Fairmont Elementary School

Community Subscriber
El Cerrito

600 students
Website: http://fairmontschool.org/
Phone: 510.525.5235
724 Kearney St El Cerrito, CA 94530
School district-run
Editors' Notes: 

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi, we are potentially looking to buy a home in El Cerritos. We are committed to sending our daughter to public school, and her neighborhood school would be Fairmont Elementary. When we walked by, it looked racially diverse (definite pro as a inter-racial mom). However, the facility looked rather old. She won't be entering kindergarten for another 2 1/2 years. Wondering if parents/families have feedback on the school? Both pros and cons would be most appreciated. Thanks in advance. 

    We started at Fairmont this year, and to be honest, we had the same initial concern about the buildings. It's definitely looking its age. (It was slated to have a new building constructed about 5 years ago, but the project was unfortunately a victim of previous WCCUSD mismanagement, and has evaporated from what I can tell. So they've ended up making do with miscellaneous upgrades to portables, HVAC systems, etc.) HOWEVER, to-date, we've found that the principal is incredibly engaged, my child's teacher is awesome, and the parent community has been very welcoming. The diversity in race, language, and economics was pretty important to us, too. It is also definitely a neighborhood school, and that's been an added bonus--getting to meet more of the families that live in the area (many/most walk or bike to school so there are impromptu meetups on the way nearly every morning.) We're really happy there, and I'm glad we didn't get too spun up about the state of the actual buildings, as old as they are. Feel free to message if you want to know more. 

  • Feedback about Fairmont Elementary

    (4 replies)

    I am looking for honest feedback about Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito.  Our son is starting K there in the Fall and I just haven't heard much about the school one way or another.  I guess my biggest concern is that he is going to get lost or overlooked in a classroom with 24+ other kids (and 3 classes!).  Do you feel your kid is academically supported?  Emotionally?  Biggest positive/negative about the school?  Thank you!

    Hi! My daughter is in Kindergarten at Fairmont and we've been really happy with it so far. The diversity of the school is amazing and my mixed-race child sees kids who look like her; there isn't any one "norm" and there are kids speaking different languages, from different backgrounds, etc. It's a true neighborhood school that serves everyone, and we love being part of the community there. There's an active PTA and I've been impressed with all the resources they bring to the school: this year my kid has had drama, music, computer, library time, "Book Buddies," and Playworks classes during school hours, all funded I believe by the PTA, and they just brought on an art teacher and garden coordinator so she's started art and gardening during the school day as well. She also takes enrichment classes after school through the FASEP program (they also have this at Harding and Madera)...she's done soccer, art, dance around the world, and environmental science, and there are lots of other offerings. Another positive would be that I love going to my neighborhood school; we can easily trade off childcare with friends, are always seeing friends at the library, pool, store, etc.  She has also learned to read and write at school, which is pretty great to see, and my friends at Fairmont all seem happy with what their kids are learning. The biggest challenge is what you already identified - there are large class sizes. My child likes her teacher; she also happens to be fairly extroverted and made friends easily. But while the school has an anti-bullying curriculum and is generally a good-hearted, sweet kind of place, the teacher is responsible for 24 kids so it's hard to do the really robust social-emotional stuff my daughter had access to at preschool. The couple of times I've had an issue and brought it up, the teacher has addressed it, but it would be nice to have three teachers for the class the way her preschool did, sigh. The other thing I really wish for is a more robust social justice orientation...it seems like some classrooms in the Berkeley Public Schools do that work well, but I haven't seen any overt conversation around gender, race, class, ability and disability, which I did see done at an age-appropriate way in her preschool. In general, though, we are happy there - my child wakes up happy, is happy to go to school, is happy at the end of the day, and is learning and thriving, so that's all we can ask for. If you're thinking you want to go the public school route, I would say to give it a try. My friends who have kids in other public schools have all talked about large class sizes, so unless you are going to private school as an alternative I think that would be an issue anywhere. Good luck and maybe I'll see you at Fairmont! 

