Moving to Albany for the Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello, My husband and I are thinking about moving to Albany for the schools. We currently live and work in the other side of the Bay Bridge. We have a few questions that we hope to get some insights to: 1) I know the Albany Schools are highly rated but can't find anything about their kindergartens. Are they really just three hours? Is there before or after school care available for parents who work a fixed schedule? 2) one thing that is a concern for both my husband and I are the fact that we have a bridge between us and our daughter if any natural disasters happen like an earthquake. Do the schools have any specific procedure in place for something like this or the parents need to pick up their kids within so many hours?

    If your definition of a good school is solely based on test scores, then yes Albany has good schools. But they don't have great variety for enrichment classes or before/after care. Generally speaking, the rating only captures a small part of what makes a school great and lacks to take into account things like diversity, community, enrichment, or what might be most important for your kid based on their personality/interests. I'm not saying Albany doesn't have those but perhaps more people who have kiddos who have recently been in that district could weigh in, and you could elaborate more on what you are looking for in a school. I do know that El Cerrito and Berkeley have more robust before and after care if that's what you need. 


    My husband and I just moved to Albany 2 months ago and had alot of similar questions - sadly I don't have all the answers though.

    There are 3 elementary schools in Albany, one of which is currently closed for renovations.  So 3 schools worth of kindergartners are being looked after at 2 locations, which is why they had planned half days only.  But now they have just confirmed distance learning until at least November, then potentially returning two days/week.  So if you need somewhere for your child to be, this is a big problem.  I also worried about the working across the bridge, and I can't tell you about the policies.  I know at some of the Berkeley schools they are required to care for your child for 36 hours or something similar.   My husband now works from home and this might continue for a while so it's less of an overall stress.

    Happy to chat more

    We moved here a year ago "for the schools' and the neighborhood. While the district and teachers mean well, schools have disappointed on several levels, while the neighborhood has met expectations. You have to come here with your eyes open and not be swayed by ratings. You may want to compare budgets of different districts ... This affects the offerings. Also happy to talk more.

    Thank you so much for all of your replies! We really appreciate them

  • We have one kid in a public elementary (and a toddler), and are unhappy with our assigned choice and teacher, although we love our neighborhood. We know all three Albany public elementary schools are highly rated and are considering moving. We are homeowners, so we'd have to sell and a house of the same size in Albany is roughly $500k more. Has anyone done this? Is it worth the price? Another alternative is to stay where we are and pay for private school, which is probably just as expensive in the end. We've already tried to transfer in-district and transfer to another classroom in the school, but neither are options this year. 

    Do Albany public elementary schools things like technology classes, foreign languages, art teachers, and music classes that all the private schools seem to offer? Is it worth it?


    I moved to Albany for my son to be in Albany for kindergarten...  Later, I wished my son had been able to go to Middle School in Berkeley. He ended up in private schools for all of his secondary years.   It can be worth the price if you think specifically as to what you are looking for.  There is no "best" for all families and children.  What works for you depends on your family and your values and what different kinds of things matter to you.  Some parents stay in local schools and pay for private after-school programs. 

    For starters, try touring the public elementary schools in Albany and local private schools in the area and get a real sense what they are like, what you are looking for...

    You can also try renting in Albany to make sure you really want to make the more permanent move.  I wish i had kept renting instead of buying a house in Albany, since we ended up in private school.  Other families are  very happy in Albany, others in Berkeley.  Do visit the schools.  Look at historical BPN posts all the area schools and visit as many as you can.   And, I'm sure you will get lots of advice from this question.  

    Do remember, there is no one "right" answer for what is best.  There are many ways to give great opportunities to your children.

    Best of luck

    I wouldn't move to Albany with elementary school aged children (or younger). Albany just reverted back to half-day kindergarten and is rebuilding two of the three elementary schools and forcing the kids from those schools to attend classes at the middle school and the high school in the meantime. There are no foreign languages in elementary school. There are minimal music classes and art classes. We would have bought in Berkeley if we'd known then what we know now. 

    Having put 4 kids through the Albany schools I have a lot to say! You don't say what district you are in now tho... Albany is great but it can be a bit provincial. If it was me and I was starting over I would send my kids to Berkeley schools as I have found them to be a bit more enriched with programs. Nonetheless, Albany is safe, kind and has resources. If you want to talk more feel free to email me:

    sarahridgerealtor [at]

    Currently, earthquake retrofit construction is going on at 2 of the 3 elementary schools in Albany. So there's a little bit of chaos here too with kids at different locations than their assigned elementary school.

