Mira Vista Elementary School

Community Subscriber
550 students
(510) 231-1416
6397 Hazel Ave., Richmond, CA 94805
Editors' Notes:

Parent Q&A

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  • My child will be starting Kindergarten next school year, and our neighborhood school is Mira Vista Elementary in West Contra Costa County. From what I hear, it is a diverse school with a strong community, both of which are important to me. However, I am concerned about its low test scores (only 34% of students scored at or above the proficient level for math and 40% for reading) and very limited afterschool program (most families need to arrange aftercare somewhere else). I know people say not to put to much emphasis on rankings and scores, but the difference with other higher performing schools nearby is very significant and hard to overlook. Also, both parents work full-time onsite (not remote), and we don't have very flexible schedules. 

    My first questions are for families with children at Mira Vista: What are your thoughts on the overall quality of the education and the teachers at the school? Are you and your child happy there, and do you recommend it? How are you able to arrange afterschool care?

    My next questions are for families who have requested WCCUSD transfers: What is the likelihood of successfully requesting a transfer to Madera, Kensington, or Harding Elementary? Would I have better luck with the elementary schools in Albany? Will schools even consider need for full-time childcare and preference for stronger academic programs as reasons? What do you advise? (Due to costs, I prefer to try all public school options before considering private school.)

    I also have questions for families who have had to go through making similar decisions for their children: This is my first child, and I am struggling with the decision between neighborhood school and diversity vs academics and aftercare. All of these are important to me, and I wish I could have them all. How do I know which option is the best fit for my child? Based on your experience, what has worked for your family? Am I worrying about this too much? 

    Madera often does not have room for the students zoned for the school and you would be unlikely to get a transfer there.Other schools vary from year to year how hard they are to transfer into.Having more TK kids each year probably does not help.

    Our child is at a different WCCUSD school, although we have several friends with kids at Mira Vista who are happy with the school.  In terms of test scores, I would recommend you continue to research the factors that go into the test scores, for this district they are very tied to parent income and the high level of english language learners at many of the district schools.  Mira Vista draws students from a more diverse area of Richmond, leading to the lower test scores.  If you are an involved parent, it is likely your child could do well at many of the schools in this area. 


    We do know parents who have tried to transfer and especially at the kindergarten level it is nearly impossible.   All of the El Cerrito schools (Madera, Harding and Fairmont) and Kensington are very overenrolled with waitlists for kindergarten for parents who live in their zoned areas.  I have also heard WCCUSD is losing so many students they are cutting down on approvals of out of district transfers.  It is unlikely they will approve a transfer for Albany or another city unless you work or live there, you have to meet one of the approved transfer reasons.  They will definitely not consider stronger test scores as a reason to transfer, the WCCUSD transfer office is not well organized or easy to deal with. 

    I would suggest going on the kindergarten tours that Mira Vista and other schools usually hold in December and January and to talk to parents in your neighborhood about their experience at the school.  I suspect you might be happy there, give it a chance and look at other options like private, charter or the WCCUSD immersion schools that are open for transfer (Washington and WCMS).  Good luck!   

  • Hello,

    Any parents out there with kids currently at Mira Vista in Richmond? Our son will be starting kindergarten in Fall 2023 and would love some insight. From what we can tell it is a great community school with strong parent, teacher and admin involvement, but would love to know any tips or tricks to navigating the next 8+ years there.

    Thank you!!

    Welcome to Mira Vista! We currently have a third grader (soon to be fourth) and an incoming kindergartener. We LOVE Mira Vista! What we love: the teachers, the diverse student population, the school culture, the support staff, the high amount of family involvement, the active PTA, the afterschool program, the option to have your child stay until 8th grade, the gardens, the Fall Festival, the Spring Dance, the auction, and so much more! Of course, COVID has changed thigs up a bit, but by the time your child comes to kinder, hopefully everything is back to normal. I would be happy to share more thoughts about Mira Vista, please feel free to reach out. Also, look out for the kindergarten playdates that usually start in May of the previous year (so for you, May of 2023) These are great opportunities to meet other families with incoming kindergarten students. 

  • My family is moving to Richmond and our first grader will attend Mira Vista School.  We're looking for after school programs and are having a hard time finding anything.  The free, school based program is at capacity with no availability.  We do not think Berkeley JCC will pick up at Mira Vista.  Any advice?   

