About BUSD: How School Assignment Works

The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) assigns new K-8 students to schools based on the "zone" they live in. There are three zones in Berkeley -- roughly three parallel strips stretching from the hills to the bay. BUSD created these zones in order to balance schools socio-economically by including both affluent families (in the hills) and middle-class and working-class families (in the flat lands). In each zone, there are 3-5 elementary schools and one middle school. All students attend Berkeley High School. To find out which zone you live in, see the District Map on the BUSD website.

For elementary school (K-5) you may request your top three choices in your zone, but ultimately, BUSD decides which school you are assigned to, based on the census tract you live in (income, education level, etc.). Once assigned to a school, you may request to be wait-listed at a preferred school in your zone, but there is no guarantee. There is very little chance of attending a school outside your zone except in rare cases where your desired zone is under-enrolled. See parent discussions about this.

Out-of-district transfers: Many Berkeley schools are over-enrolled so officially, BUSD accepts few transfers from other school districts. Unofficially, it is said that as many as 12% of BUSD students are from outside the district.

See Also: Berkeley Unified School District webpage ... BUSD: Enrollment & School Choice

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi everyone,

    Im enrolling my son in TK for the fall when the first round of enrollment opens up January 8th. Im wondering if it makes a difference in your lottery school choice (whether you get your first choice or not) if you enroll on the first day it opens or if it’s the same chances of you apply any time within the “round”. Just wondering if I need to be hustling right after the holidays to get it together!

    No responses received.

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  • Hi, 

    Our family is hoping to buy a house (one day...?) in Berkeley, and we are looking at lots of different neighborhoods. Does anyone know: 

    1. If we live currently in Northern zone, but buy a house and move to a different zone, can our child stay in his current school for the rest of his elementary education? 

    2. If we moved out of Berkeley (to Oakland / Albany, etc) could our child finish out his school year in his current school? 


    Hi! If you move within Berkeley, your child can stay at their school for the rest of elementary. Middle school zones are slightly different from elementary school zones, by the way. 

    If you move out of Berkeley, you are supposed to get an inter-district transfer to continue in BUSD. However, I can't imagine they would kick your child out mid-year. 

    BUSD asks for residency info at the beginning of Elementary, Middle School, and High School only.

    So your status would only change at those points unless you informed the district of your move.

    Once your child is in a school that will remain their school until the next level if you move zones. So they would stay in Elementary or Middle that they start in. If you move from the district they likely would let your child stay through the school year. 

    1) no

    2) yes

  • My family and I plan to move back to our home state and live in Berkeley (after living in Minnesota for 10 years) and would love your insight on afterschool childcare in the city. I lived here prior to having my daughter so I only know it from the perspective of a child-less party animal :p

    We plan to move back next Summer and hope to enroll our child in Berkeley Arts Magnet and also hope to be able to secure a spot in the LEARNS program. Our hope is to live within the zip code to make chances of acceptance better. What are the chances of being able to secure both this late in registration? Is BAM a hard-to-get-into school? Is LEARNS a highly sought after program with a long waitlist? Are there other schools that you recommend that might have a well-rounded curriculum of art and academics? Or even free/low-cost Montessori schools for elementary? In Saint Paul, our daughter is enrolled in a Montessori school funded by the public school system. 

    I understand that I would not be able to register her for any Berkeley elementary schools during the enrollment period until we can show proof of residency--which we would not be able to do until we secured housing. This means that we would most likely not be able to apply until we move and settle in--so estimating around July 2024.

    Any advice or insight would be most appreciated. 

    Hi, if you’re absolutely set on BAM, study the zoning maps and make sure you purchase (or rent) in that zone.  But also know that there are decent elementary schools in all the BUSD zones in Berkeley. 

    As you might suspect, July for applying to BUSD is late. The good news is that all of the Berkeley Elementary schools are well regarded, even if you do not get BAM. it will be tough to get a spot with LEARNS at that point, aftercare fills up quickly. You could try other city based aftercare programs; folks often choose the Live oak one, and I believe busing is available. You will only really know when you are ready to apply what is/isn't available. Good luck! 

