Lafayette Public Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi Community! I'm a single mom with bi-racial kids and am considering a move from Berkeley to Lafayette. My kids will be entering the 7th and 4th grades and I'm a renter making about $150k/year. My daughters are strong academically but the 6th grader has struggled socially. I know the schools are academically strong, but I'm not seeing much about the social environment kids may encounter there, particularly if they are mixed race, divorced household and middle class. I'm especially concerned about my middle schooler, who would be entering in 7th vs. 6th grade when the majority of kids start middle school. I would love your feedback on the socio-economic aspects of living in Lafayette. Do the kids feel pressure to fit in economically? How is it for middle-class mixed-race kids? My kids are currently in a community where there are a lot of kids with socio-economic affinities and where they are thriving academically, so I'm wondering if the higher school rankings are worth the move. Thanks!

    I guess I'm not sure why you want to move. Strictly for academics? BUSD is actually quite good and BHS (where my two kids go) offers so so much in terms of diversity, AP classes, clubs, sports, an award winning student newspaper ... Colleges love these kids - strong academics, social justice focus, and a more worldly outlook. I guess I'm biased but I would never consider a move to Lafayette from Berkeley, especially if it's just for the schools. I know one family who moved from Oakland to Moraga (they're white), and the daughter hated the school situation so so much, she ended up dropping out. I do know some Berkeley families who chose private school just for middle school and then their kids went on to be successful at BHS, so that may be an option, too. But Lafayette? I think Berkeley offers so much more.

    My adopted Asian Daughter attended Acalanes High School for Freshman year and found a strong homogeny among the students, racially, and economically and in the way they dressed and vacationed. She felt self pressure to own certain clothes to try to fit in. She ultimately chose to transfer back to our more diverse local HS for the final 3 years.. Additionally, there are a few elementary schools that feed into one Middle School and one High School, so the majority of kids have been in school together throughout. Definitely a disadvantage to a newcomer.

    I live in Lafayette and make about the same as you. I am not mixed race or divorced though. I have two teenagers who went thru the school system starting from kindergarten. Lafayette is not diverse in any way. Most of the faces you see will be white. Many of the people are conservative and loud about it. My kids have struggled with fitting in. They are not sporty or academic or musical. (If your kids are, they may find their place) Their friends and friends' families have - private airplanes, vineyards in their yards, entire floors of their villas devoted to fish tanks, private sports coaches that come to their houses for lessons, etc.. Not judging any of that, I wish I could afford it!! But my kids really feel that pressure to belong.They don't invite people over to our house even though I encourage it. I would throw them birthday parties with cake and maybe a video game van but their friends would have horses and huge pool parties and pass out expensive gifts to everyone that attended. Both my kids have told me they feel stupid compared to the other kids and they both have anxiety/depression. It's easy to get drugs in school. The bathrooms are not monitored and kids skip class and vape there, although this can happen anywhere. The kids have so much money some of them give their drugs away FOR FREE. Unlike when I was in school I had to save up if I wanted to smoke pot. It's just so easy now. I want to get my youngest out of Lafayette for her mental health but we can't actually afford to move, because the entire Bay Area is nuts right now. This is just my reality, I bet you will get some responses that are more positive. 

    If you are in BUSD, I don’t think it makes sense to move for the schools, as BHS students go to many top colleges. Also, student’s families are very diverse, so it is relatively easy for most to find friends. There may be other reasons to move, but that’s probably not one of them. 

  • Dear parents, I am planning on moving with my family (2 kids) to Lafayette by the end of the year. My daughter will be going to school in the Fall of 2020, and I am already stressing out about after school care. We are both working parents, so she will need early care and after school care. Are there any after school programs that are actually on the school premises? I would like to avoid hiring a nanny, if it all possible. What are the other options? We don't have our house yet, so not sure which elementary school we will belong to. Please help :)

    Lafayette Elementary  and Burton Valley Elementary both have great before and after care for kids. You can call the school and ask them, I can't remember the names. They are privately owned and located on the school premises. Very convenient for working parents. Good Luck and hope you enjoy Lafayette a great place for families. 

