About BUSD Elementary Schools

Parent Q&A

Science in BUSD Elementary? Aug 23, 2021 (9 responses below)
Should we stick it out with BUSD? Mar 7, 2021 (11 responses below)
Science & Social Studies in BUSD elementary schools Feb 17, 2021 (3 responses below)
Distance learning experiences in BUSD? May 12, 2020 (4 responses below)
Summer Reading Lists for Berkeley Public Schools Jun 1, 2017 (2 responses below)
BUSD Bus Stop Locations Mar 21, 2017 (1 responses below)
  • Science in BUSD Elementary?

    (9 replies)

    We will soon be enrolling our child in kindergarten and as I've been talking to a few parents, I heard someone mention that there are no science teachers in the elementary schools (!!!). Current parents - is that true? The person had mentioned they had heard that only schools with PTAs that choose to fund a science teacher will get science curriculum. I feel like this has to be false, but wanted to hear it from current parents. If it is true, are parents generally fine with this because the rest of the curriculum makes up for it? I'm not familiar with Common Core, but it looks like it only covers math and literacy. 

    RE: Science in BUSD Elementary? ()

    The elementary schools get a dedicated science teacher in 4th and 5th grades. For younger grades, the classroom teachers do the science lessons. My child is in 4th grade, but he definitely did science in earlier years, just not with a dedicated science teacher. I'm pretty sure all of the schools follow the CA curriculum for grade level science-- life cycles, water cycles, etc.

    RE: Science in BUSD Elementary? ()

    I am a current BUSD parent and my kids (1st and 4th) both have science 1x/week with a science teacher. The kindergarteners do science with their classroom teacher and then start science classes with the science teacher in 1st. The kids also have music with a music teacher and gardening with a gardening teacher. I believe this is true across the district. These teachers are not funded by the PTA. (The PTA sometimes funds art and dance teachers.)

    RE: Science in BUSD Elementary? ()

    Every BUSD elementary school's staff list includes a science teacher.  I believe that most science teachers split their time between two schools.  As a Cragmont parent, I can vouch for the fact that kids in at least 3rd, 4th and 5th grade have two weekly sessions with the science teacher.  They also have science with their classroom teacher.  The younger kids may have science with the dedicated science teacher or with their classroom teacher, but they definitely have science instruction.

  • Should we stick it out with BUSD?

    (11 replies)

    My wife and I have been having a tough time coming up with a plan on how to approach schooling for next year. We have loved our Berkeley elementary school (Sylvia Mendez), but are afraid that full time instruction won't resume next fall.

    Do we stick it out? Find a private school? Move to another district? Are these the types of options you are weighing? How did you decide?


    We had this debate last year after the horrendous distance learning during the spring semester in 2020. We decided to stick it out at our local public school because we believe in public schools and we did not want to contribute to depleting resources for our public schools. With our departure, our local school loses yet another middle class family who donates to the PTA. However, after a whole year of distance learning that feels mostly like a waste of time; the uncertainty about school opening in the fall; lack of trust in schools' ability to keep the schools clean and sanitized adequately; and concerns over the learning gap that will force teachers to teach to the bottom to try to catch up kids, we have decided that we need to switch to a private school. The thought of paying $30k/year is daunting and makes me feel sick to the stomach sometimes, but we do not want our child to hate school. They did not enjoy school pre-pandemic, and they now scream that school is stupid. So, it's time. They may need to take out a huge student loan to attend college, but they need to start developing good academic habits and love of learning. So, we will pay the cost now. We feel bad 

    Do you rent or own?  How easy/difficult would it be to replicate the things you like about Sylvia Mendez in another school?  I'd start to make an objective/quantifiable list of the factors in play and think about which ones can be controlled and which ones can't.  You could try one of the neighboring public schools in a different district but there is no guarantee that you won't have some of the same problems.

