Emerson Elementary School


Public School
operated by Berkeley Unified School District
Website: http://emerson.berkeleypta.org
Phone: (510) 644-6891
2800 Forest Avenue Berkeley, CA 94705
Editors' Notes: 
  • There is also an Emerson Elementary School in Oakland

Parent Reviews

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We’ve just started our kid in kindergarten at Emerson in Berkeley and one of the striking things about the school is the priority on community connections— coffee on the schoolyard on Fridays, an equity group, schoolwide events (walk-a-thons, read-a-thons) and that community feel has made for a pretty great social experience (as in be as involved/not as you’d like) that seems to also be in place with the kids (in our experience at least!).  

My 3 children have attended Emerson Elementary School and we have loved it! It is a small school, supportive, dedicated and collaborative teachers, and excellent administrator, and a wonderful after school program. I feel incredibly lucky that my children ended up at Emerson.  That said, I also know parents and kids at Malcolm X, Le Conte and John Muir who have been similarly pleased.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Kids' World afterschool program at Emerson?

Jan 2014

I can't seem to find any recent reviews of Kids' World afterschool program at Emerson in Berkeley. If you have had a child participate in this program, please let us know what you think of the quality of the program (and whether it is difficult to get into). Thanks! -Mom figuring out kindergarten

Our son is a 1st grader at Emerson and goes to Kids World every day after school. He loves it now -- he gets to play with his friends (some of whom aren't in his class), he gets more running around/recess time, and they have lots of enrichment classes, from engineering to chess to hip-hop dancing. But he had a hard time at the beginning of kindergarten since he hadn't yet made friends, there was lots of unstructured time, and he was surrounded by the noise and chaos of the then-scary-to-him older kids-- it was all a bit overwhelming. It is also less structured at the beginning of each term since neither the Kids World nor the PTA Enrichment after-school classes have started. But I think that if you don't enroll in Kindergarten, it is difficult to get a place the following years. If you have to work all day, I think it is the best option -- no issues of transportation, extra transitions, and it really solidifies friendships and community. Kids World Parent

John Muir vs. Emerson After School Programs

Sept 2011

To piggyback on a recently posted question about Berkeley elementary schools in the Southeast zone-- John Muir vs. Emerson -- I am wondering what parents think of their respective after-school programs. Since the after-school portion of the day could be almost as long as the school portion, it seems like prospective parents should pay almost as much attention to the after-school offerings. Which has the best enrichment programs? How do you feel about the supervision? Is there enough running-around time? What is the balance between structured and unstructured time? What opportunities are there for gifted kids? (More responses to the original post would also be appreciated!) south berkeley parent

My kids attend Emerson, and they've done to both afterschool programs -- Emerson and John Muir.

The afterschool program at John Muir is run by Kids in Motion, which is not part of the school district. It's a privately operated program. Your kids can bus from Emerson to John Muir, if you look at both programs, and you prefer Kids in Motion. It does not work in the opposite direction -- your kids cannot bus to Emerson from John Muir for the afternoon.

In my experience, there are some kids who thrive in both programs, some kids who prefer one over the other, and some who don't like either. I think both programs are good, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Your experience of the program is more related to your child, than the program itself.

This may or may not be pertinent for you, but BUSD also buses kids to other programs throughout the city. We are Jewish, and our kids could get on the public school bus and go to our synagogue's after school program, if we chose.

This year, we have a babysitter taking the kids most days because it's not more expensive than having both kids in afterschool programs, and we can choose more freely to have play-dates, hang out, or take a class somewhere else.

My point is that there are quite a few choices, and something that works for you and your child will be available, no matter which school you attend! emerson parent

John Muir or Emerson for Kindergarten

Sept 2011

Our daughter will be starting kindegarten in the Fall of 2012 and we're starting to look at schools. She's a smart, great kid and my preference is to send her to public school. But I feel like the low scores Emerson and John Muir receive from Great Schools are inconsistent with positive parent feedback. I'd love to hear from people who chose to send kids to either school or who could have but chose private and why. For Kindegarten, I simply want a nurturing, fun environment. But beyond kindegarten, i want to ensure she's getting a education that meets her academic and social potential. Thoughts on Emerson and John Muir for a bright, happy kid are much appreciated! S.

