Advice about Lamorinda Public Schools - General Discussions

Parent Q&A

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  • Our only child starts first grade next year, and we hear great things about Lafayette schools. Our son presents causation, and we both have masters degrees but still earn only about $200k combined. We’ll thus be relegated to renting an older apartment downtown. Both of us need to work, so we’ll not be able to volunteer much or chauffeur our son and his future pals around after school.

    1. Residents in upscale burbs back east regard renters, particularly apartment dwellers, as second-class citizens who leech off of the community’s resources; do Lafayette homeowners similarly take a dim view apartment / condo dwellers?
    2. Will our son be socially ostracized because we can only afford to rent a dingy apartment or an aging condo, drive 7+ year old Hondas and don’t take our-of-state vacations (we stay at Best Westerns, etc on the rare getaway to the foothills and visit state parks instead of theme parks)?
    3. We’ve heard that parents in Lafayette public schools are expected to donate $5k per kid annually, which we can’t afford; do teachers and administrators unofficially allocate attention and resources based on parental donations?

    Hi there, I just want to add some perspective. My husband and I make what you make and have 2 kids under 5, so no public school. We pay $17k per kid per year for daycare. Its absolutely crazy and I think most parents in the Bay Area feel the financial squeeze. We live in Martinez, but our kids go to school in Pleasant Hill and you def can tell a lot of the parents are richer than us, but no one seems to care. I would think with your earnings you would be able to get a nice apartment and condo, I'm not sure if Lafayette really has anything that can be considered dingy by Bay Area standards, its a pretty upscale town in general. My husband was born and raised in Lafayette and was not one of the wealthy families. Sure, things might have changed a bit, but he never felt ostracized due to finances and my FIL is NOT one to donate anything to the schools LOL. The public schools are so well funded that I'd be surprised if parents need to chip in to the tune of 5k, that sounds like a tall tale.

    If you do decide to move into that community, I would try to have a positive outlook because your negativity may unintentionally shine through and that will definitely ostracize you. Good luck, I hope you find something you are comfortable with. 

    Not sure what "our son presents causation" means, so can't factor that in to my reply. A couple things - a household income of $200K will definitely get you a condo in Lafayette or elsewhere in Lamorinda if that's where you want to be. But is it where YOU want to be? Let's say you are unhappy with your child's school experience (as a kindergartner, I assume) whereever you live now. Do you like where you actually live? Because there are tons of excellent schools around that you can try to transfer into (for public/charter) or apply to (for private), if you like your neighborhood and house and want to stay put. We have one child in one of the sweetest but more expensive K-8 private schools around, and one child as a transfer into a neighboring higher performing school district (compared to our home district, which we had bad experiences with for both kids). We considered Lamorinda before the kids started K, and again in the middle of the pandemic, but ultimately we decided to stay put because we like our neighborhood - nothing against Lamorinda, just a preference to keep the kids in the same house they've always known. You have options no matter what - you sound like you feel like your back's against the wall, and honestly I am sure it isn't. One thought I had a couple years ago, was to move to an apartment in Lamorinda tied to the start of a school year, sell the current house and then buy in Lamorinda once we found a house we liked. My spouse was adamantly opposed to moving into an apartment after 20+ years in a house with a yard. Where is your spouse on all this?

    Finally on the question if you will BE ostracized in Lafayette. Who knows, probably depends on the cohort of families and kids you would join, but not being there in kindergarten, you will have to make a special effort to meet people and make friends wherever you go if you change schools as a first grader. My question to you is, based solely on this message, would you ever feel at home? Ultimately, do you want to live in Lafayette?

    Hello, I can't answer your questions exactly because I haven't lived in Lafayette for 15 years, but I did grow up there and know some families living there now.  

    1. There are snobby people everywhere.  "Second-class citizens who leech off of the community’s resources" seems very extreme.  I think the kind of 'discrimination' you would experience would be things like other parents assuming you live in a house, kids who come over for playdates asking your son "why don't you live in a house?" or that kind of thing.  Do YOU think there's something wrong with living in an apartment? The wording of your post makes me wonder if you would feel very insecure about your status if you lived in an apartment or condo.  If you feel negatively about your living situation, it would be hard to avoid that rubbing off on others around you including your son.  The fact that you wrote that you & your partner have masters degrees sort of looks like you think that being highly educated means you're not like regular apartment-dwellers and shouldn't be treated as such.  I think that kind of thinking, even if subconscious, would make it hard for you to feel settled in your new home and feel happy there.  Like, if you're thinking "what am I doing living in an apartment, I deserve better," I think that would make it hard for you and your son to be happy in Lafayette.  

