Thousand Oaks Elementary School
Archived Q&A and Reviews
LGBT Families at Thousand Oaks Elementary?
Our daughter (we're gay dads) will be attending Thousand Oaks this fall and we were wondering if there were any/many LGBT families whose kids are also at TO. We don't know many other LGBT families in Berkeley and were just curious. Would be great to meet some other LGBT families with kids our kids' ages (we also have a 2-year-old). John B.
Hi John, There are only a few LGBT families at Thousand Oaks that we know of, but it's an incredibly warm and welcoming school, and the other families and the staff are great. As gay dads we have never ever felt excluded or funny, but it'll be nice to have some other gay dads! Our 2nd grader will enter 3rd in the fall, and our son will be in Kindergarten. Would be happy to tell you more about it and look forward to meeting you! David
Recent feedback on Thousand Oaks?
Hello parents, I'm looking for recent feedback about Thousand Oaks Elementary School. What are your experiences with the staff and principal? Quality of education? Parental involvement? Anything else you can offer? Thank you so much. anon
Thousand Oaks is fabulous!
I often hear parents who have children in upper grades or have graduated T.O. say '' You can't go wrong here. All the teachers are good.'' That's been our experience. The kindergarten teacher was fabulous. She connected deeply to the children, taught social-emotional skills, had lots of fun...Great music teacher. First grade teachers are top-notch too, calm and warm. I see lots of great learning going on for kids of all levels.
Seems like the staff really get along. The school is well run, green and spacious. The principal is well received and experienced. The bilingual program is an asset and there's Spanish enrichment afterschool. There's a sense of community at T.O. Folks linger and connect on campus, at the park next door, Solano, weekdays or weekends. Parents are active and PTA continually make good things happen. API scores aren't everything. T.O. is a gem. - happy parent
Our oldest daughter has been at TO for 4 years. It wasn't our first choice but it has been really great. Every single teacher ( the teachers turn over rate is very low) we have had has been wonderful. They were all caring, fun and just good at their job. There is a very strong social-behavioral program and as a result the kids are very mindful and inclusive. This year there is a new principal and she seems nice and on the ball. TO parent
Re: Seeking feedback on Northwest Zone schools
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
After-school program at Thousand Oaks: we don't need 5 days a week
My son will start Kindergarten at Thousand Oaks in the fall and he has a spot in the onsite after school program. I understand that he needs to attend every day until approximately 5 p.m. to ensure the program is fully funded. However, we really only need care three days per week, but I apparently cannot pick him up early on the other days. Does anyone have any suggestions for alternative after school care? Is there a day care in the area that cares for older children that might be able to do a pick up? What have other parents done? Anyone interested in a part-time nanny type arrangement with their school age child?
The JCC East Bay has a great afterschool program which offers pick up from Thousand Oaks. (My son has been attending for 3 years, and my daughter will start next year, also as a kindergartener from TO). You can choose as many days as you need. http://prod.jcceastbay.org/youth/afterschool.html Paula
What do you think about Thousand Oaks?
Hi. My son got into Thousand Oaks Elementary and I have tried to find out more about the school via this site and the PTA site, and the information on those sites is rather sparse or out- dated. (I plan to attend the May open house.) My questions: What do parents think about the school (pros and cons)? What do parents think about the after-school program (pros and cons)? For parents whose kids ride the bus to school, what tips do you have about using the bus (I suspect I won't use the bus until my child gets into first grade)? What tips do you have to pass on to novices like me, who have no experience with the elementary school system? -Novice Mom of a soon-to-be kindergartener, YIKES!
Our daughter has had a wonderful experience at Thousand Oaks. She is currently in 3rd grade and each year has been great! The Kindergarten teachers are all warm, gentle and very savvy about helping kids learn to love school. The community at Thousand Oaks is lovely as well with lots of opportunities for involvement. The teachers truly make the school outstanding! Best, Kelly
I have several questions about Thousand Oaks:
- My child is already reading, and is also advanced in math. How well does the school serve children who are on the 'accelerated' end of the academic spectrum?