    You will likely get a lot of replies that say the same thing, but here goes:

    It's true that you can only apply for enrollment after you have moved. Elementary schools are assigned by lottery, based on what zone you live in, not zip code or proximity. If you are dead-set on BAM for some reason, you will need to move to the zone that feeds into BAM, and even then, it's up to a computer algorithm to assign schools. Since you are enrolling in the summer, you will be placed wherever there is room, and you won't be able to predict that. BAM isn't any more sought-after than any of the other schools, and all Berkeley schools are considered pretty great. You also can only get on the LEARNS waitlist after you have been accepted somewhere. The waitlist is very always very long, so it's best to have several backups in place.

    Regarding Montessori schools, there are no charter schools in Berkeley. There are private Montessori schools, and if you think you might qualify for a scholarship, you can try applying for one. Best of luck with your move and enrollment.

    Berkeley school assignment is not determined by zip code, but by school zone, so you'll want to look at the school zone map and choose a home in one of the two BAM zones (Central and Northwest). Even then there is no guarantee of admission--but they will try to assign you to one of the schools in your zone, so I'd look at the other schools and decide which zone you prefer to be in based on that (and based on middle school options). Enrolling in July will put you at the end of the list for all of the schools so you will need to be flexible, and it may just come down to which schools have space in your child's grade. Aftercare space is limited and difficult to get into at most schools (especially applying late) so you may need a Plan B for that. The earlier you can get a lease, the better. There is also a public Montessori charter school (Urban Montessori) in Oakland that is open to Berkeley residents, so that could be an option if you want to continue Montessori in some form. Their enrollment timeline may be more flexible. Good luck with the move!

    The JCC is near BAM, and has a good after-school program with a lot of choices. There's some Jewish content, particularly on Fridays, but many of the children are from families with other faith traditions or no religion.) In the past they walked the children over, I'm not sure what is happening now in terms of transportation.

    Even if you apply by the deadline you are not guaranteed to get your first choice.  They assign kids to balance demographics and many people do not get the school they want.  Applying late your chances will be even lower.  All the BUSD schools are very similar - the difference is more about distance and start time.  It is also quite difficult to buy or rent a home here so it might be a challenge to find something in your desired zone.  In retrospect I wish we had moved to Albany where kids actually live walking distance from their school friends.  My daughter is 10 and has zero friends within walking distance while her friend in Albany can just go meet up with her friends on her own and is much more independent.  My daughter will also be going to middle school without any of her elementary friends due to the new middle school zoning rules.  Regarding Learns - at my daughter's school it is much easier to get a spot in the older grades as most families have been able to make alternate plans by now.  The program is extremely poorly run but still has long waitlists for the younger grades because there are so few options.  

    If I were you I'd stay in St. Paul! (I used to live there too.) Kidding aside, I suspect you will hear the same story from all who reply to your post: It is hard to get a spot in a BUSD LEARNS program. For reference, for two consecutive years (TK and K) we submitted enrollment materials to the district at the earliest possible date, registered for the LEARNS waitlist at the earliest possible date, and then registered for our assigned school at the earliest possible date (which you need to do before your are considered for a spot in LEARNS). We didn't get a spot either time. There are multiple factors that determine your eligibility, BUSD gives weight to things like household income, returning students, children of BUSD staff, sibling status. So those factors, should they apply to your situation, do improve your chances. But the bottom line is that demand for LEARNS far exceeds capacity. And applying for a spot so late in the game means that unless you meet the income-qualified criterion, I'd guess the probability of getting a spot approaches zero. I would recommend that you try and register for one of the City of Berkeley after school programs as soon as you can document residency in Berkeley. There are three of them, and depending on which one your child attends and where your child goes to school, BUSD will provide after school bus transportation to the site. Or, try and register for the program at the Berkeley JCC, or the New School. Both have relationships with BUSD and lots of families send their kids there. I wish you good luck. 

