Moving to Lamorinda for the Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • Our only child starts first grade next year, and we hear great things about Lafayette schools. Our son presents causation, and we both have masters degrees but still earn only about $200k combined. We’ll thus be relegated to renting an older apartment downtown. Both of us need to work, so we’ll not be able to volunteer much or chauffeur our son and his future pals around after school.

    1. Residents in upscale burbs back east regard renters, particularly apartment dwellers, as second-class citizens who leech off of the community’s resources; do Lafayette homeowners similarly take a dim view apartment / condo dwellers?
    2. Will our son be socially ostracized because we can only afford to rent a dingy apartment or an aging condo, drive 7+ year old Hondas and don’t take our-of-state vacations (we stay at Best Westerns, etc on the rare getaway to the foothills and visit state parks instead of theme parks)?
    3. We’ve heard that parents in Lafayette public schools are expected to donate $5k per kid annually, which we can’t afford; do teachers and administrators unofficially allocate attention and resources based on parental donations?

    Hi there, I just want to add some perspective. My husband and I make what you make and have 2 kids under 5, so no public school. We pay $17k per kid per year for daycare. Its absolutely crazy and I think most parents in the Bay Area feel the financial squeeze. We live in Martinez, but our kids go to school in Pleasant Hill and you def can tell a lot of the parents are richer than us, but no one seems to care. I would think with your earnings you would be able to get a nice apartment and condo, I'm not sure if Lafayette really has anything that can be considered dingy by Bay Area standards, its a pretty upscale town in general. My husband was born and raised in Lafayette and was not one of the wealthy families. Sure, things might have changed a bit, but he never felt ostracized due to finances and my FIL is NOT one to donate anything to the schools LOL. The public schools are so well funded that I'd be surprised if parents need to chip in to the tune of 5k, that sounds like a tall tale.

    If you do decide to move into that community, I would try to have a positive outlook because your negativity may unintentionally shine through and that will definitely ostracize you. Good luck, I hope you find something you are comfortable with. 

    Not sure what "our son presents causation" means, so can't factor that in to my reply. A couple things - a household income of $200K will definitely get you a condo in Lafayette or elsewhere in Lamorinda if that's where you want to be. But is it where YOU want to be? Let's say you are unhappy with your child's school experience (as a kindergartner, I assume) whereever you live now. Do you like where you actually live? Because there are tons of excellent schools around that you can try to transfer into (for public/charter) or apply to (for private), if you like your neighborhood and house and want to stay put. We have one child in one of the sweetest but more expensive K-8 private schools around, and one child as a transfer into a neighboring higher performing school district (compared to our home district, which we had bad experiences with for both kids). We considered Lamorinda before the kids started K, and again in the middle of the pandemic, but ultimately we decided to stay put because we like our neighborhood - nothing against Lamorinda, just a preference to keep the kids in the same house they've always known. You have options no matter what - you sound like you feel like your back's against the wall, and honestly I am sure it isn't. One thought I had a couple years ago, was to move to an apartment in Lamorinda tied to the start of a school year, sell the current house and then buy in Lamorinda once we found a house we liked. My spouse was adamantly opposed to moving into an apartment after 20+ years in a house with a yard. Where is your spouse on all this?

    Finally on the question if you will BE ostracized in Lafayette. Who knows, probably depends on the cohort of families and kids you would join, but not being there in kindergarten, you will have to make a special effort to meet people and make friends wherever you go if you change schools as a first grader. My question to you is, based solely on this message, would you ever feel at home? Ultimately, do you want to live in Lafayette?

    Hello, I can't answer your questions exactly because I haven't lived in Lafayette for 15 years, but I did grow up there and know some families living there now.  