- What is the after-school program like? I know other schools have enrichment classes in addition to basic after-school childcare/homework help. What does TO have?
- How are the arts - - visual, music and performing arts -- integrated into the curriculum and/or offered as enrichment?
- Discipline -- are the classes, especially the upper grades, well managed and orderly?
- How does 'full inclusion' impact the distribution of resources in the school, and are students with disabilities served at the expense of enrichment activities or advanced academics for other students?
- How is the academic level and student focus in the upper grades when the class size jumps? How are the 3/4/5 teachers?
- How does the Spanish bilingual program interact with the English classes? How well do these two streams of students integrate with each other when they merge in the upper grades? Is there a cohesive sense of community among the students across the language barrier and separation of classes?
- What is the culture of the PTA? How much are parents involved in the school and in what capacities?
- The yard strikes me as sprawling and huge. Is it well managed and safe, especially for the little kindergarteners? Thanks for your input! Surprised to find ourselves at Thousand Oaks
As a first grade mom at TO here's what I can tell you:
- Outstanding K& 1st Grade teachers - don't worry which class put in you can't go wrong.
- Given teaching skills, you need not worry about a successful child succeeding and I applaud the schools efforts to actively address the achievement gap
- Teacher Kim once told me she thought there was little to no teasing in her classes because of the inclusionary program - a gift to us all
- Discipline is kept in younger grades because the kids respect the teacher and each other and love what they are doing - I can only hope this is true in older grades
- yard has some problems for older grades but vocally addressed and younger children are out at separate time and well watched - if a child is intent on escaping they can and this has been reason to return to preschool. As children's universes are increasingly small, the universe the yard offers is one I appreciate. and they are always looking for more parent volunteers!
- afterschool is generally fairly basic but offer fun 8 week clubs 2days a week geared to kid interests: garage band, sign language, Indian dance for just a few examples
- afterschool blends english and spanish langague learners as well as in 1st grade joint field trips, mixed activities and shared core curriculum (oh and we are going to Monterey Bay, Zellerbach, Dia De la Muertes at Oakland Museum, and the Basic Brown Bear factory)
- The monthly Feliz Friday is a truly special celebration of song and dance that focuses on developing peace cross culturally
- PTA has a strong core base, recruiting heavily in the younger grades, Support classroom grants, arts & science activities, and special events like parade on Solano at halloween, harvest festival, Carnival.
- When I describe how happy we are with teaching, garden and cooking classes, facilities and all around great experience I am always asked if our son is in a private school and i am very proud to say no he is at Thousand Oaks one of BUSD's fine schools. Happy TO 1st Grade Mom
Re: Looking at kindergartens
My daughter is in 2nd grade at Thousand Oaks so our kindergarten experience is stil pretty fresh! It was an absolutely wonderful year. She had Teacher Libby who is lovely, kind and so in tune with the kids. Kindergarten totally exceeded our expectations in every way. The other Thousand Oaks K teachers are also great. We did several group activities so we got a sense of their styles as well. Also, lots of parents end up wanting their younger kids to have the same teacher as the older ones--which is a terrific testimonial to how great the teachers are at Thousand Oaks. The sense community at Thousand Oaks is very strong and positive, too.
thrilled TO parent
Re: Kids of GLBT: Where do they go to School?
Sounds like you may be considering only private schools. If you are considering Berkeley public schools, then I recommend Thousand Oaks School on Colusa. My partner and I have been very happy with the gay-friendly atmosphere there, and our 3rd grade son has several friends in his current class from gay families, as has been the case since Kindergarten. I can count at least five of the teachers who are gay and out. Moreover, the teachers who have taught our kid have been excellent, in addition to being gay friendly. Please feel free to contact me if you want any more info about the school.
