Commuting from Lamorinda to the South Bay

Parent Q&A

  • We have an infant, are currently living in SF, and are looking into buying a house in the East Bay for the better schools, to be closer to family and to get more space.  We have been concentrating in the Montclair, Crocker Highlands and Upper Rockridge areas of Oakland, but we are also open to the Lamorinda area.  

    1) Does anyone have advice on choosing between Hillcrest, Crocker Highlands, Montclair, and Thornhill elementary schools?  They all seem like decent schools with a strong parent base.  Are there any differences we should be aware of or any other factors we should consider?  Hillcrest is K-8 which is appealing.

    2) The main reason we have focused on Oakland rather than Lamorinda is because I work in Palo Alto.  However, my job is flexible enough such that I can try to avoid rush hour or work from home a couple days a week.  How much time would it add to my commute to go through the tunnel to Lamorinda?  Does anyone have any thoughts about Oakland schools (the specific ones listed above) vs Lamorinda schools?

    Thanks in advance!

    The main thing to think about schoolwise for the Oakland schools is which middle and high schools that they feed to--Crocker goes to Edna Brewer and Oakland High, while Montclair and Thornhill go to Montera and then to Skyline. Hillcrest feeds to Oakland Tech. Brewer is generally considered the stronger of the two middle schools right now, but Montera has a growing IB program that might be of interest. Hillcrest has its own small middle school; most years all Hillcrest fifth graders who want to stay for middle do get spots, but it isn't guaranteed.

    I can't speak to Lamorinda schools, but would strongly advise trying the commute realtime to see just how much time it will add to be on the other side of the tunnel. The East Bay "rush hour" window is LONG—traffic begins backing up in the commute direction as early as 7 and sometimes stays backed up till well past 9, and in the afternoons, the backup can begin before 4 and occasionally last till 7 before it's really moving again. So to really avoid it, you may need to leave extremely early or late. I would look at Piedmont before I'd go through the tunnel. For a Palo Alto commute (and assuming the other commute is to SF), I'd also be looking at the East End of Alameda.

    I will start by saying that my child is at Thornhill.  The neighborhood surrounding Hillcrest (Upper Rockridge) is highly sought after because of Hillcrest Elementary and the fact that it goes to 8th grade.  There have been years where everyone in the neighborhood did not got in.  I believe the kids were placed at other top schools, but just something to keep in mind.  Montclair is the largest of the schools you listed.  

    As you are doing your research, I encourage you to also research aftercare programs and their availability.  Like many Hills schools, Thornhill's aftercare program is run by Adventure Time.  We have been very happy with the program, but the demand for on site aftercare far exceeds the available number of spots and enrollment (required annually) can be a bit stressful.  

    Another thing to be aware of is that the class sizes tend to be on the upper end in these sought after schools.  I naively thought that schools with very active parents who do a lot of fundraising would be able to use some of the funding to secure smaller class sizes.  This has not been our experience.  There is a good chance that your child's Kindergarten class could have 26-27 kids, which is a lot.  

    Best of luck to you!

    Hi- my comment regards commuting from Lafayette (the easiest of freeway access in Lamorinda) to Palo Alto or main land Silicon Valley.  I work from home with corporate based in PA and do need to drive there for a week or so here and there.  I would never in one million years do that commute regularly.  The last time I had to be onsite for 3 days I got a hotel in PA.  The drive is that horrible (and I am likely highly sensitive to it's horribleness because I DON'T drive it every day).  I have tried various combinations of off-commute hours and there simply are not many windows with all the people in the bay area.  I have spent anywhere from 1.5-3 hours getting home if the weather is bad and never there in less than 1.5 hours.  It's exhausting and complete waste of time- and I do listen to pod cast, use Waze detours anything to numb the pain of sitting in a car THAT long NOT moving.  Of course you are doing it now from SF, which I wouldn't do either so you likely have a much higher tolerance for this sort of thing then I do. :)