Conservatory of Vocal and Instrumental Arts (COVA)

Oakland, CA

Charter School
Phone: (510) 531-0110
3800 Mountain Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94619

Parent Reviews

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Archived Reviews: 

Cova Conservatory - Middle school

Aug 2015

Hi, Can anyone update their opinions on Cova Conservatory Charter in Oakland. I know they have had some poor reviews in the past, but I am wondering if there have been improvements? I know OSA is very competitive now and would like to find options if there are any! Thanks BPN community. Looking for an artsy middle school

My grandkids have been going to COVA since kindergarten, this year they will be in 6th and 4th grade.

Like any school there are pros and cons. The pros are a safe environment and opportunities to learn an instrument and participate in other types of creative expression through the arts. The school concerts are amazing! However the person responsible for that is no longer there, so we will see how that pans out.

There are cons. There are no services for kids who need support services, like speech therapy for example. There is an incredibly high turn over in teachers. Not a year has gone by where our kids didn't have a new teacher half way through the year. Some of the teachers have been a lot less than stellar. The quality of the teachers has varied widely, to say the least, especially the long term subs.

The school doesn't have much in terms of technology, if that is important to you. So, if you are looking for a small safe environment, this is it, on the other issues, well things could always improve I guess. COVA grandparent

Sept 2013

We're starting to look at elementary schools for our son for next fall, and I've just become aware of COVA in Oakland. It looks like most of the posts on it here are a few years old; are there any current or prior COVA families who would be willing to share their experiences? Thanks! Kara

We tried COVA for our two kids three years ago and pulled them out after about six weeks, so I can't speak to how it is there now. Our experience back then was not so good. My kids cried every day when I dropped them off. At drop off, the kids assembled in the auditorium, but they were not allowed to talk to one another! This is very difficult for kids to do. I mean, how do you expect them to get their energy out before sitting in a classroom and make friends? It was a horrible way to start the day. In my opinion, the idea of the school (music focused, good academics, etc) is really great, but it was really poorly implemented when we were there. That being said, the teachers were great for our kids.

COVA seemed to have so much potential at the time, but I don't think it's been realized. Since we left the school, there were four other families that left soon after. Perhaps it's better now? I don't know. Be careful and do a lot of research before choosing this school. BTW, our kids are very happy back at their old public school, where the music program is fantastic (although not every day). anon

Feb 2013

COVA - a great music conservatory K-8 public charter school This being a time when many parents start to get serious about 2013 school admissions, I thought it would be useful to post a review of COVA based on our experience over the last 2 years (my son is in 1st grade here now.)

COVA is a serious music-based charter school and they live up to their charter very seriously. My son is thriving here, both musically and academically, and we are very happy about it.

I want to highlight a key point that this school is not for every kid. Or every parent for that matter! If you have a kid that is musically inclined, and if you are parents who understand that it is going to take all around discipline and constant hard work to turn around a bunch of 'raw' kindergarten kids and transform them into amazing concert performers just 3 months into the school year (and it only gets better from there on), then you and your kid will love this school. And thrive - like my 1st grader who has been there 2 years now.

So, do your home work. Think hard and honestly about what will make you and your kid happy. If you want to give your kids a solid foundation in music education (in addition to regular academics, of course), there is no better public school experience available in the Oakland area, IMO. The passion and commitment the faculty brings is amazing and the results become apparent when you see your little stars perform. In fact, go attend one of the Winter or Summer concerts to experience it first hand! V.

Feb 2012

Re: Just moved to West Oakland, need good school for 7th grade
Dear stuck, I understand your frustration. I don't have any good suggestions for you for an online school, but there is a charter school you should look into called COVA. If you can't start there this spring, think about it for next fall. You could get there from West Oakland by taking BART to Fruitvale station and then a bus runs from there up to Redwood Road. The reason I think COVA would be good for your son is because it is able to accommodate very gifted kids through a partnership with the Peralta junior college system. COVA kids go to Merritt College and take some classes there, receiving both high school and college credit for them. The director of the school is committed to getting kids an education that is at the right level for them. To succeed in it, your son should have the maturity level to handle self-directed work. Kids who take classes at Merritt still participate in regular school activities, particularly music and enrichment classes, so this would also fit your son's desire to attend school with his peers. Just a suggestion, take a look at it: Good luck!


