Advice about Bay Area Public Schools
We are an Indian family( east indian from the sub continent of India) currently live in San Francisco in the outer mission area( so we suffer a lot of fog, and we drive everywhere)..we currently rent and have two boys( 4 years and 16 months), and my oldest will be starting K next year..we really cannot afford private education and would love to send our kids public all the way until High School?( we can probably do private for high schhol). The current lottery system in SFUSD is whacky..but we live in a low test score area and m ight have a good shot at a good elementary school..but not beyond. I am kinda getting tired of the fog, small home and lack of a useable backyard..we do have one but we hardly use it since it is mostly cold..we have veted the follwoing
1) Oakland hills: Love the area, the diversity and the beautiful green all around: Not sure: Crime in the hills, lack of middle school. We stumbled upon Hillcrest and was excited(k-8), we could probably rent there, but what if dont get in due to oversubscription to the school..we would have moved our family across( increase our commute:I drive to foster city two days a week), but still ended up with only an elementary option. Also it seems like the oakland hills is not very condusive to walking and we still might have to drive everywhere, and might not get a real yard..i so want Oakland to work for us..but it just seems like the odds are aginast us!!..or is it??
2)Berkeley:Heard that the 580 -80 interchange is really crowded in peak time and could affect our commute time..we dont actaully get a bigger house and is still lottery
3) Danville:Great house, great schools, great weather..but i am not sure we are ready for real suburbia yet..sometimes i think we should just do it and although we might not fit in there our kids would love the yard and benefit from good schools, but i worry about diversity.. Lafayette: I would have moved here in a heartbeat if I were white!..love the rural appeal!..but we are indian sand i am not sure how my kids would feel in the school, and how we would be welcomed in the community
So as you can see after several nights of debating, reading blogs, parents reviews of schools.we still have not found a place for ourselves in this is beautiful and expansive bay area???...
I don't know much about Oakland, but I know all of the Montclair area elementary schools are good, and even the middle school is good nowadays. (Montera?) You'll get more on that from others. But I also wanted to put in that the commute from Berkeley to SF is not bad at all -- there are a couple of public transportation options + casual carpool! It's going to be waaaay worse through the tunnel from Danville or Lafayette. And Berkeley is great, with good schools through all grades. Last but not least, we have friends whose kids are half-Indian (one parent Indian; one white) and they fit in just fine in Orinda. I wouldn't be worried about being Indian or Asian in the burbs -- just black or Latino. Why are we all so worried about schools?
We live in the Chabot Elementary School district, just down the hill from Hillcrest. I know people in Hillcrest's district don't always get in, my daughter had a friend who went to Chabot for two years, but who lived in the Hillcrest district. Her friend got into Hillcrest after a couple of years. Chabot, Kaiser and Peralta are all good schools, so you could take the position that if you move to the Hillcrest district you will most likely eventually get into the school, even if your kids have to spend a couple years at another good elementary school in the meantime. Having said that, my daughter has a coach who is also a teacher at Hillcrest and his impression is that not that many kids go to Hillcrest through 8th grade because it's small. I'm not sure what that means, but you might want to go to a PTA meeting, take a tour, to find out what the chances are that your kids will really stay through middle school. Oakland has decent middle and high schools, but if you are really relocating for the schools, and you're already thinking of living in a place where you will have to drive a lot, then maybe you should move to Danville. I think you would be surprised by how many Indian families live in that area. just know a little bit
I'm an Oakland public school teacher and connected with a wide range of schools in the district. From that perspective, I would strongly encourage you to explore many possibilities in OUSD, not just Hillcrest. It seems like a tiny handful of hills schools get a reputation as the be-all, end-all, only option or bust, district wide, but the most gifted, creative, and child-loving teachers I know teach at a large number of other sites. Check out Cleveland, Glenview, Montclair, Sequoia, Kaiser...the list goes on. Middle school is always a big change and a big challenge, but very good things have been happening at a number of sites. Best wishes to you! Oakland_Teacher
If you want walkability and diversity and a strong community that supports (and is built and held together by) its public schools all the way through, come on over to Rockridge! Chabot and Peralta are already high scoring schools, built on community support, and Emerson is growing and building itself up with the help of another group of hard-working, butt-kicking, community building families. A significant portion of these active parents then converge at Claremont Middle School and continue their community-building, student-promoting work there, supporting kids through the daunting middle school years and then sending them on to the great programs already well-established at Oakland Technical High School.
