Kindergarten Options in Albany

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Cornell vs. Marin for Albany elementary this fall

Jan 2016

My daughter will start kindergarten in Albany in the fall 2016. I am trying to decide between Cornell and Marin. I am leaning towards Cornell because it is only .4 miles from my house (vs. Marin 0.6 ha) and because it is close to the Y for after school options. I couldn't find any recent reviews of either school on BPN (or elsewhere). I would love to get any insight or advice from people that have kids in either school in Albany.

My daughter is very shy is big groups and I anticipate she will not talk much (or at all) in the beginning (but still seems confident/enjoys herself when in big groups) - in case that factors into the advice. This is one reason that I am not considering Ocean View because it feels so big and I think it will be a bit intimidating for her (plus other feedback about its transient nature due to UC residents). Also, I do need after school care but probably only 1x or 2x a week since I have a flexible/alternative work schedule. I wasn't sure if most after care programs require full time enrollment. Any advice is much appreciated! raquel

All the schools on Albany rock. You can't go wrong. I would choose the one closer to your home.

You should definitely choose Cornell. The district plans to tear down and rebuild Marin in the next few years and move offsite for a couple of years. It's not clear where the students will go while the school is being rebuilt. But you might have a hard time getting into Cornell because everyone else wants Cornell because of the construction, and the kids from transitional kindergarten get placed ahead of everyone, and then younger siblings, and then everyone else has to go into a lottery. Good luck! anonymous

Which Albany kindergarten?

Feb 2012

We are about to register our son for kindergarten in Albany and would love more feedback on the 3 schools. We are leaning towards Marin since most of the kids on our block already go there. However, we are within equal walking distance of Cornell and have been told Oceanview is the ''strongest'' (no specifics given). Would love to hear your experience w/ strengths/weaknesses. Our son is a very interested learner and is excited to be starting kindergarten. We are hoping for an intellectually stimulating environment that keeps him enthusiastic about going to school. Hoping that's not too much to expect from public school these days. Thanks for the info! anna

Educational quality is close enough to equal at the three Albany elementary schools that I recommend making your choice based on proximity. Your first choice should be the school your child can walk to with his friends who live on your block. The community aspect is ultimately more important to your experiences with the school than the (relatively minor) variations between the three campuses in programs, facilities, and ''culture'' (proportion of SAHMs, proportion of English learners, etc.). The one exception is that if you are looking to use a particular before- or after-school childcare program, you would obviously prefer the school where it is offered or to which transport is most conveniently arranged.

I have two children at Marin ; both of them started in kindergarten and the elder is now in 5th grade. We have had some wonderful teachers who really support the kids' enthusiasm for learning and find ways to keep the driest subjects interesting -- and we've encountered some who were not quite as perfect a fit but still very good. We've made many friends among the other parents, and it matters to us that our kids can easily walk or bike to their classmates' homes. We're happy we chose the physically closest school. Marin Mom

I live in Albany, and we, like most others, chose our school based on location. Yes, I realize in pretty much any other place in the Bay Area that may seem bizarre, but all three elementary schools are wonderful and have so much to offer. Yes, of course they each vary in different ways, but if you speak to parents at all three, overall, they're really happy with their choice and school (although I'm sure someone out there will chime in otherwise).

One of the great things about living in Albany is that your kids walk/bike to school w/other kids - kinda like the 1950s, which it nice. They can play w/their neighbors who are in the same class, and it's hard to express how much this helps shape a strong community.

My advice? Talk to parents at all three, and then just chose the closest one. Fan of Community Schools


WCCUSD Kindergartens

July 2009

I'm looking for info - good and bad - on WCCUSD and Albany Kindergarten teachers. We are moving out of state in the next year or two, so grades beyond K don't matter, but we are going to enroll my son in K here, just in case. We currently live near Fairmont, so I'm particularly interested in the class(es) there. Anon

Unless you are an Albany resident (or teach in the Albany schools), it is not possible to enroll your child in an Albany kindergarten class. The district has become very strict about enrolling students proving residency with good reason -- the schools are crowded. With class size going up due to state budget cuts, teachers and resources will be increasingly stretched. anon

Editor note: a review for Fairmont was also received.


Cornell or Marin elementary?