I have two children at Emerson, and I'm very happy with the school, academically and socially. After reading your post, I went to the Great Schools web site, and it didn't look to me like Emerson had low scores, but perhaps there's a range of perceptions, when one compares test scores among schools.

I would recommend that you visit the schools, sit in the classrooms, and talk to many parents. As you compare schools this way, you'll likely get a good sense of the ''right'' choice for your family. We chose Emerson because it is a warm, diverse community with strong academics. It also has darn good social studies, art, music, and cooking programs. We have many friends with kids in private schools, and they have both mostly positive, but sometimes negative experiences, just like we do in public school. As I watch my children proceed through their education, I feel less and less concerned that they are missing out on a better experience than that of their private school peers. Our family doesn't have the financial resources to send both kids to private school K-12. If we did, we might make that choice, but I don't think it would be a better choice, just a different one.

To answer your question about Kindergarten specifically, you will find that public school Kindergarten is not only warm and nurturing, but also quite academic, with a sophisticated curriculum that is in-depth and engaging.

Good luck! Emerson Parent

We have two kids at Emerson now in 2nd grade and kindergarten. We went through the same process a couple years ago deciding between public and private. We decided to try public school for kindergarten figuring we could switch for first grade if we wanted. We've been very happy with Emerson. The teachers and staff are excellent. Our 2nd grader has made huge learning and maturity leaps in every grade. Both of our kids are also very happy at Emerson and love going to school every day. It can be difficult to decide on which school, but the Berkeley public schools seem to do things right. Good luck with your decision. Happy Emerson Family

Emerson Elementary at Berkeley -- Inclusive?

July 2011

Hi, I am looking into the 4/5 multi-grade class at Emerson for my bright son with High Functioning Autism. I am kind of desperate since I have to find a place, move and start the process before school starts Aug 30th. Can anyone tell me a little bit about the school, the principal, how they handle inclusion and if the peers are supportive. Is there any bullying? I am considering both public or private in the Berkeley area that is well established for special ed. despite the budget cuts, and would appreciate any thoughts on good programs with last minute placements available.

My son just finished Emerson as a fifth grader. He was there K-5. We are so saddened to leave Emerson because I truly believe that he will never be accepted for himself as much as he was at Emerson. My son has a complicated diagnosis including autism and tourettes. At one point he showed a movie about tourettes to his class and they were all very receptive and understanding.

We could not have had a better elementary experience for our son from the teachers to the parents to the other kids. Emerson has a absolutely no bullying policy and it is the only school I have ever seen successfully enforce and really educate. (i have a typical 25 year old daughter so we have gone through the Berkeley school district both ways.

Mr. C the full inclusion teacher there is an incredible human being. Without his support my son would never have had the community experience he had at Emerson.

Good luck. D.

March 2010

My 4.5 year-old has been assigned to Emerson Elementary in Berkeley for kindergarten. I toured it and liked it, but don't know much else about it. Most of the info on BPN seems old. I'd love to hear from people about their experience there. My son will be very ''young'' with a September birthday, so also wondering if this is a good fit. Thanks so much! -Nora

Our 2nd-grader and kindergartener are at Emerson, and we are extremely happy with it. You couldn't find a more committed and energetic group of teachers anywhere. The principal used to teach 3rd grade at the school, and really is focused on supporting the teachers and the kids' best interests. There's an active PTA and numerous (fun!) opportunities for parent involvement. Thanks to good fundraising and juggling of resources, Emerson has a pretty full program with a bunch of the ''extras'' that a lot of California schools have had to abandon, like a credentialed art teacher and weekly music from K-5. It's a reasonably small school with a very welcoming environment.

About your son's September birthday: don't worry about it. He won't be the youngest in his class. The kids will have a wide range in age as well as in school readiness. And the kindergarten teachers at Emerson are especially sensitive to making sure the little ones get what they need to be up to speed. The first week our younger one (October birthday) was at school, her teacher worked with her on how to hold a pencil, and seemingly within minutes her writing was legible and she was able to draw with so much more detail than she could in preschool. It was amazing! happy at Emerson

May 2009

I am interested in hearing from families with kid(s) attending Emerson elementary in Berkeley. While there are some posts online, only one is recent. How is the parent community? Teachers? How about the after-school program? What do you like and dislike about the school. Thanks for the input! sue

