Q&A about Lafayette Public Schools
Re: Seeking Elementary/Middle School Advice
I've got a 2nd grader and kindergarten-er in Lafayette public schools (specifically Happy Valley). I am really happy with the schools so far. I moved to Lafayette from Oakland for the schools and I haven't been disappointed. Not sure it is the same for all the schools here, but Happy Valley focuses on pdf - playtime, downtime and family time. They stress not over-scheduling kids, letting kids be kids. Academics are great - lots of support, involved parent community, relatively low class sizes (20-23 kids per class). There are great enrichment programs funded by LPIE - Lafayette Partners in Education. LPIE is funded by parents (request is $1K/per kid/per year) and community businesses. They sponser art, science and music in the schools. Overall I am very happy with Lafayette schools. happy with lafayette schools
Re: Best districts for elementary aged kids with autism
As a parent to a 9 yr old with ASD I have relocated to Lafayette specifically for the schools. My child has classic autism, late talker... And other ASD symptoms but is more in the high functioning group, not aspergers. Springhill elementary school in Lafayette is a wonderful school that offeres special Ed classes specific to kids abilities with mainstreaming into the General Ed class and a lot of awareness & acceptance for our kids. Yes, it is a bit pricey here in Lafayette & I've accepted to live in a smaller home than if like to but it's one of the best school districts in California. There's no tolerance for bulling which our ASD kids need, acceptance and understanding. I wouldn't send my kid to school Anywhere else! A.
Re: What schools have differentiated instruction?
Since you asked about Lafayette, where we live, I will say in my experience it depends on the teacher. In elementary school, my daughter, who was a very advanced reader, got some differentiated instruction, depending on the teacher. By middle school, there are many opportunities to differentiate in math but not so much in language. The one time I asked for a different assignment, as the original one was so easy for her as to be laughable, the teacher came up with a completely ridiculous and busy-work making assignment. I learned to never ask for anything like that again. Now I am a bit more humble on the whole topic, as she is plenty challenged in high school. Unless your child is profoundly gifted, I think you should be focusing on receiving good overall instruction, and not worrying too much about the differentiation. There are also plenty of opportunities to seek enrichment outside of the classroom. Just my $.02
I have two children in the Lafayette School District and differentiation is very hit or miss here (mainly miss). It's all up to the individual teacher and the district does not provide any training or support on differentiating instruction. There is a separate class for highly gifted students called AIM for that is offered in 4th and 5th grade, but only 12-15 students district wide are admitted each year and it's only offered at one site (Burton Valley), so you have to transfer from your neighborhood school if you get offered a spot. My older daughter did the AIM program and it was great for her, but now she is incredibly bored in middle school, and the middle school offers no gifted programs and no differentiation that I've seen. One thing to be aware of is that Lafayette class sizes have grown dramatically since we moved here and are now at 26-27 students K-3, and 30-33 for 4th and 5th, which is higher than the neighboring districts of Orinda, Moraga, and Walnut Creek. The increases in class sizes have had a negative impact on instruction, and the experience my younger child is getting is substantially worse than what my first child had. Wish we'd stayed in Berkeley
Has anyone had the issue of not getting into your neighborhood elementary school as a new resident at Lafayette? What has the district office been telling you about the process for redirecting and process for placement? It seems to me that the district office has created a permanent problem of overcrowding the neighborhood schools. I was told that they consider all inter-district (inter-neighborhood transfers), redirected students of past years who decide to stay in their non-neighborhood schools and redirected student's siblings AHEAD of new enrollments in the neighborhood. If you think about it, new students are considered last. I've heard that almost all new students in my neighborhood almost never get into our neighborhood elementary school at first. Has anyone else experienced the same problem? If I call the school district office, I can't get a straight answer about how these decisions are made. -lafayette mom
I've actually had the opposite experience and i'm going to guess you are in the lafayette elmentary school district.
My story: moved to lafayette from oakland a year ago. moved into the downtown neighborhood; registered by son at lafayette elementary. We recently closed on a house in the happy valley district. We really wanted to keep our son at lafayette elementary but were told we could not because lafayette elementary has a long waiting list of in-district students. So we got the boot. I'm guessing that may be in part because our son was registered but had not started yet (he starts kindergarten soon). Good luck! brenda
That isn't my understanding of the policy. I thought if a child was redirected and choose to stay at their school, then their siblings would not have priority at that school but rather at their home school.
Nevertheless, if your understanding is correct, then I can understand that policy too. If a child is redirected, then they are sent to another school that is further from their home. They didn't have a choice in this matter. If, in time, they choose to stay at that school, then there is a good chance that the parents would like any subsequent children to also attend the same school. The school district probably understands how hard it is on families to be split up between schools.