Jan 2009

We are trying to decide between Cornell and Marin for our Kindergartner who will have just turn 5 around the time school begins next fall. We live walking distance to Cornell which I really love and we really liked the school. The problem is that I would need aftercare for him and the Y seems to be a very busy space that would likely overwhelm him. It seems that the on site after school program at Marin might be a better choice for our son.

So my questions are these: Do people in Albany generally seem to go to their neighborhood school (specifically at Marin....are most of the families within walking distance?) Is it worth it to choose a school based on after school options?

Any advice from Marin or Cornell families would be greatly appreciated. anon

There isn't a direct correlation between neighborhood and school. I love that Albany is a small town where kids can walk (with parents!) from any one part to any other part. We live closer to Cornell also but my son goes to Marin--now in 3rd grade. We walk to school every day, and it's great. He arrives to school alert after a nice walk in the fresh air-- gets the mind ready for learning. Incidentally, he goes to the YMCA for after-school care, which is a well-structured and nurturing environment, but I can understand that some families might prefer a smaller program for kindergarteners. I think all of the Albany schools are fantastic, and it's really fabulous that you're thinking about what will work best for your own child. sara

The Marin after school program is also run by the Albany YMCA. I believe the K-1 at Marin are walked over to the Y site on Solano (next to Cornell), as that's where they serve that age group. The after school Y program at Marin, are for the 2nd-5th graders.

So regardless of which school you choose, if you're doing a Y after school program, both schools are served at the same site for K-1.

I'm an advocate for living closer to the school your child attends. kindergarten mom

Although most families that go to Marin do live close to the school, there are definitely families that live further away. Albany is so small that it's really not an issue. And I think it does make sense to choose your school based on your aftercare preference. My child is in K at Marin and goes to Tupelo. We've been happy with it and he seems to really enjoy himself there. One word of advice, however, is to fill out the application for Tupelo NOW. Although full-time K children are given priority, it's never to early to get the application in and I submitted mine even before I registered my child for K. I would also call the office and check in with them every month or so to make sure you're on the list as they can be a bit disorganized there. If you miss enrollment in K, it's almost impossible to get aftercare at Tupelo in the later grades. Marin parent

I have never heard anybody say they do not like their child's school here in Albany. Once there, we all seem to appreciate what our school can offer. That said, my son goes to Cornell, and we love it. More importantly, he loves it. It is a neighborhood school, and he has made loads of friends. I truly appreciate the sense of community. It seems that even those from other schools enjoy our Winter Crafts Fair and Silly Olympics.

As for after care - because the Kindergarten is a short day, both a.m. and p.m. Kindergarteners have several hours where they are the only children on site which makes it less overwhelming. Our son enjoys being there, but we know other children who haven't liked it so much. The big difference seems to be that our son has friends (from many grade levels) who also attend. Keep in mind there is also the JCC as an after school choice. Good luck.

My son is at Marin, and many of the kids are in walking distance, but I don't think that is a big deal. For aftercare, one option you may want to consider would be to look at the alternatives to the on-site (or the Y for Cornell) care. My son goes to the JCC in North Berkeley. A van picks up the kids from both Marin and Cornell (pick-up time is a bit chaotic, but that's true with any option) and transports them. We're very pleased with the JCC program. Hope that helps. Melissa

March 2008

My son is entering kindergarten in Albany next year, and we are debating between Cornell and Marin elementary. I hear good things about both. Cornell is closer to us so has the ''neighborhood school'' benefit, but I like the pod structure of Marin, and have heard more rave reviews from parents about Marin than Cornell. Other concerns: my son is very bright (already reading at 5), and I've heard at Cornell there are a lot of ESL children so the classes do not move quite as fast and/or a lot of the attention is paid to the ESL students? Is this true? One thing at Marin is the busy streets nearby and the school is very open (not gated in) so it seems that a child could easily run off the campus near the busy street. Any input is greatly appreciated! Chris

Our son is at Ocean View kindergarten this year and doing great. I am writing on the ESL question; I learned when I did my research that all the Albany schools have a good many ESL students. There was a Russian student in our son's class this year who entered speaking NO English and is now chattering away. I don't view this child's presence, or that of the many other predominantly (and well varied) Asian ESL speakers as a disadvantage. On the contrary. My son has in no way been held back academically, these kids are learning at many times his rate and often lead his own 'bright' self in the full range of academic activities. In addition, he has learned what it is like to interact with kids who don't speak English or speak it well (and who don't look just like him) and to still value and respect them and make friends with them. He is even learning about their cultures and places of origin. I find it hard to identify a more valuable skill set for success of any sort in the world these children will live in. Margaret