    2. Your son might feel jealous of other families' cool cars or nice vacations.  If you have fun on your vacations, your son might never really think about it.  Here's another way of looking at it: how would you feel about your son spending a lot of time with and absorbing the values of rich, possibly spoiled children?  Would you want him to keep himself a part a bit?  Living happily in Lafayette would require you being ok with frequent visible reminders of income inequality, consumerism, and other people's affluence.  You might decide you don't want him absorbing the values of a group of very privileged children.  Yes, the schools are good but your child will may miss out on being part of a socioeconomically and culturally diverse community.

    3.  I'm sure the PTA would love for each family to donate $5k, but I can't imagine that not doing so would have any consequences for your son.  I highly doubt any of the teachers would even know who's donated what.  And remember, none of the teachers are raking in the big bucks either.  You could prepare a script in advance you feel comfortable with like "this year we are able to donate $200" so that you aren't at a loss for words if you're approached, and then not worry about it.

    Your post doesn't say where you live now or what your son's current school situation is, but if his school situation this year doesn't seem to be good, moving to Lafayette isn't necessarily the answer.  There is a certain culture in Lafayette that isn't all correlated with how much money you have.  A lot of the kid culture is centered around sports or other activities.  I kind of think of my family as "Berkeley people" who ended up in Lafayette without totally meaning to.  I felt like my family didn't totally fit in in Lafayette, but I don't think that did me any long term harm either.  

    This answer does not really answer your question, but I wanted to pass on our recent experience with Lafayette and LAFSD. In regards to your #3 question, the suggested donation per child this year is $1,850 (not $5k). And I don't believe that teachers and admins even know how much families donate (it's done through a central organization, and I'm sure attention/resources are not allocated based on donations at all). That being said...

    I wanted to pass on my family’s experience with the Lafayette school district (LAFSD) to any families who are thinking of moving to Lafayette for the public schools. If you have more than one elementary-aged child, be warned that your kids might be separated between schools.

    I have 3 elementary-aged kids, and we moved over the summer from Oakland because we felt Lafayette public schools would provide more stability. Before we put an offer on our house, I called and spoke with the district. I was told that they could not guarantee that my kids would be placed at the elementary school located 2 blocks from the house, but that they would be placed at the same school (the siblings wouldn’t be separated). Fast forward to after we closed on the house, and my oldest was placed at the school down the street, while the other two were placed across town.

    This has been an incredible strain on our family - not just logistically, but also socially and emotionally. Logistically, both my partner and I both have to block our calendars twice a day to do dropoff and pickup (all aftercare programs are full). We also try to divide the school activities (so one of us tries to attend each Halloween parade, etc), or we are perpetually disappointing one or two of our kids. Socially, we feel disconnected from our neighborhood and both schools. We have spoken to the district, the registrar, and the superintendent, all to no avail. Siblings do not have priority on the waitlists. We are filled with much regret, and are at our wits-end trying to figure out how to proceed.

    I pass on our experience as a warning to those thinking about the same move. I’m sure the town and schools are welcoming if you have preschool-aged children, older children, or just one child. But I strongly urge you to reconsider moving to Lafayette for the public schools if you have more than one elementary-aged child.

  • Lamorinda public school

    (2 replies)

    We currently live in El Cerrito and our children attend a private TK-8 school nearby. Covid aside, we couldn’t be unhappier. Academics are lacking, the mere focus is on socio-emotional development. While this is important, it is merely taught on a superficial level. The school is not willing - despite endless meetings and interventions from doctors and psychologists - to respect and support our children’s‘ medical needs and learning challenges.

    We are now looking into moving to Orinda: one child would be in 4th the other one in 7th grade. We would either attend Wagner or Glorietta and OIS. As a family we are members at OPP and both children love swimming and Waterpolo. 

    We are looking for a school that focuses on: 

    * academics

    * supports kids whose  primary language is not English

    * can accomplish 504 plans: our younger son suffers from a benign form of epilepsy and needs to snack regularly even outside the scheduled lunch times in order to remain stable. 

    any current views on the performance of lamorinda public schools? Any parents who are confronted with similar challenges and are happy at Lamorinda schools?  
    Is Glorietta or Wagner better our needs?

    thank you!

    Contact SEED Lafayette.  It's an organization that advocates for Special Needs kids.

    The ratio for K-3 is low in Orinda public schools, but starting in 4th grade, the class size goes up 2x.  Your experience can vary a lot depending on how experienced the lead teacher you get.  We had a terrific teacher with 30+ years of teaching experience when our son was in 2nd grade, followed by another who was a 1st year graduate, and the results showed. 