    Hi, we are in the same boat with an incoming K! We enrolled him at Little Tree Montessori, which has an after school program that will pick up from Mira Vista and walk the kids to LT. Our daughter (4th) was able to get a spot at the school for this year, and I’m hopeful the program will grow as if we can end this pandemic and staffing can return to normal levels. 

    Try TG Learning Center or El Cerrito Martial Arts. Both offer afterschool programs and may offer pick-up from El Cerrito schools. My daughter did taekwondo at TG and a few of her friends did their afterschool program and they are great.

    I would look at Little Tree Montessori’s aftercare program, which is on Barrett Ave in El Cerrito and I believe very close to Mira Vista (they may even do after school pickup). Another option might be El Cerrito Martial Arts which also offered an after-school care program.

    Our children are now grown, but they went to a family daycare near Mira Vista that also had an after school program. That could be a place to look as well. 

  • Hi all -- My husband and I are looking to move from Oakland. El Cerrito is especially appealing to us, but as we consider different areas, some we see are zoned for Mira Vista Elementary. We so very much appreciate all the thoughtful information shared here. We love that MV is so diverse, the parent and community involvement. Since most info is 2+ years old, we're posting in hopes to get some updated info. We've read fantastic things about the old principal Mr. Chilcott and his impact on the school in recent years, and see that there's a new principal, Charlotte Betson. Our oldest will be entering Kindergarten Fall 2021, so any and all information (for better or worse) on the more recent state of things (even considering current distance-learning) would be awesome to hear. Thank you, in advance!!

    Hello! We have two kids at Mira Vista, both in the elementary side but the plan is to remain through 8th. While the information on BPN is perhaps a bit dated, I think it's accurate to say that it continues to represent the culture and values of the school. Our kids experiences at MV have been overwhelmingly positive, academically they are doing great, ahead of grade level in fact. Awesome dedicated teachers and staff, and an active PTA. More importantly our kids have always felt enthusiastic about going to school, and feel safe and emotionally supported in the environment. We have lived in East Richmond Heights for several years now and find the welcoming and unpretentious MV community a reflection of the neighborhood at large. As for your questions about our new principal, Ms. Betson has only been on the job for about two months now, and due to distance learning she has not been able to actually "meet" any of us (students or families). She has been very available virtually however and has expressed a commitment to continue to wonderful progress that the school has made over the last 8 years of Chilcott. My impression is that she's a kind, experienced and committed admin but I think you'll be hard pressed to get a more details about her impact on MV at this point since it's all so new. As for distance learning experience, while nothing compares to the engagement of being together in the classroom, my kids' teachers are doing a remarkable job of providing thoughtful and meaningful instruction via the various platforms (Seesaw for my younger, google class for my older). I am very grateful for their efforts, and can only imagine how much more work they are doing. We are all-teachers, students and families- very much looking forward to returning to the campus!  It's not perfect-no school is. I wish there was more funding for a full time art teacher (there's a program that funds a visiting art teacher but no one on staff). The free after school program fills up quickly and there are limited other options in the area. Aside from that we don't have any real complaints, it's been a good fit for our family. Last consideration, being able to send the kids to their zoned neighborhood school (after considering navigating all sorts of waiting lists/lotteries in other cities) has been such a boon. Hope this helps and good luck with your search (btw East Richmond Heights should be on your radar, right next to El Cerrito but a tick down in terms of price)

  • Hi All,

    My husband and I are carefully considering a home in El Cerrito zoned for Mira Vista.  We have a 9 month baby boy. We currently live in Oakland in the Dimond district. The local elementary school in Oakland has a similar rating of 5 based on test scores as Mira Vista. We are just looking for an update about Mira Vista and whether parents feel their children are benefiting and excelling from attending Mira Vista. 

    Thanks so much! 

    As you mentioned, the elementary scores are similar, other things to consider between Dimond and Mira Vista neighborhoods may be:

    1. The middle and high schools in the zone. Mira Vista is a K-8, so after the 6th grade families can choose to go middle school or stay at Mira Vista. Is there also a K-8 option in Dimond? Does middle school start at 6th grade or 7th and how do you feel about either option?

    2. Walkability/public transportation/safety? Will your child be able to get around without you (school, library, parks) by middle school in either neighborhood?

    Good luck!

