Advice about OUSD Elementary Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • We're currently living in Petaluma but are planning to move to Oakland next summer. My kids are in a Spanish Immersion program here and we are hoping to transfer into one of the Spanish Immersion programs in Oakland. They will be in 3rd and 5th grade when we move. Does anyone know what the process is like? I'm assuming there's some testing for them to transfer? Is it just the normal application process? I've tried reaching out to the school but it's the end of the year and I'm sure there busy so I haven't heard back. Has anyone does anything like this and have any insight? I'd appreciate any and all info! We're currently hoping to get into Melrose Leadership Academy because I like that it goes to 8th grade. Thanks! 

    Most OUSD Spanish immersion schools don't have a special process or testing, unless you want to enter as a Spanish-primary student. Then there is a testing process. I'd suggest contacting the district rather than the individual schools as school ended before Memorial Day and I'm not sure there's anyone around at individual schools. There is a Student Welcome Center that might be a good place to start. 

    MLA is very popular and while you might get lucky, make sure you have a back up plan. My kids are at Greenleaf, which also runs through 8th grade. We've been very happy there. International  Community School and Manzinita Seed werethe other ones we considered, though they just run through 5th.

    It's a pretty straightforward process--when you apply, the Enrollment Office will contact you to determine language proficiency. The good news is that MLA and other Spanish immersion schools often have space in the upper grades because it's challenging to fill open seats if kids don't have a dual language background. Call the Enrollment Office, which is open through the summer--Oakland handles enrollment centrally so the school won't be able to enroll you directly (though they can answer questions you might have).

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  • Hello, my oldest daughter will be enrolling in elementary school next fall and we are deciding how we want to rank our local schools. We live very close to Bella Vista and it seems fine, but nothing super special. We’re not too far from Cleveland and Franklin; both of which have much better reviews so far and the principals seem much more enthusiastic and passionate about their school community. Can anyone share any additional recent reviews?

    thanks!

    My son starter kinder this year at Cleveland, our neighborhood, and VT (the principal) is amazing. Everyone we've interacted with at the school is great, we adore his teacher (Ms Yan), and we really appreciate their focus on teaching ecoliteracy/spending time outside in the garden. The after school program (Oakland Leaf) is fine, my son loves it but what 6 year old wouldn't love playing with their friends for a couple hours each day. Def tour the schools. I know Cleveland has a couple of tours scheduled each week through Jan. 

    Our child was at Bella Vista last year and we thought it was a good school. Not there this year because we relocated. The principal is actually very engaged and there are some great programs there. The after school program was great and available for all students for free. It does have its issues as all OUSD schools do but we loved the diversity and there are some exceptional staff members there. Tour all the schools you are considering as that will give you the best impression and opportunity to speak to principals and staff.

  • Chabot or MLA for kinder?

    Mar 20, 2023

    Hello parents! We somehow got into Chabot and Melrose Leadership Academy for kindergarten and would love to hear from current parents of kindergarteners what’s great and what’s not. We are super happy at Escuela Bilingüe Internacional and planned to continue, but surprised we have more great choices. We hate to give up Spanish immersion, but people are acting like we won the actual lottery getting into Chabot. Thanks in advance for any insights! 

    Longtime Chabot family here... Chabot is a great school, but it will not offer you anything comparable to a bilingual education for your child. They used to have PTA-funded Spanish class in some grades and an optional Spanish language program before school. But that bit the dust during covid (huge loss, in my opinion). Chabot also lost some absolutely stellar teachers during Covid, sadly.

    If you at all have an option for a full bilingual education, I don't think there's any aspect of Chabot that can compare with that. It's a totally solid school academically, and your kid will come out having met or exceeded the state standards. But I think the reason people treat it like winning the lottery is because they are comparing it to other public neighborhood schools, not to schools with specialized programs like MLA or EBI.

    My two cents - go for the bilingual education!

    Hello! As someone from outside the catchment area who DID get into Chabot - yes, it very much felt like we won the lottery! HIGHLY RECOMMEND. My eldest is now in middle school and my youngest is in 1st grade at Chabot. Here is why I love it:

    Extremely good teachers, some of whom are award winners! We have only had one teacher who was not a good fit for our eldest, who is a more shy, reserved child. But that SAME teacher is a perfect fit for our younger, more boisterous child. While you can't request a teacher by name, they do an excellent job of listening and trying to pair your student to the right teacher if you have any specific requests or needs. 