    I will second all the comments just made.  Our daughter has enjoyed all her years at the school and is thriving in 4th grade there now.  I will say that I was surprised to see how well the teachers managed to get all the kids in K to learn to read since the classes are large.  One thing to note is that the school has an inclusive program for kids with special needs.  So depending on the class your child is in there may be an aid in the class to assist a child.  That has been true for my daughter every year and one year the class had 2 aids.  So the size didn't impact her to much.  One nice size about the large student numbers is that there has been to many kids in the older classes, that they can't squeeze them in to 2 classes.  For 4th grade my daughter has had only 22 kids in her class, which is the average size for the three 4th grade classes.  It has been fantastic.  

    I think the previous review was right on the money but I will add a few points. I'm a PTA board member and also serve on the SSC (school site council). I have a 2nd grader and a child in Kindergarten. I will say that while there is only one teacher, I have yet to see a class that doesn't have an aide in it. I'm sure it happens occasionally but the full inclusion model at our school means there are generally two adults in the classroom. Yes, it's a bummer that classes are so large but this is going to be true for all of the public schools. Will you find smaller classes and more one on one at a private school like Crestmont? Of course. That's why people pay $20k and if you have the money to spend and that's how you want to spend it, by all means, explore that option. If you are comparing Fairmont to Harding, I will say that they are practically the same. My son did TK at Harding and I like the people at Harding too. The district is working to get class sizes down and I believe it's supposed to get down to 21 over the next couple of year but that's still a large class. The biggest negative about Fairmont is the facilities. The school is just old and needs to be rebuilt and it has a very small play yard. This summer, the senior center beside the school will be torn down and portables (administrative mostly) will be placed in that are of land and the library portable will be moved to create a little more play space. One of the playgrounds is also supposed to be redone and we have some critical needs money which will be used over the next couple of years to replace flooring and other such projects. The biggest positive is the people. Fairmont has a "warm fuzzy" family feeling which I didn't get at Harding. It's like an extended family. People look out for each other and the diversity is amazing (which can also be a negative depending on what you are looking for). I do feel my kids are supported academically. Could they be pushed more if there were smaller classes? Yes. But realistically I'm not spending the money to send 2 kids to private school and I have cousins that went to private school and one drives a school bus and the other is a truck mechanic. I think as long as you are supporting your kids at home by reading with them and helping them with homework later on, it won't be an issue. When either of my children has had a bad day, I have always had the teacher walking up to me after class and telling me she is upset because XYZ happened and this is what we talked about. The other benefit of attending your neighborhood school is that your kid will have friends around the block and that really does make a huge difference in the quality of your entire experience. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I hope to see you at the Kindergarten play dates this summer!

    This is our 6th year at Fairmont. We have two kids there. They both love school, so that's the important thing at the end of the day, plus oh yeah, I feel like their education has been amazing. Part of that is the curriculum compared to a generation ago when I was a California public school student; children now are taught to critically analyze and write at a much earlier age than in the past (3rd-4th grade), and the math scales up really quickly. All good, as far as I'm concerned, except that in a very socioeconomically diverse school like Fairmont, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are not always starting school prepared for school and that's a challenge for the teachers. Children who are prepared and supported at home thrive.

    24 students is the maximum in K-3rd across the WCCUSD. Sometimes "class size" is used as code for not choosing public school from adults who are actually concerned about racial diversity or low income kids. Please make sure that's not in the back of your mind before rejecting Fairmont or any other school based on "class size".

  • Hello,

    We moved from Brooklyn 2 months ago and need to figure out where to live after our short term rental is over January 1.  Our 4 year old will be registering for public kindergarden from our new address so we really want to find the right fit.  She is a smart and sensitive kid - and we are looking for a friendly environment where being a good, caring member of the group is emphasized.  It would be great to have a progressive curriculum and high test scores are not too important to us.  Richmond Annex seems like a nice spot that is still relatively affordable.  If you live there I'd love to hear your thoughts on the neighborhood and schools.  I am an artist and my husband works at a museum - I also work remotely for my old job in NYC so afternoon kindergarden would not work with my work hours, or match with our younger daughters preschool hours.  If you have any advice on that as well I'd love to hear it.  Also on the table for us is renting a super small place in South Berkeley to be in BUSD. What do you think?  If you have experience with both BUSD and Fairmont that would be amazing.