    OIS is the only MS in Orinda, so the class size can be quite large --> which may not be the best environment for kids whose primary language is not English.

  • I am a parent living in Lamorinda and I would like to ask how do Lamorinda Public Schools compare with best Private Schools in Oakland/Berkeley Area, in particular Head Royce/Bentley/The Academy.


    You might want to also check out The Saklan School in Moraga. Similar level academic program as others you mentioned, and a really wonderful, diverse, and supportive community as well. We have several friends who have done both public schools in the area and then have gone on to experience independent schools. The biggest differences are class size and the way students are able to truly dive into learning rather than doing more rote learning and testing. There is also quite a difference in the amount of music, art and other specialists as well as more field learning experiences, leadership, and public speaking opportunities. The partnerships you have with the school and teachers are very strong and the focus on social emotional is a priority.

    I grew up in Lamorinda and attended public school. We live in Berkeley now and my son is attending The Academy. From my experience The Academy is a much better school than what I experienced in the Lamorinda public schools. Also, if you kid is bright they offer very little in advanced or gifted programming. The Academy offers a more advanced curriculum. 

    My kids went to the Orinda Public Schools K-5. I would characterize those years as good, not great. No matter how good your public school is - it is still a public school and subject to the lack of per student funding that affects California. There were some teachers who were amazing. But there were some who shouldn't be teaching and yet can't be fired because after a year of teaching, they are granted tenure. There are also too many kids in the classroom, especially after 3rd grade when classes ballooned to 28-30 kids per classroom. I realize this is small in comparison to schools in Oakland and elsewhere in the state, but to me - it's too many kids. Especially if you factor in that upwards of 5 may have some learning and/or social challenges. My other critique of the public school system as a whole is that they are teaching your kids to do well on a multiple choice test. That's not fostering a love of learning nor expanding minds. That's looking good on paper. 

    We did not want to see what OIS would hold for our kids as we knew there would be more kids in the classrooms and the hallways as 4 elementary schools feed into one middle school. In addition to more kids, we knew there would be more hit-or-miss teachers. We moved to Head-Royce in 6th grade.  I have found the quality of the teachers across the board to be excellent. Not just that they know their subject matter, but that they care and ENJOY what they do. They are accessible not only for us, the parents, but for the students. They LOVE to have students come to them for clarity or questions. They are nice people who seem to genuinely care about each and every child they teach. I can say that about some of my public school teachers, but not all. There were many that it felt like they were punching a clock.  Each grade level team at Head-Royce consults constantly on what is being taught and when and how it ties in with other subjects. There are about 15 kids to a classroom. Music and art are required. In public elementary we had music and art twice a month. At Head-Royce we have it twice a week. 

    My kids were both prepared "enough" for Head-Royce. I do not think that their math or writing skills were adequately developed in the public school system, but now at Head-Royce, they are thriving and it seems so obvious that they were not inspired to learn in public school. In my opinion the kids that I see who came through Head-Royce from the lower school are better prepared. Is that because of the continuity of the curriculum? Maybe. But I also think that overall, the smaller classes, the higher quality teachers, and a curriculum that is based on educating the whole child and not just how to take a test, has served those kids well. Lastly - it is ironic to me that for my children to experience any true diversity, we have to go to private school. But there it is. Head-Royce is truly diverse and I think that the diversity is a critical role in the quality of the education. A well thought through curriculum absorbed and discussed by a variety of different ethnic, social and economic backgrounds lends to enlightened education. 

    I can't say enough good things about Head-Royce School. We will not return to public for high school and yes, I do realize how fortunate we are to have this choice.

    We live in Orinda and have 2 daughters at The Academy, now in 5th and 2nd grade. We were making this comparison ourselves a few years ago and can share our reflections from that process.

    One of our first observations was that each of the schools could be a good fit depending on what a child needs and what parents value most highly. They are all well-resourced and filled with committed teachers and parents. In our case, we valued a few interrelated things: a love of learning, challenging academics, small class sizes, and exceptional teachers. The Academy stood out on these fronts. The school embodied a respect for children's intellect and their ability to stretch to engage with challenging concepts whether in math, science, history, or literature. One more concrete way of describing this is that the baseline mathematics curriculum is over 1 grade level higher than the corresponding grade in the public school and due to a class size of about 12, even further differentiation is possible for children that are ready for more challenge.

    For the other independent schools you listed (Head Royce, Bentley), our knowledge is limited to the tours we took and conversations we had rather than personal experience. Both had well-resourced classrooms, many more electives, beautiful grounds, etc. But we didn't see as much of a difference with the Lamorinda public schools on the couple of things we really valued above.

