Advice about Moving to the Bay Area

Parent Q&A

  • Hello,

    We had originally been living in Chicago, moved to the Philippines for nearly seven years and are moving to SF area for a job offer.

    We are relocating in September 2018, a bit late to enroll them anywhere. In Chicago, you can automatically enroll your kids if you live within the boundary. It seems this is not the case here. What can we do? We plan to sign a lease as soon as we find a house walking distance from a good school (at least 8 rating in GreatSchools.org). Of course budget is also to be considered.

    Areas we are considering are Berkeley, Oakland, Orinda. We need proximity to a BART station to allow commuting to SF.

    My kids are also musically gifted. Any music enrichment programs will also be helpful.

    Thank you very much.

    Hi, there - best wishes for your move. Because you are enrolling so late, if you move to Berkeley your child/ren will be enrolled where there is room. If the school is over 1.25 miles, they get a school bus to take them there for grades K-5. The good news is: all of the Berkeley public schools are terrific, and an excellent music curriculum is built into the education. K-2, kids get visits from the Berkeley Symphony and get to play rhythm instruments. In 3rd grade they get a recorder and music class. In 4th grade they choose an instrument, and music is built into the day 2-3 days a week for grades 4-5. For grades 6-8, it's optional - your kid has to come to school early, or stay in the afternoon, but it goes to daily instruction. But you get a good quality instrument for $20 a year. (Yay - Berkeley voters! We pay an optional parcel tax to cover this program.) Some schools also have dance, drama, and other programs. My child stuck with her instrument all the way through 12th grade, and it's been a tremendous experience.

    Berkeley has 3 BART stations, as well as express buses to downtown SF. There are parking lots at two of the stations, but they do fill up quickly. (There are also casual carpools - you line up to get a free ride into the city with someone who wants to use the carpool lane. Some folks take $1 for the toll.) As long as you don't move really far up in the hills, getting to BART or the buses is not too onerous.

    Now the bad news: there's a hideous housing shortage here. Be prepared for scarcity and brutal pricing.

    Check out the Crowden Music school in Berkeley!!!!

    Have a look at The Berkeley School. www.theberkeleyschool.org

  • We are moving to the Oakland Berkeley area in the Summer 2019 with our now 13 year old daughter. We are an interracial (white, Asian and African American) family and so diversity is important both racially and economically. Our daughter is interested in the arts (singing, dancing) as well as sports (Lacrosse). Can anyone recommend areas, neighborhoods and schools we should consider in these cities? Thank you.

    If you're considering private schools, the sky is the limit. You can live in either Berkeley or Oakland. For girls, Julia Morgan School for Girls is an exceptional private school. If you're considering public schools, there is no "bad" school in Berkeley. Many people agree that the Berkeley schools are all in the spectrum of good to great. Also, Berkeley schools are more integrated which means kids get mixed up, leading to diversity but you may not be going to the school that is a block away from you! Oakland public school system has a wider gap because you get neighborhood preference. A handful of Oakland schools are excellent and many schools struggle. Also, OUSD budget cut is something to consider. OSA is an amazing arts magnet public school, but I'm not sure if you can get in mid-year. If you can swing the budget, Piedmont has excellent school system but there isn't much racial or economic diversity. For high school, Oakland Tech is highly regarded and diverse.  I'm not sure where you're moving from, but walkable neighborhoods are incredibly expensive. Hills are not as hotly in demand as flats. If you're ok with Condo/Townhome living or rental but do have means to send your kid to private school and like the suburdan amenities like big box store (Target, Home Depot) and chain restaurants (Chevy's), living in Emeryville is pretty convenient. In Oakland, there are many wonderful neighborhoods. Our favorites in Oakland are Rockdridge, Piedmont Ave. Grand Lake, Lakeshore, Glenview, Dimond, Montclair Village, Lincoln Heights which are all very family friendly and relatively safe. Alameda is another neighborhood that is safe and has good schools. It's not culturally and artistically as exciting as Berkeley or Oakland though. 

    Berkeley High has diversity, a super strong girls Lacrosse team and incredible dance and music programs.

    Berkeley High is still a fantastic school.  It's hard to recommend Oakland public schools, although some of their charter schools are doing well.  School districts in Piedmont, Alameda, Albany, Danville, and Orinda are very strong (and not very diverse).