Q&A about Walnut Creek Schools
I am moving to Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill with my husband & 2 children (2 & 4 years), and I would really appreciate some advice on good nurseries and schools in that area. My children attend a private day nursery in England 2 days a week from 9am-3pm and I would like to find something similar for them in the Bay Area. My eldest will be starting school soon and some advice on good schools and also how to apply etc would be welcomed. Are there areas around Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill that we should opt for over others?
We just moved to Berkeley from Walnut Creek and put our kids in Berkeley public schools. Unfortunately, there are 2 school districts in WC. Mount Diablo Unified (has schools from WC, Concord and Pleasant Hill) and Walnut Creek School District (only Walnut Creek Schools)--in the western half of the town near the highways). My kids were in the Walnut Creek schools in the MDUSD in the eastern half of the town. The WC schools are considered better and better funded (lower class size, more programs). The MDUSD area doesn't pass parcel taxes so class size is higher and programs are being cut. Having said that, the WC schools in both districts are doing ok. If I had to do it all over though I would definitely try to move into the Walnut Creek School District. MDUSD is way too big (one of the biggest in the state) and badly managed, imo. There is a terrific preschool over there though. Doesn't look like much from the outside but it is a great great school--My School Preschool. Good luck. Former Creeker
Hello, Can people who have their kids at any of the Northgate area schools - Walnut Creek Elementary/Valle Verde, Foothill Middle, and Northgate High please tell me what your experience has been there?
We had heard these schools were great (high parent participation, high performing) but then looked on Great Schools reviews which had a good amount of the most recent reviews, which were not great - too test focused, teachers that don't care, waning parent participation, lower academic standards, etc. We know it's part of the Mt. Diablo school district which has had significant $ problems and worry about this.
We are an Oakland family who have loved their elementary school but are tired of the crime in our neighborhood and want a school with good parent participation, high academic standards, good teachers who care, and to live in a safe neighborhood.
We are also looking in Lafayette, Orinda,(although hard finding something within our price range here) and the Las Lomas area in WC. We might consider San Ramon (good performing, good reviews, friends who love it) even though my husbands commute to SF would probably be terrible! Thanks, C
Your post caught my eye because we just moved from Walnut Creek and all of those schools to Berkeley. We spent 10 years in those schools (Walnut Acres, Foothill and Northgate). My oldest son just graduated from Northgate. I still have a rising 10th grader and a rising 4th grader who will attend Berkeley schools in the fall. Those Walnut Creek schools are fine but, imo, they have been steadily declining over the past 10 years due to budget cuts/crises. The school district on that side of Walnut Creek, MDSUD, has not been able to pass a parcel tax which has been a terrible shame. I used to LOVE those schools but I can't say that anymore. My son who graduated from NGHS did fine and is going to a great college. He was on the AP/Honors track and it was fine but not terrific. Lots of teachers leaving--they do the ''680 Slide'' and very often leave for better paying positions in San Ramon and Danville. Foothill is not an inspiring school but it's adequate. Walnut Acres is a sweet school but becoming less and less special. Class sizes are mushrooming. My daughter would have possibly 34-35 kids in her 4th grade class next year at WA...compared to 26 or so in Berkeley. Consequently, the teachers are often doing more crowd control than teaching, imo. (We moved to Berkeley for many reasons--husband works in SF and wanted a shorter commute, 2nd son is a great musician and Berkeley High School has a better program for him and Berkeley in general has many more and better opportunities for him--he really wanted to go to BHS and is thriving there. We will see how it goes for my 4th grader in Berkeley. There is so much more to do in Berkeley compared to Walnut Creek. My husband said last night ''We been to more new restaurants in Berkeley in the past 5 weeks than in the whole 10 years we lived in Walnut Creek! '').
My advice is to definitely avoid MDUSD and try to move to the Walnut Creek School District side of Walnut Creek. They raise parcel taxes and their schools are slightly better so are not nearly on as much of a decline as the MDUSD. But if you end up in MDUSD, it'll be fine. Not great, not inspiring, not getting better, but not terrible. I can't speak to any other district, but from what I hear, many are considered better than MDUSD these days. Former Creeker
Hi Caron, We have 2 kids and have lived in Northgate for 5 years. When we were looking for our new home, we also looked for homes in the areas which you have mentioned, and we decided to settle down in the Northgate area in Walnut Creek.