    My kids are currently at Mira Vista (in the 1st and 2nd grades) and I honestly feel our school gets better every single year. We are on a serious upswing since getting our current principal, Mr. Chilcott, who has now been here eight years or so. He has a real vision for the school and is a true friend to the kids, the parents and the staff. We have a very active PTA (I'm on the board) that is also growing in strength and numbers, and we are creating a vibrant after-school program and adding arts and STEAM curricula with the help of devoted teachers (with a very low turnover rate). I know I sound like I am completely evangelizing about our school, but I can't help it. It's how I really feel. Come visit. 

    Mira Vista is a very, very diverse school serving every nationality, ethnicity and income level.  Many research studies show that very diverse schools are better for all kids.  Do not just look at test scores.  Look at the school itself.  Very dedicated principal and staff.  Very active PTA and parent community.   Tons of activities to participate in both for children and adults.  This school is spearheading the 1:1 tablet initiative in the district.  Listen in.  What you'll see is a great leader, collaborative staff that love what they do and a vibrant and diverse school community. 

    http://www.miravistaschool.com/ Sign up for PTA email news on the site.  Also, check out the Twitter feed, and follow all of those people on Twitter.   

    I want to add, about the test scores: We look at our test scores every year, in our State of the School evening, and Mr. Chilcott pulls apart the reason for various scores. For example, one reason a school might test low is that they have a large population of English-language learners. For us, that's more important than numbers on a paper; a "good" school is one that serves a diverse population. So please also keep that in mind when looking at schools. Testing isn't bad per se, but there are ways to read those numbers that serve the kids more effectively. 

  • Our daughter will start kindergarten next fall. We are zoned for Mira Vista in Richmond, even though we live in El Cerrito, and I've heard very mixed reviews. I understand the school has changed a lot (for the better) in the last few years. I'm wondering if anyone has updated information and/or impressions about Mira Vista that they would be willing to share with me?

    Also, curious to hear about the after school program, although my understanding is that it's not open to the kindergarten classes (although this may have changed?).

    Our neighbors attempted to send their daughter to Mira Vista a few years ago and when they showed up (despite being registered) for the first day they were told that kindergarten was full and they would have to find another school in the district to take her (with absolutely no help from the district to find a placement in a different school). They ended up sending their daughter to St. David. This story has left a bad impression of Mira Vista in my mind, but I'd love to hear diverse experiences.

    Thank you!


    Hey Emalie, I'm the vice president of the Mira Vista PTA and would love to talk to you about the school. I'm so sorry your friend had a bad experience here when she was registered for kindergarten; that definitely happened before my time here, and I'm pretty sure before our current principal, Gabriel Chilcott, who has really transformed the school over the past five or six years. I love our school and our community. This particular year has been hectic for the kindergarteners because the district was overenrolled and, through no fault of ours, we ended up with an extra kinder class -- it has been rough for the whole West Contra Costa district. But this is an anomaly. 

    The aftercare program has really hit its stride this year, and also, for the first time, we do have aftercare for kindergarteners (paid for by the PTA!). We also have full-day kindergarten (till 2:20-ish, like the rest of the school) which makes things much easier for working parents, who make up the majority at our school. We also have a very strong STEAM (that's STEM plus arts) program run by one of our teachers that was a big hit last year and is expanding this year. 

    This is a really exciting time to be at Mira Vista. We have a very engaged community, dedicated teachers with a low turn-over rate, and an incredibly diverse student body. If you want to come by the school, please feel free to email me at vicepresident [at] miravistaschool.com or we can just chat about the school. We have our ups and downs and frustrations like any school, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

    Amy Keyishian

Parent Reviews

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Welcome back to the Bay Area! I have two daughters at Mira Vista School and we live in the Mira Vista/Richmond Heights neighborhood. My husband and I have lived up and down the West Coast but have really found a home and community here. There are some great local parks: I would recommend Tassajara Park; Pointsett Park is another great spot - that's where my kids learned to ride their bikes.  And the Mira Vista Field at the top of Sierra Ave. is a magical place. It doesn't have a playground but it is an open space with trails and lots of dog walking. This place is magical for my girls. Best time to go is after a few good rainstorms and then the kids can walk around in their rain boots (but really any day at sunset is spectacular!).