    Good luck with your decision!

  • We have an infant, are currently living in SF, and are looking into buying a house in the East Bay for the better schools, to be closer to family and to get more space.  We have been concentrating in the Montclair, Crocker Highlands and Upper Rockridge areas of Oakland, but we are also open to the Lamorinda area.  

    1) Does anyone have advice on choosing between Hillcrest, Crocker Highlands, Montclair, and Thornhill elementary schools?  They all seem like decent schools with a strong parent base.  Are there any differences we should be aware of or any other factors we should consider?  Hillcrest is K-8 which is appealing.

    2) The main reason we have focused on Oakland rather than Lamorinda is because I work in Palo Alto.  However, my job is flexible enough such that I can try to avoid rush hour or work from home a couple days a week.  How much time would it add to my commute to go through the tunnel to Lamorinda?  Does anyone have any thoughts about Oakland schools (the specific ones listed above) vs Lamorinda schools?

    Thanks in advance!

    The main thing to think about schoolwise for the Oakland schools is which middle and high schools that they feed to--Crocker goes to Edna Brewer and Oakland High, while Montclair and Thornhill go to Montera and then to Skyline. Hillcrest feeds to Oakland Tech. Brewer is generally considered the stronger of the two middle schools right now, but Montera has a growing IB program that might be of interest. Hillcrest has its own small middle school; most years all Hillcrest fifth graders who want to stay for middle do get spots, but it isn't guaranteed.

    I can't speak to Lamorinda schools, but would strongly advise trying the commute realtime to see just how much time it will add to be on the other side of the tunnel. The East Bay "rush hour" window is LONG—traffic begins backing up in the commute direction as early as 7 and sometimes stays backed up till well past 9, and in the afternoons, the backup can begin before 4 and occasionally last till 7 before it's really moving again. So to really avoid it, you may need to leave extremely early or late. I would look at Piedmont before I'd go through the tunnel. For a Palo Alto commute (and assuming the other commute is to SF), I'd also be looking at the East End of Alameda.

    I will start by saying that my child is at Thornhill.  The neighborhood surrounding Hillcrest (Upper Rockridge) is highly sought after because of Hillcrest Elementary and the fact that it goes to 8th grade.  There have been years where everyone in the neighborhood did not got in.  I believe the kids were placed at other top schools, but just something to keep in mind.  Montclair is the largest of the schools you listed.  

    As you are doing your research, I encourage you to also research aftercare programs and their availability.  Like many Hills schools, Thornhill's aftercare program is run by Adventure Time.  We have been very happy with the program, but the demand for on site aftercare far exceeds the available number of spots and enrollment (required annually) can be a bit stressful.  

    Another thing to be aware of is that the class sizes tend to be on the upper end in these sought after schools.  I naively thought that schools with very active parents who do a lot of fundraising would be able to use some of the funding to secure smaller class sizes.  This has not been our experience.  There is a good chance that your child's Kindergarten class could have 26-27 kids, which is a lot.  

    Best of luck to you!

    Hi- my comment regards commuting from Lafayette (the easiest of freeway access in Lamorinda) to Palo Alto or main land Silicon Valley.  I work from home with corporate based in PA and do need to drive there for a week or so here and there.  I would never in one million years do that commute regularly.  The last time I had to be onsite for 3 days I got a hotel in PA.  The drive is that horrible (and I am likely highly sensitive to it's horribleness because I DON'T drive it every day).  I have tried various combinations of off-commute hours and there simply are not many windows with all the people in the bay area.  I have spent anywhere from 1.5-3 hours getting home if the weather is bad and never there in less than 1.5 hours.  It's exhausting and complete waste of time- and I do listen to pod cast, use Waze detours anything to numb the pain of sitting in a car THAT long NOT moving.  Of course you are doing it now from SF, which I wouldn't do either so you likely have a much higher tolerance for this sort of thing then I do. :)