    I currently have an almost 2yo and am thinking of possibly doing private K if construction isn't done yet. Feel free to PM if you want to talk about living in Albany. 

    You could also apply for an out-of-district transfer.   AUSD has been approving more of them than used to be the case.   But know that the rebuilding of two of the schools means some kids will be rehoused in temporary facilities for the next few years.  

    I think it's worth checking out nearby private schools.  You could stay where you are.  You wouldn't have to move or go through selling your house and finding another one, and you wouldn't be paying property taxes on another $500K of home value.  Our child went to Black Pine Circle in W. Berkeley, and we highly recommend the school.  Experienced and excellent teachers, great science and art programs, Maker classes, languages including Spanish in K-8 and also the option of taking Mandarin Chinese in 6th-8th grade, etc.  The parent community feels very Berkeley (inclusive, down-to-earth, low-key, a range of parent incomes and occupations).  The head of school, John Carlstroem, is a wonderful, warm, and visionary person who brings the whole community of teachers and parents and students along with him.  Definitely check out BPC.

    With the extra $500k you could send your child to private school.

    We have just left Albany. The district needs to make 2.5 million in budget cuts. There is no language instruction outside of mediocre afterschool programs. No dedicated art or music. 

    They are highly rated because people come to Albany to avoid poor families, and families of color all of whom may suffer generational trauma, have many social needs and therefore bring down the district’s test scores. 

    It’s a depressing situation. I would not recommend the schools. That are mediocre at best. Albany is not the utopia people envision. The houses are tiny and you’ll grow out of it soon enough. The city is not worth the hype. It’s a privileged bubble where you’ll be asking yourself what the point was since the schools are so basic.

    honestly we moved out and couldn’t be happier. We made the right decision and I hope you find the right thing for your family too.  

    After hearing so many people recommended private schools and how it would be cheaper and easier than moving. I had to chime in and I am at a loss on how that would be true. 22K for elementary school times 2 kids times 6 years is 264 and that does not include middle which is around 30k (comes to 180k for both kids) and high school of 40 K (comes to 320K for both kids).  This is a lot of money and this is a low ball number. We were in a similar situation and moved to a much better school district. We look at Alameda, Orinda, Moraga, and Layfayette. There are a range of houses prices that over lap with Albany.  We did Lafayette because the middle school has woodshop, home economic, multiple languages and other things. We were surprised by the range of housing prices if you are willing to do a fixer upper or condo. We were having the hardest time buying a place in Berkeley. I miss the diversity but my kids are learning a lot. We did not do Alameda because it was harder to get to work.  But we loved the town. 

    Our family moved to Albany back in the day thinking our child would benefit from the "great" school district.  Turns out there were no resources for advanced learners.  Teachers seem to teach to the test which enables the district to receive high scores.  I know several families who have taken their kids out and opted for private schools. The other thing to consider is property taxes are outrageous here.  For example, voters approved several measures to upgrade the schools.  Now they don't have enough students so are accepting out-of-district kids.   For such a small town the police department has a new motorcycle which makes me wonder what my tax dollars are being spent on.  Really? We need a motorcycle patrol? The personnel for the city also seems to have grown exponentially in the last 5 years.  My property taxes are close to $10,000.  I'm ready to move once our child heads to college.  It's ridiculous.

    I had to give you a countering viewpoint.  My sister and I both graduated from Albany Unified, and we loved it.  We are still in touch with various friends that also graduated from Albany, and they also very much value the education they got there.  My sister went to Davis and Columbia, I went to Berkeley and Harvard.  We both think our education - her middle school and high school, me high school - contributed towards our success.

    We both were very active through school - numerous clubs and extracurricular activities, some sponsored by the school, some not.  We did theater, music, science clubs, writing club, volunteer work and AP classes.  The one thing neither of us did was sports.

    Our parents were immigrants, so we had to find these activities, and we did.  I wouldn't say either of us was super gregarious, but we ended up with a good friend set and figured it out.  Both of us did quite well academically on our own license.

    Specifically the schools have:

    -great teachers (obviously not everyone is great, but on average they were decent)

    -extracurricular activities, the student should make the most of these

    -small environment for a big area.  My graduating class at the time was 170.  It's bigger now, but not that big.