As for the school, it's our second home. My kids have really excelled at Mira Vista. We participate in our PTA (I'm on the board), and many of our teachers are members of the PTA as well. They truly represent the "T" in PTA. Our participation in the PTA is what has really helped us put down roots in the neighborhood. We've met so many great families and made good friends here. Principal Chilcott is a collaborative administrator who really understands the vibe at the school. Check us out at the solar eclipse last year: https://abc7news.com/weather/students-watch-eclipse-at-richmond-school/2331157/. My kids will never forget the awesomeness of that day. I think this video actually does a great job of showing what our school is all about. I don't know how the teachers pulled it off on the first day of school but they did and parents were there to help, too. And these are the kind of magic moments that happen at our school. I'm happy to talk to you more about MV and answer any specific questions you have. And please join us at our annual Fall Festival on October 27 from 11am-3pm held on the Mira Vista School grounds. It's a fun community event open to all. I'll be working at the salsa tasting contest.

The neighborhood is close to BART with a ferry line opening up nearby, close to Catahoula, great locally owned eateries in the areas - it's a gem of a neighborhood for sure. Just don't let the secret out!


Hi there- We bought our home in Richmond Heights in 2016 and are raising our two young children in the community. We have a 1st grader at Mira Vista and our younger will follow once she's old enough for Kindergarten. We absolutely love living in this area! It's peaceful, neighborly and we feel safe. We hear crickets and coyotes at night in Wildcat Canyon park, but we are a short drive to more densely populated areas with commerce and amenities as well. Our house value has risen considerably, and I would imagine the trend in this area will mirror the housing market at large.

Our experiences at Mira Vista Elementary have been only positive. There's strong community spirit at the school, invested and energized teachers and leadership and a very active PTA. As a long time educator I will say that boundary testing misbehavior occurs in all school communities, and with a kid currently in 1st I've not heard of anything that flags at the level that DC referenced below. If you are exploring private options, there's also a wonderful cooperative school in the neighborhood Crestmont that people like. We happened upon Richmond Heights quite randomly in our endless East Bay housing search, and frankly, we feel like we majorly lucked out landing in this hidden gem of a community. Good luck in your search!


Hi there, Our family has lived in the Mira Vista community since 2010, first as renters and then we intentionally purchased our home here because we wanted our boys to go to Mira Vista because of all that it offers. My oldest is now in 3rd grade and my youngest will start kinder next school year. We are thrilled to be a part of the Mira Vista School, and my husband and I both agree that we found our perfect fit with the family community. We are very involved in the PTA and actually enjoy it! My son has thrived academically and has a richer learning experience precisely because of the school's racial, cultural, and economic diversity.The school's diversity is one of the school's many strength, as is the active PTA and family involvement. Principal Chilcott is fantastic and has done so much for the school since his arrival 6-7 (?) years ago. The faculty and staff are dedicated - there is very little turnover. 

I understand education is a very personal decision, and I know there are many wonderful schools to consider in the bay area, but I'm very disheartened by DC's earlier comment disparaging our school. I disagree that a 5 year old’s behavior is indicative of an entire school and gives grounds for anyone, let alone someone without firsthand knowledge, to determine which 5-year olds are "good" or "bad" and then to judge and warn away other parents from an entire school based on those biases. When my 4-year old asks me, “am I a bad boy?” after being disciplined about something, I am quick to say “no” because he is a child and doing what children do, learning about boundaries and appropriate behavior. This applies to all children, regardless of background and potential difficulties at home.

I have firsthand seen Mira Vista teachers have an amazingly positive impact on children who need additional support, which is a positive experience for all children in the classroom. I hope whatever schools you consider you will take the time to visit the school. Test scores are not indicative of what is happening in the classroom and in the community. Good luck in your endeavors, and please feel free to reach out if you have more questions. 

Hi! You don't say how old your kids are, but my kids go to Mira Vista in East Richmond Heights, where you would def find a beautiful 4-bedroom for that price range, and literally, literally I have a mom-friend at school who is a Spanish-speaking Muslim. Our school is diverse and has a healthy-sized Muslim population, plus a healthy-sized Latino population. I saw that someone else pointed out that some schools score lower precisely because they are more diverse, and that is true for MV. We wear that badge proudly. And the Muslim population is diverse even within itself, people are from all over, many different countries and traditions. 

We are Jewish and my kids also have that thing of feeling like the only ones in in the school, especially since we are so near Tehiyah, which eats up all the Jewish kids around here. It's painful for them! But that diversity is also valuable. When they complain about being the only ones not celebrating Christmas, I can at least say "Our Muslim friends are in the same boat." I really recommend you look around here. We are very near the Del Norte station of Bart which makes for easy commutes. And tho Richmond proper has some urban problems, honestly, I don't feel unsafe here (I lived in Brooklyn for 20 years - real Brooklyn, not hipster Brooklyn).

