Seeking a Charter School in Oakland

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi there, 

    First I would like to preface yes we ARE looking at OUSD public schools. Please don't judge this question. 

    Just trying to understand all options, where to look and how to evaluate.  How do we understand the charter school system, advice and options?

    Looking for elementary school.

    Thanks in advance.

    All charter schools are public schools.  They are free.  OUSD runs some charter schools, so they are OUSD public schools.  Oakland also has some charter schools that are not affiliated with OUSD.  We went to a public charter school located in Oakland for one year.  At our school I believe the requirement was just that you live in Alameda County, but by late summer they were full.  I hope you get some good responses to your post, because this was about 8 years ago, so I don't know any current info, but I think some have more intricate applications or lottery systems or things like that, not sure.

    Just to clarify, OUSD does not run any charter schools--all charters are, by definition, independent of a school district, but may be authorized by a local school board, a county school board, or the State Board of Education. Oakland has some of each, but all are run by their own boards and administrators. The lottery system for each school depends on the conditions of its charter--sometimes they give priority to students who live in nearby OUSD school zones, or who live in Oakland or Alameda County. Others are open to any student in California and weight those applications equally. By law all schools must offer spots by lottery, factoring in the various priorities outlined in their charters. You might start with the website, which includes information on both District and charter schools in Oakland. I recommend visiting all of the schools you're considering (and a couple that you aren't!) and asking similar questions. Some schools (both district and charter) offer particular programs (e.g., language immersion or an arts focus), and each will have a different set of before and after-school opportunities that might also factor into your decision. For charters specifically, you may also want to ask how long they plan to be in their current locations--several are actively in search of new facilities. Good luck with the search!

    Regarding the previous comment, I wouldn’t trust what the charters say about their plans to stay in their locations. Their locations are decided for the most part by the Oakland school board. Three years ago, a charter in deep East Oakland told me that they had plans to move to a more desirable location, but they are still in the same spot. My child’s public school is expanding into a location that currently houses a charter school, and the charter school did not inform current parents until after it was public knowledge at our school. The total lack of control over location is a major drawback to charters.

  • Oakland Charter Enrollment

    Mar 26, 2018

    Hi neighbors,

    I have got an enrollment offer from an Oakland Charter school for next school year for my daughter. And she is on waitlist for 2 other charters schools.
    We would prefer one of the 2 where she is on waitlist. But we have to accept/decline the offer by March 29th.
    I can't find a clear answer on: if we accept the offer will we still be able to accept an offer from another charter if she finally goes up in the waitlist of one of those 2 other charters?

    Did someone experience this scenario?

    Yes, if you accept the offer you can remain on the waitlists--you just can't accept more than one actual charter offer. This is the case for OUSD schools as well. (You can, however, accept one charter and one OUSD offer and remain on wait lists for both systems.)

  • I realize I'm starting to worry about this a little too soon, but wondering if anyone has any recent info on OUSD lotteries. Past questions/comments seem to be from several years ago. We'll be trying our luck with the OUSD lottery in a few months and I'm wondering if anyone has recently gotten in to Cleveland, Glenview, or Sequoia Elementary Schools with the lottery. I know all three are very good schools - though not at the very tip top - and I'm wondering if we have any chance of getting in. I've heard that Kaiser can be easier to get in to and I'm thinking I should at least have it on my list. Any advice or experiences to share are very welcome! For bonus points, I'm also looking for any info on Oakland Charter Schools - North Oakland Charter? American Indian Public? Anyone have any charter school experience to share?

    North Oakland Charter School had 5 available kindergarten spots this year, as they prioritize siblings and then faculty's kids (seems like a problematic ranking, but then...charter schools are problematic). We were in the neighborhood with preference after those criteria and we were 125th on the waitlist. Don't really understand how that's possible, but anyway....We got into Glenview, which was 3rd on our list, but we also had neighborhood priority.

    Good luck!

    My son goes to the East Bay Francophone Charter School. It is a start-up, so you have to be okay with that environment, which has its pluses and minuses. For example, the location is gritty, and while we are actively looking for a larger space, it's hard to say what will happen, or when. Everyone can get involved with shaping the school's identity, which (for me) is exciting and worthwhile. The educational experience is top-notch, and that's why we will stay. It is full immersion: 80% of the day is in French for the younger students. Without a doubt, your child will become bilingual. This is very good for the brain, no matter what the second language. On top of that, teachers trained in the French educational system receive superb pedagogical preparation--significantly better, in general, than teacher prep programs here in the US. The English teacher last year was terrific too. The school is very diverse socio-economically, ethnically, racially. There is an active, friendly, inclusive parent community, both native speakers and non-French speakers. Come to an open house and see for yourself!