After-school care for kindergarteners at COVA?

July 2011


Hello, My son is #2 on the waitlist for COVA for Kindergarten this fall, and I'd love to hear from anyone with children in COVA with any advice about the school. I'm especially interested in hearing about how the after school program for Kindergarteners at Redwood Heights Recreation Center worked out. I would also love to hear from any parent's who might be interested in car pooling to school or in a nanny share or child care exchange for after school. Any input or comments from anyone with experience at COVA would be appreciated. Thank You!

I have an entering first grader at COVA. Last year the Kindergarten class hired someone to walk the kids to Redwood Heights Rec Center for the Rockets after school program. Rockets is a wonderful program. I'm interested in hiring a walker again if there are other families, including Kindergarten, that are interested in doing the same. We would need at least five families or more to participate to make it affordable. Last year, the person who walked the kids to the Rec. Center also worked at Rockets. I spoke with her awhile ago and she is interested in doing it again.

Rockets costs slightly more than COVA afterschool, but, it is well worth it considering the the facility, the grounds and the counselors. Kids need to be enrolled in the Rockets program ahead of time, so parents need to contact the Rec. Center directly for enrollment info. Please contact me if you are interested in your child walking to the Rec. Center with a group of other COVA kids. Thanks

We have a kindergartener at Cova this year and also a second grader. It seems that there will not be after school daycare for the kindergarteners, because they didn't make the number they needed to have a group.

Cova is a very good school, our second grader has been there since kindergarten, and we have no complaints. The school concerts are the greatest! Grandparent of two Cova kids


COVA or Sequoia elementary school?

April 2010


I am lucky enough to have a choice between two free schools for my son to go to in the fall - COVA and Sequoia. My son is naturally talented with music so I think that he could really benefit from all of the training that he would get at COVA, but I haven't heard many recommendations for it. While I have had people I know say that Sequoia is a good school. I went to visit COVA but they did not let me sit in the kindergarten and just observe. We were led through different class rooms and the classes had prepared for our visit. Anybody have any advice? Heather

Deciding between Sequoia and COVA..... A hard decision to make indeed. We were in the same situation last year with those same choices. There are great qualities about both schools, yet they both have strengths and weaknesses. As I have found, there rarely seems to be a ''perfect place'' but it is a matter of deciding what speaks most to you and your child.

We choose COVA for our son and are extremely happy there. The small charter school with a music emphasis is a great fit for us. It is an emerging school who is growing in diverse community. Many parents are finding their way, finding how to get involved to make the school stronger. I have worked closely with the director and various dedicated teachers on small projects and have been happily impressed. Good Luck! Beth

Editor note: a reply was also received for Sequoia

April 2010

I periodically see requests for information about COVA, the Conservatory of Vocal/Instrumental Arts. First off, our experience of the music program in the early grades has been excellent--music class happens every day, and in addition to learning to sing beautifully, the kids pick up a good bit of music theory. Instrumental training begins later, around 4th grade, I think. Older kids can choose to major in voice, an instrument, dance, maybe something else? The campus is lovely but rented, and the owners of the space will be wanting it back for their own school, so my guess is that COVA will move at some point. The teachers are dedicated, but resources are limited (eg. there is no usable library and I have not seen a computer, parents provide classroom supplies). I have not been impressed with the level of academics so far. We are still waiting to see math more challenging than the work offered at our child's preschool. Supplementing for academic weaknesses in the program is tricky with a program that runs until 4 pm, though on the upside the extended schedule provides a lot of coverage for working parents. Parents are regularly asked to provide money (mandatory donations, emergency donations, performance uniforms, everyday classroom uniforms, auction donations, bakesale and fundraiser purchases, purchase tickets to the kids' concerts, pay for planned activities), resources (classroom supplies, snacks for the kids), and time (entirely run pick-up/drop-off of kids, volunteer at lunch and recess, etc). In other words, it is a typical cash-strapped public school, albeit one with a stellar music program. Expect to spend a minimum of $1100-1500 per child per year, and expect to spend a good bit of time as well. Public schools are not free! COVA is run in a strict, top-down manner, and there is a strong bias against independent communication among the parents as a whole (eg. a strong ''no'' on a school-wide Google or Yahoo group). This may tend to hamper the development of the needed strong, interconnected, dedicated parent community. There are things we love and things we really don't love, and we are still trying to decide whether to stay. COVA parent