    Thank you!

    WCCUSD holds K registration the first full week of January, so this may all be moot; if you don't have your paperwork in order showing an in-boundary residence you will not be allowed to register (until you do, and then you're on the wait list). Fairmont is a nice school. Very diverse, both economically, culturally, & racially. I am not sure what a "progressive" curriculum means; all public schools in CA follow the Common Core and they do a great job with it. The learn-to-read program in K is amazing. Kindy is now what is called full-time, 8:30-1:45, with an option for paid onsite childcare until 6. (Beginning in first grade, there is a free afterschool program also onsite.) We are a Fairmont family but live in El Cerrito so will leave it to others to speak to the Annex neighborhood vibe.

Parent Reviews

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RE: El Cerrito Elementary Schools ()

The first post says Fairmont is not earthquake safe, which is false. I don't know why they would say that. It is definitely not new construction, as we know well from our seven years there, but its facility problems do not include seismic. The way you phrase your question does not make your priorities clear with your educational needs. Each school has its pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. But people whose kids have not attended it are really not the best people to weigh in on a given school's merits.

Aside from that, I concur that overall if you are looking at buying now for K next year, you may want to carefully consider the impact of the school district budget - yes, layoff notices will be sent but we don't know how many will be rescinded. However there are obviously going to be classroom impacts in WCCUSD... and OUSD... and MDUSD... and beyond. We all need to advocate for equitable funding for public education in CA, and more than ever public school parents need to STEP UP to participate in their child's education.

I have a 10 yo with anxiety, ADHD, and more - and he got a letter from the district saying he's gifted because his test scores are really high. So welcome to the 2E family! We have been relatively happy with the public school (Fairmont, in the WCCUSD) handling of his 2E needs. Once you have a diagnosis letter from an MD, you can (re)convene an IEP team and discuss how to adapt. We have gotten everything we asked for him, over 2.5 years as his needs changed, he got new diagnoses, etc. Fairmont is good for special needs because they have both a full inclusion policy AND two classrooms for special ed so overall the education professionals aren't rattled by someone who has a lot of complexities. I would look for a school that is big because the staff will have institutional experience with children with differences. In our experience the anxiety is always the #1 concern when it's at a high mark, because that is detrimental to meeting daily needs, and in IEP meetings we spend time telling the group how that presents at home and impacts the student. (Often it is masked at school.)  Once we explain, I have never felt like we weren't believed or taken seriously. In terms of the advanced learning, we have found it very difficult for the teacher to differentiate in a really meaningful way, and while it would be nice, we appreciate their attempts and just supplement at home through a variety of sources. At this point in his scholastic career, we feel like we have to prioritize the other issues. Time enough for hardcore academics in high school. Finally, the other thing we do for his social/emotional needs is that we have made the decision for one parent to stay at home so that he doesn't have to go to aftercare. It's just too much time having to regulate himself and pay attention and all that, plus it doesn't leave enough time for homework/reading/quality time at home.

I have a fifth grader with an IEP at Fairmont, our neighborhood school. He's had it for two years, and a 504 for a year before that. Fairmont hosts the EC family of elementary schools special ed program as well as being a full inclusion school, so we have felt like once he got "in the system" there has been a ton of support from the teachers as well as the special ed staff on site. I would say there is a relatively high level of tolerance of students with differences, whatever that may be, because there are many on campus, both mainstreamed and in the special day class. I have heard from other parents that their children with significant-level IEPs zoned for other schools in EC have been directed to Fairmont, explicitly or implicitly.

I will say that if you don't have a 504 or IEP, you really should pursue that because otherwise you are asking a LOT of the school and teachers, especially if you are new to the school. I don't know what you mean by "outside professionals say she should". I would contact DREDF for an appointment with one of their counselors and review the process for initiating a 504/IEP evaluation request. It may be that she has lots of differences but doesn't meet the legal threshold for an IEP/504, and then you might be better off staying where you are already in school and working with the team you know. Keep in mind the class sizes in the WCCUSD are large.