Also, the "hidden jewel" of Point Richmond is right near the refinery, you're much better off up in these hills. And we're zoned for El Cerrito High, though honestly I would prefer it if the local parents would just force the issue and send their kids to Richmond and JFK to make them better schools but that's another story for another day. :D You can contact me thru this site if you want to talk further. I wish I had your budget, there are some houses for sale here that I'm drooling over. 

Oh yeah, San Leandro is also a good place to look at! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

After school options for Mira Vista Elementary?

Sept 2015

Hi, My son is in the 4th grade at Mira Vista Elementary in Richmond. He is loving 4th grade but really hates the after school program (newly named, ''Extended Learning Program''). He's been in the program the past few years, but has never been this unhappy. Personally, I think being in school for 6 hours and working on mostly academics, an after-school program should be more about physical activity and just structured activities like games. It is a free program, but I'm curious about what else might be available in this community. Any recommendations? Thanks in advance! Mira Vista Mom

Hi! I'm the VP of the Mira Vista PTA and I'm going to bring this up at the next PTA meeting. I would love it if you could get in touch, maybe we can fix this for your son, since he's surely not the only kid having this problem. If not, we are still going to tackle this concern. If you aren't able to make meetings, we can let you know how we're proceeding and you can help provide guidance. Thanks! Amy K

My kid goes to the tennis program at Richmond Rec. There's a solid group of kids there that have been with the program for a long time. Runs from 3-6 four days a week and the price is right. April Jorden has a trampoline and other things for kids of all ages. Google her and get her #. She picks the kids up from MV. Richmond Mom

Hello, my children have also been in the ''Extended Learning Program'' or after school care at Mira Vista for a few years now. I agree that it seems more academic than ever this year. I hope you will share your views with the coordinator. As you note, the program is grant funded so they have to stick to the conditions of the funding. In the past, they've loosened up a bit as the year progresses. Other options include The Kids House and El Cerrito Martial Arts that picks kids up from local schools and takes them to their facility on San Pablo for homework time and martial arts instruction. In the past I've tried to get the City of El Cerrito to offer their after school programs at Mira Vista, since many of us are El Cerrito residents zoned to Mira Vista, which happens to be outside the city limits. I was not successful with this, although was told that if there is enough interest and parents are willing to pay, El Cerrito could send a van to Mira Vista to take students to the locations where they do offer after school programming. That may be worth revisiting. Good luck!

Mira Vista Elementary--any new insights?

July 2015

My family (with 2 very young kids) is considering buying a home on the EC/Richmond border, an area zoned for Mira Vista Elementary. From what I have seen on this board, the reviews of the school have been quite positive, even glowing (perhaps also considering where it was a decade ago). I have read everything from last November 2014 and before. Are there more parents who would like to weigh in? Does anyone have experience who can compare Mira Vista to, say, St. Jerome's, on the other side of El Cerrito? Thanks for any responses, as it is quite hard to connect with local parents when we are simply looking for a home (and since we do not currently live nearby). Martin

Thank you so much for your interest in the Mira Vista! I am very proud to be both a Mira Vista teacher and a parent of two Mira students. My daughters have thrived there both academically and socially, under the guidance of their nurturing and talented teachers. Our students and parents come from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, and it's truly my pleasure to come to work each day where I feel such a strong sense of community. The PTA is actively involved in the school, and everyone is always welcome to attend meetings or volunteer in a way that fits their schedule. I sat in on a PTA meeting the year before my first daughter started Kindergarten, so that I could get a sense of the school before it was time to enroll. That was 7 years ago, and I've been to almost every PTA meeting since! There are so many wonderful aspects of our school- a few highlights are: wonderful kids, a great principal, skilled and caring staff, the Playworks program, elementary and middle School Gardens, great community events throughout the year, and a beautiful campus. I recommend checking out our website: miravistaschool.com and coming to visit the school. I would personally be happy to offer you a tour of the school- email me at rmclachlan [at] wccusd.net, or you can email our PTA at: president [at] miravistaschool.com Rachel M

 Hi, Martin! I'm in the PTA at Mira Vista and coordinate the kindergarten play dates and incoming-parent activities. You can email me directly. I can't speak to St. Jerome's -- I've actually never heard of it -- but I can put a query out on some local lists and get you in touch with other local parents. Amy K