    If you were happy with Sylvia Mendez before, then I personally think you should stick it out. I believe the district is making every effort to be fully open in the fall and in fact (as I'm sure you know) will be offering 5 days a week starting April 12th. We are also a SM family and have been pretty disappointed in the distance learning program, to be honest, but still plan on continuing to send our son there. We believe in public education, don't want to spend our money on private school (would rather save for college), and still believe in the value of a bilingual education. Good luck with your decision -- it has not been an easy year and I think all the options for parents (and educators) have been super crappy. Here's to better days ahead!

  • Please tell me more about science and social studies in BUSD particularly in elementary grades. Our experience this year has been underwhelming. Now, we are in a pandemic, and I figured this year reading and math will be favored, and we are also grateful that the amount of work has been kept manageable. But, wondering ahead, how much are science and social studies covered in a regular year? Would love to hear your anecdotes and grade level. I know the state standards, just want to know what actually happens. 

    Not much science or history at all. It gets better in middle and high school when they have dedicated classes. In elementary, the focus was always on reading and math. There was more history in 4th and 5th grades, which is California history and then US history. But science? One hour a week at the most. 

    Unfortunately our pre-COVID experience at Sylvia Mendez has been pretty weak, especially with regard to Social Studies. It gets a bit better in 4th and 5th grade. It may be in part because of the two-way immersion program eating up more instructional hours on reading and writing (students are to become bilingual and biliterate by the end of 5th grade). Our now 6th grader did get some California history in 4th grade including an end of year trip to Sierra Outdoor School. Sadly, that trip has been cancelled (before COVID) with no replacement at 4th or 5th grade. Our current 4th grader has had absolutely NO CA history this year.

    Science is a little different. During the 2018-2019 school year, the elementary schools hired dedicated science teachers for grades 1-5. (Before that, as far as I can tell, grades 1-3 got zero science, but 4th and 5th had a dedicated science teacher.) The younger kids get ~45 minutes of science a week, and 4th and 5th get 1.5 hours. Not great, but better than nothing. They are now getting 45 minutes via distance learning. Hopefully as the science teachers get some experience teaching the science curriculum, it will get better.

    Based on my experience at Oxford, science and social studies K-5 are not strong.  I'm especially bummed about science as it's clear that there is no organized effort/curriculum.  It was slightly better pre-pandemic but this year it feels that science is not even considered as a subject (it's an elective, 45 minutes a week). Social studies in K-3 was mostly combined with reading.  In 4th and 5th grades there is focus on CA history but in distance learning there is very little time dedicated to social studies so I haven't seen much happening this year. 

  • Hi,

    We're a multiracial family with a kid who is Black and Asian and about to make the big decision to move to Berkeley. What are people's experiences of having a Black kid in BUSD?

    We're attracted to Rosa Parks elementary and would love to hear more about it, especially since we can't visit:(

    Or are there other public elementaries people would recommend for a supportive, fufilling and academically rich environment for a kid, and in particular a kid who is Black?

    Lastly, any recs for Mandarin language afterschool programs? Also we saw on the website Rosa Parks has a Chinese before school program??

    Thanks so much!

    This doesn't really answer your main question ... You may know this, but it is a lottery system in Berkeley based on where you live in the city. It is split into three zones, so if you want Rosa Parks, you'd have to live in the Northwest Zone and put RP as #1 on your list . I will say, don't get too attached to any one school. You'd have to find a living situation in that zone, and then put the school as your first choice ... and you may not get it. 70% of families get their first choice. Transferring to a different elementary is also notoriously difficult. That said, I think the elementary schools here are all really good. Because it's zoned and a lottery, they're all pretty equal. My kids went to Jefferson and really thrived, but I've also heard really positive things about Rosa Parks. Definitely do your research, but keep in mind it's all a crapshoot. 

    My daughter is Black-white biracial and attended El Cerrito public schools. El Cerrito public schools are actually more diverse than Berkeley. El Cerrito High School is the #4 most diverse high school in California, while Berkeley High is #116. She had a good education and is doing very well in college. There were opportunities for arts and advanced academics throughout elementary, middle and high school. Among the elementary schools, Harding and Fairmont are more diverse than Madera and Kensington. I will note, however, that it seemed my meeting the her teachers (at all school levels) helped her get taken more seriously as a student; I am hoping that is not just because I am white but I suspect in some cases it is. I noticed several talented non-white students who should have been encouraged and given the confidence to take more demanding classes. My daughter learned how to advocate for herself, which I think helped her get additional challenges. One more thing, West Contra Costa does have a Mandarin immersion school, https://wcmspta.org/.