We are an interracial family,  live in El Cerrito and LOVE it.  My oldest is in first grade at Fairmont Elementary, where there is a HUGE diversity of students - Latino, Chinese, Nepali, Black, White, etc.  I haven't asked but would guess that many of the families are Muslim.  Several speak Urdu.  We have an annual multicultural community potluck/performance/celebration - the diversity is what many of our families love about Fairmont.

Obviously my kids are much younger than yours, but I have read recently that Korematsu Middle School is the 6th most diverse school in California.  In terms of ratings, Fairmont, Korematsu, and El Cerrito High are all rated a 6.  Harding Elementary, also in El Cerrito, is a 7.  I think these lower ratings may have to do with having a high population of English Language Learners, as all the parents I've spoken with are very satisfied with the academics.  

Close by, Kensington and Berkeley schools have 8+ greatschools ratings, and Albany, right next door, has 10 for all their schools.  I don't know anything about their diversity.

Good luck in your search!  Feel free to contact me if you have more questions.  And I'll be curious to hear what you decide!


 The neighborhood public school, Fairmont, is just fine. We go there; it is zoned for Richmond Annex and part of El Cerrito, very diverse demographics (and some gay families, since you note you are looking for gay-friendly). Fairmont is in fact the most racially diverse school in the West Contra Costa school district. And as other posters noted, Richmond Annex is a nice little neighborhood with some very cute houses.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Waitlisted at Fairmont?

June 2016

Hi all, Our daughter has been 'waitlisted' at our neighborhood school, Fairmont, for the second year in a row. The uncertainty of whether she would actually get in last year (Kindergarten) was unsettling, and one reason (in addition to the very short kindergarten day) we ultimately chose to put her elsewhere. Now we are in the same situation again, since we are not a returning family with a guaranteed spot, and the uncertainty is again unnerving. While Fairmont is my top choice, I'm fine with her being rerouted to Harding, Kensington, or Mira Vista. I'm nervous, though, about Stege, or that there won't be space at any of these schools. I understand it is an unpredictable numbers game every year that depends on how many students leave, how many new ones apply, and where we are on the waiting list (we're #9). I would love to hear from parents who have been in this situation in the past and how it unfolded. We won't know one way or another until the week before school starts, at the earliest, and I don't want to spend the whole summer worrying. Thanks so much for your thoughts. Waiting

You did not say this exactly, but I assume you are talking about placement for 1st grade (not K). There is a fair bit of movement between K & 1st, although not as much as before K. If I were you, I'd make a personal visit to the school office ASAP, not to ask for special treatment, but to emphasize that you would like to know as soon as they know what the plan is for your child - placement at Fairmont or re-routing to ???. Just FYI, I don't believe the district would reroute from Fairmont to Mira Vista since they are considered in different ''school families''. If Mira Vista is your preferred backup, ask the office if it's worthwhile for you to contact the transfer office to discuss it. (I have no idea how full MV is, and be sure to ask if that has an effect on your high school options.) As you say, you may not know anything for sure until the beginning of the school year; this is not the school site's fault. Fairmont Parent

Aftercare options at Fairmont

April 2015

I just learned that the delay in registration for Fairmont Elementary aftercare is because the program administrators want to cut ties with the school district and run the program themselves. We really liked the existing program! Besides the El Cerrito Martial Arts aftercare, what other transported after care options are available and recommended? Frustrated Parent

In speaking with the El Cerrito recreation department, they will have two options for aftercare at Fairmont next year. The first option which will replace the current ''grant'' program is what you are describing. This program will be run by the school district and is provided free of charge for up to 80 students. This program requires kids to stay until 6pm.

The second option is the program run by the city which will be similar to the non-grant program we have had thus far. I believe this option will use the same teachers and staff through the City and should like that the after care program we have now. Currently the grant and non-grant program kids are in the same group so they have the same schedule and activities.

The city said the fees should be similar to this year's non-grant program fees. I am told they are still working on the fees and registration paperwork. My family has been using the non-grant program as we pick up before 6pm regularly; grant program requires kids stay until 6pm.