    BAM isn't actually an arts magnet anymore. It is a regular elementary school like any other in Berkeley. You get assigned the school by lottery within your zone. Your best bet would be to try and make it for round 2 of the lottery. If you don't make it then and you're willing to move partway through the school year that is another option. I don't think any particular elementary school is more sought after than the others except for Sylvia Mendez, which is Spanish immersion. LEARNS is very impacted. There are other options however. If you land at BAM one option nearby is the JCC and the New School. The City of Berkeley also runs programs at a variety of parks. The sign up for those are in June. Really, it doesn't matter much which elementary school you get into. I would base my decision on 1) start time 2) proximity to your residence 3) aftercare options (e.g. there are some small differences here at the different schools). 

    Berkeley has a lottery system for the public schools based on zone. All of the schools follow essentially the same curriculum as a result and all of the elementary schools are great. As you mentioned in your post, you won't be able to register until you have proof of residency. If you don't end up in the central zone (where BAM is), the chances of getting placed at BAM out-of-zone are quite low. You can look up addresses for potential homes here, which will tell you which zones: https://www.berkeleyschools.net/admissions/find-your-busd-zone/. There is no way to know the chances of which school you will end up, especially if you enroll later. LEARNS is separate; people typically add their names to the waitlist in the spring and then find out a couple of weeks before school starts whether they got a spot. There are City of Berkeley aftercare programs as well. 

    We're just starting out at BAM with our Kindergartener so this is based on my whopping <1 year of experience learning about BUSD and after school, so just know that up front. :) First, because you lived here before, maybe you know this, but just in case you don't, BAM isn't actually a magnet school nor an arts specialty school; it used to be but they haven't changed the name. It's just a regular elementary school, although a great one! If you're looking for a public school with a strong arts program, Malcom X actually has a fantastic performing arts program that is integrated into many aspects of the curriculum for all grades. MX would have been our first choice if we didn't live so far away.

    Secondly, I wouldn't assume that living in the same neighborhood as the school will make your chances of acceptance better. Berkeley schools are a lottery system for each zone (make sure you choose a residence in the Northwest or Central Zone to be eligible for BAM) in which you rank your preferred schools, and supposedly ~75-80% of people get their top choice after the first round in Feb/March. The district tries to create diversity in each school, so you're not necessarily more likely to get into a school just because you live close. Also note that if you live farther than 1.5 miles from the school, you're eligible for bussing if your kiddo is interested in taking the bus (which can be a form of free childcare before school starts, which for BAM is 9am...). More info about zones and street lookup here: https://www.berkeleyschools.net/admissions/find-your-busd-zone/

    BAM is a great school so I do think a lot of people want to get in, but truly all schools in Berkeley are great so I don't know that there's a ton of validity to which are the best. In general I feel like most people want to go to the school closest to them so that typically determines how desirable a school is for an individual family.

    LEARNS is tough to get into, especially if you apply late, but we applied as soon as it opened and still didn't get a spot. Supposedly spots can open up throughout the fall if they hire more staff, so I've been told our kid will probably get in eventually but for now we've enrolled her at the JCC which provides a "walking bus" from BAM each day. We've heard great things about their afterschool program (art, outdoor play, game room, help with homework, library, etc) and were impressed when we had our orientation last week. It's more expensive than LEARNS and some of the afterschool programs offered by the city, but logistically easier because of the walking bus and not needing to re-register every couple of months like the city programs. I know there are other afterschool programs through The New School and others but I don't know much about that. It's not easy figuring it all out!

    Hope some of this helps. Best of luck!!

    I don't know how it is for BAM but for Emerson where our daughter goes, it was a lottery for LEARNS and a bunch of kids didn't get in.  We're doing an aftercare program called Kids in Motion because it was like the only option left for us. I think we had to submit all our paperwork in late march.  If you wait till july you're going to be at the mercy of whatever schools in your zone have spots and mostly likely a waitlist for BAM and LEARNS.  The nice thing about Berkeley is all the elementary school are pretty great so it's not like there are bad options, just different ones.