    If you are open to a private school, you might consider the Meher Schools. We love it there. One of the reasons we chose it initially is that their beforecare starts at 7, and their aftercare goes until 6:30. Our kids love it there, and I always feel like I am dropping my kids off to their second family. Everyone knows them by name. Great for families with two working parents. I have not heard good things about aftercare experiences from other Lafayette families, but maybe someone else here can chime in with experience. 

    You should have some time.  Some of the local Lafayette elementary schools have after care but they are heavily subscribed.  I would try to put your name on the wait lists now or over next summer at the latest.  Happy Valley Elementary has Husky House.  Happy Days in Lafayette will do after care for kids from Springhill (they transport them over) and I think the Lafayette Community Center will take kids who are at Burton Valley or at some of the other schools (  I hope this helps!  

  • After school care in Lafayette?

    (5 replies)

    hi there! I’m a bit lost on where to look for after school programs in Lafayette for kindergarten kids. Both parents work full time and are considering either private schools in Berkeley or moving to Lafayette (and public schools). Where can I find more information about the Lafayette after care programs?  Is the aftercare offered at the elementary school or do we have to pick up and drop somewhere else? I have been researching for few days and am still lost. Thank you in advance for any tips!

    rookie kindergarten mom

    Would ask Lamorinda Moms Group

    Try You can find everything from sports to art classes to camps. They also have sitters and if you can’t find one right away they get new people signing up daily so doesn’t hurt to check back. 

    Each elementary school has their own on-campus after school program, that are privately operated. 

    The one at Happy Valley is called Husky House.

    Springhill's is Kid's Hideout

    Burton Valley's is Merriwood

    I am not sure about Lafayette Elementary, but you could call the school and ask.  Good luck!

    At least for Lafayette Elementary, there is a private before and after school day care in a separate building on school property. It’s called CATS and the owner Chris is fantastic. The staff pick up the kindergarteners from their classrooms and walk them to CATS. They will do the same taking them to class if the child is there before school starts. Both my boys went there and have worked there as well. I highly recommend CATS. I believe all the elementary schools in Lafayette have this set up. If some of the schools don’t get covered in the responses, just call the school. They will know.

    We live in Lafayette, both work long hours, and have twin kindergarteners.  Based on our location, our kids would likely go to Lafayette Elementary.  We heard from several people that the aftercare program there can be full and hard to get into.  We went and visited it and it seemed fine.  In the end, we ended up keeping our kids at a private school in Lafayette (The Meher Schools) which I cannot say enough good things about.  The beforecare and aftercare programs are fully integrated into the school and run long hours -- 7am to 6:30pm.  When the school is not in session, there is almost always daycare (for instance, this year at Christmastime, daycare is offered all but Christmas Day, New Years Day, and two other days).  It is incredibly flexible -- i.e. if I have an early meeting one morning, I can just bring them early.  The kids LOVE it there, everyone knows them by name (literally, everyone), and even when we get there at 5:30/6 to pick them up, they don't want to leave.  It's like the school is their second family.  And I feel such peace of mind, knowing that the kids are so happy and I never have to worry about needing to arrange after-school care!  I have been told that part of the school's charter was actually to cater to families with working parents.  Anyway, I know this probably sounds crazy -- everyone moves to Lafayette for the great schools -- but families with two working parents are a minority here, and you can tell.  This solution has worked really well for us.  Just my two cents.  Feel free to contact me if I can be of any more help.

  • There are a lot of older posts in the archives so I was wondering if anyone has any feedback on Burton Valley Elementary School, M.H. Stanley Middle School, or Campolindo High. Have your kids had positive experiences there? Is there anything to be aware of? 

    I am not familiar with the area and was also wondering if there is anyone with kids around ages 13 and 10 who could provide feedback about the type of community this is? Is there a lot of parent involvement?  Do kids get a lot of homework? Is there a lot of emphasis on sports and/or competition? Are kids open to accepting new kids into their social circles? 