I will tell you about my experience. We live walking distance to Lafayette Elementary. When we moved to Lafayette this past spring, neither of my two children got into our local school. It was very upsetting and frustrating. Fortunately both were redirected to the same school, Burton Valley (there was no guarantee that they would be placed at the same school).
One of my children got into Lafayette Elementary after one month at Burton. At this point, I had kids in two different schools and that was challenging. With all the extra driving and coordinating, I didn't have a lot of extra time or energy to get involved in either school! I'm sure this is what the school district wants to avoid if they are trying to keep siblings together.
My second kid got into Lafayette Elementary this summer and will be a new student there in the fall. We loved Burton, but felt that walking to school and attending with our neighbors was the right choice. The round-trip commute to Burton twice daily took close to an hour and that was also a big factor in our decision to move schools.
Good luck and hang in there. Even if you didn't get your home school upon enrolling, chances are you'll get a call this year with a spot. A neighbor of ours was redirected to Springhill and she too got a spot at Lafayette this fall. Walking to school now!
We're planning to move to Lafayette with a first grader and a third grader. The home we are considering is near one of the four schools in Lafayette, but I've heard that some of the grades may have no space. I've called the school district to enquire and they can tell me nothing. An acquaintance told me that if our neighborhood school was full, that we'd be sent across town to Burton Valley (of course this is a great school too, but just far from where we would be living).
I was wondering if anyone can share their experiences about getting their children into their neighborhood school. Was it easy? Did you have to wait for a while? If you had only one child accepted, would you split them up into two different schools and hoped that the second would eventually find a place? Does everyone eventually get into the school that they want to attend? Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Excited but nervous
Our son was in the first grade last year when we went through this. We moved midyear to an area in the Lafayette elementary zone. They told us there was no room but they could send him to BVE down the road AND there was no guarantee that he'd even be moved to Laf. Elem. in the 2nd grade. We had no other choice so he went to BVE. After only two weeks at BVE they had space for him at his home school. We were not quite sure what to do because in just those two short weeks he found quite a strong support structure at that school, and his first grade teacher was awesome. They actually told us he could stay at BVE if we wanted, all the way thru fifth grade, because they were the ones that placed him there. They made it clear that if we didnt' move him then, he still might not get in to Laf. Elem. for 2nd grade. I think that's a very slight chance. I think they just say that in case the numbers are too high. Anyway, we moved him to the new school after 2 weeks, and while it sucked at the time, he flourished in his new class and is now having a great 2nd grade year (only 3 days into in now though). Also, the numbers in the district are not as high as they thought this year, because I have two friends who are trying to get their kids in the district through the Allen Bill. At first the superintendent denied all Allen Bill applicants because he had promised the parents low enrollment. But on Friday of last week (Aug. 27th) both my friends were given the option to enroll their kids in the district. good luck anon
Hi - We just moved to Lafayette last year and our son just started kindergarten. I think its pretty rare not to get your neighborhood school in general, but this year, class sizes are up to 24 kids and I know certain schools have reach their maximum for K - Burton valley being one of them. I have a friend who teaches at the school but lives outside the district and her son was not able to go to burton valley because it was full. I think springhill was not full. At any rate, all the schools seem very good. we do the drive to burton valley everyday from the other side of town and it is about 20 minutes each way. trying to help
It's true that the local neighborhood school may or may not have a spot when you first move, but usually a spot will open up within a year or less. When we first moved there was no room in the neighborhood school for our first grader, but a spot opened up midyear and we took it. Burton Valley is the largest school, but is not always the overflow, since they try to rotate the overflow school. We found the district was pretty helpful working with us, and all four elementary schools are excellent. Our two daughters are at Springhill, and would be happy to let you know more about it if you are interested. Vali
My family is considering moving to Lafayette for more challenging schools for our kids. Our daughter is in 1st grade in a Berkeley public school and the curriculum is just not challenging at all for her. She spends much of her day waiting for the other kids to finish their work, as her teacher does a lot of direct instruction. Her reading and mathematics skills are far above grade level and she is sort of out on her own with that. We've heard that in the Burton Valley school they have a good GATE program, while Berkeley's GATE program is basically nonexistent.
We'd be interested to hear if other families have found the Lafayette schools to be challenging enough for kids who are working one or two grade levels above.
