Nea Community Learning Center


Charter School
operated by Community Learning Center Schools
500 students
1900 Third Street Alameda, CA 94501
Editors' Notes: 

Parent Q&A

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  • Feedback on Nea CLC (Lower Village)

    (2 replies)

    I'm looking at sending my kids to Nea Community Learning Center next year for Kindergarten and 3rd grade. So I'm seeking recent feedback on the school in general, and particularly on the following questions:

    Where do most of the families who attend Nea live? Are they mostly neighborhood families, or do they come from farther away? (Theoretically, the school is open to anyone in Alameda County, and we live in Oakland.)

    Does the school really walk the walk in terms of project based learning? I have been visiting a ton of private schools this fall that tout their "project-based" models, but then when I show up and observe what's going on, it looks like having young students engaged in big projects is not actually a day-to-day activity - more like something they do only sometimes. What is the day-to-day like at Nea?

    Online reviews suggest that the school has a problem with a high rate of teacher turnover. Any comments on that? Does that apply to the lower village or just the upper village?

    Any other pros and cons of the school you want to share would be most appreciated! Thanks!

    Hello, You will have much better responses if you post your question to the Alameda Parents Network, which has 6000+ members ( I find that BPN does not get good responses about Alameda schools. I can't really answer your questions other than that I know that NEA draws from many areas. I live on the East End of Alameda (opposite side of town from NEA) and we know a few families who have sent their kids there as an alternative to their neighborhood schools. If you send me an email with your address, I can connect you with my friends who have kids there.

    I'm glad you're taking a look at Nea! It has a lot to offer. As the parent of 2 kids in the lower village at Nea, I hope I can help answer your questions. We have also attended our neighborhood public school, so I have that to compare to. First, most Nea families live in Alameda, but there are certainly families from Oakland (and even Pleasanton and Fremont). If you do not live in Alameda, there is a good chance you will not get in initially, but be offered a spot off the waitlist at some point, perhaps during the first few weeks of school. After the school year has started, the majority of waitlisted people will not move their kids from other schools, and this seems to be when out-of-district kids tend to get in. You should be prepared for this possibility if you really want your kids to attend. 

    The school definitely does more project-based learning than traditional public schools, but there are also plenty of standard school activities (spelling, math facts, etc.) Some of the projects are really great, and my kids are always most excited about school when they're doing a cool project. Another difference is the electives, which change every few months (some have been comic-book making, photography, improv, legos, gardening, ancient Egypt, etc.). The kids get art and music every week, and have an actual art teacher (as opposed to parent volunteers). There is also A LOT more science at Nea starting in 3rd grade compared to our regular public schools - 3rd to 5th graders get science every day with a science teacher. Another major difference I have seen is the social-emotional learning component, which is real and purposeful at Nea. They focus on a different topic each month, and talk about them most days (curiosity, persistence, compassion, etc.), and I can really see the difference this makes.

    They have struggled a bit with teacher turnover. From my perspective, the majority of these have just been bad luck - maternity leave that turns permanent, unexpected health issues, etc. I feel like the administration has really tried to do everything they can to keep things running smoothly, but it has been tough for a particular class that has seen the most turnover. The 3rd - 5th graders have the same teachers for math, humanities and science each year, rotating which one they have as their homeroom teacher. So even if there is a new teacher for one subject, the other two will be the same. This also allows the teachers to really keep track of where each kid is and what works best for them over a longer period of time. 

    I feel like the teachers and administrators at Nea really make the most of what they have available to them. That being said, there is only so much you can do in a public school with 24 to 26 kids per classroom and one teacher. So much depends on the make-up of the class and the strengths and abilities of each kid. I don't think there is any way a teacher with 26 kids and a variety of behavioral challenges can compete with a private school teacher with 16 hand-picked kids and an aide. Which is the best choice depends on your kids, your finances, and your philosophy, and we still struggle to know if we are doing the right thing. 

    Good luck with your decision!

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Alameda - Gold Coast vs. East End/Fernside

Jan 2014

Greetings -- long story short, we are looking hard at making the move from Piedmont to Alameda because of an exciting Democratic-based Charter School there called NEA [not to mention the affordability issue]. We love the homes in the Gold Coast neighborhood, but everyone seems to be steering us to the East End/Fernside. Can anyone with experience living there compare and contrast the two areas? Many thanks! Meg

The Gold Coast neighborhood is the most expensive in Alameda, but it is much closer to NEA than Fernside. Fernside is across the island from the school (15-20 min. drive.) Most people interested in Fernside are looking to put their children in Edison School, considered one of the better public schools here. NEA is a 5 year old public charter school, located in the west end of Alameda. There are also many lovely homes located nearby. We live in one of them, and our child attended NEA from third grade ( when it opened ) through sixth grade, when she moved on to the Oakland School of the Arts. We were all very happy with her education at NEA. Diana