Advice about Alameda Elementary Schools

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Move to Bay Farm or Castro Valley for the schools?

Jan 2013


We are considering a move to one of these areas based on school quality, safety, community cohesiveness, affordability. My impression is that these places would fit the bill. Are there certain neighborhoods to look into? We are considering secondary schools too, not just elementary. Other things we should know? Also wondering if we need to be moved in by the beginning of enrollment or if we wait until summer could it get complicated? Thank you Hope to move

We live with our two small children in Bay Farm, Alameda for the schools. There are two excellent elementary schools. Call Alameda Unified but my impression is most families have no problem enrolling. Alameda has neighborhood schools so you are assigned a school based on a map, which is easily available online from AUSD. Occasionally a school is over enrolled so your child could get bumped. The neighborhood feels very safe and child friendly. It is not what I would call affordable though. That's highly subjective though. A lot of bay Farm is made up of planned developments which has its pluses and minuses. Bring your bikes or come for a walk by the lagoon to check it out.

The middle school is Lincoln, which is highly rated. They have an open house for prospective families this month, if you miss it you may be able to arrange a tour. (sorry don't have the date). Additionally Bay Farm Elementary is transitioning to a small k-8 so if you move to that zone you would have an additional option for middle school.


Seeking Info on Alameda Elementary Schools

Nov 2011


Hello BPN Families, Our family is considering moving to Alameda. I am hopeful to find parents that would give current reviews for Otis, Franklin, and Paden Elementary Schools, as the ones on the BPN archive are from 2008. There appear to be no tours or open houses offered until the January/February kindergarden ''round up'' process begins, and we are trying to find ways to experience each of these schools before we make a move withing the next two months.

Some of our main questions are: What is the school culture like? Are there performing/visual arts integrated into the school day curriculum? Do the children have PE? I've read about overcrowding in older posts. Is that still and issue? For which schools? What is your school's greatest challenge/asset? Any insight on how to visit/tour the schools would be very helpful. Many thanks! Peace- Erin

Welcome to Alameda! After 2 years in private school where my son fell behind, we toured a dozen schools in the area and selected our neighborhood school; Washington . 4 years later, I am so glad we did. The teachers are very experienced, the class sizes are small (18 for 4th, 27 for 5th), and the community is great! The most important thing is to arrange a private tour where you can observe actual classes in session, to find the right match for your child. My then very active going- on-7 year old fell in love with the ex-theater performer teacher, who knew how to hold their attention. He has thrived with heavy emphasis on hands on science, and reading skill appropriate books picked by the students (he's reading a graphic novel a day now.) Don't wait for round up, any school worth attending won't mind you observing an hour or 2 of class. Drop in on a PTA meeting for you perspective school to see what current families say. Good luck with your choice. Annie

My daughter is a third grader at Otis and we're quite happy with it. Class size is 25. Some grades, some years a few kids might get bumped to neighboring schools if it's overfull. If you're planning to register mid-year you could probably call the office and make sure there's currently room in your grade/s. We started in May and the next fall 6-8 kids got bumped from her grade, but she wasn't one. There's PE and music twice a week from teachers on staff, and a very organized parent volunteer program that does visual arts (not sure exactly how often). There's a very organized parent community that runs the visual arts program, a new garden program, fundraising, after school classes, etc. Happy Otis parent


Positive School Environments in Alameda?

June 2011


Our current public school has really punted the ball on issues related to bullying over the past couple years, and we've seen the effect on both of our daughters (not to mention on many other kids at the school). For this and other reasons we're planning a move to Alameda. Ahead of the move we're interested to learn what steps local elementary, middle, and high schools are taking to reduce and respond to bullying as well as less virulent forms of teasing/exclusion. We'd like to hear about any schools that do a particularly good (or not-so-good) job of creating a safe and positive environment for all students, and we'd love to hear from parents of Alameda girls who don't make friends very easily but are having a healthy and socially fulfilling school experience all the same. Thanks for your help. Anon

Our experience is that many of the schools in Alameda have very rigorous anti-bullying programs. My kids have attended Bay Farm Elementary, so that is the bulk of my experience. While kids will be kids, I've found that the prevention messages are loud and clear, and when situations have arisen, they have been dealt with promptly.