    -solid academic scores, the high school is among the best in the immediate Bay Area along with Piedmont and Acalanes

    -the student body could be more diverse, but it's more diverse than some private schools in the area

    -not a lot of AP classes, but the ones that are there are appropriately challenging

    Overall, I can't say enough about my education and how it prepared me for Berkeley.  I had no problems in my Calculus, stats classes due to my excellent math background at Albany, and I had no problems studying. In my final year at Albany I was involved in at least 3 clubs, theater/choir, and took 3 AP classes.

    I am a believer in public school.  I live in Berkeley right now, and am hoping to be either here or Albany by the time my daughter is 5.

    Just from a money standpoint you probably are better off staying put and avoiding the extra costs of selling your house and buying a more expensive house, if you put one kid into a private school. If you put two in then it makes more sense to make the move...unless you find a parochial school, which tends to cost quite a bit less. If I were in your shoes I might try to tough out this year and see if next year’s teacher is a better match. If not then I’d try to find a parochial school that I like.

    one time costs to consider

    $1mm @5% commission = $50,000

    moving costs $20,000??

    transfer tax 1.26% (Albany’s)

    Incremental Annual costs

    $500k @4% interest = $20,000

    $500k @ 1.3945% Albany’s prop tax rate = $6,973 

    $2335.88 Albany’s fixed charges/special assessments 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Stay in Oakland or Move to Albany for the Schools?

Feb 2004

I have read extensively in the archives about Albany schools versus Oakland schools. I just haven't seen anything about the specifics of how to decide where to live based on schools, how much we can afford for a house, etc. My partner and I have 2 children, 1 and 2.5 years old. We live in Oakland in a neighborhood that has been designated as one of the Oakland elementary schools to be closed. I work in Berkeley, my partner in Pleasanton. We are commited to sending our kids to public school when the time comes, but are in a panic about the stress of inter-district transfers, etc. Our question is, do we move to Albany to be assured of at least a descent school system all the way through high school, or move to a different neighborhood in Oakland with a good performing elementary school and worry about middle and high school later on? Oakland is sort of mid way between both of our work locations, we currently live in Oakland and feel comfortable there, we could probably afford a bigger house in Oakland, but Albany seems like it would provide some peace of mind regarding public schools. Since we have decided to move (just not sure where) do we look in both Albany and Oakland or choose before we start looking? I know that there isn't a perfect answer out there, but I was wondering how people made that decision? Was it based solely on what house you could afford, or schools, or work, or...? HELP!! how to decide?

I know exactly what you're going through, as we just moved to Albany from Oakland. The main reason was the schools. I can tell you what our thinking was.....although there are parts of Oakland that we love, we feel that the school system just keeps getting worse. You can get a transfer into the elementary school of your choice, if you're lucky, but the jr and high schools are not the best. In our case, we were living in a so-so neighborhood with one of the worst elementary schools in the city. We were faced with the gamble of the transfer or the cost of private school. In either case, we decided that we would want to send our daughter to private school once she reached Jr. High. Once we decided our priorities, the decision came down to...Do we want to spend the money on private school (and stay in our so-so neighborhood) or on a mortgage in Albany (and go to public school)? We decided to make the move, and we are so happy! Now we don't have to wonder about our daughter's school situation AND we get to live in a nice place (the house is small, but that's okay!) The drawbacks to our decision include... 1. Our mortgage is much higher, 2. Albany appears to be less diverse than Oakland (maybe not, but I'm just guessing, based on what I see), and 3. Oakland is much more centrally located. I guess you really have to weigh the importance of all the considerations-good luck! anon

I am a teacher at Sequoia Elementary, a public school in Oakland, and I just want to offer one voice regarding the schools issue. As you may very well know, there is a lot more to a school than how well standarized tests report it has ''performed.'' I've taught at schools that came in right at the bottom of the test scores (due mainly to linguistic/cultural diversity), but where I would happily send my daughter (now two) due to the wonderful community of the school. Now I'm at a school with better scores (still not astounding, as we serve a very economically diverse population, from very needy students to those with excellent resources) but I'm much more impressed by the experience of the staff and the leadership of the principal.

The flipside of underenrollment and the drastic measure of closing of schools is that there may be more opportunity to get into some excellent public schools. I know Sequoia, for one, is actively seeking students from all over Oakland, as our enrollment is down. I can't speak for other schools, but I can wholeheartedly recommend Sequoia, a rare blend of a school with experienced, very dedicated teachers (actively recruited by a talent scout principal), and a very diverse population, both culturally AND economically, which is how I think it should be.