    Lots of folks commented on BAM and LEARNS but I wanted to add that JCC is very expensive and fills fast. The City of Berkeley runs great affordable after school programs. Our was at Francis Albrier. They had dance and other great programs and they could get on the school bus after school to go there! 

  • Hello, 

    This is my first post because I am soon hoping to be a true "Berkeley" parent. We are looking to move to the East Bay this summer, with our child who will enter kindergarten in the Fall. Has anyone had experience moving to Berkeley mid-summer and figuring out school allocations? Do we risk not only lack of choice but also no spot in our immediate vicinity (which is TBD; looking for realtors too!)? Any tips/deadlines/school recs would be much appreciated.

    Happy weekend,


    For BUSD, you don't really get to choose. You rank your schools in your zone and then it's a lottery. BUSD assigns schools in the spring, so you'll miss it. You just have to wait to move to Berkeley and then apply with your local address. If there's room in a school in your zone, they'll place you there. It's possible you'll get a school outside your zone, but BUSD buses kids who are at least a mile from the school. You can get on waiting lists, but they don't really move and most people just stick with what they've been assigned. That said, all Berkeley elementary schools are pretty equal due to this lottery system. I'm in the northwest zone and all 4 elementary schools are amazing. It gets a little dicey in middle school and the high school is one big zoo. 

    For Berkeley, school sign ups begin in January and there are I think monthly sign up dates. Just because you are living close to a school does not mean that you are in the correct zone for that school. You might want to check a zone map when you are looking at houses. I live a block and a half from a school that is outside of my zone. Berkeley has recently redone the zones and some people are not happy about it. I'm not sure how they are handling transfers in actuality, but they indicated that they would be pretty strict about it and offer buses instead.

    Welcome to Berkeley! You will be able to enroll your child into BUSD only after you have officially moved and have a Berkeley address. You will not be in the first round of elementary school assignments, or perhaps even the second round. Even current residents in the first round don't necessarily get spots at their nearest school-- the district does not assign schools by proximity. You rank your choices within your elementary school zone, and they assign you wherever there is room. If you are really set on your nearest school, you can try putting your child on a waitlist if they get assigned elsewhere, but sometimes it is in the first couple weeks of school that the waitlist moves. All of the schools are good though. Best wishes!

  • Sylvia Mendez/BUSD admission question

    (3 replies)

    We are in round 1 of BUSD admission. We are hoping to get into Sylvia Mendez. My daughter has gone to EBI for 2 years for PK. Wondering if anyone knows how it will work? When I went to the informational night, it said that they would determine if they need to be assessed, and they would call us for an interview, but we never received a call. Has anyone had luck getting into the school without having an assessment? When I asked BUSD admissions, they gave me a generic answer. Any advice/success getting in the school would be appreciated 

    Hi, I am posting as I’m interested in learning more for when we apply for my child next year, we are in EBI also and interested in Sylvia Mendez. Thanks for the question. 

    I read this Two Way Immersion enrollment policy from BUSD's website, and I'm guessing (but could be wrong) that if neither parent is a Spanish speaker and you listed English as the main language spoken in your home in the Home Language Survey you filled out to apply for schools, your child would be categorized as an "English speaker" vs. "Spanish speaking English language learner" or "Spanish language heritage speaker." If that's the case, there wouldn't be an assessment. If that's not the case, and your child falls in one of the other categories, then it would appear they would be given some other language assessments. The odds of getting into Sylvia Mendez coming from a non-Spanish speaking home are very tiny. I really wish there were more language immersion schools in BUSD, or just in general in the Bay Area.

    UPDATE: We did indeed get Sylvia Mendez!! We are so happy. 

  • Applying for Middle School During Summer

    (2 replies)

    We are moving to Berkeley this summer and our son will be starting middle school (6th grade) in the Fall. We would really like for him to be in a school in walking distance from home. So my question is, can any of you give advice on how late in the summer we can apply for a middle school and have a pretty good chance of him getting in, assuming we are actually in that school's district? Does this vary between King, Willard and Longfellow? I guess as a bonus question, it would be interesting to know if there's any chance of getting into an out-of-zone school if we apply during the summer (e.g., getting into Willard while living in the King zone or vice versa).