Feb 2015

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

Please consider Mira Vista School in Richmond for your small ongoing donation. Mira Vista is a K-8 school, so your donation would go to a local public school that is working hard to serve the needs of a wide range of students. We have a small, but hard working PTA that is doing amazing things with the limited resources we can muster. Due to our school population (50+% Free/Reduced Lunch), fundraising is a constant struggle so even a small donation of a few hundred dollars would be greatly appreciated and would be put to good use. Here are a few of our PTA funded programs that need financial support:
  • Art in the Classroom: The PTA pays for an onsite Art instructor to come once per month for students in grades K-3. Parent donations never cover the full cost of this program, but because we believe art is a critical part of a child's education, we have continued to fund it for the last 5 years.
  • STEM Club: Students from K through 8th grade study science, technology, engineering and math concepts at this after school club. It is entirely volunteer run (parents and a couple very hard working teachers who run this program on their own time) and provided to all students at no cost. This year we have over 50 students participating.
  • Glee Club: The PTA contracts with Oakland Youth Chorus to provide after school choir. This program is open to students in 1st through 8th grades and is partially funded through parent donations.
  • Pajama Party & Book Exchange: The Pajama Party is a free literacy event open to the entire school. Thousands of free books are available for students and their families to claim and take home. Parents, older students and teachers all gather to read bedtime stories to the younger students and encourage a love of reading. If you are interested in seeing the Mira Vista community in action, feel free to attend. The Pajama Party is happening this year on Thursday, February 26th from 6:00-8:00 pm.
  • School Gardens: Mira Vista has two working school gardens (one for the lower grades and one for the upper grades) and an Urban Agriculture elective for the upper grades. The gardens are a great opportunity for students to get out of the classroom and learn about ecology, agriculture and how to grow their own food. The gardens are maintained year round by parent volunteers.
  • The PTA also provides funding for field trips and classroom supplies and organizes community events like our Multi-Cultural Potluck.
  • The school Administration is also working hard to create a vibrant and positive school culture using Restorative Justice practices.

Having the additional support of individuals outside of our neighborhood would mean the world to all of us! Learn more about us at: www.miravistaschool.com Mira Vista Parent

I hope you will consider Mira Vista K-8 School in Richmond for your donation. We are a gem of a school that hasn't received the same attention or resources as some of the other nearby schools, yet we are building a community of engaged students, committed parents, and dedicated faculty. Your donation would go to a local public school that is helping to bridge achievement gaps. We have an active PTA that is funding enrichment, including art, STEM club and gardens, but there is so much more that could be done with your support. We would like to be able to fund professional art instruction for more students, more often, for example. We are also in constant need of playground and PE equipment. Thank you for supporting the public schools! You can visit our website at: miravistaschool.com Victoria

Nov 2014

Re: Moving from Madera zone to another WCCUSD zone

Hello, I have two boys at Mira Vista and both attend the FREE after school care program there. My kids are in 5th and 2nd grade. We are very happy with the school and the after school program, which is run by Bay Area After School All Stars and funded through state and federal grants. The program provides homework help, art, PE, cooking, computer lab, social skills building, and other fun and educational activities, as well as an after school snack. Students can stay until 6pm. Mira Vista K-8 School provides a rigorous educational experience supported by an active parent community. We have two gardens, elementary and middle school libraries, band, art, glee club and more. We have a wonderful principal who has brought positive energy and consistency to the school. Please contact me if you want to know more. Good luck in your search! vf

I am a parent of two Mira Vista students and would love to share my experiences of the school and the after-school program with you. Our family has been at Mira Vista for 5 years now and it has been an unequivocally positive experience. My children have had experienced and dedicated teachers at every grade level. The current principal has been a force for positive change within the school and is dedicated to continuing that progress. The parent community is welcoming, active and committed to making Mira Vista a thriving neighborhood public school. Thanks to committed parents, the PTA and the district, we have art instruction in grades K-3, a phenomenal music program (Band and Glee Club), two school gardens (with an Urban Agriculture elective for Middle School students), STEM club and a Lego Robotics program.

The after-school program is a wonderful resource. It is free and available for students in 1st-5th grades; my older child has attended the after school program for the last 2 years. It is well organized, and offers kids time for physical activity, homework completion and enrichment activities. Is it perfect? No. I wish the kids had a bit more input on which activities were offered. But it is a life saver for our family (that also has two full-time working parents). I encourage you to come and learn more about Mira Vista (check our website for upcoming public events or contact the PTA to arrange for a tour). MV Parent

Experience with Mira Vista K-8?

