South Bay School Districts

Parent Q&A

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  • This is kind of sudden but we need to move to bayarea for work. Our office will be in mountainview and want to live not too far from there. I have a 7th grader and kindergartner. i understand that schools have already started. my kids go to private school here and i only know of harker in bay area. we are open to good public school choices and want information on palo alto vs los gatos. need to decide housing accordingly. also not all palo alto schools have been rated good. so how do i choose?

    Welcome to the neighborhood! Both my husband and I work in Mountain View and live on the Mountain View/Los Altos border but our son attends Los Altos schools and I can honestly not say enough good things about it. Our son is 7 and started there in Kinder (after a play-based preschool experience), the kinder had 17 with a full time teacher and full time aid. Additionally, they offer PE (2x per week), Art (1 x per week), STEM (1x per week), library (1x per week) and music (1x per week) all with dedicated staff who is hired for this particular subject. The amount of enrichment activities that they provide is better than a lot of the private schools we considered and we love Los Altos' neighborhood school commitment as it means my son has made a ton of friends within our little neighborhood. His first grade class only had 19 and this year his 2nd grade has 21. 

    Since you mentioned enrolling in the middle of a year, another benefit is that Los Altos schools aren't crowded (like many MV and PA schools are) plus, we have found that our school community is AWESOME and super involved. It would not be a problem to enroll in any LASD schools at anytime during the year. I will say one turn off for us personally was that it is definitely a wealthy public school system (i.e. not a single child in our school has free/reduced lunch, parent driven field trips included 5 Teslas and an Escalade) so it does sometimes give our child a very unrealistic view of the world. We really want him to understand that this area we live in is not the norm and he is beyond lucky to be gaining these amazing experiences. However, I do feel that the level of diversity in the schools are exceptional and our son has friends from around the world who have shared their cultures within the classroom which has been awesome for our family. 

    The last thing I would say is consider your commute, both PA and LG schools are great as well but the commute (even just a few miles) can be TREACHEROUS! We started off commuting from Willow Glen (near LG) and our commute could be up to 1 hour in the morning and evening. Our house we rent now is smaller but I don't care as my sanity and family time is totally worth it. 

    No matter where you choose I am sure you will find a great experience as I think all of our school systems in the Valley are pretty spectacular. 

    Let me know if you want more info or have specific questions and good luck! 

    Not too familiar with Palo Alto schools but I grew up in Los Gatos and went to public schools from elementary through high school (Dave’s Avenue , Fisher Middle School, Los Gatos High). The public schools are all fantastic and nationally ranked. Los Gatos is also know for sports excellence if you are interested in that aspect. If you are looking for private options, Hillbrook in Los Gatos is great (JK-8th) — my BFFs mom taught there for 20 years and then went to Harker before she retired (also a great school). For private high schools — Saint Francis (co-ed, Mountain View), Bellarmine (boys only, northwest San Jose) and Castilleja (girls only, Palo Alto) — are all fantastic options. Kids travel from all over the Peninsula to attend these schools. 

    One thing to note — traffic in the Bay Area is no joke. Rush hour commute from Los Gatos to Mountain View can take 1hour on average — so be mindful of that as you consider options. Happy to chat if you have more questions! Good luck!!

    I would second the comments on the commute from Los Gatos to MV.  Avoid it.  Besides, you'll find LG is just far from everything.

    I grew up in PA schools, but lived in MV as an adult and sent my child went to Huff for a few years. It's a top rated MV school (I think Huff & Bubb are their top schools) and I thought it was just fine. There was NOTHING spectacular about it at all but fine. I would be very wary of those ratings. Any school in PA will be fine too. Good ratings reflect a lot of things and not all of it has to do with the school or teachers. PA schools along with Cupertino are a little too much into those ratings. Too much pressure on students, parents pushing too hard, overly ambitious 9 year old kids, lots of brilliant kids who dazzle teachers.