I believe the other elementary schools have been similar in their approach, but can't say for sure.

Another local resource is the Alameda Parents Network- on Yahoo Groups- and as you get closer to becoming a local, it will be helpful for many topics. happy alameda parent


Alameda elementary school options

Feb 2011


We may be moving to Alameda and I am interested to hear people's opinions on their public schools, as well as St. Joseph's Catholic school. I have a kindergartner and 2nd grader and want to find a school that has solid academics. Thanks

To be honest, I don't believe you can go wrong with any of the Alameda Public Schools. Save your money for college. They have extremely dedicated teachers whose sole interest is educating our children. I have lived in Alameda for 23 years and all three of my children did very well going to Alameda public schools throughout K-12. While I am not a teacher, I am credentialed as a CA teacher and worked/substitute taught for years in may of the Alameda elementary schools. Your child will receive a wonderful education and will be prepared to go to college as all of my children have done. happy in Alameda

Your question about Alameda's schools cannot fully be answered until March 8th, when we vote on our latest attempt to pass a school parcel tax. If it succeeds (last year's attempt didn't), then our schools will remain good but the draconian cuts required if it fails are more than a little scary. Anon

(Editor) responses were also received for St. Joseph Elementary School


Where are the best schools in Alameda?

August 2010


We love Alameda and are considering an in town move since our 2/1 ''starter house'' is getting pretty crowded now that we have 2 kids. One of the things I really value is the ability to use the local, community based public schools. I know that some are better than others. Which do you think are the best in Alameda (94501 NOT 94502)? Are Haight and Washington the only ones to avoid? Does your Alameda school have a great community feeling? Do you think they are gonna close Franklin since it is so small? If it is closed which will it combine with? Many thanks Island parents! jenny

IMO, there are not any schools you need to avoid! The district offers the same curriculum and they don't place all the bad teachers at Washington and Haight and all the good teachers at Edison and Franklin. That being said there are schools with a lot more diversity than others. It all depends what you are looking for. I know there is talk about Washington becoming an art magnet program. Alot of people like NEA alot too. Go observe the schools when they are back in session...that will give you the best idea of what school is best for your children. You can also become a member of Alameda Parents Network yahoo group to give you access to more Alameda parents. Feel free to email me offline if you have more specific questions!


What do we need to know about Alameda schools?

May 2010


My husband and I are planning to attend open houses for Alameda elementary schools next month. We'd appreciate advice from seasoned parents (AUSD or elsewhere) about what questions we should ask. What would you have liked to know before you enrolled your child in public elementary school? What do we *really* need to know to help us make a decision or get prepared for our local school? Many thanks to all who can shed light on this daunting process! Alameda Mom

First it depends on which neighborhood you're looking at. I don't think Bay Farm, Edison, Otis, or Ruby Bridges are likely to close. Based on AUSD's funding issues, I bet Franklin will close with many students moving to Washington or Ruby Bridges over their parents' strident objections. The high schools may be consolidated and Wood Middle School may close.

My kid is just finishing up at Otis, which was overall a very positive experience. I can't really speak for the other schools but if you are curious, it's worth looking online at the schools' test scores and standing. The biggest indicator is the quality of your child's teacher! There are some teachers at Otis I'd recommend. Others I wouldn't. On the other hand, there are other parents who would disagree with my assessment - we had a very positive experience with a teacher I heard a lot of nasty rumors about.

An important factor is the PTA's activity level. The teachers at Washington are reputedly quite dedicated, but there's almost no PTA activity. Otis has a VERY active PTA which means there are extracurricular activities and educational opportunities not available to some other schools. For a long time, Edison was THE elementary school benchmark. 10 years ago Otis was sort of a dump, but its climate has changed as more young families have moved into the area. Efforts of the garden club, art docents, Art is Education, science docents, and even the Dads' Club have made Otis a more vital, welcoming school.