    We moved from SF to Montclair/Upper Rockridge area and our older son attended Hillcrest for the first 2 years of school. It's a great school - we felt like we won the lottery when he got a spot there. But it's a very small school (facility/space wise) and the attendance was getting larger and larger. His class size was over 30 in K and first grade. We were also concerned about paying for private in high school (and some elect to go private at 6th grade at Hillcrest because it is so small; bigger middle schools may have more extra-curricular activities, band, clubs, sports, etc.). We made the decision to move to Orinda after about 5 years in our house in Oakland - wasn't the smartest financial decision to buy/sell our house in short time frame, but in the long run it was the right one for us. We also had a few attempted break-ins to our house in Oakland; I just didn't feel very safe there. Maybe it's gotten better? not sure. We now live in Orinda and are really happy. We have a big backyard, are near hiking trails and have a pool. The schools are great. Class sizes K-3 are maxed out at 20 kids which is funded by parents/community. My son just started OIS (middle school) and so far really likes it. The principal is awesome and his teachers seem great. We've been really happy here - and we get warm/hot summers with lots of outdoor BBQs and pool parties. When I moved here, doing all the daily tasks of raising kids just seemed easier - there's lots of activities for kids. We also joined our neighborhood swim/tennis club and my kids are on the swim team which is a great activity for summer.  There's undoubtedly less diversity here and there is a lot of wealth, but honestly Hillcrest had a similar make up. Most of my friends here moved from SF or Oakland. Being very left-leaning, I'm happy about the political climate here - I expected it to be more conservative.

    I can't say how much time living in Orinda would add to your commute - kind of depends where you live. Staying near the freeway would be good; living in Moraga would be bad for your commute...   Lastly, for Hillcrest you're not guaranteed a spot since there are fewer spots than kids who want to get in. So you have to be prepared to be redirected to another school. One last, last note is that we still have friends who attend Hillcrest and are really happy. So just depends

    Checking in with each of the  Oakland schools you mentioned is a good place to start.  For instance, while Hillcrest is a great school, even homeowners that live in the neighborhood "catchment" sometimes find themselves unable to attend because it is so impacted.  I too thought k-8 was appealing, but, Hillcrest is such a small school that some kids, by the time they reach 6th grade are ready for some new faces.  A handy site to see what addresses feed into which Oakland school:  

    I have heard good things about Lamorinda schools but have no direct experience with them.  They seem to be more consistent then Oakland Schools (OUSD).  While I have been happy with OUSD, it has been a lot of extra work researching and applying to various schools to make sure we have the right situation for us.  Because I really want to be in Oakland, we chose to take on this extra work.  If Lamorinda and Oakland are interchangable in ideal surroundings, then, the school situation seems like it is much more "seamless" in Lamorinda. And, houses tend to be "larger" through the tunnel.  If you can avoid peak times, the tunnel isn't much of a hassle.  If you need to come through around 4 p.m to 6 it is a challenge. Best of luck to you.

  • Hi all.  I just moved to Lafayette in September and my son had previously been in a wonderful private school for dyslexia.  My son has general anxiety disorder, significant visual and auditory processing issues as well as ADHD.  He has a normal IQ. When we landed here we tried the public school (Stanley Middle) and he has done surprisingly well for his 8th grade year. They have been so accommodating and made many modifications given his various needs.  We've been so surprised/impressed. However, I am not sure Campolindo High School will be as flexible given some of the utterances I have heard.  I would really love any input that anyone can provide on having a student at Campolindo with an IEP or attending Springstone, as we are considering both options. 

    Thank you for any help you can provide. 

    Unfortunately, Campolindo teachers and administrators do not support students with learning differences. After trying to work with them for two years, I sent my daughter to a private school where she is much happier and doing better academically. 

    The Acalanes Union High School District have other high schools available to you.  Both Miramonte and Acalanes have SLD programs.  The resource teachers at Acalanes are very good.  I don't have much personal information about Miramonte but a friend's sone did well there with the Resource Specialist.  The district special education department is obligated to place your child in the appropriate setting and you can ask about the other school sites.

    If you haven't already, i strongly suggest that you go to each of the 3 high schools and meet with the Resource Specialist, Principal and everybody else 2-3 times so that you can vet them yourselves in person. Not just 1 visit though, get a better sense of how they really respond to a parent's involvement with repeated will give you the information & vibes you need to make a decision about each of them, Miramonte, Acalanes and Campo. Also, what was the feedback from the Stanley various staff that were good with your son, maybe they have a relationship with one of these high schools and will reach out and make it an even better transition if/when it happens. Best regards.

  • mandarin offerings in the lamorinda area

    (2 replies)

    i am pondering a move east of the caldecott tunnel for the public schools and was wondering what the mandarin options are out there for elementary school and up? 

    do schools offer it as a lesson in elem school? an elective in high school? or just private saturday schools and tutors? 

    thank you. 

    Acalanes, Campolindo, and Miramonte all offer Mandarin - see the AUHSD (the school district that covers the 3 public high schools in Lamorinda plus Las Lomas in Walnut Creek) course catalog here:

    For middle school, it looks like Stanley in Lafayette and JM in Moraga offer it:

    Stanley's Offerings:
    JM's offerings:
    OIS's offerings (which don't include Mandarin):

    As far as I know, none of the elementary schools offer it but that that may have changed - you can check with the respective school districts.