    Extra support: My youngest has ADHD, and needs extra help with managing his emotions and his impulse control. The counselor at the school is a great listener, and has been excellent at working with us to create management plans with the teacher and yard staff. I know from other parents with neuro-divergent kids at Chabot that this school does a MUCH better job at providing assistance than other schools. Yes, all public schools are required by law to "help" kids with special needs. Not all schools actually do it with any kind of enthusiasm. Chabot DOES support kids, proactively. Onsite speech therapist, social-emotional counselor, therapist, nurse, etc. 

    Inclusion: Principal Jessica Cannon really tries to listen and include ALL people at Chabot. Even when she makes mistakes, she does an excellent job at apologizing, acknowledging her mistake, and trying to do better. Over the course of this month, she is having small group breakfasts with different affinity groups, many of whom have limited English skills and so might not feel able to participate in PTA meetings, etc. I respect that she's putting in the extra effort to make sure that she hears and addresses their needs. The school also has a VERY strong stance on LGBTQ inclusion and anti-bullying. One of the kids in our K class was gender non-binary, and the staff supported their pronouns, expression, and bathroom needs.  

    Community: I keep hearing about other schools with parent cliques, and I haven't seen it here. There is a real dedication to pitching in and helping. We make sure that the gala and other events are free or reduced price for those who want to participate. The parents also fundraise a "helping hands" fund for community members who are in financial distress. When my husband lost his job, that fund helped us pay some bills. Now that he has a job again, we gave back, but there was NO expectation that we had to do so. The community really takes care of each other! 

    Extras: The PTA puts a LOT of work into the school, especially in fundraising. That means that we have a dedicated music teacher, art teacher, and science lab assist. Many schools don't get that! 

    Cons: The after school program does not cover the entire population of the school, and they have been inconsistent with their programming. They seem to be doing better lately, but I understand that they had a hard time hiring post-pandemic. Also, we used to have a dedicated Spanish teacher, and I'm sad that we lost that program. 

    Hope that helps!

  • Hi everyone! I have a question about Oakland public schools. Have you seen the classrooms of any of these schools? I am hoping to find out which ones feel spacious/calm and which ones might feel cramped/tiny, especially for the younger grades.

    My kiddo is "high-functionining" autistic and his preschool teachers said he really struggles to learn when he feels physically more confined. She said that we should prioritize a spacious physical environment for him for kindergarten.

    I did a tour today of an otherwise-lovely school but it turns out both kindergarten classes are in portable trailers with small windows. Their first grade classrooms are larger but the class size is large as well (23-30 kids), so it felt cramped to me with that many desks in it.

    Here are the schools we're looking at, but definitely open to others as well. Thanks! :-) Peralta, La Escuelita, Cleveland, Sequoia, Redwood Heights, Joaquin Miller, Crocker Highlands, Chabot, Hillcrest, Glenview, Bella Vista, and Emerson. 

    My kid goes to Joaquin Miller.  I would say the classroom sizes there are pretty good.  Not large, but at least medium-sized, and with good windows.  They do have portables, and currently two of the second-grade classes are in the portables.  Which are not tiny, but are smaller than the regular classrooms, and less windowed.  But at least K and 1st grade are not in portables.  My vague recollection from touring kindergartens 4 years ago is that Redwood Heights had one of the best campuses, with a spacious feel.  Sequoia is about medium, like JM.  And Crocker Highlands is cramped, with too many kids fit into too small of a space.  I haven't actually been inside the new Glenview building, but it's brand new, so probably nicer than the old buildings, and maybe bigger.  Hope that helps.  Good luck.

    We have direct experience with Cleveland. It's a smaller school, and I felt that the classrooms were decently sized -- not huge but not tiny either. The cafeteria/multi-purpose room is small for the school size. There's no gym. Portables are common in many OUSD schools. Some classrooms don't have windows that open. Cleveland's K classes are in a separate smaller building and I thought the classrooms felt bright and cheerful and the space felt adequate. Not huge but not tiny or crammed either. Cleveland does have a very nice gardening program and the campus has more greenery than many other OUSD schools.

    I have a 1st grader at Glenview. The school was completely renovated and opened up for the first time in 2021. It is a beautiful school, and the staff, and PTA are very supportive towards the students. The rooms are quite spacious, as well. I would recommend this school. I'm still tapping into the community, but from what I've experienced so far, it's an excellent OUSD school. Good luck!