    1. There are snobby people everywhere.  "Second-class citizens who leech off of the community’s resources" seems very extreme.  I think the kind of 'discrimination' you would experience would be things like other parents assuming you live in a house, kids who come over for playdates asking your son "why don't you live in a house?" or that kind of thing.  Do YOU think there's something wrong with living in an apartment? The wording of your post makes me wonder if you would feel very insecure about your status if you lived in an apartment or condo.  If you feel negatively about your living situation, it would be hard to avoid that rubbing off on others around you including your son.  The fact that you wrote that you & your partner have masters degrees sort of looks like you think that being highly educated means you're not like regular apartment-dwellers and shouldn't be treated as such.  I think that kind of thinking, even if subconscious, would make it hard for you to feel settled in your new home and feel happy there.  Like, if you're thinking "what am I doing living in an apartment, I deserve better," I think that would make it hard for you and your son to be happy in Lafayette.  

    2. Your son might feel jealous of other families' cool cars or nice vacations.  If you have fun on your vacations, your son might never really think about it.  Here's another way of looking at it: how would you feel about your son spending a lot of time with and absorbing the values of rich, possibly spoiled children?  Would you want him to keep himself a part a bit?  Living happily in Lafayette would require you being ok with frequent visible reminders of income inequality, consumerism, and other people's affluence.  You might decide you don't want him absorbing the values of a group of very privileged children.  Yes, the schools are good but your child will may miss out on being part of a socioeconomically and culturally diverse community.

    3.  I'm sure the PTA would love for each family to donate $5k, but I can't imagine that not doing so would have any consequences for your son.  I highly doubt any of the teachers would even know who's donated what.  And remember, none of the teachers are raking in the big bucks either.  You could prepare a script in advance you feel comfortable with like "this year we are able to donate $200" so that you aren't at a loss for words if you're approached, and then not worry about it.

    Your post doesn't say where you live now or what your son's current school situation is, but if his school situation this year doesn't seem to be good, moving to Lafayette isn't necessarily the answer.  There is a certain culture in Lafayette that isn't all correlated with how much money you have.  A lot of the kid culture is centered around sports or other activities.  I kind of think of my family as "Berkeley people" who ended up in Lafayette without totally meaning to.  I felt like my family didn't totally fit in in Lafayette, but I don't think that did me any long term harm either.  

    This answer does not really answer your question, but I wanted to pass on our recent experience with Lafayette and LAFSD. In regards to your #3 question, the suggested donation per child this year is $1,850 (not $5k). And I don't believe that teachers and admins even know how much families donate (it's done through a central organization, and I'm sure attention/resources are not allocated based on donations at all). That being said...

    I wanted to pass on my family’s experience with the Lafayette school district (LAFSD) to any families who are thinking of moving to Lafayette for the public schools. If you have more than one elementary-aged child, be warned that your kids might be separated between schools.

    I have 3 elementary-aged kids, and we moved over the summer from Oakland because we felt Lafayette public schools would provide more stability. Before we put an offer on our house, I called and spoke with the district. I was told that they could not guarantee that my kids would be placed at the elementary school located 2 blocks from the house, but that they would be placed at the same school (the siblings wouldn’t be separated). Fast forward to after we closed on the house, and my oldest was placed at the school down the street, while the other two were placed across town.

    This has been an incredible strain on our family - not just logistically, but also socially and emotionally. Logistically, both my partner and I both have to block our calendars twice a day to do dropoff and pickup (all aftercare programs are full). We also try to divide the school activities (so one of us tries to attend each Halloween parade, etc), or we are perpetually disappointing one or two of our kids. Socially, we feel disconnected from our neighborhood and both schools. We have spoken to the district, the registrar, and the superintendent, all to no avail. Siblings do not have priority on the waitlists. We are filled with much regret, and are at our wits-end trying to figure out how to proceed.

    I pass on our experience as a warning to those thinking about the same move. I’m sure the town and schools are welcoming if you have preschool-aged children, older children, or just one child. But I strongly urge you to reconsider moving to Lafayette for the public schools if you have more than one elementary-aged child.