My kids just finished kindergarten this year at Walnut Acres, and we really like the school and the neighborhood. The teachers got to know the kids very well, and I felt that they did a good job assessing their abilities to keep them challenged through the year. Also, the teachers were interested in working with us to help them grow academically and socially, and they were very approachable/responsive. I have had no problem having email or in person discussions with the teachers. Most of our neighbors have given us good feedback about Foothill Middle School and Northgate High also.
There is a lot of parent involvement at the school. There were probably at least 4 parent volunteers in each classroom every day, and a ton of parents for field trips and class events. The parent population is very educated. There were lots of parents (working and stay-at-home) that schedule time to be in the classroom. The computer lab is up-to-date, and the kids have access to computers and iPads to work on projects in the class. The Parent Faculty Club also funds several positions for teaching aids, a librarian, and a music teacher.
As for the budget issues in the school district, I think all school districts in California are facing the same kind of cuts. Fortunately, the parents in our neighborhood have the resources to fundraise and preserve the components we feel are important.
We love our neighborhood. People are pretty down-to-earth here. We live in the part of the neighborhood that was built in the 1950s, love the larger lots with big backyards. Walking distance to the elementary school, middle school, and the high school. It is pretty flat so we ride our bikes everywhere. There are several swim clubs nearby. Plenty of organized kids sports. We walk to the public library all the time. Mt. Diablo and Castle Rock Park are right up the road so we go hiking all the time. There are lots of kids in the neighborhood playing outside all the time.
Hope this is helpful for you. Walnut Creek Mom
My family is moving to Walnut Creek in July of this year, and we are looking for recommendations on great K-elementary school for my 5 year old. We are looking for school with great science as well as arts program, diverse student body and great teachers/parent community. I have read prior posts and it seems that WC school district is preferred by most parents. Our plan is to find '' the perfect school'' and then look to by a house in that area in a year or two ( will likely need to rent first year). One worry I have is that since we are moving in July I can not register her until July (any thoughts on this). I will be working in Oakland and will commute on daily basis however, we would like to settle in the area with best school/family friendly neighbourhood rather then one convenient for my commute. Please let us know of your experiences, appreciate all advice newbie in WC
My kids went to Parkmead Elementary in Walnut Creek, specifically the PALS program (which pulls kids district-wide (though mostly the Parkmead area), parent participation program). My family loved it. Since you are moving in July it will probably be too late to enroll -- admission is through a lottery in the springtime -- but if you can get in, do it. It requires 60 hours of parent participation per year, but the opportunities are not all during school hours, and lots of working parents are in the program.
All the WCSD elementary schools are good; my 'favorite' ones (from knowing people in other schools) are Walnut Heights and Parkmead.
The added bonus of the Parkmead area is that it's very easy to commute west on 24 from there since it's the furthest west itself and it's a quick hop on to the freeway. Avoid having to drive down Ygnacio Valley Rd. to the freeway at all costs -- the traffic on that road is a nightmare and can easily add 20 minutes to your commute. WC Mom
Hi. Thank you in advance for any responses. We are currently transferring my son to Palmer for second grade next fall. His current school is lovely but stress social development over academics. He is really bored. I would love to hear about other families experiences with the culture, amount of homework, academics and discipline at Palmer. Any info you are willing to share would be so helpful with my sons transition. Thank you!!!
We had a similar issue with our experience in a private school in Oakland. While we like to have some focus on social, we've been much happier with the level of academics at Saklan School in Moraga. We researched Palmer, but don't have direct experience. A tour will give you a good sense, and one way to access is to see how many of the kids get into their first choice high schools. LJ
My child is currently in kindergarten at Palmer, and we LOVE it. In kindergarten, they split the kids into three levels for reading and math. My child is on the older side, so he is fairly proficient in reading and math, and he is definitely not bored. The teachers really try to tailor work for every child, and his math teacher has told me that she provides extra work for some of the kids that want/need it. I believe they continue splitting the kids into the three levels beyond kindergarten, but I'm not positive. My son does have homework every day except Friday, but it is fairly minimal at this point. I have heard from parents with older children that the work gets more intense, but they still say that their children love the school. Beyond the academics, Palmer is just a warm, friendly environment. The teachers have been amazing, and we feel very lucky to have found this school. A Palmer Fan
My son is bright but has never been terribly interested in school. He wants to go to WCI next year with his friends, but I've heard both good and bad things about the school. Many parents I know are very happy with it, but I've also heard that a lot of kids fall between the cracks there. I'm worried that my son will find a group of like-minded friends who think school is dumb and who will reinforce his natural tendency to do the absolute minimum and not try for good grades. I'd appreciate any information or suggestions from parents of kids who've gone to WCI, especially kids who didn't start out being very academically inclined. anonymous
my kids went to public school in WC K-12. I think WCI is the weak link (I am much more positive about the elementary schools and Las Lomas). The school is too big and most of the teachers my kids had weren't very good. My youngest child was there 4 yrs ago, so my impressions are a bit out of date, but I am guessing it may have gotten worse cause class sizes have increased.