Feb 2010

We are considering enrolling our daughter in COVA this fall. I'm looking for any input from anyone who has any experience with the school. Thanks! prospective parent

We are considering sending our twins to COVA. Like most people, I was very impressed with the performing arts. However, there were some other issues that concerned me. The atmosphere seemed a little intense and I am wondering if there is a lot of pressure put on kids to perform at a high levels, either academically or artistically. It's ok to expect, but are kids pushed? Also, how are the sciences handled there? There seemed to be a lack of science teaching. Is there high teacher turnover? Do you find the atmosphere to also be supportive, positive, loving, and caring for the kids? Anon

We have a kinder-gardener at Cova and we love it. She is very happy there. The teacher is great and the other students are wonderful. Her class is very small. She sings everyday there and now sings a lot a home also. I would heartily recommend this school to anyone. Happy with Cova

As a charter school, COVA is different -- definitely out of the box. It is a more creative, less bureaucratic organization. As you probably know, It is based on the idea that EVERY child deserves a music education. One of the things I like about it is that elementary-aged children can take elective classes, from gymnastics to jazz band. I have found that its small size has allowed more flexibility in meeting the specific and individual needs of my children. COVA has the best field-trip and guest artist program anywhere. The San Francisco Opera, From Books to Broadway, the Oakland East Bay Symphony, and other organizations regularly partner with the school. They take field trips to concerts, to the snow, and on camping trips.

To answer the specific questions:

Is there pressure put on kids to perform at a high level? The kids are expected to practice their instruments, but they are not required to become virtuosos. Personally, I do not think they are pressured or pushed. They are encouraged to do their best -- as students and as performers -- but at a level that is realistic for elementary-aged children.

How much science? Not very much.

Is the atmosphere intense? The director practices ''tough love.'' She really cares about the students and wants the best for them, but she doesn't always show it in a warm and fuzzy way. If your children are young, and are coming from a nurturing preschool environment, this can feel different.

Teacher turnover? There has been some. They have a tough job and the days (8 school hours) are very long for them. We also have some truly outstanding teachers.

Supportive, positive, caring atmosphere? That partially depends on the classroom teacher. The kids are very close. I think that comes from working together outside of the academic classroom on different ensembles. There is a tight-knit feeling at the school; they feel different, special, because of what they do.

COVA is really unique and I'm glad that it exists as an educational option in Oakland. COVA parent

My 4-year-old has just been accepted into COVA for kindergarten in Fall 2010, and to be quite frank I may decide not to enroll my child there after all. As a working parent, I need after-school care for my child. Did you know that there are NO plans in place for after-school care for COVA's kindergarteners? I called COVA to ask about after-school care, and was referred by a staff member to a center called ''Redwood Heights something.'' She did not know the actual name or phone number of the facility, so I looked it up. The person in charge of ''Rockets After School,'' the afterschool care at Redwood Heights Recreation Center, told me that they are discontinuing their 2 p.m. pickups for kindergarteners for the Fall 2010 term. When I mentioned this to someone in the COVA office, they told me, ''Well, then, I guess we have no afterschool plans in place after all.'' Caveat emptor. Have a second, third or fourth choice available if you can. Frustrated mother

I wanted to give a clarification to the parent who posted the message re: COVA not having after school care for 2010. Like the poster, we are a potential Kindergarten family for next year and this was a critical issue for us as we are a 2 full time working parent home. We contacted Redwood Rockets, the program that has been giving COVA's afterschool care and were advised that the previous poster had misunderstood. The Rockets program will offer afterschool care in fall 2010 including bringing the kids over to the Redwood Heights center, but the costs are going up to $60 a month.