    Orinda Mandarin offers classes after school for elementary students and before school at the middle school. Miramonte High offers Mandarin through AP level. 

  • Lafayette Schools

    (1 reply)

    Hello, we currently live in SF and buying a home in Lafayette or Orinda for the schools. I have a 3 year old boy and a baby girl on the way this Dec. 

    Can anyone tell me what the best schools are in the area? Is it Burton Valley, Happy Valley, Lafayette Elementary or Springhill Elementary??? They are all listed as 10 schools but are they truly even or all the same in terms of education? Are class sizes bigger in one versus the other or the same?

    We have a choice to decide now what area to buy in and am not sure which to choose.  Any opinions are welcome! Thank you very much. 

    This is my completely biased, non-scientific opinion, but I would say the schools are generally ranked in the order of HV, Springhill, BV and Lafayette Elementary.  Burton Valley is quite a bit larger than the other three schools and probably has somewhat larger class sizes, although most classes in the elementary schools in Lafayette are relatively small.  Springhill has the separate special ed program, BV has the GATE program for 4th and 5th graders (although only a couple kids from each school are invited to join that every year).  Springhill and BV both have large beautiful gardens the kids help with; not sure about the other two schools.  With the passage of  the bond issue in June, the district will be doing major upgrades to the facilities at each school.  Things like traffic patterns and ease of pick up, drop off, and after school care might affect your choices too; good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Switching from Catholic school to public Lamorinda 

Feb 2015

We are currently in the second grade at a Catholic school and would like our kids to attend the public high school. Any advice on when to transition our kids to public? Before junior high? Any idea how the academics compare? Lamorinda mom

This is an interesting question for two reasons. One is because of the inherent difficulty in making friends in later school years, and the other one is because of the implementation of the common core curriculum in the Lamorinda schools. I've had one kid graduate from the Lafayette high school and the second one is currently there. I would consider switching your kid to the local elementary school in fifth grade, as making new friends in middle school can be very difficult. Alternatively starting fresh in high school is fairly common as well. You would want to assess your child for his or her strengths and weaknesses in this regard. Secondly, as they are beginning to roll out the common core curriculum in the schools and it has reached the high school in some aspects, I can tell you that it is clearly going to be extremely difficult to adapt to it if you haven't started early.I believe this will be particularly difficult in the math area. Not scientific of course, but I recently talked to a family whose grandchildren had transferred to Stanley Middle School in Lafayette from a Catholic school. They were finding most of it to be fairly equivalent in terms of class content, except for math. I've heard this many times before, that the private schools' math curriculum does not prepare them as well for what they will be expected to do in the public school classrooms. Hope this information helps and good luck with your decision. Lamorinda Mom

Lamorinda schools - really that great?

Oct 2014

We're considering moving through the tunnel for reasons of safety and schools. Everybody says the Lamorinda schools are great and the reviews on support this, but I'd like to hear firsthand from parents who have sent their kids through the system. How big are the typical class sizes at elementary, jr high and high school levels? Did you feel like there were plenty of supplemental offerings like art and music throughout? Are there problems with drugs and alcohol (and/or snobbery/materialism) at the high school level? Please share what you loved or didn't love about your kids' Lamorinda education. tunnel vision

Yes! The schools are really that great. I have 2 kids at Del Rey elementary in Orinda and both have had a very positive experience - both learning and socially. This is in part because the parents supplement the school's budget - between the school fund and the Orinda education fund (distributed to all Orinda schools) , we cover more than 1/3 of the annual budget. That means small classes (Under 20 in K, under 22 otherwise), teacher aide in each class, music K-5, art K-5, PE, computers, math in the school garden, etc. On site after school programs with supplemental enrichment (including option for after school Spanish instruction K-5).

When I say parents support the school, the suggested donation is just over $1000 per student per year. Not every family can afford this and that is fine - you give what you can. Some parents have moved their kids from private schools and are happy to give more to balance those who give less. They are more concerned that everyone gives something rather than everyone gives a certain dollar amount.