Choosing Albany schools is strangely hard because they're all good, but you're making a decision that will affect what your child's life will be like until middle school.... I agonized too, chose Cornell , and have been very happy there. Absolutely wonderful teachers! I could write a small novel, but to keep things brief I'll just say that the English learners absolutely don't hold the class back. In my experience, they tend to come from highly-educated families (more so than ours, for example) and cultures that value learning. I checked with my third-grader and she confirmed it. If you're really concerned, check with the teachers - they're the ones who know best. Cornell is more diverse; this means that people are more different from each other. Less cosy, but more interesting. Incidentally, in my neighborhood we have kids going to all three schools, and I hear good things from all. Kitty


Which kindergarten in Albany?

Jan 2009

Hello, I am now searching for schools for my son. He will be going to Kindergarten this year. I am feeling overwhelmed with the information I am reading through the website and on top of that trying to understand the school system here in the US - since I lived abroad. My questions is, does anybody know or have their kids/experience in any K- schools in Albany? I wanted to send my son where Math and Science are being taught aggressively in the school. Please help! Ms.A

I have a couple of responses. First, you want to think long term about an elemenatary school, as you will likely be there for six years. I chose Marin because it was closest, an easy walk, and have found that the kids in our neighborhood all went there. That is part of the point of Albany, so I strongly encourage you to think about neighborhood schools. Eventually, your child will want to walk to school by himself and that is lovely.

Marin's afterschool program, Tupelo, has good people working there, but there were too many kids for the space and staff for us. After going through for a year, and my child getting increasingly miserable, we decided to get an after school nanny and that has worked wonderfully. With two kids, it's work the $$$. With one kid, I would look for a share arrangement. -marin parent

I think all three Albany elementary schools are fine... we've had two daughters at Marin , and it's been a great environment. That said, the next few years are likely going to see contractions across the board in California public education. See, for example, the AUSD administrator's comments on the future budget: But Albany has great PTAs (introduce yourself when your kid(s) start school, if not before), and an aggressive group fundraising to augment the formal curricula: Marin Parent


Morning vs. afternoon kindergarten?

Feb 2005

My daughter is almost 3,5 years old ( her birthday is Ocoter 31. 2001). I am wondering when I should start looking in which kindergarden she should go. I know I have 3 choices of schools. We live on Cornell Avenue and I assume that she would go to the Cornell School. I would like her to be in the morning programm since I work in the morning and I think it's better to learn in the mornings anyway. Can the parents pick between morning and afternoon programms or is this up to the school ?

In Albany, the only guarantee is that your child will be placed in a kindergarten class (assuming you are an Albany resident). Albany doesn't have defined eschool boundaries, so you could live right next door to one school and still get assigned to another school. Many factors are considered, including where you live (within Albany), when you register, and how many other children have made the same request. They limit class size to 20, and try to make each class somewhat balanced (girl/boy, etc.), so the numbers and requests don't always match up. I believe your request is most likely to be considered if you register early (check the website for registration dates), and then remind them! You should also know that you will probably not get your assignment until sometime in the summer, and even then, they often make changes at the last minute (or even after school has started) due to enrollment changes. If you will be relying on local group child-care programs, I think that they all know and work around Albany's crazy schedule. (You think a.m./p.m. is hard, just wait til you reach ''early bird/late bird'' grades!) The web site is Albany parent


Cornell or Marin? we are equidistant between the two

Oct 2002

I would like some information about Albany public schools. My daughter is due to start kindergarten in 2003, and the plan is to send her to either Cornell or Marin (we are equidistant between the two -- for that reason, we would choose either of those over Ocean View). I would love to hear from parents of Albany kids -- the good, the bad and the ugly about the schools. I am also interested in your thoughts regarding aftercare, and the morning v. the afternoon program (our strong preference is the morning program). Also, have you been satisfied with what your children have been learning? I'm still amazed kindergarten is only a few hours a day. Thank you. Julie