    Also, am I right to think that any date between May 17 and June 14 would be equivalent (all in Round Three of the lottery), and then the chances are lower in the "ongoing" enrollment period after that and decrease further as more students request spots or sign onto waiting lists?

    Thanks for any help you can give. Sorry this is so abstract. A more concrete version would be, "We expect to live in the Willard zone and would really like to enroll our son in Willard. How soon do we need to apply to have a reasonable chance of that working out (either immediately or via the waiting list)?"

    I'd also love to hear about any specific experiences of applying for middle school over the summer, and how that worked out.


    Just apply now or call the district. As far as I know (I have two kids at BHS), you get what you get in Berkeley. The district literally does not care if the school is in walking distance. If you aren't zoned for that school, you won't get it and the middle school zones are a bit weird. If you live in the Willard zone, you will not likely get a spot at King off the waiting list. The school is impacted and popular. I do know of one family who did get off the waitlist, several months into the school year and by that time, their child was already settled. But Willard is a great school. Just take that spot if it's offered. The perception is that King is better than Willard and it isn't (both of my kids went to King). 

    We did this in 2019 so things may have changed, but here's how it worked that year. Contrary to what we were told by admins in the BUSD office (and what some people online thought), as best I could tell most every student who applied at this time of year or later was sent to Longfellow. We were zoned for Williard and told that meant we would definitely get Williard but could try for others. That was not the case. We were told that Longfellow was opt-in only and not assigned if you had not requested it. That was not true for us. On the first day of school at Longfellow, they were trying to sort out about ~70 other late registered students and we were told they were all sent to Longfellow because enrollment was low. Obviously, all these last minute registrations created logistical challenges for the school, although they did mostly get it sorted out eventually. We waitlisted for Williard (and King) but were never offered another option.

    I don't know if they have since made changes (many changes were discussed, but we have left BUSD and I don't know if any were implemented). And unfortunately, I don't know how you can avoid finding yourself in the same situation if they haven't made changes. But I would definitely register as soon as possible and not be confident that your child will be placed in your zoned school or your preferred school based on the registration process alone. Note that BUSD will refuse to register you if you tell them you are moving to the area and will say you must wait until you have actually moved there. 

  • We recently moved to Berkeley and have 5 yo twins starting kindergarten in the fall.  We went through the second-round lottery but haven't been able to find out their school assignment, or even confirm that BUSD received our application materials and included them in the lottery.  Any suggestions on how to follow up?  We are sensitive to all of the demands on school administrators right now, but it would be helpful to know our school assignment so we can start thinking about joining a pod this fall.  


    I would send an email to Admissions [at] berkeley.edu to check on status. We submitted the required paperwork for round 3 and received a confirmation email within a week stating pre enrollment is Complete.  We’re supposed to find out late July/early August.

    Dear Hezzie,

    I would send an e-mail to school secretaries/school admin assistant. I used it to check if my upcoming KG kid has all the documents in.

    The names are listed under that of a principal for each school. There is a link to each of the schools from Berkeley USD website.

    To get an e-mail address, you would have to use the school directory.

    All Berkeley USD schools will be on-line at least until October, at least...

  • Does anyone know when BUSD will notify us about what schools our kids are assigned for the 2020-2021 school year? We applied to and were accepted by one private school, and we have to let them know if we are accepting by mid-March. Both my husband and I have rather inflexible jobs (when it comes to hours), so we are quite nervous about our kids being assigned different schools (even twins get different schools, we were told) and/or late start schools.

    BUSD kindergarten assignment letters go out mid-March. I'm trying to remember exactly when we got ours (it's been two years now) but I think it was somewhere like March 15-17. I remember fervently checking the mailbox every day. Best wishes!

    Last two weeks of March

    According to the BUSD website, you should hear in mid-March (https://www.berkeleyschools.net/departments/berkeley-school-admissions/enrollment-faq/) - they are not more specific than that.  It is very unlikely your two kids will be assigned two different schools - while it does happen, it's very rare, especially if you met the initial enrollment deadline.  Siblings are given priority.  Also, late-start schools all have optional (paid) before-school care, so you should be able to drop-off early.  And all BUSD elementary and middle-schools have afterschool programs, as well.  Good luck with your decision!