There's less concern for material things in elementary school than middle and high, I'm sure, but I've found a wide range of family incomes and experiences get along quite well. Every student is either a little or big buddy to another student every year (depending on grade level) and when my older child overheard me tell someone this is to combat bullying, they said with a truly surprised look, ''there's no bullying at our school!'' Kids are kind, polite, and focused on learning. Happy Lamorinda family

I went to middle and high school at Acalanes, my brother went to Lafayette and Orinda schools. (He's 11 years younger, graduated five years ago). I think yes, the level of education is good. I had some very inspiring, excellent teachers that gave me a real love of learning. Had a couple duds too, of course. But the lack of diversity really was a negative, most of the kids I went to school with were extremely sheltered, and in hindsight, it wasn't the best thing. It was hard not to feel like i had enough money (we has plenty, but we were never as well off as most of my friends). When I went to my brothers graduation at Miramonte, I was horrified by the level of entitlement and superiority. The principal's speech was actually about how they were the cream of the crop and that they would go out to conquer the world. Nothing about using their privilege for good, nothing about the responsibility of privilege and excellent education. Personally, that was the nail in the coffin for us, it for rid of any desire I'd had to move back and put my kids in that kind of culture. Been there, not going back.

Piedmont or Orinda?

Nov 2012

We may be relocating from the Philadelphia and will be taking advantage of the public school system. Currently all three of our kids are in private schools. 6th grade boy at Episcopal Academy (co-ed), 5th grade girl at Academy in Manayunk (school for learning disabilities, she has Auditory Processing) and 3rd grade boy at Haverford (all boys school). Despite our daughter having a learning disability we would like to try public for her first and if that doesn't work out we will find another school for her. Ours boys are bright and athletic (our daughter is both as well just needs a bit more help with learning) Our 6th grader plays water polo and all 3 do summer swim team, play lacrosse & squash (big out here pretty sure not there) We are interested in getting your advice, experiences, etc...on Piedmont middle and high school and Orinda middle and Miramonte High school. G.

We live in Moraga (right next to Orinda), but our kids are younger than yours so I can't speak to middle school or high school, although both Piedmont and Orinda are known for their great public schools. I just wanted to comment on your kids' involvement in swim team and water polo. The swim culture out here (Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, etc.) is HUGE. There is at least one year round swim team (Orinda Aquatics) and most kids (who are interested in swimming) spend the entire summer at the pool on swim team. Water polo is also big. Four out of the 13 members of the Women's US Olympic water polo team are from this area. I grew up in SF so this is swim culture is all new to me, however, I'm almost positive that it isn't as strong in Piedmont.

Also, if you decide to move to Orinda, both the middle school and high schools are very close to each other, south of highway 24. The traffic each day to school for those Orinda kids who live north of 24, going south, is pretty bad in the morning. I would consider looking at houses that are closer to the schools.

I know this doesn't directly answer your question, but thought it might be helpful to know. Good Luck! Moraga Mom

Acalanes High school vs Miramonte?

Dec 2011

We are considering either school and would love any comments in regard to your experiences at these schools. Thank you!

I don't know how you would get a real comparison, unless you found someone who had kids go to both, and there is very little crossover between these two (most seem to be Lafayette students choosing between Campolindo and Acalanes or Moraga between Campo and Miramonte). I know one Lafayette family whose daughter went to Miramonte several years ago because of their speech and debate program, and I believe they offer Latin, which none of the other schools do. If you haven't already, I would download the district catalog which will tell you which schools offer which unique courses. My daughter is at Acalanes, and we are reasonably happy there; they all have pluses and minuses in terms of social pressure, academic pressure, teachers, administrators, etc. It depends on what you are looking for, of course. I think Miramonte would be particularly difficult to start at if you did not have already have friends there, but that is just based on perception. It also depends on where you live; you should consider the complications to your life if every one of your child's friends and school events are not in your town. Hopefully you went to the presentations the schools recently did and got some good factual information. Good luck with your decision. Lafayette mom

Lamorinda Schools and CA's budget crisis

April 2010

Does anyone currently residing in the Lamorinda area, whose children are attending the public schools, have any information on the scope of the projected budget cuts over the next year or two? Have you heard about increases in class size or elimination of programs? What are the class sizes currently? I know that families donate extensively to offset some of these cuts. Specifically, to what extent have any of these school districts been able to avoid cuts through donations from families in these districts? I am particularly interested in the situation in elementary and middle schools, and would be appreciative of any specific information that you can offer, as I contemplate a move.

The school districts that service Orinda, Moraga and Lafayette also include Walnut Creek. There are a total of five districts in the area. With several of the districts having schools in more than one city each city has its own Educational funding organization. This keeps funds donated in the city where they were donated, and not spread out over the district. From what we've heard so far, Orinda is minimally affected. The Lafayette schools were hit a little harder and Moraga I have not heard. Orinda's class sizes will remain the same, (not increase), and none of the programs are scheduled to be cut. In general schools in the city of Orinda will be impacted the least followed by Moraga, Lafayette and Walnut Creek.