Feb 1999

The last posting about K classes in Albany schools brought up a mystery I've not been able to solve. i.e., why did the poster not ask at all about Cornell school? I've been told, by a person who has had a lot of experience at both, that Marin and Cornell are comparable, both in teachers and principal. The only thing that's different is that Cornell may have more children of renters from the lower part of Solano, while Marin may have more children from the mostly owner-occupied & wealthier eastern part of Albany. Also Marin may look better to some because it's a newer building. It's a mystery to this person why this sort of pro-Marin School bias still hangs on, to the point where people still show up incredibly early on registration day even though it's not really first-come first-served. I guess it's all different this year (with the opening of Ocean View, formerly Vista/McGregor, now at the old middle school) so perhaps no one has a good answer. But I would really like to know, if the schools are basically equivalent, why all the fuss about Marin? Especially on the part of parents who live closer to a different school? Is there something I don't know? Should I worry less? Can I feel 100% comfortable with Cornell, bc greatly adding to its weight is the fact that it's our nearby neighborhood school, or should I try to look into the other schools nearby neighborhood school, or should I try to look into the other schools even though it's basically too late, as registration begins next Tuesday?

Related question - my husband observed the morning K class at Cornell recently. He felt it was a bit clinical perhaps or a little overly serious for K. In fact, the students were all studiously writing in their journals (!) first thing in the morning. Is this normal for K? The class did have lots of nifty-looking projects around, but the feeling of the class was more like 1st grade, or 2nd depending on the school.

Feb 1999

To the person who is wondering why people shy away from Cornell, here is my lengthy reply! I have a daughter in kindergarten at Vista, and when it came time to choose a kindergarten last year -- and this year, when it came time to choose first grade since Vista is closing -- I chose as number one the new Ocean View and, as number two...Marin! And I tried to figure out what resistance I have to Cornell since many of the parents there seemed satisfied, and it appears that, no matter were you go, every year is different depending on the teacher and his/her relationship to your child.

I think that some of it has to do with Cornell often ranking in the middle. All the others schools have the extreme pluses. Marin is the newer. Vista is smaller, etc. but Cornell falls in the middle so it never wins when you are seeking something specific for your child. I had heard that Marin has incredible parent participation, which can make a big difference. And, sure enough, when I went to a Saturday meeting about the reading program, of about 40 parents, about 30 were from Marin! Some of that has to do with parents from the other schools living in U.C. Village, being students, being busy, not having large incomes, and not feeling connected to Albany, in general. However, it's been a real bonus to have so many kids from around the world in my daughter's kindergarten class, and kids who have very interesting parents! And all the teachers at Vista get great reviews from the parents. The one downside I heard is that one of the three kindergartens has a disproportionate amount of kids who don't yet speak English that well. This probably is due to late registration by people who are moving to the Village from far away.

Ocean View is the new Vista-MacGregor site, that has been the middle school. We chose that because there will be a lot of open space and classroom space, it is walking distance, and I've heard good things about several of the first grade teachers. We like the sense of community, for our daughter to have friends nearby. And, one mother at Marin mentioned that it is terribly overcrowded there. Where ever you go, a major factor can be how involved you are as a parent.

Feb 1999

In reference to the person who asked why I didn't inquire about Cornell School when requesting information about Albany grade schools, it is because I don't feel comfortable about the structural integrity of the school to withstand a large earthquake. This is just my own thing. I am not a native Californian so that thought is in the back of my mind alot. I spoke with someone at length from the school district last year about the earthquake retrofitting on that building and recently spoke with another person from the district about the windows. Needless to say I was not comforted by his response concerning the large windows. That is all. It has nothing to do with the economic level of anyone. I did, however observe all classes there, as well as the other three grades schools.

With all due respect, perhaps the reason parents choose Marin over Cornell is because they want there to be a difference, not because there is. Just like we buy the more expensive item because we want the identity that comes with it. It doesn't matter if Marin is more overcrowded and less diverse. It means a great deal to some parents to feel their kids are in a special place. This is what makes the world turn . . .


I want to second Brian's comments. I talked with a lot of parents as my daughter was leaving preschool for kindergarten. Many parents were thrilled with the idea that they got to chose which public school their child would go to. No particular school (I'm in El Cerrito) was favored over the others; people just seemed to like to send their kid across town. Many of those children have since been moved one or more times. There is a lot to be said for sending your child to the neighborhood school and keeping him/her there. Just a couple of advantages: less traffic around the schools, and your child can build long-term friendships with children who live nearby. Your support of your child and the school will go a long way to make your neighborhood school a "good school."