My understanding is that the two groups will be run separately. I believe the delay in registration had to do with providing the free option for after care at our school.

Fairmont parent

Reviews on Fairmont this year?

March 2014

We moved into the Fairmont district last year, and our son won't be starting Kindergarten until 2015, but I have been hearing lots of commentary about Fairmont in general, and would like to know more about the school. I would love both good and bad input to weigh in this decision! thank you.

We've been happy with our K child's experience at Fairmont this year. The class has gelled nicely as a unit with a very experienced teacher who really welcomes parent involvement, classroom participation, and feedback. I feel like my child has learned a lot (and that's on top of a very ''academic'' preschool) and is well prepared for first grade and beyond. We haven't seen any bullying or cliques in the class (not that we expected it, but one does hear about this things in other schools). Are there lots of resources lavished on the class? Ha. Are good things happening there and can your middle-class child do well? You bet. Fairmont Mom

Feb 2015

RE: I want to donate to an underserved school in Oakland or Richmond

I would humbly suggest Fairmont School (in El Cerrito, although its boundary includes more Richmond neighborhoods), part of the WCCUSD. Fairmont's kids are 2/3rds free and reduced lunch, high by many standards but not the WCCUSD's, thus we don't get the ''extra'' federal Title 1 money and other extra resources through the district, but our PTA does not have anywhere near the resources of the other elementary schools in El Cerrito/Kensington. The PTA is small but devoted, funding music education, PE, bonus science activities, and starting this year, environmental camp for 5th graders. Check us out! http://fairmontschool.org/ Thanks for your commitment to public education. Fairmont mom

Feedback wanted about Fairmont vs. Harding

Nov 2013

My daughter will be going into kindergarten next year and we live in the Fairmont district in El Cerrito. I am having a hard time finding current feedback, but have heard that the makeup of the school changed significantly since the closing of Castro a couple of years back (new principle/teachers). I am also concerned about the school closing soon so they can build a new building. I would like to hear from anyone with kids attending this school in kindergarden or first grade. What has your experience been like. I am also wondering about Harding. Is it at all possible to request a transfer to this school and receive it? I would also like to hear from parents with children in this school as well. Thanks in advance for you feedback. Mother of a PreK

I have a child in 1st grade at Fairmont, and another who will be in K there next year. We have been happy with Fairmont. I don't know what it was like before Castro closed, so I can't speak to exactly how it has changed. But I do think that the school attracted many experienced teachers that came along with the principal when Castro closed. I have been quite pleased with my child's teachers both last year in K and this year in 1st. The teachers do have to deal with high enrollment, but this is true also at Harding and all other WCCUSD schools. I think that the parent involvement is good at Fairmont, and I have heard from parents who have been at the school longer that that is something that is definitely changing for the better over the recent years. Fairmont parent

My son attends first grade at Fairmont and my daughter will be in kindergarten next year. Our experience has been pretty positive and we have been pretty involved with our son's classes. We've met a lot of wonderful kids and families and have been happy with our son's two teachers. Our son loves it and is proud of his school. It's not the newest, shiniest school on the block and there isn't a lot of excess resources, but the people we have met there have great attitudes and are doing the best they can with what they've got. We love walking to school and being a part of the community.

My understanding is that many of the Castro faculty (including the principal) came to Fairmont when Castro closed. As for the rebuild, I don't think the current Fairmont campus will be closing anytime soon - maybe not for another couple years.

I know a few families who have been successful with a transfer request to Harding. I think it's likely you'll get it if you ask for it. But, I don't know this first hand, so hopefully, someone else can chime in on that. I'd love to talk with you more about the school, if you are interested. My daughter would love a playdate with a new friend, especially someone who might be in school with her next year! Please email me if you'd like to meet up for a playdate at Cerrito Vista or Castro Park or somewhere else. Amy D

We have a kindergartener at Fairmont. Overall we're pretty happy with what he's learning. There are other middle class families in kindergarten. I can't speak much to the whole school community as we are so new to it. Nobody can predict the future, but this year the Transfer Office was telling people no intradistrict transfers were approved. I do not know if this was true or not.

