As a first timer in the BUSD kindergarten application/lottery process I wanted to put this out there to the BPN community - the Kindergarten application process is getting close and I'm wondering if anyone in the NW school zone (Rosa Parks, Jefferson, Thousand Oaks, Berkeley Arts Magnet) wants to sound off about their school (positive and negative feedback welcome). They all seem pretty good to excellent. What helped you decide, put you over the top on how to rank the schools. I know test scores don't tell the full story, so what are some of the intangibles I might consider? NW resident
Go visit them! BUSD has visitation dates for each elementary school and you should make use of them. Get a feel for the school. Does it seem like a place that your kid(s) would be happy, safe, engaged and learning?
Be sure to visit classes at all grade levels, not just K, because your kid is only in K for one year. You want to get a read on the school as a whole. Look at what is posted on the walls in classrooms and hallways. Check out the library and other facilities available to kids -- music, art, garden, computers? Try to stay during recess to see how adults interact with kids during unstructured time.
When my oldest was entering K, I visited a number of schools and got very different impressions from each of them. They all had their strengths, but I picked based on what was important to me and what I wanted for my kids. --Happy with my choice
I have a 2nd grader & Kinder at Thousand Oaks (TO). All the schools in our zone our generally really good. (Don't know much about BAM. Not in NW zone when we were looking at schools.) Because of the quality of BUSD schools, your 1, 2, 3 choices really come down to what works for your family & depends simply on your priorities/point of view. Select a school based on what you feel is good for your kids. We listed TO as our first choice mainly because of the outdoor space, big grassy field for kids to run around. We liked the campus/classrooms and that it was a big school as far as BUSD goes (which I understand for some whould be a con.) Also it was simply in a good location for us. Now 3 yrs at TO, we continue to be thrilled with our school. We've had incredibly caring, top-notch teachers. Can't say enough good things about our entire teaching staff. Our test schools continue to improve every year, but test scores as you say are not all that. We have involved parents that help in the classrooms and an active PTA (I'm a member) that organize many fun community building events as well as provide/fund extra-curricular activities/programs for our kids. Our PTA also has a solid fundraising committee. Finally, as someone who didn't consider diversity as a factor in selecting a school, I know really understand, appreciate & greatly value the diversity of our families and think TO is a great all- around school. For us a negative might be the lack of after- school activities for non after-school care kids. But I'm not really sure that's a negative for us, because I'm not into filling my kids free time up with classes/activities However, I suppose it might be nice to have some on campus after school choices should my kids seem interested in say, drama, chess or whatever. Good luck and may you get in to your 1st choice school & if you don't, know that all the NW Zone schools are great in their own ways. Extremely Proud TO Parent
Yes, I am totally in favor of throwing non-academic factors into the decision process. I'm also in favor of not stressing out too much over it, since ultimately you get what BUSD gives you! But even without the lottery it would be tricky because so much of what you would need to make a theoretically perfect decision (a crystal ball, basically) isn't possible.
One thing to throw into the decision might be the bus possibility. We live far enough away from our assigned school (Rosa Parks ) that our daughter gets to ride the bus. It's awesome! The driver (Darryl) is like having another fabulous teacher on our team. We have met the other families on the route, and for playdates we can just tell the school to let her off at the friend's spot (they won't let her off the bus unless there's a parent waiting there to receive her, it's very well-run). And it's like an hour of free childcare every day! I enjoy waiting together at the stop in the morning; like every family, we have to rush around like crazy getting out the door, but then we have a few peaceful minutes together before we go off for our separate days. The downside to attending a more-distant school is that it's less convenient to drop in for brief volunteer things since it's a 10 minute bike ride there and a 20 minute uphill ride back.
Another thing to consider is the schedules; the three schools have different start and finish times, and one of them might work better for you than another.
Unsubstantiated opinion to follow, take it with a grain of salt -- Something extremely subjective and unverifiable that I just recently realized is that the mix of parents at Rosa Parks is one that I personally really enjoy, and I think it may be related to having our kid in the officially-less-desireable school in our zone (Jefferson is currently ''the good school'', BTW). You know the people who say, ''We put in an application for BUSD, but if my kid gets assigned to Rosa Parks/unless my kid gets assigned to Jefferson, we're going private''? They're not here! I've been really heartened by how much engagement and passion and creativity there is in the parent community at our school (as, I believe, there is at all the BUSD elementaries, but at Rosa Parks we get to be the striving underdogs of our zone. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know!) can't go wrong in the NW Zone!