My last point is just a call to any parent out there who is facing this dilemma. If you have the resources to choose between a troubled urban school district and a more comfortable one, remember this. You can make an incredible difference at a school like Sequoia and/or in a district like Oakland Unified. One parent, with some skills or resources, can touch many, many lives at a school like mine. At the same time, your child can thrive in an environment like Sequoia, no matter what ability level. There are wonderful teachers at work behind the Standarized Curtain. Come visit!

As someone who's lived in Albany and graduated from Albany schools you are right to consider the school system for quality throughout elementery and high school...but you should know a few things first. 1) Getting an interdistrict transfer is unlikely, the schools are very small, so unless you own some kind of property and pay taxes in Albany I think your chances of getting in are slim. 2)You mentioned that you have two children. Allbany is a bungalow town. Most of the houses are 2br, and unless you are prepared to buy a house and add on, you will be limited for space. 3) Because of the schools, property is VERY expensive. You can expect to pay at least 10% over the asking price for a house because of the bidding wars. This is all probably not what you want to hear, but I hope it helps in your decision. anon

I went to Richmond schools from k-8 then because of scheduling problems at Kennedy (HS in Richmond) I bailed and used a fake address to go to Albany High. My friends at Kennedy and El Cerrito definitely had more challenging course work and more advanced opportunities with speech, debate, math and government field trips. In my humble opinion, Albany schools are really over rated, I remember being parked in front of videos, and many teachers didn't relate to or challenge advanced students. I think Albany fosters a homey white-bread community feeling for the B average student who will thrive in the Cal State system. The diversity is provided by children of international PHD students at Berkeley, which is nice, but there's only modest ethnic or economic diversity outside of the Village. I'm interested in the idea that Albany Schools are especially good, I'm guessing the self-selection of the educated middle- class parents promote the impression that the schools are better, but as having been a student in the high school, I really don't think the schools and teachers are superior, there's just not a lot of special needs or otherwise challenged students at Albany that strain their system like might happen at larger and more urban school districts.(BTW I ended up at UCB as an A student). Look into the teachers that your child will be with in Oakland (or Richmond, or wherever) because the personal connection is what makes all the difference. Good Luck! PS- I'm homeschooling my kids, think about that as a great option!

When we looked for a house (10 yrs ago) years before we had kids, we looked mostly in school districts that had good junior highs and high schools. And on this side of the hill (where we like the diversity more) that kept us looking in Berkeley and Albany. We looked for 6 months before we found a place. Nothing opened up that we liked in Albany and we found something in Berkeley. Albany schools are great and score very well all the way up to high school. Berkeley schools are great, too. They don't score as well as Albany, but better than Oakland. There is a gap in achievement in BUSD that tracks somewhat along income levels (and therefore in Berkeley, somewhat along ethnic lines). However, a lot of kids do great in Berkeley schools, and go on to great colleges. Perhaps it is due to the ability of their parents to be more involved in their eduacation. Many kids who have been in private education through 8th grade go to Berkeley High. Kids try to transfer into Berkeley High from Oakland all the time. If schooling is such an interest for you now, it will certainly not become less so in 5 years. I recommend that you move to Berkeley or Albany and allow yourself to be less stressed out in the junior high and high school years. berkeley public school parent

hi, well, we put our son in an oakland school that didn't even score low enough to be considered ''bad enough to get a transfer'' and it was the worst thing we could have done for him. he was there only one year and i don't think he learned a thing. while test scores are not everything, they do tell you something. and consideration for language differences etc. matter, it is also because the schools have been abandoned that it is filled with so many high need kids who don't speak english at home or don't develop language skills before entering school.

having said that, do you really want to worry about where your kid is going to go to school every year or every few years? isn't there enough to worry about? most of the people i know had one view of this crisis before having kids and now either send their kids to private or moved to a district that is not in constant turmoil and chaos.

if your kid is smart, they will be bored. if they are average or below they will suffer because they will be considered ''smart'' and therefore neglected in the class because there are so many other kids who need the teacher's attention. aside from the discipline and behavioral problems these schools have to address, your kid will be exposed to things you would not ever let happen in your own house. also, whenever i visited the school there were kids yelling at each other, teachers yelling at the kids and/or the police had been called to deal with a violent incident (which is school district policy) - mind you for some 7 year olds who had thrown a rock at each other or something. and then when you consider what other kids are getting from their functioning schools, your kid will be playing major catch up by the time they go to college.

i know it's harsh and many will disagree, but the damage to our son was just so extreme. jane