Advice about Moving to the Bay Area

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi folks,

    We are moving to bay area around the middle of May this year. We plan to start looking for apartment and schools after getting there. It might be too late for the current school year by the time we make up our mind. So, will it be okay if our 9yo starts school only in Aug/Sep rather than May. We have read about the super strict truancy laws in California and do not want to be on the wrong side of it. So, any opinions on that are most welcome.



    Can your kid finish the year with his current school by doing independent study after you move? When my kids were younger, there were a few families who did this when they needed to be away for a month or two.

    School ends in May in many Bay Area districts, so I don't think you will even be on their radar until the fall. (Do be aware that school starts in early-to-mid August if you're coming from a post-Labor Day state!) In general, the truancy laws come into play if your child is enrolled but not attending school. If you are new to the state, the district won't even know you're here until you show up to register. (That said, registration for next year is already underway and you will be a late applicant if you apply in May, so depending on where you are moving, you will want to be aware of which schools you may still be able to get a spot at--in most East Bay districts, it isn't solely based on where you live. You'll want to get an application in as soon as you have a confirmed address, and if school options play a role in where you'll decide to live, you'll want to talk the districts you're considering first to see which schools potentially have space.)

    I suggest that you get permission from your current school to do an "Independent Study" for the time your child will be gone. Even if that time is the last month or two of their school year. That way, (1) your child can stay current with their learning, (2) their other school (assuming it's public) won't get reduced money due to your child's absence, and (3) the transition to the new school will be easy. Just be sure to give them a couple of weeks notice so the teacher has time to put together the learning plan and the materials needed. Good luck!


    The replies are very helpful. We will explore the "independent study" plan from the current school.

  • 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 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.

    You didn’t specify ages, but thornhill elementary has a great music program. You’d go to the rockridge Bart or use the trans bay bus that picks up in Montclair village (the thornhill neighborhood is called Montclair)

    If looking for pre-conservatory style training, SF Conservatory of Music has a preparatory program. Crowden is also very well regarded and has academics too (not sure what grade it starts at). Don’t know what your kids play, but if piano and wanting more intensive private training, feel free to PM me for names of highly sought-after private piano teachers in the area. I can recommend teachers who are all active in the performing scene for young pianists (Junior Bach, local competitions, summer music festivals). Good luck!

    Among the three cities you listed, public schools are strongest in Orinda.

    I saw you got a lot of answers, mostly covering music.  I wanted to mention that Orinda is not diverse since the other posts did not seem to cover that.  We lived a long time in Oakland and also in Orinda's neighboring city of Moraga, and there are tradeoffs.  If your children are people of color, you may want to consider that.  We did not fully take in account the importance of racial and economic diversity when we moved from Oakland to the Lamorinda area, and I would not make the same decision if I could go back in time.