    Any advice is greatly appreciated!


    We live in Orinda not Lafayette, but my kids attend(ed) Miramonte High School and we know tons of Campo families. My kids are 11, 15 and 19 and we've lived here 15 years. Campolindo and Miramonte pull from the same extended community and are virtually identical except for 1) the different electives they offer and 2) Campo tends to be stronger in most of their sports teams and Miramonte is said to be more competitive/intense academically. Yes there is tons of parent involvement at all the schools you mention. Yes, in all Lamorinda high school kids get a lot of homework, depends on the child's class load and how many/if any AP classes but expect an average of  3-4 hours/night. That may decrease somewhat next year with the implementation of the block system. We found middle school is very manageable (homework load tends to depend on which teachers you get). Yes, in Lamorinda schools there is a heavy emphasis on sports. That being said, however, there is also a strong emphasis on other interests and by high school, you see lots of kids who are not "jocks" and who have many varied interests in and out of school: Music, Latin, Public Speaking, Videography, Dance, Sports, Drama, volunteering etc. As far as being open to new kids, 6th and 9th grade is the perfect time to integrate as all the kids converge from other schools. Miramonte actually has a decent percentage of 9th graders who come from outside of the community - can't speak to Campo on that. Good Luck! 

    I've lived in Lafayette for several years. Those are all excellent schools with top-notch academics and a lot of parent involvement. This is an area that really values athletics too and there is a lot of kids who do club sports, year-round sports or who cycle through different sports depending on the season. There are both rec and competitive leagues for many sports, and in middle and high school, school sports too. Sporty kids, in particular, will have lots of opportunities to meet people. Homework depends on the teacher. My middle school kid doesn't have too much but there will always be a lot at the high school level. Most kids start here in K (we joined partway through elementary), but don't worry, the kids will find friends. If anything, it is hard for moms to "break in" and social circles have often been long established. I recommend trying to find other relative newcomers. In the early years, we hosted lots of playdates, swim parties, bbqs, etc. If you put yourself out there, you'll be fine.

    I have a 9th and 12th grader at Campolindo (a girl and a boy) who went through the Moraga elementary and middle schools.  Both my kids made new friends that were incorporated into their social circles in both middle and high school so in our experience, it is very easy for new kids to be incorporated especially because you will have multiple elementary schools feeding into Stanley and multiple middle schools feeding into Campolindo (the majority of the kids are from either JM or Stanley, but there are also kids coming from other private schools, as well as a few from OIS).  Campo has been great for our kids, but it is a very competitive environment and has a high work load - a lot is expected academically from the kids.  This past year, Campo has partnered with Challenge Success to try to foster a more balanced environment and has looked for ways to reduce stress and improve the HS experience for the kids.  As part of that program, they are implementing a new block schedule next year which I think will be very helpful.  I think a lot also depends on the type of child you have.  My senior daughter is a perfectionist and an academic high achiever who put a lot of pressure on herself to get stellar grades while participating in her sport year-round.  So her high school experience was much more stressful and filled with very many, many late nights.  My son, on the other hand, is having a much more balanced and enjoyable freshman year.  He has participated in 2 different sports this year, but has a much more relaxed attitude about schoolwork - he is willing to put in the time to get his school work done but it's not the end of the world if he doesn't get an A (or even a B) on any particular test and he doesn't feel the need to stay up late to continually refine his essay with multiple rewrites,, so he rarely has to stay up past 11 or 11:30.  If I have one complaint about Campo, it is that the amount of work a particular course requires can vary pretty dramatically depending on the teacher, which I do not think is right.  My daughter's 11th grade regular English class teacher had a reputation for assigning a higher work load than the 11th grade Honors English class.  But overall, all the schools in the Lamorinda area are excellent with a high level of parental involvement.  There is a lot of emphasis on sports in this area, but I think that kids who are not into sports would not have any problem finding others to bond with.  If your kids are interested in sports, the other negative with Campo is is that there are so many good athletes here that it can be difficult to make the team depending on what sport they are interested in.  So a kid who might be good enough to play varsity at another high school might not be able to make the JV team at Campo, but that is probably true just for the more popular sports.  The one positive I keep hearing is that Campo academics are so rigorous that the kids have a very easy transition to college, with many finding that the college workload is easier.  I don't know if that is true, but I guess we'll be finding out next year!  Overall, I think this is a wonderful community that we feel very grateful to have.  Good luck!