  • My daughter came to live with me this summer. She was previously out of state with her other parent. What precipitated the relocation was her being the victim of sexual assault. I am currently in the process of developing a treatment plan for her with the Center for Child Protection at Oakland Children's Hospital, who were referred to me by Bay Area Women Against Rape. The crime is currently under active investigation. Given her current fragile psychological condition, as well as her unfamiliarity with navigating Berkeley, I believe it is crucial that she goes to school as close to home as possible; she has a pretty high level of anxiety at this point, and does suffer from trauma due to the assault. Her stepmother and myself are both teachers, and will not be able to drop her at school on the other side of the city due to our work hours, and I do not feel comfortable putting her on a bus, given her current state. However, BUSD is telling me the school close to us is full and they cannot put her in it due to union rules and told me I just need to get on the wait list, which I've done. But surely she is not the only student in BUSD who has a critical need to attend school close to home! Is there anyone out there who can suggest how to get around this madness? Thanks.

    I would initiate the process of getting an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Students with "severe emotional disturbance" can be eligible for an IEP. It is a complicated process, but the excellent people at https://dredf.org/ can help you get started.

    Some people register for public school, but then put their kids in private school. You might want to try keeping her home for a few days after school starts, and see if there are any openings at your preferred site. I understand the reasoning behind busing kids, but I do believe that there is value in neighborhood schools, especially in situations like this. 

    Hi, I hope you might find a solution.  I don’t have an answer, but just wanted to say that likely a very high percentage of families want their child(ren) in the school closest to them, which of course BUSD can’t accommodate for everyone.  I’m not sure how old your daughter is, but there are great after school programs (or clubs, if she’s in HS) at all the schools, which accommodate parent schedules, since not all of us are lucky enough to have one parent not working outside the home.  I sincerely hope your daughter finds the support she needs, even if not at your closest Berkeley school.

    Possibly contact DREDF (Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund).  Anxiety or PTSD I believe would be disabilities, and the school or I think school district would have to provide accommodations.  Maybe that could include going to the neighborhood school.  I don't know enough to say how exactly this would work, but I think someone at DREDF could tell you.  It's called a 504 plan (for kids with disabilities) when it is formalized.  My kid has a 504 plan for other issues. 

    I have only dealt with OUSD, which was some time ago.  A couple of times I appealed a placement decision for my child or my child's at risk friend.  With the appeal I made it clear that the child was in therapy and attached a letter from the therapist that supported my statement of facts and needs.  I think this made administrators realize that they would have liability issues if the student was place in inappropriate and unsafe situations.  Hopefully you will receive responses from families currently dealing with BUSD.


    This is ridiculous especially since BUSD claims to be welcoming and family-friendly. Document how your daughter's anxiety manifests itself. Does she have extreme separation anxiety? Describe how a closer school location will enable your family to care for her and reduce the psychological trauma she is experiencing in writing via a BUSD Uniform Complaint.  The form is here https://www.berkeleyschools.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Uniform-Complaint-Form-11.7.17-Fillable.pdf. Have professional health providers document her needs and submit with the form and to school admin. Retain a copy of everything. Most of all do not get boxed in with BUSD options. If you can homeschool or enroll in a public school charter  just for the short term, it might be the less stressful option for your family. All the best.

    I’m so sorry to hear about this. I am a social worker in special education at OUSD. I’m not familiar with exactly how things work in BUSD - and it would be hard to navigate in OUSD as well. But it does sound like your daughter might qualify for a 504 plan related to current mental heath issues that she’s experiencing due to the sexual assault. Even if she does qualify they don’t necessarily have to grant you the school you want, but they might be more willing to do so if you have a legal document like a 504 plan or IEP under your belt. The problem is it takes time to establish such a plan... I would start by contacting the district 504 coordinator and seeing if you can get a response.