Also how are the arts integrated into the day in Lafayette schools? Berkeley talks a lot about valuing the arts, but I don't see that at all this year in my daughter's classroom. Pondering a Move
Our family moved over from Berkeley through the tunnel and have had mixed feelings. Yes the schools are a lot better then Berkeley but thereC-s more to it then that. Every year we are expected to pay $1,200 to $1,500 to the educational foundation, then thereC-s the school auction, the sports boostersC- dinner and other ways the Parent's club extract money to supplement the schools. (After a few years of paying we found our kids were not benefiting from the money we pay. Schools out here take the Gate students and use them to teach the C,No Child Left BehindC. students so No Child Get's ahead either. This policy is having a devastating effect on my daughter. We have hired tutors to teach her to keep her challenged. The school is mad at us for doing that and want her to skip a grade.
It's a lot different out here. So many of the parents drive the humongous gas guzzlers and look at us like we are crazy for driving small fuel efficient vehicles. I don't have the need to wear designer clothes or color my hair which seems common out here.
My kids have had a hard time too. Seems like lots of family's move here who can't afford and move out after a year or two. As a result my daughter has to make new best friends every year or so. I can't wait to move somewhere where money, blond hair and designer clothes don't make the friends. -I can't wait to move back to Berkeley
Re: moving to Lafayette for the schools.
Both my children have completed 6 years in the Lafayette elementary schools, and are both now attending the middle school. You should know that the GATE program is invitation only to children who score EXTREMELY well on the OLSAT test, administered in 3rd grade. It is a total of about 15-20 kids (so just a couple from each of the four schools) who are invited to attend the pull-out 4th-5th grade class at Burton Valley. On the other hand, the teachers do try to do differentiated instruction (to varying degrees of success), and there are things like challenge math and spelling groups. LASF (Lafayette Arts and Science Foundation) comes into each classroom several times a year with wonderful art and science programs at each grade level, and some of the art the kids do is quite amazing. I believe all of the schools have an art show at the end of the school year to display special works that the children have done. Of course, we are asked to financially support LASF, as well as each school's parent's club to help make these programs possible. Hope this information helps. Lafayette Mom
My son is also in the first grade too, and we live in Lafayette. We just moved here last year for better public schools.
For academical challenge, you may want to compare, for example, the homework in your school and also here in my son's class, and see if you feel that is challenging enough. I cannot tell you if it is more challenging than the schools in Berkeley, but at least at our son's school, they have done evaluation on his reading and math at the beginning of the school year.
The homework just started since the lastweek. He brings back the books to read based on the level that he was evaluated at. They are also doing sight words based on there level too. So,,, in terms of reading, I see some teaching differentiation there. About math, I unfortunately don't know much about the differentiation teaching in the class room, and I don't see it either in math homework, but we supplement his math at home greatly, since he loves it so much.
About math, my older son's 4th grade class room had math table every Friday. Kids in similar math level got together at each tables, parent volunteers were assigned there to let them do some math activities suitable for their level. I believe the 5th grade class is also doing the same thing.
About GATE program, the kids have a standard test at the end of 3rd grade. If your child scores very high, (I believe,,, at 99 percentile), your child is invited to do GATE program. I heard it is not a mandatory, so you can choose to stay with a regular program, or move onto GATE.
You may want to speak to PTA president too to get the feel of the community. I don't know if that is possible, but that is what I did when we were trying to decide where to move or to stay in El Cerrito. I spoke with a member of PTA in Madera Elementary, and they provided lots of information about the school.
All being said, I feel the best person who can give tailored academical education is you. You are the best person to know her strength and weakness, and also where her interests (both academical and non-academical) will lie. There are so many online websites with interesting word, math, and science games that you can print out for her. That can be a great thing to do just for fun on weekends.