I spent a lot of last week driving in to appointments in San Francisco, and reminding myself how lucky I feel to live somewhere where I very rarely have to drive anywhere. We walk to school. We walk to the grocery store. We walk to the drug store. We walk to the library. And everywhere we go, we see friendly faces from our local public schools. I really love it. BART and the freeway offer relatively easy access when you absolutely must go over the bridge. Rockridge Public School Fan
If you want walkable neighborhoods and universally good schools, probably Berkeley or Albany are your best choices. The down side is that the houses are more expensive, but that's because more people want to live there. The commute to the South Bay is more difficult -- the interchange is crowded, and the more miles you drive the more likely you are to encounter problems. BUSD parent
As a berkeley mom, my thoughts are that ,yes, you would have to deal with a lottery, but each of the 10 elementary schools have good attributes...but not all neighborhoods are as walkable as others. For example, the Berkely hills are not so convenient. But northbrae and westbrae and thousand oaks and elmwood and other neighborhoods are. Berkeley is diverse ethnically and for income levels. But may be tough on your commute. No harder than Lafayette.
In the oakland hills you may find the area in the montclair neghborhood to be walkable, but just outside that are curvey streets with no sidewalks, and some with fast traffic. ..and dont limit yourself to Hillcrest. There are many other good elementary and middle schools in oakland.
Albany is very walkable and diverse., with good schools. Lots tend to be small, but many parks. Same as north berkeley for your commute. Alameda is very walkable and bikeable - very flat - with good schools that are sometimes overlooked. Nice to be by the water. May work well for your commute.
From what i know of lafayette, the area near to the shopping district is walkable. I beleive you would be very welcome there. The population is probably more open than you are imagining. Many well educated folks live there. it likely has more income diversity (middle to upper income) than in danville. It is probably also not as hot in the summer as danville. But to commute you would have to deal with the tunnel and then with the Maze or with hwy 13. Hope you find a nice spot in the east bay. Anon.
I think that your question is a good one! I bought my house 10 years ago in order that my daughter attend Hillcrest. For certain reasons not relevant now (campus under construction, half day kindergarten), I chose to send her to a private school for Kindergarten. Then when I looked into attending Hillcrest for first grade, I was told by the principal at the time that since I didn't ''track in'' at kindergarten, I couldn't enroll her because classes were full!!! I live ONE HOUSE away from the school! Imagine my frustration. So I kept my daughter in the private school until I could no longer afford it. I pulled her out after 3rd grade and tried again to get into Hillcrest (for fourth and fifth) but was told again by the principal and district that there was no room. After some protest, the district assigned her to Thornhill, which is another excellent school but I instead chose (and lobbied for) Montclair Elem school. I couldn't have been happier. So the long and short of it, if you can't get into Hillcrest, then there are a few other ''Hills'' schools which are just as good and maybe even better.... Happy Not To Be At Hillcrest
Hello wise parents of the BPN. I am in the midst of house hunting to relocate to Berkeley Hills/North and I am trying to find maps for Albany vs. Berkeley vs Kensington school districts. I have been to the websites for the school districts but still can't seem to find this information. Am I missing something? Thanks in advance! New to the East Bay
The AUSD website has a list of streets and street numbers, rahter than a map. Here is the link: http://www.ausdk12.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=92418=d_ID=_ID=173231 Happy house hunting. Joy
It's very straightforward - houses in Albany use the AUSD, houses in Berkeley use the BUSD - Kensington, I'm not sure about, but would assume the same. I'd ask your realtor on that last one. That's it! East Bay Resident
The Albany school district is bounded by the City of Albany, i.e., if you live in Albany, you're in AUSD. That would be, more or less, any address in the 94706 zip code, though there's a small section in the east of the City that has 94707 (normally Berkeley) zips. AUSD parent
Boundary maps for WCCUSD are at http://www.wccusd.net/2277106213343997/blank/browse.asp?a=383=2000=0=56910&2277106213343997Nav=|=426 Berkeley does a lottery within zones. Not sure about boundary lines for elementary schools in Albany. getting ready for K!
Hi, I'm considering moving from San Francisco to the east bay this summer, and will base my decision about where to live based on both a good neighborhood and proximity to a good school. I do not have a high income, so that rules out many locations with better schools. My husband (we are seperated) works in Oakland. What resources can I tap to start the school search? Or does anyone have any good recommendations for schools? clueless about how to start!