    I'm so sorry about what happened to your daughter. I hope she sees some relief from the treatment plan.

    Is it possible for you to take FMLA leave for some time? She's gone through such a huge upheaval in the last couple months that I can imagine how much she needs you for extra support right now, especially as she's starting school. In terms of healing from trauma and adjusting to a completely new life (new primary caregiver, new home, new state, new school full of strangers), the bus ride is the least of your worries. If you do get her into the school close to your home, would she be walking herself there? And walking home to an empty house? Is she going to feel safe alone until one of you gets home? Speaking only from my own experience, I live with a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. If something activates their anxiety on the commute home (normal city commute stuff), they don't feel safe in our home, which we bought together and have lived in for years, and can't calm down until I get home from work too. I wonder if the bus ride would feel safer to her because she can sit near an adult in a more supervised environment than being alone.

    As for navigating the wait list, all I can think is to try advocating for a spot higher up (that is, if you're sure that's the safest-feeling environment for her). 

    Request an IEP for SED in writing. That will start the timeline. Also see what the before/after school programs are like at the school where she's currently assigned. Some of them are quite good. I agree with the recommendation to contact DREDF, you can talk with a parent advocate there who can help your family through the process.

    I am so sorry that you and your daughter are having to deal with this. A few ideas: 

    Until you can resolve getting her placed into your neighborhood school, maybe consider Berkeley Independent Study program or your daughter? I don't know if the timing would work for your family, but it might be a more calm, gentle way for her to transition back to school..... https://berkeleyindependentstudy.wordpress.com/

    If you haven't already, pursue a 504 for your daughter. You may be able to get an IEP as well, but a 504 should be easier to establish quickly. The first step is to simply fill out a 504 request in writing. You may have to go straight to the district for this--the contact who can point you in the right direction there is:

    James Wogan, LCSW

    Manager, Student Services Berkeley Unified School District510.644.6316jameswogan [at] berkeley.net 

    And don't be afraid to push for more than the standard "accommodations." You'll want doctors and therapists involved with diagnoses and medical recommendations. A lot of local therapists have deep insights/experience in navigating accommodations with the school district.

    BUSD does a terrible job of supporting kids/families in mental health crises. I unfortunately know this from personal experience. It became a second job for me to petition for a 504 plan that would serve my child in the midst of a crisis. It was ridiculous and unnecessary and unduly stressful. This was at the high school level..... I think that if you are at the elementary school level, once you have your school assignment it would be easier to establish relationships and communication within a smaller school environment.

  • Is Claremont hills BUSD or OUSD?

    (3 replies)

    Hello all - I am planning to buy a home in Claremont hills with a Berkeley address but having a hard time finding out what schools are zoned for the neighborhood. I checked the BUSD website, but the street name there is not listed. Anyone here who lives in Claremont with elementary school age kids ? Also, my wife and I will both be commuting to SF. What’s the best transport option from there ? I have heard Transbay route E works best. Is that true ?

    Check Oakland Unified's site--there are a number of homes in the Claremont hills that are actually in Oakland and are served by Oakland schools despite having Berkeley addresses, so if the street does not appear on the BUSD site, you are probably looking at one of these. (You can also tell by looking at the Alameda County Assessor's website--you will see either Oakland or Berkeley taxes listed for the property, except in some really unusual situations with split parcels.) The Oakland schools that serve Claremont-area homes are generally well regarded, although it is worth following the situation with Kaiser Elementary, which may move (which would likely lead to changes in the school zone boundaries).

    Hi there,

    We recently moved to a neighborhood close to yours. You’ll be in the South Berkeley zone, so your kid will be eligible to go to John Muir, Malcolm X, Emerson, and Le Conte/Sylvia Mendez.

    Both of us work in the city but we’ve been using the Bart (we live mid way between Ashby and  Rockridge stations, so we’re able to get into the Richmond or Pittsburg/Antioch lines. I don’t have experience with the Transbay network.

    Hope this helps!


