years is 264 and that does not include middle which is around 30k (comes to 180k for both kids) and high school of 40 K (comes to 320K for both kids).  This is a lot of money and this is a low ball number. We were in a similar situation and moved to a much better school district. We look at Alameda, Orinda, Moraga, and Layfayette. There are a range of houses prices that over lap with Albany.  We did Lafayette because the middle school has woodshop, home economic, multiple languages and other things. We were surprised by the range of housing prices if you are willing to do a fixer upper or condo. We were having the hardest time buying a place in Berkeley. I miss the diversity but my kids are learning a lot. We did not do Alameda because it was harder to get to work.  But we loved the town. 

Our family moved to Albany back in the day thinking our child would benefit from the "great" school district.  Turns out there were no resources for advanced learners.  Teachers seem to teach to the test which enables the district to receive high scores.  I know several families who have taken their kids out and opted for private schools. The other thing to consider is property taxes are outrageous here.  For example, voters approved several measures to upgrade the schools.  Now they don't have enough students so are accepting out-of-district kids.   For such a small town the police department has a new motorcycle which makes me wonder what my tax dollars are being spent on.  Really? We need a motorcycle patrol? The personnel for the city also seems to have grown exponentially in the last 5 years.  My property taxes are close to $10,000.  I'm ready to move once our child heads to college.  It's ridiculous.

I had to give you a countering viewpoint.  My sister and I both graduated from Albany Unified, and we loved it.  We are still in touch with various friends that also graduated from Albany, and they also very much value the education they got there.  My sister went to Davis and Columbia, I went to Berkeley and Harvard.  We both think our education - her middle school and high school, me high school - contributed towards our success.

We both were very active through school - numerous clubs and extracurricular activities, some sponsored by the school, some not.  We did theater, music, science clubs, writing club, volunteer work and AP classes.  The one thing neither of us did was sports.

Our parents were immigrants, so we had to find these activities, and we did.  I wouldn't say either of us was super gregarious, but we ended up with a good friend set and figured it out.  Both of us did quite well academically on our own license.

Specifically the schools have:

-great teachers (obviously not everyone is great, but on average they were decent)

-extracurricular activities, the student should make the most of these

-small environment for a big area.  My graduating class at the time was 170.  It's bigger now, but not that big.

-solid academic scores, the high school is among the best in the immediate Bay Area along with Piedmont and Acalanes

-the student body could be more diverse, but it's more diverse than some private schools in the area

-not a lot of AP classes, but the ones that are there are appropriately challenging

Overall, I can't say enough about my education and how it prepared me for Berkeley.  I had no problems in my Calculus, stats classes due to my excellent math background at Albany, and I had no problems studying. In my final year at Albany I was involved in at least 3 clubs, theater/choir, and took 3 AP classes.

I am a believer in public school.  I live in Berkeley right now, and am hoping to be either here or Albany by the time my daughter is 5.

Just from a money standpoint you probably are better off staying put and avoiding the extra costs of selling your house and buying a more expensive house, if you put one kid into a private school. If you put two in then it makes more sense to make the move...unless you find a parochial school, which tends to cost quite a bit less. If I were in your shoes I might try to tough out this year and see if next year’s teacher is a better match. If not then I’d try to find a parochial school that I like.

one time costs to consider

$1mm @5% commission = $50,000

moving costs $20,000??

transfer tax 1.26% (Albany’s)

Incremental Annual costs

$500k @4% interest = $20,000

$500k @ 1.3945% Albany’s prop tax rate = $6,973 

$2335.88 Albany’s fixed charges/special assessments