My kids are Junior and Senior at Campo and from my experience, the lionlike parents there do not allow budget cuts to affect their kids. Grad night this year, will again top (well Im embarrassed to say how much) They tried to pink slip the music teacher and hundreds of us went to the district meeting and put a stop to that conversation. How do we do it? Well, it does mean a heck of alot of popsicle sales, fundraising dinners and organized committees but the price for going private is far greater. We hardly feel anything in la la land. Again, I am kind of embarrassed to say. RR

If you would like more information about the projected impact of the state's budget crisis on the Lamorinda schools, I recommend you check out the website regarding Measure A (a proposed parcel tax of $112/year). The website address is: If Measure A does not pass, many here feel that the effects would be devastating. While I believe that is true, I also recognize that every public school in California is being adversely impacted by the budget chaos, so unless you are interested in private schools, I'm not sure there is any ''safe haven.'' The parents in this area are passionate about the quality of the schools. I reflected on that fact today as I spent over four hours driving and walking to more than 100 houses to hang reminders to vote for Measure A. Parents are asked to contribute each year toward the Educational Foundation of Orinda (many describe our school district as a public/private partnership) -- I think the recommended donation is about $600/year per student currently, but no one says anything if you don't/can't contribute that amount. Some do less; some do more. Most people feel like it is a small price to pay to be in one of the highest performing high school districts in the state; two of our high schools were ranked in the top 100 in the country. If you have more questions, I'd be happy to talk further with you -- (925) 324-6246. Happy Mom in Orinda


Moving from El Cerrito to Lamorinda - how are schools?

Feb 2009


We are looking to move out of El Cerrito and private schools to the Orinda area to go to public school. We'd love to hear from people who are in Orinda schools now. We're concerned about being in a school that's too competitive for our middle schooler, since she struggles academically. We're also concerned about no diversity and about being too far from the Berkeley area. We were originally hoping to rent in Berkeley, but there's so much more available and at a better price in Orinda. Thanks for your advice! concerned parent

Glorietta is a great elementary school in orinda as are all of the schools on an academic level and they have the resources to help struggling kids unlike most public schools, this is due to the massive parent support financially. My child is now in school in Lafayette and as in orinda there is very little diversity. My children are half black half white and my son is one of four African Americans in his school and one of maybe twenty non whites. We came from a very diverse school in Oakland and there was a trade off , diversity for education. I suggest classes and camps outside lamorinda to balance it out. Good luck!

I thought I would post a reply despite living in Lafayette. Lafayette is further from Berkeley than Orinda, yet I feel completely connected to Berkeley. We are 2 stops away from Rockridge via BART and my husband and I often do datenights in Berkeley painlessly. I am a Berkeley transplant myself and love the schools here. I believe that what makes our schools great in Lamorinda, despite California's current budget challenges, is that families are 100% behind their children with regards to education. We make annual monetary contributions to our schools, but they are small when compared to private school tuition. Families are willing to contribute in so many ways in the schools and sports and the children here know that education is an important stepping stone for them in their lives. You will pay a bit more for a home here in Lamorinda, but there are positives beyond the schools. The summer weather is great for swimming (kids love that), the organized sports are fun for families, you will feel safe and secure living in Orinda and I believe there is less congestion day to day here. All of these things add to my family's quality of life. Lamorinda is different than Berkeley but great too

We recently moved to Lafayette after many years living in Berkeley and Oakland. We looked at both Orinda and Lafayette and ended up deciding both the Lafayette neighborhoods and schools were a better match for our family. My impression from both friends and realtors with kids in the Orinda system is that the Orinda schools are more competitive and intense than some of the Lafayette schools. Our daughter is at Springhill school and thus far we've been very pleased with it. She was at an excellent private school in Berkeley but I haven't found the education to be as different as one might imagine. They have art, music, science, computers, p.e. and optional Spanish, and I've actually found that they do a better job at differentiating instruction to help kids working at different levels than even her private school did. I also think they do a better job at handling issues like social bullying. Diversity is obviously an weak spot compared to Berkeley public schools, although there are a few African American and Hispanic families and lots of Asian families at her school. It's probably not that different diversity wise than her private school in Berkeley. Springhill also is one of the better places to be if you have a kids with ADD or other special needs. Burton Valley has a special GATE program with separate advanced classes in 4th and 5th grade, although kids from all over the district are eligible if they qualify. I really like the Reliez Valley/Springhill area, but it's a bit more rural feeling than downtown Lafayette or Burton Valley, so it all depends on your preferences. If definitely doesn't feel as funky and progressive as Berkeley, but there are lots of other Prius driving families and a nice farmers market. I have to admit it's nice not to get our car broken into on a weekly basis and to feel fine letting our daughter play with other kids in the neighborhood without constant adult supervision. happy Lafayette parent