Good luck! newbie mom in Lafayette
Well, I'm not sure what you are expecting, but the GATE program only accepts students who test into it based on the OLSAT test in 3rd grade (it is a 4th/5th program at Burton Valley. If your child attends one of the other 3 schools they would have to switch. My child is top of their class, but the differentiation is not as good as I would like. There were many very bright kids who didn't test into GATE. My impression from our school is that they offer the GATE which very bright students who are not gifted don't really get into and they feel that they have done their job. Having said that my child is happy and I am basically happy overall - we have had great teachers nearly every year. I hear that Happy Valley is the best of the 4 schools and it does have the best test scores. Anon
The schools in Lafayette simply have way more resources than the schools in Berkeley. They ask all parents to donate about 400 dollars per year per student (and almost all families do). thus, they have more aides, more programs for kids who are struggling and more time for differentiated teaching in each direction. Burton Valley is a great school. I have relatives who go there. But remember, no matter how smart you think your daughter is, she will still need to test into the gate program. I know a girl there who works 2-4 levels above grade level in most subjects who is amazingly bright who didn't test into GATE there. But even then, in the regular class, she is still getting a great education and lot of opportunities to work at a higher level. stayin in berkeley
Dear Moving to Lafayette, It sounds as though you've had a disappointing experience in the Berkeley school that your daughter attends. Although you didn't ask for advice from other BUSD parents, here's my two cents worth. Our daughter is in third grade and we put her in the Berkeley Public Schools midyear during first grade year (she went to a private school before that). She's also 1-2 years ahead of grade level. Although it's taken a little effort at times to let the school know what we're hoping for, we've found that the they have been very responsive. The district actually promises to provide an appropriate learning environment for all children, and part of that involves flexible grouping and differentiation. Our daughter has been in reading groups at her level (with 3-4 others) and accelerated math groups as well. If moving doesn't work out for you for one reason or another, I'd recommend talking to the teacher first, then the principal and possibly contacting the School Governance Council. With respect to art, it's happening at my daughter's school, but I also check in with the teacher periodically to see if I can help assist with art projects. The teachers have been really receptive and are already doing art. I also try to check in with the parents of other accelerated learners in my daughter's class. You can end up developing a team of parents who pitch in where they can. Sounds like you are well within your rights to start advocating on behalf of your daughter. Still, not all Berkeley public schools are created equal, though they like to say they are, and if you are really dissatisfied, then moving to Lafayette sounds like a good option. Best of luck no matter which direction you go in. Sarah
My son has a (mild) Asperger's diagnosis and we are considering moving to Lafayette or Orinda for better schools. We have started looking at different homes. While I know both these districts have very good schools in general, does anyone have information (positive or negative) on the ASD support services at a particular elementary in either of these towns? What about Happy Valley Elementary in particular? Any school in either town which you have feedback in terms of special ed services? Thanks so much for any input on this topic. -looking for school advice
We don't have a kid on the Asperger's spectrum, but we moved to Spring Hill elementary last year and have been very pleased with the school so far. I think they did a great job of handling our somewhat shy difficult to transition daughter. I have heard Springhill does handle a fair number of special needs kids. I don't know much about Happy Valley's programs, but they generally have a reputation for being one of the more academically intense programs. It's definitely the wealthiest community in Lafayette and socially we didn't feel like it was our cup of tea, whereas the Springhill community seems a bit more mixed. A happy Springhill parent
I would love to hear of the experiences of kids with ADHD in Lafayette elementary schools. Is there a particular school that supports and works well with these types of kids? We will be relocating to Lafayette shortly and are weighing our options for our first grader who will be coming from an independent school. Anon.
If I had to do it over again, I would have put my child at Burton Valley. Larger school with more services, active special ed parent community, less social stigma for a kid who's ''Different''. Anon
We recently moved to Lafayette. Our children go to Springhill Elementary School. From what I have heard, Springhill Elementary school is like a hub for the special education, fully staffed with special ed. teachers. I heard that if kids who go to schools in Lafayette school district need additional supports for their special needs, they come to Springhill Elementary school. (Sorry if my understanding is not correct. For that part, you can contact Lafayette elementary school district.) The principal, Mr. Wodhams, has been very responsive to our concerns and needs since the time we were enrolling our kids. So far, we are quite happy with the school. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have more questions. mika
My child will be starting Kindergarten at Springhill Elementary School in Lafayette this fall. I was wondering if anyone had any experiences, good or bad, about the two major after-school care options, Kids Hideout on campus or Happy Days preschool across the street. I'd also like to know if there are any other options in the area, particularly any home-based daycares in the area that pick up from the school. Thanks. Springhill Mom
I was a Teacher's Aide for several years at Springhill and from the parents and children I knew that attended Kids Hideout and some friends and parents whose children attended Happy Days, I only heard good things. Karen
In response to Kathy from Walnut Creek: We have found the Lafayette Public Schools to be wonderfully warm and welcoming. My children are now at Stanley Middle but went k-5 through Happy Valley. Through town sports, scouts etc we are friends with many people from the other schools too and each has much to recommend it. While each is unique, all four elementrys have a strong sense of community, active involved parents and fine staff. HV, Springhill and Lafayette are all around 450 kids, Burton is closer to 900 - but still enjoys a tight knit community. Through Lafayette Arts and Science Foundation, all the schools have strong choral music programs from K and instrumental programs from grade 4. LASF also provides a very strong art program at all schools. None of the elementry schools have foreign language available during the school day though several have pay to participate afterschool offerings. There is also a very strong private French program in town for preschool through grade 6 open to anyone wishing to sign up. Ann