My daughter is a first-grader at Fairmont and she loves going to school. We are happy with the school also. Her reading and math skills continue to grow significantly. Just walk by the school during recess and you will see kids playing all sorts of games in a cooperative manner. They have a great program there, Playworks, that teaches kids games and, by extension, being respectful to one another. The school is the full-inclusion school and my daughter, just from being there, is learning sign language! The school is scheduled to begin reconstruction when Portola is finished (groundbreaking for that happened this past June and is supposed to take two years, possibly less). When that happens, the school will stay together at a new location, probably the lower yard of the old Portola site, until the school is finished (two years, and more probably less). We aren't worried about it. Happy Fairmont parent

I currently have a first grader at Fairmont and have been very pleased. Warm, friendly community and strong academics. My son has made great friends and has enjoyed his two teachers. He is reading and writing very well, excelling at math and is allowed to explore his passions (science) during his free reading time. Absolutely love the full inclusion aspect of the school, it is fun to volunteer on the yard and see kids tending to their friends. My son is also learning sign language in class, which helps the kids communicate with their non-verbal classmate. The students are very proud of their ability with assisting their classmates and that they are able to communicate with them.

I have volunteered on special projects at the school that exposed me to a wide range of grade levels and the students were impressive. They were thoughtful, smart and enthusiastic. The teachers were equally impressive in the manner in which they helped their students explore the projects we were working on. We love Fairmont! It is a special place. Happy Fairmont Mom

Oct 2013

Re: Moving to El Cerrito or Richmond Annex

Looks like a couple parents asked about getting their kids into madera or Kensington. I just wanted to put in a plug for Harding and Fairmont. Fairmont is the neighborhood school for the Annex. We are having a great experience there. Don't let test scores mislead you. There are so many other things that go into ''great schools.'' That being said, I do think it is harder to transfer into madera. It isn't impossible- just apply on the deadline and see what happens. Anonymous

Our first-grade daughter goes to Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito, and we are very happy there. We love the teachers and the wonderful friends we have made there. And it is really nice for my daughter to have friends in her own neighborhood, several on our block. An El Cerrito parent


Before and after school care at Fairmont?

Oct 2013

Our son will be starting kindergarten next year at Fairmont. With long commutes, we were counting on the before and after school programs to cover the gaps. But not only do they appear to be very expensive, it appears that there's a waiting list to get in (per the language on the EC recreation department website), and also we heard that the before school program does not always happen if there's not enough demand. Can anyone provide information about recent experiences with Fairmont's program? Thinking ahead

Have you spoken with the City of El Cerrito Rec Office about your questions? Obviously they will have the most recent info. That said, I have found the EC Rec office staff to be not particularly responsive/accurate all the time. (Brace yourself for many bills/receipts, not all of which will be right.) I have a child in K after care part-time. We signed up in May and got a spot - there is no waiting list now; they only start one after all the spots are filled. Not a big deal. Applications are available in the early spring. The Ks are segregated from the rest of the afterschool program, so I don't have any concerns about my child's safety. I do have concerns about the overall structure of the program, which seems very rigid and doesn't incorporate any free play inside (the space doesn't have any toys), which I would think 5 year olds would like. I also am appalled by the ''supper'' provided by the City through the district - paging Jamie Oliver! You can feel okay but not great about the aftercare sich - you may want to rethink those long commutes so that your child doesn't have to be there quite so many hours. Finally, you have bad info about the cost. Fulltime aftercare is dirt cheap thanks to a federal grant they got. Part time care doesn't qualify for that rate but it's still around $8/hour, not bad. my 2c

Oct 2013

Re: Moving to El Cerrito or Richmond Annex
Looks like a couple parents asked about getting their kids into madera or Kensington. I just wanted to put in a plug for Harding and Fairmont. Fairmont is the neighborhood school for the Annex. We are having a great experience there. Don't let test scores mislead you. There are so many other things that go into ''great schools.'' That being said, I do think it is harder to transfer into madera. It isn't impossible- just apply on the deadline and see what happens. Anonymous