I don't think Berkeley does school assignments by neighborhood... for elementary at least, so where you live doesn't really influence where you get in Jean
We could not afford a neighborhood within the good school districts. We did move to one that had a decent elementary school with strong parent support. However, by the time our son was old enough for K the school was closed and we were rezoned to one of the worst schools in the district. After all our transfer requests were denied we ended up looking into private schools. We decided on St. Jerome in El Cerrito because their tuition fees are manageable and we are so happy we ended up there. ItC",E!s a wonderful school with small class sizes (my sonC",E!s class is 15), a caring staff, a good curriculum which includes art, music, Spanish, technology (smartboards in the classrooms and laptops for the students use), PE, and science, and a diverse student body. They also offer affordable before/after-care. http://stjeromecatholicschool.org/ St. Jerome Parent
If you're not yet using greatschools.org, that's where to start.
''Not a high income'' means drastically different things to different people. Here are some suggestions in different price ranges.
Alameda as a whole has mostly strong elementaries, and decent options for middle and high school too. It's also a lovely place to raise a kid, bit of a sleepy town without being blandly suburban.
Berkeley is another relatively strong school district, however elementary assignments are only partially based on residence. So not a good choice if you want certainty of a good nearby school.
Strong elementaries in Oakland that draw from non-wealthy neighborhoods: Lincoln Glenview Cleveland Bella Vista Manzanita Seed I think these all go on to Edna Brewer, which is a relatively good middle school in Oakland.
Good luck! bb
Hello, There are recent and older postings about Alameda or Albany schools, but we didn't see any comparisons of the two. We are thinking about moving to either Albany or Alameda from Oakland because of the good things we've heard about their public schools from k thru 12. We both work in Oakland, so the commute will not be much of an issue. We were wondering if anyone else had those two places in mind when choosing to move for the schools and how or what made them decide on one over the other. Also are there any pros or cons about either school districts or communities? We'd love to hear of your experiences. Thanks! undecided bet. Albany and Alameda
we were in the same situation two months ago when we started looking for a new home and ultimately, i think the school systems are comparable. what it came down for us, was location. alameda feels very far removed from everything else. and we like albany for the solano area and the proximity to berkeley. it feels more quaint than alameda to us. i don't think you can lose either way. good luck! been there
We just bought a house in Albany and did briefly consider Alameda (as well as Berkeley, but not Oakland due to the schools.) I work in Oakland and my husband works in S.F., so Alameda would have been more convenient for us, from a commute perspective, than Albany is. You also get more house for your money in Alameda than in Albany or Berkeley. Ultimately, however, we chose to not look in Alameda for two reasons. 1) All of Alameda is in the liquifaction zone in case of an earthquake (check out the shake maps online). 2) Getting on/off the island on a bike (our preferred mode of transport) with a baby in a trailer is very unpleasant and unsafe. I don't want to live in a place where I feel like it's a pain to leave. Now if there were just a bike bridge over the Estuary to Jack London Square.... my $.02 worth
I am a teacher in Alameda and have a child in the Albany School District. So, I am familiar with both.
Socio- economically Alameda is divided and the schools reflect that. The west side has one enormous school - Ruby Bridges, and a few moderate sized ones Haight, Washington etc. I would hesitate to send my son to any. Paden which is also on the west side has a strong staff and a more diverse enrollment. The east side is the wealthier side. Houses are more expensive and the schools have a better reputation. I like Edison. It is small and has a neighborhood feel, but students have been turned away due to overcrowding. Otis, Lum and Franklin are standard schools with diverse enrollment. Bayfarm Island has two high performing elementary school - Earhart and Bayfarm. The students there are generally wealthy, and the parents have high expectations.
The three Middle Schools are large and to me, seem very overwhelming. Some students do well, and some just get lost. The High Schools seem much the same.
That said, I live in Albany because I prefer it, and we love the schools. There are three elementary schools, and basically you choose which one you wish your child to attend. I have never heard of anyone who did not get their first choice, although it might be possible. You can tour all three any Tuesday without notice. Just show up at the office and let them know why you are there. My son attends Cornell which is medium sized with an ethnically diverse student body. The sense of community is astonishing, and the staff are caring and innovative - the Principal knows my first grade son by name (and not because he is a trouble maker :o) That said, it is not a fancy school. I like to say the parents are underpaid professionals, such as social workers, nurses, teachers, graphic artists etc.