Re: Rosa Parks School
Look into Thousand Oaks school as well. There are bilingual classes (no immersion program), but not all kids who speak Spanish at home are placed in the bilingual classes; some are in English only. Not sure what it depends on but I've assumed it's parent choice. You would be eligible for bus transportation from near Rosa Parks, to TO. There are some really great teachers at TO, and a fairly active parent community. Check it out! Rosa Parks neighborhood; attending TO
After agonizing last year over sending our daughter to a public or private school, I just wanted to say we are really happy at Thousand Oaks (TO)Public School in Berkeley. We got into the private school of our choice and turned them down to go to TO right in the midst of all that budget crisis stuff. I worried we were making a mistake, but after almost 3 months we are really pleased.
Three things we like about TO. 1) the academics are outstanding. For example, my daughter is putting words together into sentences! and adding! and it is fun! 2) the social situation is varied and respectful. She is hanging out with kids from all walks of life AND the kids are learning how to treat each other with respect. 3) Economically, we are not stressed and can spend more time with our child versus working to pay for private school. Public schools are free AND of high quality. I'd recommend them!! Kellie
My daughter is a third-grader at Thousand Oaks, and we have been very satisfied with the school. There are lots of special programs at T.O., including the Julia Morgan/Lincoln Center performing arts program, which is wonderful. Right now the school is in its second year of a three year Magnet grant, and a lot of attention is being paid to arts and technology. The teachers are all receiving training right now in new conflict resolution skills, new literacy programs, and the afore-mentioned arts program. T.O. has after-school enrichment classes such as Spanish, chess, yoga, art, jewelry-making, karate, Indian dance, Mexican dance, drama, world percussion, etc. Once a month, the whole school gets together for community- building via singing and sign language and dance. Additionally, within the school day, each class gets drama, music, gardening and cooking/nutrition, and P.E., each with a specialist once a week. There is a science specialist, but I'm not sure how much time each class gets with him. There are several different programs to help kids who are having problems learning to read. About the only thing I have a problem with is that so far, there are no official, school-wide programs to encourage or challenge academically gifted kids. That remains up to the individual teachers. Nina
I am thinking of sending my son to Kindergarten at our neighborhood school, Thousand Oaks Elementary School, next year. I would be interested in hearing from parents whose children are now at the school. I had heard that the previous principal was quite accessible. I would appreciate parents' impressions of the current principal and the teaching staff, particularly the Kindergarten teachers. A Berkeley Mom
Our son went to kindergarten and is now in 1st grade at Thousand Oaks. He's learning a lot (reading like crazy, progressing rapidly in math, etc.), has a wonderful teacher (after an equally great kindergarten teacher last year), and is very happy at the school. We love the after-school program, too. Even the people who work in the office are nice. Dana
My husband and I have been making the rounds of the Berkeley elementary schools and kindergarten nights. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we both liked Thousand Oaks' kindergarten staff. We understand that there are very few (maybe 4 teachers) left from when Principal Woolbridge came on board 4 years ago. We're interested in any comments (pro and con) about Thousand Oaks. Theresa
To the parent(s) asking for pros and cons about Thousand Oaks: As a kindergarten parent, I enjoy the Thousand Oaks teaching environment and it's feeling of community. It seems like the principal, Kevin Wooldridge knows most, if not all, of the kids on a first name basis. I have found him easily accessible to parents and teachers. He seems to be everywhere and know everything that's going on. The teachers are caring, energized, innovative and seem to put in a lot of extra time beyond their normal class hours working with parents and students. My daughter is doing great. As to any cons, there are two but both should change in the near future. Obviously, Franklin is not a great site but that should be remedied by Fall 2000. The other is that the PTA seems like it has just been a small core group of parents since the move to Franklin. On the other hand, parents seem to come out for the big events because of a sense of community and the PTA is now in transition with lots of new parent participation and energy.