    My daughter is at Crocker Highlands.  I won't lie, it feels like a rabbit warren.  Her classroom is large but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it is spacious.  The multi-purpose room is windowless.  We also looked at Urban Montessori and the classrooms there were large and spacious.  That was many years ago though, and I think that they may be in another building now.

    We love a lot of things about Crocker, but given your comments, I don't think that it would be a good match.

    Also just for reference--OUSD target class size for early elementary is 24 kids, though the classes can be somewhat larger (though not as big as 30--max under the teachers' contract is 28 or 29, I think, and less for kindergarten). While some schools do have smaller classes, you're going to be less likely to find them at most of the schools on your list, since they are high-demand schools. You might find smaller class sizes at La Escuelita or Emerson, which aren't quite as much in demand as the others you listed. I'm not familiar with their campuses, though, so don't know whether the rooms themselves are large. (Emerson has a large outdoor play space, though.)

    Peralta is a wonderful school, but the classrooms are notoriously small. 

  • We're starting to research elementary schools for our incoming kindergartner. I'd love to hear from parents whose children currently attend Crocker Highlands Elementary.  It's our home school and is walking distance.

    I have a fairly opinionated, strong-willed but very sweet child. I have generally heard good things about this school but would love to hear more specifically about: (1) what your experience been with your child's teachers and administrators.

    (2) what sports and music classes can we expect for the lower grades (if any)

    (3) sense of community and opportunities for parents to volunteer and connect with one another (aside from fundraisers)

    I'm sure you will get lots of glowing responses from families at Crocker, but as a family of a neurodivergent child, who is intellectually precocious to boot, we had a dreadful time there. The former principal was well loved but not by us. It was strange that at the time of her departure the school had her sit on a throne and kids paraded around. No idea why anyone thought that was appropriate.
    The principal has since changed, but our interaction with the new principal during the 2 year delayed IEP process was shocking. She chewed gum, looked bored and clearly was doing a lot of other things during the zoom calls.
    The teachers are caring and invested, yet, they also solve any challenges with kids by sending them to the principal's office. I know this isn't how all public schools in Oakland operate, as a friend with a child similar to mine had a much different experience at Joaquin Miller. 
    We asked for an IEP assessment multiple times, which we were legally entitled to, and the school repeatedly deferred. Our child was finally assessed and found to have a disability that explains why they struggled with behavioral challenges. The former principal refused to support most of our asks for 2 years, and she continually blamed us for our child's struggles. We suggested in 1st grade that our child might be bored and were told it wasn't possible. During the pandemic, as I was supporting my kid's education, that suspicion was well-founded. They were reading at a 12th grade level in 3rd grade, based on school required assessments. 
    Parents are friendly enough, but there are a fair bit of non-inclusive behaviors. It's a wealthy community that doesn't seem to welcome difference very well. 
    For context, our younger child started kindergarten during the remote school era, and they had no trouble with most things. But I do think it's worth looking at the outliers to understand deeper cultural aspects. Those who fit the norm will be fine most places so it's not that informative to evaluate based on those criteria. 
    We withdrew both kids from the school and have zero regrets. 

  • Hi my son will be entering public school for the first time and was offered a spot at Joaquin Miller and Now Chabot Elementary and I’m torn on what to choose. My biggest concern is diversity at Chabot. Any people of color have experience with both schools? 

    I'm a white parent at Chabot and have been a part of that community for many years now. Hopefully parents of color will chime in too, but I wanted to share that Chabot is in the midst of a lot of change right now, including a significant demographic shift. Numerous affluent and/or white families left the school this past year because of dissatisfaction with distance learning. And I know of many other families who are switching to private school this summer too. In one year, the percentage of our student body that qualified for free and reduced lunch went from ~18% to nearly 30%, which (I think) puts it on par with Joaquin Miller. Looking around the yard at the end of this school year, the school looked more racially diverse to me as well.

    Chabot is also participating in an enrollment pilot program which should contribute to it becoming even more socioeconomically diverse. (It's unclear whether the pilot will impact racial diversity much - time will tell.)

    We also had quite a few teachers retire this year, and there will be new teachers at almost every grade level.

    All of this is just to say that things are changing rapidly at Chabot, so if you get reviews from someone who was around even as recently as a year or two ago, it may not be super relevant anymore. Best of luck with your decision!

  • Hi there,

    My daughter starts public school in August 2021. Any recommendations on elementary schools? I am hoping to have her attend one that is diverse in its approach and content, in learning. One that has a lot of outside time, and focuses on art, science, etc. 
     