There is one Middle School, and it is huge (900 students), but my friends who have children there are very happy with it. I'm not to familiar with the High School, but it has a good reputation.
BART was actually a big help in deciding to choose Albany. We really love walking to BART, and I've heard that you either have to drive or take a bus to BART from Alameda, or walk through a sketchy area. We walk 10 minutes to our BART station, and love it. (This has also allowed us to easily have only one car).
Another factor is that pretty much everyone in Albany sends their kids to the local public school, which is one of the reasons why they're so good. In Alameda, a lot of people use the public schools, but a fair number also send to private & catholic schools there. For me, that doesn't build community as much, and I prefer a higher ratio using the local public schools.
Otherwise, they're both great areas. We love Albany - Solano Avenue, playgrounds, friendly people, etc., but I've heard wonderful things about Alameda also. Alameda has some really nice houses, and beautiful Victorians, which we lack:( Good luck with your choice!
One parent's observations (1997)
RE: local schools My children have been in the Berkeley public school system since kindergarten - 9 years altogether - and I have generally been happy with their schools and their teachers. To the parent who is just coming into the area, here are remarks I have heard over the years from other parents and also my own biased impression of the general situation: There are a lot of excellent academically-oriented private schools but they are expensive ($500 and up per mo) However, it is possible to get a private school education at public schools around here. And don't forget all the wonderful "supplements" of the Bay Area: concerts, cultural events, museums, parks, recreation, etc. One person's ranking of local public school systems (1997) 1. Piedmont \tJust as good as private school but housing is EXTREMELY expensive \tand you may object to elitist "rich kid" mentality (which also \tmay be found at private schools) Virtually no rental housing. 2. Albany \tGreat schools but most neighborhoods are very homogeneous: white \tand Asian middle and upper-middle class semi-suburban. Sizeable contingent of grad student families and foreign students from University Village. Housing a bit higher than in Berkeley (?) \t(this varies) Rental housing can be scarce - mostly \thomeowners and single-family dwellings. 3. Berkeley \tMany schools are great but it can be very variable; neighborhoods \trange from rich Claremont/hills area to poor flatlands. Not much of \ta middle class. More desirable elementary schools are in the \twealthier neighborhoods: Emerson, Oxford, etc. Many families in \tthese areas do support & attend public schools. For some reason, \taffluent neighborhoods in N. Berkeley don't seem as supportive \tof public schools as the ones in Claremont/Elmwood neighborhood so local schools there (like Thousand Oaks) aren't as of this writing \tconsidered as good as in SE Berkeley. Poor neighborhoods closer \tto the Bay contain schools with lesser reputations. However, this \tchanges from year to year depending on level of parent involvement \tand principal, staff at schools. Both junior high schools \t(Willard, King) are considered pretty good now, with many private \tschool students returning for the 6th grade. Berkeley High is \tconsidered alternately great (college prep academics, music, arts, \tteam sports) and terrible (PC politics, racial polarization) 4. El Cerrito/Kensington \tReportedly similar to Albany situation with more working class \tneighborhoods in El Cerrito. Few poor families. Kensington is \tconsiderably more affluent but is in the Contra Costa school \tdistrict - I don't know much about what happens after 5th grade. 5. Oakland \tVery variable. Depends on the level of parent involvement. Wild variations between affluent hills neighborhoods \tlike Montclair & Rockridge and depressed flats. Oakland school \tdistrict always in trouble financially so class sizes in even \tthe better schools can soar unpredictably and resources can \tsuddenly disappear. School board is prone to wacky political \tpronouncements. Many elementary schools in "better" neighborhoods \tare great and, like Berkeley, are supported by families that can \tafford private schools, but be prepared to pay private school \ttuition in some neighborhoods especially after 5th grade. 6. Richmond \tSome great neighborhood schools. In other areas, \tbe prepared for private school tuition. Note: many people choose to move over the hills to Moraga-Lafayette- Orinda. These are affluent neighborhoods reportedly with great public schools, but: you have to enjoy the suburban life, living around a whole bunch of white people who may be politically more conservative than in the East Bay cities. Housing is expensive, with few rentals.