Emerson Elementary has a fabulously close and responsive parent network. The teachers are caring and the school work top-notch. If you turn down this opportunity to attend Emerson, you will make a big mistake. Before enrolling my son in Emerson three years ago, I visited all the schools in the zone. At that time, Emerson did not have the highest scoring test results, but I put it down as my first-choice school anyway. The quality of teaching and the teamwork among the faculty and staff was evident from my first step in the classroom. Principal Hodge has grown from the ranks as a teacher there and set a tone of hard work, team- building and development of the whole child. No Regrets

Nov 2008

Re: John Muir or Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley
I have a second grader at Emerson and a fifth grader in private school and I can't say enough good things about Emerson. My child has been academically challenged and nurtured throughout her three years there and has had consistently outstanding teachers. The teachers in the School are very collegial and close and the principal (who was a teacher at the school for many years) really has the trust of the teachers and staff. The school is small enough that the children really know each other across grades and have lots of opportunities for interaction. The Librarian is outstanding and has done some great reading programs with small groups of children in various grades--last year my daughter got to do a podcast book review! I would encourage you to tour the school and contact some current parents! Happy Emerson Mom

Jan 2003

Emerson? I'm looking to switch my 2nd grader (next Fall) from private school to public. I didn't start him in our local schools because, frankly, I couldn't stand the discipline problems there, and I wasn't terribly impressed with the programs. Education is very important to me. I have two very bright kids who currently like school. I'm afraid that they will not be challenged enough and that they will be distracted by the discipline problems in the public schools. I'm willing to be a very active parent, I believe in public education, and it's a struggle for me to afford private school. But is it worth taking the risk? Could I get more of our neighborhood kids to go to the local school in order to increase the parental and financial resources? What could be done to improve these schools? I'm ready to campaign.

We have a 2nd grader at Emerson and are extremely pleased with our experiences there. We walk to school and will have another child there next year. It is continually rewarding to see kids getting to know and learning alongside kids of all different backgrounds in the most even field they may ever know.

What has struck us most at Emerson is how dedicated the principal, teachers (and staff) are, they truly go the extra mile to create a strong, spirited and welcomed community. The teachers actively practice teamwork both in the classroom and out. They work together within grade levels, put on musical performances at school gatherings, attend the fundraising events, etc.

The three teachers we have had have been excellent. The personal contacts we have had with the principal and teachers have all been met with respect and quick responses. Getting involved as a parent at Emerson is not a problem! There is an active PTA as well as teachers who are willing to incorporate parental involvement in numerous ways.

Academically, the education seems like a perfectly fine balance, our son is challenged and excited by what is going in the classroom, and always happy to go to school. As for discipline problems we honestly have not been aware of many -- if there are problems, I think they would be dealt with in a swift and serious way. The hallways at Emerson are quiet and the teachers and principal are all well aware of who is who and what relationships and personalities exist. Lisa

A few words about Emerson: My family is currently in its ninth consecutive year at Emerson. It has been an excellent school and just keeps getting better. I've looked around at alot of other schools and one thing that really stands out at Emerson is the way members of the staff all work together. All the teachers know all the kids--when one child has a problem in their class, they will go and spend some time in one of the other classrooms in order to get out of the negative situation they were in (getting sent to the principal's office is a last resort). The quality of teaching is high. I'm always impressed by how well the teachers at Emerson cope with the widely different abilities of the students in their classes. The new principal is a former Emerson teacher and is doing an excellent job. The parent community is also very strong. Emily

Oct 1996

Positive experience - Our daughter is at Emerson Elementary and we/she love it. They are known for their computer lab/program and all of the kids enjoy it. We had Ms. Kim Etzel for K-garden and we have Ms. Kim Nichols for 1st grade. Both are excellent teachers and adored by our daughter. The music and PE teachers are also wonderful, very creative in their presentation.

Another positive - Homework policy at Emerson is to hand out the assignments on Thursday and have them due the following Thursday. This is great for working parents (gives you the weekend to work with your child rather than at night Mon-Fri when you are exhausted) and works well for children of divorced parents who spend weekends at alternating parents homes.

The PTA is very strong at Emerson and there are lots of additional programs provided for the student body as a result of PTA funding. Our daughter is in a "Crazy Chemistry" class and really loves being a scientist for a day.