Living in Upper Rockridge

Parent Q&A

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  • Looking for recommendations for excellent pre-schools around Upper Rockridge (ideally within an ~10minute drive from the neighborhood.) Looking for a spot for a 3 year old to start half-way through the year (Jan'24); open to Spanish immersion and/or styles like Montessori or Reggio Emilia. Thanks!

    Our 3 year-old daughter just started at Linda Beach Cooperative Preschool, which is located in Piedmont (approximately 5-10 minute drive from Upper Rockridge). We love the parent community so far. The classroom is cheery, bright, clean, colorful, and immersive; the outdoor play yard is engaging and well-arranged for safe and active play. They bring in various outside instructors on subjects from time to time (e.g., gymnastics class, Spanish). We love the teachers. This is a play-based cooperative school that has been around for 80+ years in Piedmont.

    I believe there are 1 or 2 spots open now for enrollment in the TuTh class (2 days / week) or the MWF class (3 days / week).

    Try Arbor in Rockridge! We love it. Spanish exposure and play based, fun projects and lots of outdoor time, healthy snacks, focus on social-emotional learning. our 3 yo is loving it. They have openings and flexible schedules and may have one mid year also.

    Rockridge Montessori was a good fit for our daughter and meets a lot of your requirements. She was there from ages 1-3 pre and post covid; learned a lot of important toddler skills and had great caring teachers overall. It’s very much on the pricey side just like everything in Rockridge but that would be my only con. 

    Room To Grow is where our child spent magical two years. RTG is conveniently located for people living in Rockridge. It is a Reggio Emilia school. It appears small and the facility may look “well-loved” but the program is excellent and kids learn and play so much. They accept 3 and 4 year olds. 

    We only seriously considered Spanish immersion preschool and are in Upper Rockridge. I visited at Arbor and really loved it (now there are two locations). We might have started there if they had longer after-care. One of the great things about Arbor is the variety of schedules. Our neighbors go to the original location and have been very happy with it.

    We ended up going with EBI because we are curious about the elementary school and the drive isn't much further, about 8-10 minutes from Upper Rockridge. There are several families from this neighborhood there and I don't think you'd have an issue starting mid year as long as your child turned 3 before September. We've been super happy there (had great teachers last year and great teachers again this year). They are constantly doing incredible arts and crafts projects and the teachers do a great job or providing both warmth and structure.  That said, EBI is expensive and has more breaks than other preschools. We also heard great things about Colibri (more affordable) on Piedmont but were never able to get off the waitlist. We applied there for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school year before we gave up. 

  • Hi there! We will be moving to Upper Rockridge and I’m hoping there are public outdoor spaces I’m just not finding in my research. In our current more central neighborhood our nanny takes our son for walks to nearby parks twice a day and is very concerned about the lack of sidewalks and the distance to Lake Temescal, which appears to be the closest park. Do kids ever go to the lawns of one of the schools or nearby churches for example? I know she is also concerned about social opportunities for her once shelter orders are lifted.  Thank you! 

    Hi there-this was our nannies concern also when we moved to UR from SF. I have to say it was a challenge and our nanny ended up driving a lot more to get to parks or kid activities. Families do use the public school's yard (Chabot) close to our house as a playground on the weekends. I am not sure about other schools/churches in UR. Chabot makes it a point to leave the yard open on the weekends for families so I think Hillcrest might do the same thing. 

    It really depends on where exactly you are in Upper Rockridge. If the nanny drives and you're close to Highway 13, the nanny can drive to Montclair Village that has lovely shops, park, library, etc. If you're closer to Chabot Elementary School, a short drive to Frog Park (under Highway 24) is a popular spot. Lake Temescal is nice, too. Most schools do not have lawns in Oakland, and those that do don't keep it green unless it's artificial turf. If you are close to where 24 meets 13 / Caldocott Tunnel, it's a very short drive to Tilden Park. If you are close to Moraga Ave. next to Piedmont, Draceana Park or Piedmont Park is also within a close driving distance.

  • Hi all, My husband and I are looking to relocate from San Francisco to the east bay with our 2 year old in the coming year. We would like to move to a place where the schools are of great quality. We are not looking at Piedmont just yet but would prefer a public school in the Upper  Rockridge Area. Any advice as to the resources I can look at to learn more about the schools in that neighborhood? I understand that it’s a lottery system except for some area in upper Rockridge (?) where you are guaranteed an admission in the public school from K -8 or is my understanding wrong..? Any advice regarding navigating the school system is appreciated.  

    Also, are there preschools that we should be thinking about that ‘feed’ into the recommended schools? I am presently a stay at home mom.  (Apologies if I’m using the incorrect terminology! We are transplants unfamiliar with the US schooling system.)