You mentioned being worried that your son would fall in with kids who think school is dumb. That is rare. Most kids there do well academically. But my son was bright and did the minimum and I think he did fall through the cracks--very few of his teachers engaged him. If you can afford private for a few years I would go for that, but if your son is really determined to go to WCI, use that as leverage, ''ok, you can go, but you have to have a B average otherwise you will have to switch schools'' or whatever... best wishes
Hi - We are hoping to have our son start kindergarten at Parkmead Elementary in WC in fall 2011. We currently live in Oakland and are looking for housing in that section of WC. In the meantime, we've heard one option might be an interdistrict transfer. Has anyone done this? Can you request a specific school (at least as a first choice)? Any advice on how to make this work? I've also heard you can get a transfer if you work in WC, at least 32 hrs week. Anyone know if this is true? I have called the district office but not yet gotten a call back. Thanks!
Hi there, Parkmead mom here. There are a number of kids at Parkmead who don't live in the district, so I think interdistrict transfer is probably an option. I don't know if you can pick a particular elementary, however. I think it just depends on space available, so it depends on how many Parkmead-area kids enroll. I know there are always kids moving around between the elementaries the first few weeks of school as they try to adjust class sizes. You might get a faster response from Parkmead itself, rather than the district. The principal is Dr. Kathleen Scott, and the schools number can be found on the Walnut Creek School District's website. Parkmead is great! I can't recommend the school or the area highly enough! WC mom
WC Parents - we are seriously considering a relocation to WC for the schools. Our son will start kindergarten in fall 2011. We have so many questions and would be so grateful for any advice - we've called several elementary schools, but have gotten limited information. So ...
We are separated and we will be renters, with both parents working f/t. WHICH elementary schools are in areas of WC that have rental properties (small houses and/or apartments)? Presumably some areas are only expensive houses. If you live in such an area, what do you think of your school? Also, we are concerned with sending our child to a school in which he may be unusual, with divorced parents and a full-time working mom. Any thoughts on this? Also, after school programs - what is available in that area, and what has your experience been like?
The schools have advised that we relocate by Jan 2011. Have you found elementary schools hard to get into after that timeframe?
Thank you so much! Sarah
I think every elem. school in WC school district draws from neighborhoods with apartments; I know ours (parkmead) does, as well as walnut heights, murwood and buena vista. You will definitely not be the only ones, and wc has a broader range of housing than you might know. There are still some very rural areas, and you'll often find very modest homes next to the big remodels. As for divorced families, again, probably more here than you might suspect. Not the '' norm'', per se, but common enough that most kids know a couple of families in which the parents are not together. Put your mind at rest, you guys will not be social pariahs!! Wc is a great town...welcome! Happy wc mom
My son is in K at Murwood in Walnut Creek, and I don't know much about the other schools here, but: Murwood draws from an area that has a lot of single-family houses, as well as a fair number of apartments (Creekside and other areas). There are lots of stay-at-home moms, but also lots of working moms (full or part time). There is an after-care on sight that seems to be really terrific so far.
You might do well to get a map from the elementary school districts (there are 2 that cover Walnut Creek), and then overlay that with apartment or rental home listings. I imagine (but don't actually know) that there will be rentals that feed to most of the schools. Good luck!
My kids attend Parkmead Elementary, and I love it. My kids are getting a great education, the staff are caring and warm, and I feel there's just a very nice atmosphere to the school.
As far as elementaries with renter areas, Parkmead covers the condos/apartments on Olympic Blvd. & Boulevard Way/Saranap areas. Murwood covers the Creekside area (many apartments) and Indian Valley covers the downtown/Walker Ave./Sharene Ln. apartments & condos. Of all the WC elementary schools, I'd say only Walnut Heights would have a low proportion of renter families.
Parkmead has numerous two-household families, renters, divorced parents, and a few gay/lesbian families. I don't think your son would stand out as 'unusual' just because you don't happen to own a home or be together.
I haven't used Parkmead's after school program all that much, but I know many people who do and are happy with it. WC mom