    Thank you!

    Cleveland Elementary School has an outdoor classroom and a strong eco-literacy program. We are at Cleveland. It is a true gem -- a high performing school that genuinely reflects Oakland's diversity. I'm not sure about focus on art or science at Cleveland. Peralta has a strong art program. Chabot has a nice playground. OUSD does not allow a lot of outside time. Recess at public schools is short. You can look at various school websites and see the school schedule. 15 min. recess here and there. 20 min. lunch play time.  Curriculum is dictated by CA state and the district. We have learned that the quality and talent of the teacher dictates the type of experience your child will have in class. 

    You might be aware of this already, but the enrollment process for OUSD is fairly far along already. The lottery closed a few weeks ago and results come out tomorrow. If you are looking for school placement now and don't want to go to your neighborhood assigned option (or can't get in there because it's too full), you'll have to do a post-lottery application. The district and other education nonprofits usually put out of a list of schools that still have spots. So, that should be out soon. That might help you guide your choices as you look for a place.

    Hi there, 

    We are at NOCCS and love the diversity, cross topic art programming, STEM and time in the garden beyond recess. Not sure you are open to charter schools. :) It is small and has an ever growing community of involved families. I will have a kinder and second grader there next year :) 

    I recommend Peralta Elementary....  they have great parent support and used to have a 'diversity' dinner for all.

    I hope someone with recent experience will respond to your question. My daughter has graduated from high school, so my experience is not recent.  You don't say where you live.  Generally, if there's space, your child will be placed in your neighborhood school. Twenty years ago, it wasn't too difficult to request and be granted a placement in a different Oakland public elementary school (with a few exceptions), but it's my understanding that it's much harder now. 

    North Oakland Community Charter School is a good option to look into - the school has an arts and social justice focus and the students who attend represent a cross-cut of Oakland cultures. The school has a vegetable garden and chicken coop and is next door to an Oakland public park, so students have plenty of space to play and run. Due to covid, there will be a lot of outdoor teaching. https://www.noccs.org/ The initial lottery has passed, but they're accepting rolling applications and you can do a virtual or in-person tour.  oaklandenrolls.org Signed, mom of NOCCS kids

  • Hi there bpn community! Like most of you, we're trying to prepare for a drastic shift in life and wonder what your experience with 2nd grade math in the OUSD system has been? Our kid really enjoys math and is doing multiplication and a bit of division now in 1st grade. She's also a great reader. What kind of math can we expect she'll have a chance to do as a second grader in Oakland? Also, what's on the reading list? Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    OUSD follows Common Core standards for math, so you can check out the second grade standards for a sense of what she'd be learning. (In general, not multiplication or division quite yet, at least not formally--for more advanced math, you'll likely need to supplement.) Different schools use different math and reading programs, so there's no districtwide reading list. Best bet is to talk to your child's teacher to get a sense of what lies ahead. If you're not currently at an OUSD school, you might reach out to the principal where you'll be enrolling to see if they can connect you to a second grade teacher to get a better sense of what to expect.

    The California state (and thus OUSD) curriculum for all grades is here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/ccssmathstandardaug2013.pdf. When my daughter was in school I referred to these standards frequently when I was helping her at home.

    We have a first grader in OUSD who loves math as well. Your kid sounds a lot like ours. Unfortunately, my kid finds math at school too easy and boring and his grade in math is slipping. We supplement at home and know that he has a high level grasp of mathematical concepts and is simply frustrated with what he finds to be busy work. His work is “sloppy” at school but when encouraged intentionally at home, he excels. 

    OUSD has no support for younger kids who are advanced. We sadly feel that our kids languish while waiting for other kids to “catch up”. 

    Common core is very confusing which makes supplementing at home tricky. We end up ignoring some common core approaches when we supplement. My spouse majored in physics and Statistics and I am grateful she is able to supplement at home and feels confident in her approach despite it being a bit different from common core. I am a history major, so I would be lost without my spouse.

    We are not happy with OUSD in terms of its “teach to the lowest common denominator” approach but that is the only option we have, so we try to provide a lot of enrichment at home. 

    Our child is in 2nd grade at a high scoring OUSD school. I have his common core math book here and they do a variety of things.  Learning about money, telling time, 2-digit addition, and subtraction. Then they move to measurements, 3 digit addition, and subtraction.  They do some geometry and word problems.  Multiplication and division are not included from what we have experienced.  