    We are new to the area, coming to the end of our first year in local schools. We have one child in elementary school (Burton Valley) and one in high school. We previously lived in Berkeley (to give you context). What follows are some random thoughts on the schools in no particular order. The schools are very highly resourced, which means the teachers are well-supported, there are great electives (specialists in the elementary schools), lots of opportunities for enrichment, etc. We are very happy with the teachers and administration. Burton Valley has a "no homework" policy, which I support completely. It is a pretty insular community, I find. Many of the kids have been together since pre-school, which means that it is a bit hard to break in to the kids' social words. If your kid is into athletics, sports ease the insularity somewhat, as they give kids and parents another chance to get to know each other. I don't think families and kids are aware how insular it is, which is to say that people are "nice" but it still feels difficult to scale the walls. Add to that a real lack of diversity (ethnically and socioeconomically)--I don't think you can really appreciate the lack of diversity until you sit in a school event and look around you. Wow. I think these issues are especially concentrated in high school, which may be true everywhere (that high school kids are loyal to their groups and leary of outsiders), but high school is painful anyway...add in the homogeneity and insularity, and it is very very easy to feel like an outsider in the local high schools. There is a lack of diversity, the lack of mobility (kids have been together all their lives), a somewhat rigid conventionality among the teens, and a very strong focus on status tied to wealth (I doubt the kids see it this way, but I have overheard conversations that demonstrate that many teens here are absorbed in brands, status symbols, neighborhood hierarchies, etc). Makes high school hard, depending, of course, on your child. The academics are reportedly strong compared to many high schools, though I find a lack of creativity in the classrooms (likely due to standardization). So I think it is a real mixed bag. I have talked with young adults who came through these schools who feel they were well served academically but were glad to get away from the social nonsense (again, a sentiment likely true for many many high school kids). I guess it all depends what you feel is most valuable in a school. 

Parent Reviews

I can't imagine having to do this commute, but ...

We moved to Lafayette in the East Bay in Jan 2018 and enrolled our two daughters in the public elementary school.  Three months later they were both diagnosed with ADHD (one combined and one inattentive).  I have been SO pleased with the support we have gotten from the school.  I wish the class sizes were smaller, and there was less focus on grades, but overall I think we have been extremely lucky. 

So, if you can stomach the travel from Lafayette to Sunnyvale I highly recommend you consider it.  Best of luck!!

Hi there, there are some parts of Walnut Creek that feed to Lafayette schools, so you can look into the Saranap neighborhood if that interests you. What I do know is that the SEED program in Lafayette is located at Springhill Elementary and is outstanding. My son goes to Burton Valley in Lafayette and there is a boy in his class that is on the spectrum and he has his own aide at all times. I don't know if she is provided by the school district or what but he is with the rest of the kids and usually doing his own thing but he is very much a part of the class and is always included. They do music, science, computer lab, PE, library time, so it is not a "sit at a desk all day" situation. Also, some parts of Walnut Creek are in the Mt. Diablo School district and some are in the Walnut Creek School district. I have friends in both districts and I only hear grumblings and annoyances from the ones in MDSD. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Nov 2013

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

Sept 2013

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.

Sept 2013

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

What is the placement policy for Lafayette schools?

Aug 2011

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!

Moving to Lafayette - getting kids into school

Sept 2010

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

Move from Berkeley to Lafayette for the schools?

Oct 2009

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

Lafayette or Orinda for mild Asperger's

August 2009

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

Students with ADHD and Lafayette elem. schools

Jan 2009

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

Questions about Lafayette schools

April 2008

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

2003 & Earlier

Dec 2003

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