Our first-grade daughter goes to Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito, and we are very happy there. We love the teachers and the wonderful friends we have made there. And it is really nice for my daughter to have friends in her own neighborhood, several on our block. An El Cerrito parent

Oct 2012

Now that the school year is in full swing, I'm interested to hear current-family reviews of Fairmont in El Cerrito, particularly K families. Do the teachers address the full spectrum of learners? (I have a fear, which may well be groundless, that the curriculum is oriented to average and the teachers aren't able to challenge brighter kids) Thanks! EC Mom

My kid is also in kindergarten at Fairmont. I'm not too sure what is happening in the class, because my kid doesn't give me a lot of details. I do know the teachers are hard pressed to address the full range of learning needs for 28 kids. Imagine how different all of those kids must be and then realize that the teachers must get all of those kids to the same point by the end of the year. Certainly, some really bright kids won't be completely challenged during their 3 short hours in the classroom. But for many of the kids, the curriculum is rigorous enough to ensure they meet the state's standards for kindergarten. If you suspect that your kid isn't challenged, you may need to find activities for him/her outside of the classroom.

I'm pretty happy with Fairmont so far. My kid is reading and writing way beyond what he was doing in August. He loves going to school and asks me for ''homework'' every afternoon. We do worksheets from a kindergarten book and have taken classes through the school's after school enrichment program. We can't expect the teachers to do it all - they have too many kids, too many standards to meet, not enough help, time or resources. fairmont parent

April 2011

Hi-- my daughter will be going into kindergarten fall 2012 (she will be five June, 2012) and we are zoned for Fairmont. We have spent a year trying to buy a house in Albany but have not had any luck so now I am looking into our home schools. I know several families who were also zoned for Fairmont and they all chose to put their children on a waiting list at other schools and ultimately taking them out once space opened up elsewhere. I am looking for feedback from the community, both good and bad, about Fairmont, and I am also looking for suggestions on how to get on lists at other schools, should we decide to do this. Thank you in advance. Mom of a soon-to-be kindergartner

Fairmount is a great school. Many of my friends have sent their children there and have had wonderful teachers and friendly families and students.

We are Fairmont parents who were in your situation last year. We toured many of the local schools and even put in a transfer request. But our concerns were dispelled in just the first few days at Fairmont.

The community is great, with lots of interested and involved parents. The PTA is working hard to support a fun and productive learning environment. Dedicated volunteers are building a wonderful after-school enrichment program. The teachers are extremely experienced, and compare favorably to any school in El Cerrito or Kensington -- private schools included. My understanding is that most of the teachers have 20+ years of experience. The principal is wonderful -- knowledgeable, involved, forward looking, and accessible. On at least two occasions she has given me close to an hour of her time to discuss issues at the school, and she is in attendance at after school and evening functions as well. We know families in all of the Kindergarten classes, and all of them like their teachers. If you look under the Fairmont page on this site, you'll see testimonials about the school. And the school's web site shows that there is a lot going on: special activities almost weekly, the Playworks program, family nights, an organic garden, and much more. (There are big plans for the Fairmont web site, as well, including tools to support more exchange between parents and teachers.) Additionally, many parents have talked about how nice it is to be able to walk (or bicycle) to school, and to easily include a drop off in their morning BART commute.

We are very happy with Fairmont and hope that more dedicated parents and students will join the Fairmont community. -Tim

Nov 2010

Hi - anyone with a current review of Fairmont Elem? We have a couple years to go before our son will be entering K there, but like to get a feel for it beyond the PTA newsletters (which we've started getting). School community, teacher engagement, administrative attitude... anything. thanks! future Fairmont mom