    Oakland uses a neighborhood school assignment system, so your school zone is based on your address. There is a lottery if you want to attend a school outside your neighborhood, and there are a few schools that are consistently oversubscribed where not all neighborhood students will be admitted. In Upper Rockridge, you're looking at Hillcrest, Kaiser, and Chabot, depending on where in the neighborhood you want to live; all three have taken all neighborhood kids in recent years. (Peralta, which is the school for Lower Rockridge, often does not take all neighborhood kids.) All are great schools in my opinion, although Hillcrest and Chabot are considered stronger than Kaiser (and Kaiser may or may not move to North Oakland next year, at which point you'd likely be rezoned). Hillcrest goes through 8th grade, although you are not guaranteed a seat in middle school and must reapply (though current students get priority so most do get in). There are not "feeder" preschools except inasmuch as people choose preschools near their homes--you will find kids from most of the Rockridge preschools moving on to most of the Rockridge elementary schools. Good luck with the move, and welcome to the East Bay!

    There is no public school in Oakland with guaranteed admission. Most (not all) of Upper Rockridge is zoned for Hillcrest, a K-8 school. Students living in the attendance boundary for each neighborhood school get preferential status in the "lottery," which is actually much more complex than a lottery.  Please read the OUSD Options process and examine school neighborhood zoning boundaries at the links below.,37.7250,-122.0622,37.8701

    We live in Upper Rockridge and the schools here are very good, but far from perfect - our child attends Hillcrest, a K-8 public school. We're happy and we love the community but the academics in OUSD generally aren't stellar. That said, there are quite a few good "hills" schools and some good OUSD public schools not in the hills. The elementary schools in Montclair are also good. Note that Hillcrest is the only K-8 in OUSD and if you're at any other elementary (K-5) school in this area your child will be going to Claremont MS or Edna Brewer MS. That seems a long way off for a 2 year old, but I assure you it'll happen sooner than you imagine! 

    Many people end up sending their kids to private schools for MS (at a cost of about $30k/year) and many more send their kids to private schools for HS ($20-$40k/year)  if they don't love or get into Oakland Tech (by far the best public HS in Oak). I just mention that so you understand that a straight 13 year run in public schools is not necessarily what you'll end up choosing if you land here. Many people opt out as kids get older.

    If you can afford Piedmont, the public schools are arguably a bit better and a bit safer if you want your kids' entire education to be public. We have 1 child so we can afford some private schooling, but if we'd had 2-3, Piedmont would probably have been a better decision.

    There is a semi lottery. You get zoned for a particular neighborhood school - you can figure out the school before you buy your home - and it's likely but NOT guaranteed you'll get in. It is also NOT easy to get into a school that you're not zoned for. Hillcrest in particular is notorious for not having enough space for every child in the hood - we were waitlisted after we bought our home. We were lucky and my son got in (1 day before school started in K), but some people have to wait a few years and attend Chabot or somewhere first (a very good school). And you have to reapply to the Hillcrest MS - about 1/3 of the Hillcrest 5th grade class doesnt get into the MS, which is super tiny. So they go to Claremont or private. It's nerve wracking.

    There are no preschools that feed into any public school. But I'll give a shout out to Blue Skies - an awesome preschool. Also Duck's Nest.

    We love Upper Rockridge and feel lucky to be here, and we love our school, but there are other good options all around the hills and in a couple of other areas.

    All of Oakland is a lottery system but you have a higher chance of getting into your neighborhood school. Siblings of current students get offered first and then the neighborhood kids get offered and then if there are any openings left, the out-of-cachment kids get selected in the lottery to attend. The neighborhood that is zoned for Hillcrest may be what you are referring to as Upper Rockridge. The rest of Rockridge (upper and lower) is zoned for Chabot, which is also a great school. There is no guarantee that you will get into your neighborhood school. There seems to be a wave of families moving into a particular neighborhood for the schools. Many years ago, there was a year when not all Hillcrest zoned famlilies got into Hillcrest. This past year, some families zoned for Thronhill and Crocker Highlands didn't get in. Hillcrest is a wonderful school and it's the only high performing school in Oakland that goes from K through 8. Chabot is a larger school and all neighborhood kids get in. Hillcrest is a smaller school. Both are excellent. If you live in Rockridge, your child will go to one of these two elementary schools that are both excellent. However, if you are looking to buy and have the means to buy in Upper Rockridge, you might want to consider the possibility that you will want private school instead of OUSD. We send our kids to a well-rated OUSD elementary school, but we have been disappointed by the school system and regret that we bought a house in such an expensive area when we could have bought a larger house in a less expensive area and send our kids to private school.