  • Hello parents in Oakland!  Our daughter will start Kindergarten next year and we're trying to find the right school for her.  We've applied to private schools (Redwood Day and Head-Royce) but we're hoping to get lucky in the OUSD lottery process and get her into a good (or good-enough) public school.  Our lottery picks are due Feb 8, 2019.  I've read all the BPN reviews, but many of them are a few years out of date, so if you have recent experience with OUSD schools, please share with us anxious parents.  Right now our top choices, based on school quality and proximity, are these:  Cleveland, Sequoia, Redwood Heights, Joaquin Miller, and Glenview.  Any feedback on these schools?  Or other recommendations? Thanks!!

    We are a Cleveland elementary school family. Cleveland is a wonderfully diverse school full of great kids, dedicated and fantastic teachers and staff, exceptional principal, and very involved and supportive families. There are 1 - 2 teachers at Cleveland who are more old school and just about everyone complains about them but other than these known 1 - 2 "problem" teachers, parents LOVE all of the other teachers.  Kindergarten teachers are beyond fabulous -- fun, engaging, dedicated. PTA is very active and the school does an amazing job of keeping all families informed. Cleveland has many community events. It's a relatively small school and the campus is small in a nice and cozy way. I do wish that we had an indoor gym. The school lacks a large open indoor space. Its eco-literacy program is unique and lovely. It has OUSD district wide challenges and PTA works very hard to make up the difference. The school emphsizes inclusiveness, respect, and kindness.

    Although we have been satisifed with Cleveland, if we had the money, we'd want to be at a private school like Park Day, St. Paul or Redwood Day. Private school education is better in many ways. Private schools win hands down on teacher to student ratio alone. Our K class at Cleveland has around 22 kids with one teacher and no aide. The on-site after care programs do not have an option to add enrichment class like musical instrument or martial arts unlike private school after school programs.  The curriculum is rigid. My spouse and I both went to private schools where learning was more project based. That is not how public school students are taught, so we're a bit disappointed and feel that private school kids really get individualized learning and get to develop love of learning and intellectual curiosity while our public school kids get a bit shortchanged on that front. In K classes, there is quite a bit of crowd controlling as opposed to actual learning due to large class size and varying maturity levels of kids. But, we can't afford private school while paying off astronomical mortgage and student loan and supporting elderly parents, so among the Oakland public school options, we are grateful to be at Cleveland. The thing about many of the schools you listed is that if you are not zoned for the school, you will most likely be waitlisted and then come off of the waitlist very late in the summer just before school starts or within the first 1 - 2 weeks after school starts. By then, you will have started at a private school and probably don't want to switch school. Cleveland was considered a hidden gem for a while but the word must be out because last year there was a very long waitlist for Cleveland. 

RE:

You are not limited to your neighborhood school so I recommend you check with OUSD about your options. There are several excellent Oakland public elementary schools. My daughter attended Kaiser Elementary (not our neighborhood school) and it was a fantastic experience. 

RE:

I encourage you to give Oakland schools a chance.  We have been extremely happy with our local public school (Sequoia in the Dimond District)--I believe it is one of the most (if not the most) diverse school in the district in terms of both ethnicity and economics.  Oakland schools vary widely in terms of size, educational quality, ethnic diversity, etc.  If you explore the schools you are likely to find one that fits your needs.  While there are many neighborhood kids at our school there are also kids from all over the city.  And the teachers at our school are really amazing--they have done a great job of keeping our gifted child academically challenged and loving school.  I would imagine that at grades 4 & 5, it shouldn't be too hard to find a placement in a school you and your kids will be happy with. 

A happy Oakland public school Mama

RE:

Welcome! The first thing I'd do is find out more about your neighborhood school; look beyond test scores and you may be pleasantly surprised. If not, the first call to make is to the Oakland Unified Student Assignment Center. OUSD class sizes expand in fourth grade and many schools that are hard to get into for kindergarten have spaces in fourth and fifth grades as a result, so you may have some choices within the District that you are happy with. The sooner you get on the waitlist, the better, as enrollment for next year is already underway. If you need a spot immediately, you may have even better options since mid-year openings are not always filled (and will then get to continue at that school next year once enrolled). Charter schools have already run their lotteries for next year, but may also be more likely to have unexpected openings at those grade levels. It is extremely unlikely that you will get a transfer into Berkeley schools unless you are a teacher in the Berkeley school district; the bar is very high for granting transfers and Berkeley schools are currently overcrowded. Good luck!