I have two children at Fairmont and I absolutely love our school. My children have had wonderful experiences with devoted and caring teachers. The school population is so diverse economically, racially, culturally, LGBT parents, and children with special needs (it is a title IV full inclusion school). This creates an authentic experience for the children to discover who they are in the world. My children ask deep questions like ''why does so and so wear hijab to school, or how come special needs kids ride the bus, or why do we speak only one language...'' We have become a mid-size school (around 500 students) which seems like a lot but there are staggered recesses and a great program called ''Playworks'' that teaches conflict resolution during recess. We have on site before and after care run by the city of El Cerrito along with after school enrichment programs like chess, spanish, art, baseball...our PTA is active and there is a strong core of ''super' committed parents who take on any and all extra duties like grant writing, school beautification, and anything else that needs doing! Our principle Galen Murphy is friendly, experienced and somehow knows the kids--has a repoire with them in spite of such a large student body. We joke that we are considered the underdog of this neighborhood, with Madera and Kensington being so near. There is definitely a grassroots feel to us...we do not have the budget or high income student body as some of the schools in the neighborhood, but we do have heart and our kids are thriving with the support of a committed staff and parent community. Wouldn't transfer out even if I could!

2005 - 2009 Reviews

August 2009

I'm looking for info - good and bad - on WCCUSD and Albany Kindergarten teachers. We are moving out of state in the next year or two, so grades beyond K don't matter, but we are going to enroll my son in K here, just in case. We currently live near Fairmont, so I'm particularly interested in the class(es) there. Anon

If you are in the Fairmont neighborhood, you are lucky! The new principal is Galen Murphy, who was the principal of the excellent and award-winning school, Castro Elementary School. One of the kindergarten teachers from Castro will be moving to Fairmont. She is super! Fairmont has a fantastic PTA, community support, and a stellar staff. Choose Fairmont! Happy in El Cerrito PUBLIC schools!!!!

Unless you are an Albany resident (or teach in the Albany schools), it is not possible to enroll your child in an Albany kindergarten class. The district has become very strict about enrolling students proving residency with good reason -- the schools are crowded. With class size going up due to state budget cuts, teachers and resources will be increasingly stretched. anon

2004 & Earlier

December 2003

Fairmont Elementary is our neighborhood school (and the one I attended in the 70's!). Now I feel like I know nothing about this school! The posts on Fairmont are almost 2 years old and I was hoping to gather more recent, detailed information.

What is kindergarten like now? Are there two classrooms (like when I attended) or are they down to one now? Do they still play in their own yard? I remember we each got a small carton of milk (if your parents paid extra for it) in the late morning to go with our snack; do they still have this service?

Way-back-when, we went to the school library once a week, on field trips once a year, and had daily hot lunches in the multi-purpose room (if your parents bought you a lunch ticket). I also remember music class once a week, too. Does the school still do these things?

I understand the school has a new principal... how is she working out? Is there a sense of community among the parents? Thanks for any information you can give me! Linda

Both of my children have attended Fairmont from Kindergarten through 6th grade. My daughter is currently in 6th grade and I am on the PTA board. I cannot say enough good things about the teachers and the quality of the education both of my children have had. It is a very nurturing environment with many experienced teachers who really care. The advantage of having your children at a school within walking distance of home should not be underrated. Both of my children are in the GATE program and have had curriculum enhancements. They both test at the 99th percentile on all standard tests. Children still can get milk from the school lunch program for a small fee and a hot lunch for another fee but served in the classroom at the Kindergarten level. The Kindergarten class does have its own playground and they have their own bathroom adjacent to the classroom. There is a new principal and she has done a lot to encourage parent participation and to foster a sense of community. Come to see for yourself. Golda


Jan 2002


My daughter attends this school. This is her first year there (4th grade), and she loves it. They have a new principal, whom I had worked for at another school. She is Great! She loves the kids, and respects the teachers. The teachers have been there a long time, and this is a good thing! They only have after school day care (no AM care). Good luck. Ina

To Leah: REF: Richmond Annex Schools: Fairmont Elementary Hello, my grandchild has been attending Fairmont Elem. Kinder. and now 1st grade. The teachers are caring and very devoted to the children, and the principal is kind and dedicated. I suggest either Fairmont or Harding Elem on Ashbury Ave. in El Cerrito - both good schools. Thanks, Lucy

From: Molly

We bought a house in the Annex almost three years ago. Great neighborhood. Nice neighbors, homey feel, friendly. We send our son to private school though - I didn't hear much about Fairmont School - I actually know someone who teaches there - we just wanted to send him elsewhere. Good luck - love to hear what you find out. -Molly