Like the previous poster however, I agree that the clarity of communication to parents and potential families has been VERY poor. We have been told a number of inconsistent things in the course of applying to the school, and when we've brought these issues to the attention of the administrators at COVA we've found that there is often no apology or acknowledgment of the problems caused. This is one of the most significant reasons why we are considering going elsewhere, although we have yet to make a final decision and there are a lot of things we love about the school. I assume that COVA has someone who monitors this list, and if so I strongly urge them to do a better job communicating information with families and potential families.

Hello! I am a parent of a COVA 1st grader and spoke at length with the director of COVA about the aftercare for kindergartners. She explained that kindergartners leave at 2:00pm and the other grades leave at 4:00pm. Redwood decided that in order to do two pickups, they needed at least seven or eight kids enrolled in the 2:00pm pick up. Perhaps you can speak with the director about arranging a class group to see if you can get more students enrolled with the aftercare group. Please remember, this is still a fairly new school and we are still working out some kinks. a happy COVA parent

Dec 2009

Has anyone had any experience with or opinions about the Oakland charter school COVA, Conservatory of Vocal/Instrumental Arts? anon

We have just started our 5 yo (she was actually 4 when she started) at COVA and she loves it! She is singing every day and has a very positive attitude about school.

The school seems well organized, the parents are nice and the whole atmosphere is pleasant and positive.

We would certainly recommend it.

I should probably mention that our student is very well behaved and has a long attention span, not sure about how this school works with kids who need more help. Happy with COVA

Oct 2009

Has anyone sent their children to COVA charter school in Oakland? How has it been for you? Musical mama

This is my kid's second year at COVA. It is a great school that offers a well rounded education for children from K-8. In addition to the required standard curriculum, it offers music, arts and PE to all students. Since music and arts are commitments written into their charter, they MUST allocate resources for these programs. My son starts his day singing in the auditorium every morning. He received 899 points in his STAR testing last year. Having gone through the testing one time, he feels that he can do better this year. His homework each day includes math and English plus 30 minutes of reading. For rotations, he picked chess, violin, arts and robotics. Each rotation means 50 minutes of lessons twice a week, so we are talking about almost 8 hours weekly in subjects not offered at most schools.

The school puts together 2 concerts each year to give the children an opportunity to show their musical talents. Their performance includes singing, drumming, rock band, violin, keyboarding, wood wind instruments, ballet and drama. WeC-ll be performing at Jack London Square around Thanksgiving, call the school (510-531-0110 or 510-285-7511) for the exact time and date. You can meet and talk to parents volunteers there. Hope this answers your question. Happy COVA Parent

Feb 2009

We are seriously considering sending our daughter to COVA next year for elementary school. It is a relatively new charter school, and reviews both here and on are mixed--about 90% joyous and 10% seriously concerned. Do you or have you sent a child to COVA? How was your experience? We love music above all things in our family, so on that level the school would be a good match. But what about the emotional and the academic? Are the few bad reviews just a matter of growing pains, or a personality conflict exaggerated by the internet, or signs of an underlying systemic problem at the school? Thanks so much for whatever information you can provide about your family's experience at this school! Anonymous

Our daughter has been in the first K class at COVA since September and we are very happy with the school. The Kindergarden teacher is excellent and we feel that our daughter is thriving at COVA. Discipline is taken seriously but this has not been a negative for us thus far. The music curriculum is excellent and all the younger kids seem really motivated to sing, learn music and participate in the concerts. For a brand new charter school, COVA is doing well so far and we expect things to get better in the next few years. Feel free to email me for more info. dt

Hello to the parent who is considering COVA: Our child started kindergarten this year and she loves it. She enjoys all her teachers and has learned so much. We all look forward to the concerts they put on. Our spring concert is April 2nd. Why don't you attend and get a peek into what our school is about? Another plus, the art/music rotations (yoga, dance, Kodaly, rhythm, band, orchestra)four days a week are fun for the kids and keep the parents working. a happy COVA parent

July 2008

My son just spent his 6th grade year at COVA. We would have left in the fall if they hadn't hired a very good teacher for his class. I have to say I honestly disagree with the tone of the other posts about the new charter. The posts were posted in the fall of the academic year. The concept of the school is fantastic. The academic teachers are good, some of the music teachers are great. But the turnover in staff during the year was very high, and I have questions about the current leadership at the school. If you have any interest in this charter, spend a day or two hanging around, meet the director, spend some time observing her interactions with staff and students, sit in on some academic classes, and you will get a first hand experience of how things are run there. Don't go to a school concert, get swept away with the children's talent and rush to enroll. I spent many volunteer hours supporting the school, feel very strongly about some things, and would be happy to elaborate off line. -s