August 2014

Dear BPN: My family (husband, 25 month-old child) and I are considering a long-term move to East Richmond Heights, which is zoned for Mira Vista K-8. I know my child is several years from kindergarten, but I'm looking for feedback regarding the school's academics, teachers, social dynamics, extracurriculars, PTA -- especially regarding (but not restricted to) K-5. The last archived post I read was dated almost 1.5 years ago. How did parents reconcile API scores (which are below those of Madera, Kensington) with the more intangible qualities that make a good school? Which public high school do most Mira Vista grads attend? Any info/guidance would be appreciated! Thanks! Mama Who Is Considering Richmond

We attended Mira Vista and found the experience to be less than we had hoped for. While there is a small core of parents working very hard to improve things, offering activities such as band and robotics club, the PTA can only do so much to change the overall direction of a school. The classes are very large and our kids' teachers seemed overworked. There were many children in our classrooms who needed extra help, which was tough for one teacher with 30 children to provide. Our teachers spent so much time dealing with behavior issues that there wasn't as much time left for learning.

On the other hand, there are families who are committed to the idea of bettering this school and education in general. Mira Vista is not Kensington- it is Richmond. There is a good deal of poverty and the problems that come with it. But for some that is a real plus- not being isolated in a community of haves. I would suggest you think about what kind of community and experiences you want your child to be part of. Visit the schools that interest you. You will know when something feels right. disappointed

I was disappointed to see that the only response you received to your request about experiences at Mira Vista was a negative one, because our experience of Mira Vista for the last 5 years has been amazing. It's true that budget cuts impacted class sizes throughout the district (not just at Mira Vista but at Madera and Kensington also). But the funding is back and class sizes are dropping. Even in the midst of the worst of the budget problems our child's classes ranged from 18-27 students, never 30 or higher. The teaching staff at Mira Vista is stable (many teachers have been there for 10+ years) and many of them live in the neighborhood, so they are truly part of the community. It's true that Mira Vista has a much larger population of kids living in economically fragile households than the schools further up the hill, but I truly believe that's a positive. My kids have friends from school of all races, all religions, all socio-economic groups. That is true diversity and I consider it one of Mira Vista's strengths.

The PTA was a small group of overworked parents when we started 5 years ago, but has grown every year. Now we are a vibrant community of hard-working parents who show up to monthly meetings after work and create amazing opportunities for our kids via the PTA. We throw great parties (the Fall festival, the Spring Dance, The Pajama Party), we provide enrichment activities (art in the classroom, gardening in our 2 school gardens, STEM club, etc), and we help out every teacher with classroom grants for supplies and field trips. Our principal is enthusiastic and committed to making Mira Vista better every year.

Please come to a Mira Vista PTA meeting (they happen on the second Wednesday at 7:00 pm throughout the year) and see for yourself what a great place Mira Vista is. We welcome anyone curious about Mira Vista to join us! MV Parent

In am an East Richmond Heights resident and going into my 5th year as a Mira Vista K-8 parent. When I first moved into the neighborhood 10 years ago I didn't meet a lot of parents who were sending their kids to the neighborhood school but about 5 years ago I noticed a shift so decided to give Mira Vista a try. I am extremely happy with my decision as we have had a very positive experience with the school!

- Mira Vista has wonderful, experienced dedicated Teachers.
- The Prinicipal Gabriel Chilcott has proven himself to be an outstanding leader for the varying age ranges and diverse student population.
- The PTA is STRONG and is responsible for bringing enriching activities to the entire student body (STEM, Band, Glee club, art classes, dance, drama) as well as community building events (Fall Festival, Multi-Cultural Night, Walkathon, Craft Night, Concerts, Spring Dance).
- Parent participation and volunteers continue to propel the school forward. (Our library is open daily because of parent volunteers!)
- The student body is incredibly diverse.
- The campus is beautiful complete with upper and lower school gardens that the students have an opportunity to work in.

The class size in on par with other public schools in the area. For K-3 this year I believe the maximum is 24. Test scores are not as high as Madera or Kensington which I believe scares some families away. Viewed through the perspective of the diverse socio-economic backgrounds of the students, may of whom are ELD (English Language Development learners) and the fact that Mira Vista has Special Education/ NSH classes, the test scores make more sense but it is something the school has struggled with.

