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
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– Dec 2, 2023(0 replies)
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!Dec 2, 2023
No responses received.
– Sep 28, 2023(4 replies)
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?
Thanks!Sep 28, 2023
– Aug 11, 2023(12 replies)
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.Aug 11, 2023
– Mar 3, 2023(3 replies)
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.
MallikaMar 3, 2023
– Mar 3, 2023(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 appreciatedMar 3, 2023
– Apr 12, 2022(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.
Thanks!Apr 12, 2022
– Jul 16, 2020(2 replies)
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.
Thanks!Jul 16, 2020
– Feb 24, 2020(3 replies)
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.Feb 24, 2020
– Aug 16, 2019(10 replies)
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.Aug 16, 2019
– Jul 6, 2019(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 ?Jul 6, 2019
– Jan 14, 2019(3 replies)
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.Jan 14, 2019
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.