I think that, particularly if some west end schools are consolidated, it might actually be good for the AUSD student body on the larger scale, where more active parents are spreading their effort amongst a larger pool of students... sometimes inexperienced parents just need a little nudge or guidance from those more active. However, AUSD's budget crisis is such that there WILL be budget cuts again, and likely closures, within the next 3 years whether or not the parcel tax (Measure E) passes. Crowding will be an issue. ... PTA - active parent


Considering a move from Oakland to Alameda

March 2010


I currently live in Oakland Laurel neighborhood with my wife and daughter (20 months). We are considering buying a new house in Alameda and are starting to do some research of the Alameda public schools. From our research up to this point, it seems like the public schools are overall decent, but the better ones have enrollment issues. We would consider paying more on a mortgage to get into a better public school in a better neighborhood, but there are no guarantees. I've also heard of school closures.

We are hoping that BPN members living in Alameda can help with your most recent observations on the public school landscape. Most of the archived info on the BPN website on this subject are a couple of years old. Where is the best place to live in Alameda for schools? Thanks for your help.

We bought our first house in Alameda a few years ago and have been happy with our choice. We have two children, one of which has started school at Edison Elementary.

Over-enrollment: It is true that some of the schools have over-enrollment issues at this time and so far there is no long-term solution. In the recent past, extra children at Edison have been able to enroll by creating a 4th kindergarten classroom, this has occurred twice so far, and now the school is pretty much out of room. For the upcoming year, they are considering changing the student-teacher ratio to 25:1 instead of 20:1 to absorb the extra few children that signed up for this fall.

School reputation: For what it's worth, some elementary schools are considered more desirable than others... on the main island that would be Edison and Otis, which are east end schools (east of Park Street). Franklin and Lum are also considered pretty good. The two on Bay Farm Island have good reputations as well. What does this mean? Well I would say all public schools in Alameda are good schools. However they are public schools, and parent participation and willingness to create extra programs and make things happen at each school is what makes the difference. Some schools have a greater amount of parent involvement than others. For example, Edison has a very active and involved PTA that provides and funds many school programs and events (Art Docent, Garden Docent, Science Docent, assemblies, field trips, game night, fall festival, etc). Other schools may not have such a wide variety of ''extras'' and may not have the overabundance of volunteering parents (we don't have one room parent, we have 3, we don't have 3 art docents per school, we have 3 per classroom... you get the idea).

Overall I would definitely recommend moving to Alameda, we love how our children go to the neighborhood school and the sense of community it provides. We do pay a higher mortgage specifically to have our children attend the school that they do. There is a pdf map available on the AUSD website with school boundaries if you have not seen it already. I know it's a tricky time at the moment and a bit of a leap of faith due to the recent over- enrollment issues, however so far AUSD has been able to keep families at their respective schools somehow... not sure how this will play out by the time your 20 month old is kindergarten age... however there seems to be some general understanding of the seriousness of the issue. Many people buy homes here in certain areas specifically for the local school so AUSD has tried to keep everyone happy... however funding and space issues are unfortunately very real, regardless of good intentions. Best of luck and hope you find what you are looking for. Alamedan


Thinking about moving from Lamorinda to Alameda

August 2005


We are unhappy in Moraga and would like to move to Alameda. I am concerned that I will be doing our two young children a disservice if we move b/c Moraga schools are supposed to be 'the best' which I guess makes Alameda schools 'lesser'. Is there anyone who has made this move, or a similar one? How did it turn out? I don't want to harm my children's future but I can't see spending the next 15 years in a place I dislike. Our older child just finished kindergarten at CP in Moraga and had a great year - but she is very bright and outgoing! and would probably do well anywhere. Still, I have a nagging feeling that I if I were a better parent I would make the sacrifice to stay here and send her to 'the best' schools. anon

I am an Alameda Mom with two young girls. We moved here from Berkeley, and one of our major reasons were that the public schools were so good over here - elementary, that is. I don't know much about middle/high schools here yet... and I can't compare with Moraga, having never lived there. Alameda is a unique and wonderful, family friendly community with so much to offer children. If you have any more specific questions about the area, feel free to contact me. Good luck! ali

I did not make your move from Lamarinda to Alameda. But, I do live in Alameda and know that the schools in the good districts are excellent. Edison, Amelia Earhardt, and Bay Farm are the best elementary schools that feed into Lincoln Middle School, which is the best middle school in the area and then Alameda High School- has mixed reviews- it is a big school with AP classes. If your child might fall into the ''wrong'' crowd it might not be the best but it has a great mix of races. I have also heard that Lamarinda schools are hard for kids to keep up with clothes etc. I know there is pressure in Alameda also, but not as bad as Lamarinda. anon

My son is entering 1st grade at Otis Elementary in Alameda. His kindergarten year there was great.... [See Otis Elementary School for the rest of the review.]