My daughter attends kindergarten at Thousand Oaks and we have been pleasantly surprised with the school. We looked at some private schools before making the decision to send our daughter to public school. My shock was in learning that public schools do have excellent academic programs and committed teachers. We are fortunate because our daughter got into a class with a new but energetic teacher who seems to empower the kids, has parents who participate in the classroom and has a great bunch of students. Of course, there is going to be 1-3 kids who are not ready for school or who take more time. But don't delude yourself into thinking this doesn't happen in the beginning grades in private school. I have found that the students in my daugther's class do as well as their parents are willing to support them emotionally and academically.
On the downside, Thousand Oaks does not have a big PTA. However, the PTA and the Principal are very inclusive of any parents who want to help out. My impression is that the Principal, Kevin Wooldridge, is very responsive. Last year parents complained about a kindergarten teacher - she now teaches 2nd grade. Additionally, this year the kindergarten is large (110 students) - made up of two LEP (limited english proficiency) classes, three english kindergarten classes and one K-1 class. On the other hand, each individual class is small - my daughter's class only has 19. Also on the down side, Thousand Oaks will be at the Franklin campus until September 2000. It is a large campus that presently houses Cragmont and will probably house a magnet school or more next year. It's not very pretty and when I visited it last year during the rainy season it was downright gloomy. This year the teachers made a concerted effort to put more art on the walls Another plus is that it's the plan that in a year from September Thousand Oaks will be in a beautiful state of the art school near Peets & Starbucks at Colusa near Solano. In the meantime, the school is split up so that each school's students, yard and principals operate separately.
Bottom line, I think Thousand Oaks is one of Berkeley School's best kept secrets and seems to keep on improving. Hope this information helps. I would be willing to answer any questions I can or direct you to the person(s) who might know the answers. Good luck in your decision.
Just a few thoughts about Thousand Oaks--it may be hard to assess the situation with T.O. at present because the school is being built and many T.O. kids are being funnelled to the Franklin School site, which until this year also housed Columbus staff and students, and I think will continue to house Cragmont staff and students along with Thousand Oaks until both schools are rebuilt. If you hear anything more, please let me know because many newcomers are asking. . .
My inquiries into TO has lead me to some good and some not so good information about the school. The most important thing I learned is that while the kindergarten teachers might not stand out, for the most part the school has a lot of good and imaginative teachers. I was quite impressed with the kindergarten bi-lingual teacher and have heard people sing her praises. Teachers are apparently receptive and encourage parent participation. My classroom visit ( and inquiries) turned up only one kindergarten teacher in whose class I would not want my child. I am informed that the principal appears to be committed, effective and approachable.
The not so good information has to do with us. It would appear that people like us are the reason that TO does not have an active PTA (except for 15 committed families). Many of the parents I know are sending their child to private school merely because of the assignment to TO. They are the kinds of parents who join the PTA and help to spark flames of school spirit and camaraderie. If people were willing to take a chance, TO might become a truly diverse school and the kind of school we perceive Jefferson and Columbus to be. If not, you can continue to pay for something you might get for free.......
TO's building plans seem to be on schedule for the '98-99 school year and it is expected that the move will create an exciting image for the school. The old building has already been torn down. However, Cragmont will probably be at the Franklin site till January. There is much going on around the district and the Northern Zone that could also affect TO in the next couple of years. Many fear that Prop 227 might pass which would eliminate all bi-lingual classes Also, the district is planning to open the Franklin site as a magnet school in the Northern Zone after TO leaves. My impression was that they were talking about the '98-99 school year and that the focus would be on Eco-science.
Thousand Oaks has it's big fund raiser for the year on Saturday May 30th. Sorry, I forgot to ask for the times but I assume it's during the day. Give it a chance, bring your child by . It would be a good way to meet the parents who know about the school and some of the teachers in a more casual setting.
Good luck with your decision. We are going to take each year as it comes.