    I agree the person who recommended Los Altos. When I was planning our move back to MV for a few years and trying to figure out the best school, I spoke to people at the school district offices for PA, MV, Cupertino and Los Altos. The Los Altos office was by far the nicest, with friendly helpful attitude. PA and Cupertino very much had attitudes like you are lucky just to talk to us (which was true, it was impossible to get a hold of anyone and took me a week just to speak to a live person at the Cupertino district). Now that doesn't mean much for the class room I suppose but it was an indication to me of the organization, lack of chaos, overall attitude of a school district.  Anything in LA should be fine. You could also consider Cherry Chase in Sunnyvale. 

    If I were you, I would just start like I did, calling each school district and finding out which of their schools has room in the kindergartens and in 7th grade.  You are lucky because the school year has already started, so they know that info now.  Next, you figure out which of these elementary schools with the kindergarten opening is close to a middle school with an opening. Then you look at the neighborhoods that would work for the schools and see if you like chose neighborhoods. This seems to be the biggest hurdle - do you like, can you afford, and is there a home available in that area?  Use Trulia to see the exact school any home/apt would be assigned assuming there was space.,CA/37.372227638176,37.435159426303,-122.12212397938,-122.0404560793_xy/14_zm/#map-school-elementary-middle-high

    Many of the elementary schools are over crowded, so it is certainly possible to buy a house (or rent an apartment) only to find out your kid can't be fit in to the closest school. They are eligible to transfer in a later year when an opening comes available. There were many students like that at Huff.

    We lived in Palo Alto and while the schools are very highly rated, that's a reflection of parents having their kids in private tutoring and after school educational programs. Many of my coworkers, and friends are in the Los Gatos school system and I see many similarities to the issues we had in Palo Alto. 

    Have you considered Los Altos (not Los Altos Hills). When we were looking to move away from Palo Alto for schools we considered it over Los Gatos. The Los Altos school district had a better math program and seemed friendlier to us. The community is wonderful and we have many friends whose children thrived in Los Altos.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Relocating to San Jose

Dec 2013

My family needs to relocate to the San Jose area. We currently live in and LOVE Alameda. Does anyone know of good schools (Kindergarten) and childcare (2yr) in the San Jose area? Once we figure that out, we will find a place to live. Thank you!! JCH

We live in the Santa Teresa neighborhood. We moved from Rockridge. It's a huge difference! Pros: no homeless walking by contributing to crime. Cons: little to walk to though we do have library and RiteAid and a few small restaurants and are close to hiking. Our school district, Oak Grove, initially kept class sizes small when most other schools upped the class numbers as they had funds from selling some property. I don't know the current class sizes. As for childcare, we used the corporate-run Bright Horizons and were mostly happy. content in SJ

Contemplating a Move to Palo Alto

June 2013

We are contemplating a move to Palo Alto, but our oldest son, who will be starting kindergarden in the Fall of 2013 might need a more non-standard learning environment than the average kid. Here in Berkeley, the kind of place at which we think he would thrive is the Berkeley school, or Black Pine Circle, for example. Does anyone know whether there are schools on the Peninsula that have a similar style or philosophy? To describe our kid briefly, he is very creative, very bright, curious - but not the most focused, and has a fine motor delay which might present an issue when first starting school. Any advice would be very much appreciated. nervous about move

You may not find any school for your child in Palo Alto or the Peninsula.

We researched and searched for several years to find a school that fit our child's needs and learning style. We did find them in the East Bay but not in Palo Alto where we lived or on the Peninsula.

Really you have to understand that because of the wealth in so many cities, including Palo Alto, on the Peninsula, those rich cities have great school districts and there really isn't a need for alternatives.

Affluent parents just pay for tutors so their kids 'fit' in at school. Or they send their kids to private schools in San Francisco, boarding schools back East, or they move away like we did.

That said the only school that I know of that might fit the bill for you is The Neuva School which is for gifted kids and is very innovative. I don't have any personal experience with it, but heard great things about it.

You should also look into the Parents Club of Palo Alto and Menlo Park and tap into their resources for more up to date info.

Good Luck. Former Peninsula Mom