St. Joseph Elementary School, Alameda


Private School
operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland
270 students
Email: info [at] stjosephalameda.orgPhone: (510) 522-4456
1910 San Antonio Ave. Alameda, CA 94501
Editors' Notes: 

Parent Q&A

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  • Has anyone who is not Catholic sent their children to St Joseph elementary/middle school in Alameda? If so what was your experience.  Was your child comfortable?  I know it's a Catholic school. They claim students don't need to be Catholic and all faiths are respected. I just don't know the reality of someone attending who is not only not Catholic, but not Christian.  Would love to hear any experience people have had as we weigh our options.  Also we are looking at middle school, so would also be dealing with being new to a school where many children have been together since kindergarten.

    Parent of 2 kids at Catholic schools (and also Catholic but answering since no one else posted). At this point in time, MOST Catholic schools (elementary, high school and universities) have more non-Catholic students than Catholic students. You might want to ask the principal the ratio - it's usually something like 60% (non-Catholic )/40 % Catholic, and that is probably generous. 

    My experience is that the vast majority of schools do, in fact, show great respect and tolerance for people of other faiths. Our student has friends that are Sikh, Buddhist and agnostic. Should you send your child to a Catholic school however, your child will take part in religion classes, masses, and other religious activities. If you are not comfortable with this or are not sure how to talk to your child about it, then it's probably not the right choice for your family.

    As a Catholic parent, I find it discouraging to see how often people ask about how "Catholic' schools are (though I understand this was not your specific question). Honestly, if people want a private school education, then there are plenty of those to choose from. Catholic schools should not be treated as the default 'low cost' privates. All Catholic schools are a ministry of the Church, so you need to be comfortable with that reality.

    To answer your second concern, yes, most of the kids have been together since kindergarten, and that can make it tricky coming into middle school, but teachers are aware of this and do their best to incorporate new students at that level. There are also lots of changes that happen in 6th grade already (lockers, changing classrooms, different teachers) to start getting kids ready for HS, so that helps. Sometimes it's also refreshing to have a fresh face among kids who are getting tired of one another. 

    Speaking from the other p.o.v. -- it is hard for a Jewish child to grow up without exposure to other Jewish children especially at that middle-school/high school age. In the public schools, there are more likely to be other Jewish students. I know in OUSD and BUSD there are other Jewish students at the high school level. Is that the case in AUSD?

    We had our son attend St Joe's for high school and we are not Catholic and do not attend practice although both my husband and I were raised in Catholic homes. In fact, we are quite critical of organized religion but recognize the impact on politics, societies and history. That said, we had a positive experience there as the attitude was one of respect for all religions, creeds and nationalities. We were comfortable with the classes that used the bible as instructional text as it was an academic subject not preaching. There is a retreat for senior students, which emphasized many of the principles of the good citizen, faith, morality, community, service, etc, and we were happy to see how it really allowed boys and girls the space to explore and achieve acceptance in themselves and others.

    On an academic note for h.s., the classes were challenging; the science program is really top-notch, and we loved the enrichment, whether in a class or in a club. Overall the students are very friendly, with not a lot of drama and cliques to navigate since it's small. And the younger students seemed to have a similar emphasis on belonging to a community. Thus, I would imagine middle school being similar with an emphasis on preparation both academically and personally.

    Most of our son's friends were not religious or at least non-Catholic and are quite diverse in backgrounds so overall a great experience with several positive role models among the alumni and teachers.

    I asked the same before my two children attended the elementary school at St. Joe's (elem and middle are in same building, same principal) and was told all are accepted. No one is targeted if not Catholic, but expect heavy religion. There are prayers every morning at flag, prayers before lunch, religion class weekly (if not more often), weekly mass, etc.  For me I didn't realize how much time was spent on Catholicism. It felt cult-like at times but I think all Catholic schools might to me as we aren't religious. I don't know if it is all teacher's at the school either, or if some are more relaxed, but my son's teacher got mad at him for rubbing the ashes off his forehead. He also got in trouble for not saying the Lord's Prayer. Last, when they went through sex-ed or Life Skills or whatever it is called the books talk about a man marries a woman, that sex is only for a man with his wife after marriage, etc. We had to have discussions at home about how this is what their religion teaches but it is not what the law is, or what our family believes. Hope this helps. 