  • Oakland charter schools

    Apr 2, 2017

    We are moving into Oakland this spring with a fourth and fifth grader. Our neighborhood school is not very good so we are thinking of trying for a transfer into Berkeley schools or to get into the charter schools. We are both interested in recommendations and even more importantly if there is a secret/trick/burreaucratic tick to navigate the system.

    Welcome! The first thing I'd do is find out more about your neighborhood school; look beyond test scores and you may be pleasantly surprised. If not, the first call to make is to the Oakland Unified Student Assignment Center. OUSD class sizes expand in fourth grade and many schools that are hard to get into for kindergarten have spaces in fourth and fifth grades as a result, so you may have some choices within the District that you are happy with. The sooner you get on the waitlist, the better, as enrollment for next year is already underway. If you need a spot immediately, you may have even better options since mid-year openings are not always filled (and will then get to continue at that school next year once enrolled). Charter schools have already run their lotteries for next year, but may also be more likely to have unexpected openings at those grade levels. It is extremely unlikely that you will get a transfer into Berkeley schools unless you are a teacher in the Berkeley school district; the bar is very high for granting transfers and Berkeley schools are currently overcrowded. Good luck!

    I encourage you to give Oakland schools a chance.  We have been extremely happy with our local public school (Sequoia in the Dimond District)--I believe it is one of the most (if not the most) diverse school in the district in terms of both ethnicity and economics.  Oakland schools vary widely in terms of size, educational quality, ethnic diversity, etc.  If you explore the schools you are likely to find one that fits your needs.  While there are many neighborhood kids at our school there are also kids from all over the city.  And the teachers at our school are really amazing--they have done a great job of keeping our gifted child academically challenged and loving school.  I would imagine that at grades 4 & 5, it shouldn't be too hard to find a placement in a school you and your kids will be happy with. 

    A happy Oakland public school Mama

    You are not limited to your neighborhood school so I recommend you check with OUSD about your options. There are several excellent Oakland public elementary schools. My daughter attended Kaiser Elementary (not our neighborhood school) and it was a fantastic experience. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How hard is it to get into a charter school?

Sept 2010

We need to move before our kids start elementary school, but really only want to move once (i.e. want to select a place we can stay through high school). Problem is, we can't afford private, and would like to stay in Oakland. We've done a lot of research and I'm wondering if anyone knows anything about how difficult it is to get kids into any of the charter high schools in Oakland. I really know nothing about how to get into charter schools, how many applicants they get, etc. But, I can see that the charter high schools are much more highly regarded, in Oakland. What are our chances of getting in? Thanks so much

Charter schools accept students through a lottery. I believe the only exception to that in Oakland is the Oakland School for the Arts, where students must audition. Some schools like Lighthouse Community Charter are K-12, so students coming from the middle school are given preference. I would highly recommend Lighthouse. It's a great school and great community. If your children got in during elementary they'd be set all the way through!


Seeking small charter high school

Nov 2006


Does anyone have info on any of the new small autonomous or charter high schools in Oakland? We are trying to find a place for a kid who receives speech and resource support in middle school and does better in a small, relatively quiet environment.


  • Envision Academy
  • Far West

    Charter Schools in Oakland?

    May 2003

    I'd like to find out more about charter schools in Oakland. Websites? Specific reccomendations? I've heard good things about Lighthouse in downtown Oakland, but that's it. We're interested in finding a school strong in both arts and academics. We're looking for Sept. of 2004. Are the waiting lists horrendous? Our daughter's been in a very relaxed Montessori school. Thanks Kaila I've heard of two others in Oakland, North Oakland Community School, and East Bay Conservation Corps School. They both have websites. I don't know anyone with kids at EBCCS, but do know folks who had kids at NOCCS and they were thrilled with it. It has a visionary parents group, and great parental support.

    There was a study recently done by PACE (Policy Analysis for California Education) which showed that Charter Schools frequently had less well prepared teachers and larger class sizes than public schools. Here's a link to the article from the Berkeley home page:

    It's certainly worth looking at that, and the article in the New York Times recently about charter schools. Anon