We've had this in the Upper Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland with a couple caveats: It's not so much that the kids run around on their own outside (while that happens occasionally, the neighborhood is pretty hilly with limited sidewalks), but there's a major sense of community grounded by our neighborhood school, Hillcrest. As a tiny school that relies a lot on parent involvement, it fosters a real sense of togetherness. You will quickly get to know the other families at the school (and, in turn, around the neighborhood) and adults really look out for one another's kids. We rely on a network of parents for carpooling to/from sports practices/games, birthday parties, and more -- I can confidently say that in a pinch, there are literally dozens of parents I could call upon to pick up my kids (and with whom they'd feel comfortable, given the years we've all been together). The "neighborhood school" concept doesn't really exist in Berkeley (BUSD assigns schools by zone) or in all parts of Oakland (where despite neighborhood catchments, families opt for other schools) but is certainly the norm here.

We are in Upper Rockridge (oakland/zoned for Hillcrest K-8) and I will say we have this community.  It has come mostly from the involvement in the school so if your kids are older and/or you don't plan on sending them, I would say this would be hard to find. I have heard the Crocker Highlands district also has this feeling and I have heard how happy parents are who live there.

Have you considered Upper Rockridge in Oakland? It's a neighborhood just west of 13 (basically mirror location to Glen Highlands east of 13). We just moved here after looking in almost those same neighborhoods. When I mapped it, my son is in walking distance to the elementary, middle and high schools he is zoned to (, not a guarantee you'll get spots there, but that's another story), which I think is pretty unique for Oakland. Everyone we have met in the neighborhood talks up the local elementary, Hillcrest, which is walking distance from most homes in the area. We were hoping for Berkeley (school assignment is more equitable and school quality is more even), but lost out to all-cash bids for every home we offered on. 

Our house is quite a bit smaller than the same budget would have afforded us in Montclair or Kensington, but we have a view of trees and the bay AND are still walkable to College Avenue (and the Rockridge bart station) in about 20 minutes. There is also a small market and coffee shop off Broadway Terrace, so that I can trick myself I still live an urban lifestyle when I want to ;-)

If you are just considering schools, Orinda schools are more highly "rated" than Berkeley, Oakland, or Kensington. We visited a house in Orinda but it was too rural feeling for us. Best of luck in your search!

We live in Upper Rockridge (Oakland, zoned for Hillcrest which is a K-8) and love it. Much of the neighborhood burned during the '91 fire so won't feel as "woodsy," but there are exceptions, and many of the homes have views of the Montclair hills or the bay. Both my husband and I commute into SF for work (or at least we did, pre-pandemic) -- if you can swing a car with an HOV sticker, it's so worth it. With the sticker, my door-to-door driving commute to my office in Soma was about 30 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the evening.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Jan 2011

RE: Moving to Rockridge neighborhood with small kids

We have a 20 month old son and live in Upper Rockridge. During my teenage years, I grew up in Alamo and can tell you I definitely prefer living in Oakland with my family because of the variety of things to do here, the cultural diversity, and the easy access to San Francisco. I feel like we have yet to discover all of the kid-friendly things we can do here, but here's a list of what we've found and enjoyed so far:
  • Plenty of parks with playgrounds. Near us are Temescal, Dracena, Montclair, and Frog Park but there are lots more throughout Oakland and Berkeley.
  • Lawrence Hall of Science
  • Oakland Zoo
  • Tilden Park, especially Little Farm and the Steam Trains
  • Farmer's markets
  • Storytime at the Rockridge and Montclair libraries
  • Lots of classes: music, kindergym, yoga, swimming, toddler playtime
I am sure there is more I am forgetting, but suffice it to say that Rockridge is very kid-friendly, we meet other families in the area all the time, and we are very happy to be raising our son here. Good luck with your decision! Carrie

April 2003

Re: East Bay neighborhood that's commutable, progressive & kid-friendly
If you are looking for a great East Bay neighborhood, I would pick our neighborhood -- Upper Rockridge between Broadway Terrace and Moraga Avenue. This is a very diverse neighborhood and is close to everything (nature and modern conveniences). It also has a terrific K-8 public elementary school, Hillcrest. (You may need to send your kids to private high school though.) We really love it here -- there are tons of kids on our street that are the same age as yours (my twins and baby are separated by the same time as yours are but are about a year older). As far as commuting to the city, my husband takes the bus from about a block away. It is an express bus and he is at his desk 35 minutes after walking out the door. Of course, BART is always an option but the bus is generally faster for him given the location of his office. The commute is a huge benefit to being here. Also, the weather is not nearly as hot as the cities further east. Shannon