Parent Reviews

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Feb 2011

Re: Alameda elementary school options
We moved to Alameda from Boston six years ago and enrolled our four children in St. Joseph Elementary School. It has been a wonderful experience -- our kids have flourished and we have made many friends with St. Joe's families. We still have one son at St. Joe's, and our older kids go to Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School, the college prep school next door. Our kids are getting a great education and are part of a happy, diverse community. St. Joe's Parent

St Joseph Elementary School hosted an Open House this past Sunday and I was able to visit all of the classrooms, view art, 4th grade Mission reports, and the Science Fair. Our daughter chose this school over the local school (we'd purchased our home with intent of enrolling her in Franklin) when she was just five, and surprised us again at Thanksgiving with her appreciation for allowing her to attend this school. I appreciate the full breadth of activities, music, Spanish, art, the special focus on building community within the school, parish, and so on. You might come on a Thursday evening during Lent for soup and bread. The kids love it - running and playing outside. The principal is wonderfully fierce - the students have caught her smiling and chatting with teachers or parents; she participates in the music ministry with students and teachers during Friday morning Mass. Afterward, they all crowd into the common room for announcements and a public celebration of at least one child from each grade. The first time I witnessed this - it was right before the El Rancho festival in October- the energy and enthusiasm of the children brought tears to my eyes.

The kindergarten, 2nd and 3rd grade teachers and assistants are the same - (talented each in their own way) and my daughter is now a 4th grader. I've enjoyed visiting the newish 1st grade teacher's classroom and find her students happy and fully engaged.

There are opportunities I hadn't expected - free guitar lessons after school with the 5th grade teacher, knitting with the science teacher, etc. The school library is well organized and the students seem to take their borrowing privileges seriously. Testing takes place in the fall in order to reveal what students have retained over the summer break and identify areas for support - I've come to prefer this model.

It's a Catholic school ~and~ students from other faiths and or non-religious backgrounds are respected. Everyone goes up for a blessing during mass, but some keep their arms crossed over their chest as a sign that they will not receive communion. This is true for practicing catholics as well as those who don't follow a particular religion.

The film Road to Nowhere had a strong impact on many of its viewers, and I know that some SJES parents pursued school placements with less of an emphasis on homework as a result. Our experience has been that homework and regular tests on the subject matter have helped our daughter understand and retain the information; we are still close to the families who made different choices.

Some joke that catholic school is private schooling on the cheap. I've found that it has provided a focal point for our family that neither I nor my husband had experienced at this age. We are involved in the school and parish, and sometimes make it to mass on Sunday. We're glad to have invested in this way, and are supportive of our friends and neighbors' efforts to pass Measure A for public schools on the island. Hope this helps all the best, Deirdre

Nov 2003

Have one child in the middle school of St. Joseph Elementary and can report having been pleased with the school as a whole. We chose the school for the spiritual and social justice emphases, the involved parental and staff community and the education, in that order. We liked the size of the school as a whole with one class per grade (K-8) as our child prefers a smaller environment. The children are very safe, exposed to many extra curricular offerings, are fairly insulated and seem to do well. The class size of 34 to 36 per class is too large for my preferences, though. The staff has been attentive, aprroachable, helpful, concerned and committed. The community is all that we hoped for, and more. The more one gets involved, the more satisfying the entire experience is for both child and parents.

If a child who is NOT Catholic is going to transfer IN, I would encorage looking at the religious focus of the 2nd grade where the emphasis is on First Holy Communion in the Spring each year. If a child was not Catholic, I would suggest joining AFTER 2nd grade.

proud parent

St Joes is a good school and one of the best parochial schools in the area. I would not send your child there if you are only interested in the academics. With my kids in high school, I think they could have gotten a better academic foundation at Lincoln or another private school. People choose St Joes for the religion, safety, and closeness of the community. People who go there thinking it is top notch academics will be disappointed with outdated text books, 35 in a classroom, teachers who stay two to five years max, and poor writing program. There are opportunities for finishing Spanish1 and Algebra 1 in the eighth grade but this is not the norm or the standard.

Chose it for the religion