Advice about Lamorinda Public Schools - General Discussions

Questions & Responses:
mandarin offerings in the lamorinda area(2 responses)
Lafayette Schools(2 responses)
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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