March 2008

Just looking over the past posts about COVA. Seems like the most recent was 11/07 and a lot has changed. Next year the school will grow to about 150 students K-8. The student population is about 50% African American, 25% white or mixed race white. About 30% of the students were formerly homeschooled. The school is full for the fall of 2008 and there is a wait list. Since touring, I am on the whole impressed by this new charter school and its director. anon

Nov 2007

Are there any BPN parents whose child(ren) currently attend COVA? I am interested in information about the middle school academic program and its instrumental arts program. Any feedback you have on the school is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

We have been pretty happy overall with COVA this year. For us, it was a good alternative to the other public middle schools. Academics are emphasized -- assignments are challenging for students working at grade level, and students who are catching up are given support through after-school tutoring. Even though the middle school grades are mixed in one class this year, I feel that my daughter has received curriculum that is right for her. We like the enrichment classes, which are two periods every day for all students. Kids can take musical theater, dance, piano, percussion, wind ensemble, string ensemble, Shakespeare, handbells, guitar, rock band, PE, art, voice, recorder, and more. The school day is long (8-4) to accommodate the enrichment classes without detracting from the academic subjects. From 8 to 8:30 the entire school sings together. 8:30 to 2:00 is for the academic subjects. 2 to 4 is the enrichment classes. We also have many arts enrichment activities and field trips -- SF opera, symphony, Tech Museum, etc. I would be happy to discuss the school more with you privately. Please feel free to contact me. Jennifer

Oct 2007

Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
Please see my answer above to the question about ''Charter Schools in Oakland.'' The Conservatory of Vocal and Instrumental Arts might be good for your family. The student body is mostly African American. Although it is a public charter, it has small classes and focuses on music, so it somewhat has the feel of a private school. In addition to music, it also stresses academics. It is probably not as smoothly running as a private school yet, as it has just started and is still working out a few kinks. COVA does not have a first grade this year, but if your daughter is academically advanced they might be able to accommodate her in their 2/3 class, and certainly would be able to next year. The school welcomes visitors.

Oct 2007

Hi Parents, I am exploring options for my son for Kindergarten next year and wanted to see if anyone could offer some feedback on COVA in Oakland. The school is close to where we live and I like the approach but know that the school had to move locations last year and may need to move again next year. Thanks! Marcy

It is true, the school may have to move next year from our current facility near Holy Names College off Hwy 13/Redwood Road. We will not know until later this year if that will happen. Despite some confusion and a facility change in September, the move was handled very well with flexibility from the staff and heroic efforts on the part of the director, Dr. Valerie Abad. She is amazing and has forged a new school that has real cohesiveness. We like the small size of the school and the mixed- grade classrooms. Kids of all ages mix together well, at recess and in the enrichment classes. Academics are emphasized -- assignments are challenging for students working at grade level, and students who are catching up are given support through after-school tutoring. We like the enrichment classes, which are two periods every day for all students. Kids can take musical theater, dance, piano, percussion, wind ensemble, string ensemble, Shakespeare, handbells, guitar, rock band, PE, art, voice, recorder, and more. I am not sure what the kindergarten offerings would be next year; I know that some of the younger kids are receiving Kodaly instruction to ready them for instrument training. The school day is long (8-4) to accommodate the enrichment classes without detracting from the academic subjects. From 8 to 8:30 the entire school sings together. 8:30 to 2:00 is for the academic subjects. 2 to 4 is the enrichment classes. We also have many arts enrichment activities -- SF opera, symphony, etc. I am sure that visitors are welcome to the school. Please contact me privately if you would like more information. Jennifer

Oct 2007

Re: Oakland Public Middle School
Look into COVA -- it's a new public charter school just off Highway 13/Redwood Road. It is a small school (50 students this year, should be bigger next year), with small classes. The 6th-7th class has 18 kids in it. It stresses music as well as academics.