Alameda is a really nice district. I would give you a head's up on the economic polarity of the island. It changes quite a bit from one end to the other, and it seems that I've heard a few things here and there about it not being a very minority friendly place. It has a very small town feel to it and seems to be strongly community oriented.

As for the elementary schools, it depends where you go. If you move to Harbor Bay you'll get Bay Farm and Earhart which are supposed to be the cream of the crop. Bay Farm was like a 10/8 in API and I'm not sure about Earhart. My take on those schools is that they can be competitive, although you will have a very active parent community. I think Bay Farm raises enough money to give each of its teachers 200 in classroom funds each year and fund a great variety of activities. On the main island I've heard really nice things about Otis, Franklin and Edison. They seem to have a very diverse population of kids, well respected teachers who have been there for years, and a nice community focus. The further west you go, the more you will confront ''Oakland Issues'', which I think is a code for the racial stuff I mentioned earlier. Woodstock is a title I school and struggles with test ! scores every year, but I know some teachers there and they are amazing, dedicated and proud of their school.

As far as Middle School goes, I know Lincoln has pretty good academics but the kids can be quite cliquish. I'm aware there are some principal issues (at one point grieved by her staff over the last two years) but I'm not sure if she's still there. Chipman seems to be the ''diamond in the rough''. They're new principal is extremely well respected and has done wonders with the Math and Language Arts programs. There is apparently some District Math trainer who is working with the teachers to raise test scores in Math and better prepare students for Algebra. He also worked with Hayward and did some good things for them. I believe Chipman has really jumped on board and is seeing positive results.

I'm in the dark about High School.

All in all, Alameda is a nice, safe place to live and is a great place to raise kids. It offers a lot more diversity than I imagine Moraga does and is very child centered. It may not have all the bells and whistles that Moraga does but it graduates some very successful people (as any school district will).

I don't think you're being a ''bad parent'' if you choose to move to a place that makes you happy. If you're happy, you're children will be happy. But you'll do what feels right. Go visit the schools, that's the best way to find out.

BTW, I have a friend who is a teacher and lives in Alameda. That's where I'm getting my info!

Good Luck!

Deciding where to live is a personal decision. Both your happiness and your children's education are important considerations. Alameda public schools are more diverse than those in Moraga. If your children were to attend Alameda public schools, they would be more apt to meet kids who did not speak English at home and whose parents had a wide variety of jobs. That adds a lot to a child's educational experience. Two Alameda schools that have great academics are Bay Farm and Edison. There are many others. If you decide to move, you should look into Alameda school attendance zones and student assignment policies. debbie


More advice from parents

Nov 2003


We have had great success with the Alameda schools. Paden provides a developmental approach and the teachers are remarkable. You can apply to have your child attend there. One son is currently at Lincoln and is doing well. Lincoln has a huge nature area along the bay where students learn science. The band program has been great for my son, and the music teacher inspires him daily. My older son had a good experience at Wood Middle School Academy. It is a small school within a school. Currently he attends the Alameda Community Learning Center. Both schools addressed his special needs and are very supportive. Patti

June 2003

Does anyone have information to share about Alameda Public Elementary Schools? Danielle

I taught in Alameda at three of the elementary schools on the island: Bay Farm, Lum, Miller. This was a while ago,1993-97. Miller is right near the base (or what was the base) and its population was 100% naval families. This made for lots of movement mid-year for kids, which was hard. Lum was a good solid middle of the road school - very active pta, good administration, etc. The principal when I was there was Patty Klaus and I believe she is the principal of Franklin School now. I have not taught at Franklin, but I believe it has an excellent reputation and Patty Klaus is great. It has small numbers, too. Bay Farm was also great, lots of excellent programs, lovely facility, very involved families. Paden has an excellent reputation for strong developmental programs, mixed grade levels, and dedicated faculty. All in all, I enjoyed teaching in Alameda and would feel comfortable sending my kids to school in the district (depending on the school, though). AUSD is not as overwhelmingly huge to deal with as Oakland or Berkeley Public Schools seem to be. Melissa