    Since the previous parent mentioned the Mandarin immersion school, I just wanted to weigh in. My kids are black and Asian (not Chinese) and attend the Mandarin school. We love it. Last I checked, the school actually has more black kids than the district at large. And a significant number of mixed black kids. And while most (all?) of the Mandarin teachers are Chinese, many of the non-Mandarin teachers are black. Plus they have enrichment that is intentionally multicultural. West Contra Costa Unified is also increasing its focus on supporting black students (who, frankly, have been underserved). So, I recommend you check it out. I think the last year or two has had a wait list, so it'd be good to reach out before kinder registration/transfer to figure things out. 

  • Distance learning experiences in BUSD?

    (4 replies)

    Before the pandemic hit us, we had already planned on switching our first grade son from a private school to BUSD. He was assigned to Rosa Parks and he's on the waitlist at Jefferson.  I have heard not great reports about the distance learning at Thousand Oaks, so I started to wonder if Rosa Parks and Jefferson are doing a better job (in case this continues next fall).  Can people let me know their experiences at either of those schools (in particular, second grade)? 

    Thanks in advance.

    The quality of distance learning differs even from teacher to teacher. I have two boys at Cragmont. Our TK teacher rocks, our 3rd grade teacher not so much. Actually for TK it works out even better than face to face. The virtual class has 5 children and is 30 minutes per day. They cover "reading" and math. For the 3rd grader, we get 17 pages of assignments per week and two hours of virtual classroom. Half of that time they talk about their feelings and the other half about the assignments they failed to complete. Not a word on fractions yet-this is obviously parents' responsibility not teacher's.

    Greetings, and I I understand your concern...but it is nearly impossible to measure one school to another. Since this is BUSD first time ever to do Distsnce learning, much of it has been to teacher discretion with general guidance from district. This means that every teacher teaching will be different; classwork and load will vary quite a bit too. Currently there is not a definitive plan as to what hybrid learning program will be in place. Both Rosa Park and Jefferson are great schools, but the overall district curriculum and number of websites district approved telling teachers to use have significantly overloaded both teachers and parents.(too many login and passwords/classcode). There is not way to objective measure anything at the moment...everything is a russian roulette when it comes to school choice right now. Personally, I would reccomend determine your interaction with other parents and how well the principal communicates. Best of luck!!!

    I have a second grader (and Kindergartner) at Rosa Parks.  The Second grade teachers are a really strong group of teachers who are creative and fun. Distance learning is never going to capture the magic of great teachers, but the three 2nd grade teachers have worked together to  adapt the curriculum and use google class room quickly and well.  They cover the basics and I would say its a manageable amount of work for a working parent with two kids who are not ready to work totally independently.  Also, our teacher does a morning meeting with the class and also meets once a week individually with each student. she seems to be particularly interested in supporting them emotionally which I know is a huge benefit to the kids.   Both my kids and I miss our community, our after care program and the Rhythm of school, but I have been impressed with the teachers' inventiveness, adaptability, receptiveness and all out effort in a really uncertain an new situation. 

  • Hi There!  We will be moving to Berkeley at the end of the summer.  My kids will be entering 3rd and 6th grades in the fall and attending public school in Berkeley.  Does anyone know where to find recommended summer reading lists for the district?  We are already on Summer Break in our current home town, so I'd love to get them started on the lists if there are any.

    Thank you!

    As far as I know, there aren't required summer reading lists. However, the public library has great reading lists, and the librarians help children find books they are interested in. Here are the suggested BUSD readings for different grade levels.


  • BUSD Bus Stop Locations

    (1 reply)

    We just got our assignment for Kindergarten, and we will qualify for taking the bus.  Does anyone know how far from your house the bus stops usually are?  Also, how long the average bus ride is?  Thanks!