    Call BUSD and OUSD registration.  Provide the exact address and ask about zoning.  The online maps can sometimes be misunderstood/incorrect.  I know two families that looked at the online maps, and they were pretty upset to find out that their house wasn’t zoned the way they expected.

    If possible, see if the school registrar can put your zoning in writing.  I called to confirm my zoning, but it took a few weeks to get straightened out when I registered my kids for school.  I didn’t think to try to get it in writing when I bought my house, but that would have saved me a bit of stress while things were getting sorted out.

  • Hi all, I am hoping to get advice on applying to a BUSD elementary school that is not within our zone. We live in the Central zone, and have five schools that are available to us, however some are quite far out to where we live (I don’t drive, and I will be doing the school run). On my tours, I have already talked to PTA about the bus service, however, we wont know how long the bus ride  will take until we sign up (one parents who lives in the flats goes to Cragmont and the bus takes 1h 20mins). 

    I have two questions :

    1/ Have any parents chosen a school out of their zone and and had offered? Or had a second choice school out of zone offered?

    2/ Are there any tips to increase chances in getting your school choice? We are attending tours and also going to information nights, if offered by the school.

    Any tips /advice is appreciated! Thank you.

    There isn't anything you can do to increase your chances of a 1st choice school. But, you can get on the waitlist and be willing to switch your kid part way through the year to your 1st choice school. 

    I think some of this depends on what school you want to get into. We tried to switch our daughter all of her kindergarten year from a South Zone school to one of a few North Zone schools, because the other schools offered free busing to her aftercare program. The office told me that, in general, it is really hard to get into a North zone school. Last year, he said that the only option for us to switch was Craigmont, but with no bus option and a 9am start that didn't work for us. 

    I have been through this process a few years ago. We are the LAST house in the central zone. I have ranked the schools based on the distance from my house. If you choose the school out of your zone, you automatically waive your right for a school bus. We have people from our class who drive 25 minutes to Cragmont from the flats, because they are out of the zone. I was assigned to the 5th choice on my application...The next thing to do (preferable the SAME DAY) is to go on waiting lists of all the schools that you ranked higher and did not get. I did get into 2 schools that I was on a waiting list, out of 4. This being said, I met parents who like the school bus, because they get more time without children. 1h 20 min...we ARE at Cragmont and I am surprised by this number, it is rather high...

    You can always appeal you don’t get your first choice- of which you have a 70% chance. And maybe through that process you can explain what a hardship it might be re: drop off etc. but do it quickly. You don’t want your kid to get acclimated to where she ends up only to Ben moved again. 

Parent Reviews

Welcome to Berkeley! You will be able to enroll your child into BUSD only after you have officially moved and have a Berkeley address. You will not be in the first round of elementary school assignments, or perhaps even the second round. Even current residents in the first round don't necessarily get spots at their nearest school-- the district does not assign schools by proximity. You rank your choices within your elementary school zone, and they assign you wherever there is room. If you are really set on your nearest school, you can try putting your child on a waitlist if they get assigned elsewhere, but sometimes it is in the first couple weeks of school that the waitlist moves. All of the schools are good though. Best wishes!

For Berkeley, school sign ups begin in January and there are I think monthly sign up dates. Just because you are living close to a school does not mean that you are in the correct zone for that school. You might want to check a zone map when you are looking at houses. I live a block and a half from a school that is outside of my zone. Berkeley has recently redone the zones and some people are not happy about it. I'm not sure how they are handling transfers in actuality, but they indicated that they would be pretty strict about it and offer buses instead.

For BUSD, you don't really get to choose. You rank your schools in your zone and then it's a lottery. BUSD assigns schools in the spring, so you'll miss it. You just have to wait to move to Berkeley and then apply with your local address. If there's room in a school in your zone, they'll place you there. It's possible you'll get a school outside your zone, but BUSD buses kids who are at least a mile from the school. You can get on waiting lists, but they don't really move and most people just stick with what they've been assigned. That said, all Berkeley elementary schools are pretty equal due to this lottery system. I'm in the northwest zone and all 4 elementary schools are amazing. It gets a little dicey in middle school and the high school is one big zoo.