While Richmond is an economically challenged city, East Richmond Heights (as well as bordering El Cerrito) is a solidly middle class neighborhood. As the number of neighboring families attending Mira Vista is increasing, there is still a large number who seek transfers to more affluent area public schools or send their children to private or charter schools.

Ultimately for me it has boiled down to: 1) is their a sense of community? 2) is my daughter flourishing?

As my daughter enters 4th grade the answer is an overwhelming YES on both these points! Mira Vista K-8 is an up and coming school that deserves serious consideration to families moving to &/ or living in the neighborhood. Amy M.

I too am an East Richmond Heights resident and going into my 3rd year as a Mira Vista K-8 parent. When we first moved to the neighborhood we did not have children and schools were not a consideration at the time. When we finally started a family and the question of where do we send the kids, we knew right away that we were not leaving the neighborhood.The sense of community was a vital part of that decision. There are days when it feels like a village. Many of us from the school know each other and care for each others kids. We knew Mira Vista would be the place to send our kids to school.

Our 3rd grader was too young to start kindergarten so we sent him to a nearby Montessori School at great expense, but there were few choices at the time. With mixed results at Montessori we could not wait for our oldest to start Mira Vista in 1st grade. He thrived and excelled in his first year. Barely missing a day of school! He LOVES going to school!

-The Prinicipal Gabriel Chilcott has proven himself to be an outstanding leader for the varying age ranges and diverse student population along with leading the volunteer based Site Council in making the right decisions for the school. He is busy but ever present! And our numbers have improved each year since he arrived.

-The PTA is STRONG and getting STRONGER with involved, dynamic, creative and dedicated leadership!-

The PTA is responsible for bringing enriching activities to the entire student body. There is a small yet strong group or grant writers and fund raising committee who are always thinking outside the box.

-Parent participation and volunteers continue to propel the school forward. (Our library is open daily because of parent volunteers!)

-The campus is beautiful and safe and friendly

Our son is looking forward to starting 3rd grade and we look forward to another great year!

We are extremely happy with Mira Vista and are dedicated to the over-all continued success of the school, it's teachers and the entire student body. Casey L.

I wrote an earlier response and then realized that I hadn't actually addressed any of your specific questions. Regarding test scores, it is no surprise to me that Mira Vista test scores are lower than Madera and Kensington; most of our students come from lower socio-economic groups than the students at those two schools. Test scores correlate directly to income level, so it makes sense. Mira Vista also has a larger population of NSH and LD students than those two other schools, and the test scores reflect that reality as well. I work in standardized testing and I caution you not to put too much importance on these tests. If you want a more accurate view of how your student might do at Mira Vista, at least dig down into the more detailed numbers and take a look at how kids in the relevant (to you) sub-groups performed. If your child has a stable family life, parents who care about education, and consistent and easy access to food, he/she will thrive at Mira Vista. If you and your husband are college educated and read to your child every day on top of those other factors, your child will likely be one of the ones helping bring those test scores up.

High school assignments can be viewed through the district website and are based on address. Our child is slated for El Cerrito High based on where we live, but I'm not sure if that's true of all Mira Vista students, as our draw area is quite large. The good news is that if you decide to give Mira Vista a chance, you will likely fall in love with our school community and then won't have to worry about changing schools again until after 8th grade. K-8 rocks! MV Parent

Middle School at Mira Vista

March 2013

I'm looking for feedback about the 6-8 grades middle school at Mira Vista, especially about academics and quality of teaching, social scene, any discipline issues. I think they've only had the one 8th grade class graduate, but I'd love to know if you had a student there and thought they were well-prepared for high school. I hear MV has a great principal, and generally know about the advantages of a middle school on a K-8 campus (though we'd be new at the school in the 6th grade, so wouldn't have the benefits of continuity). I'm a little nervous though about having mulitple-subject credential teachers instead of single-subject specialists, and also about the lack of language and elective choices. Thank you BPN community!

My son is in 7th grade at Mira Vista. He has been at the school since 1st grade. Our experience with the middle school has been largely good. I understand your question about teachers who are multiple subject credentialed. But I am impressed with our teachers. In 7th grade, for example, one of the teachers has a doctorate. She teaches English and World History. She is having the kids read some great books and fosters great discussions. She also has a long history of teaching kids at all ages, but particularly middle school. I think she was a principal at a K-8 elsewhere.

The math and science teacher is incredibly organized and has been super active in getting enrichment for the kids. He helped get us an American Heart Association grant to build a middle school garden, that facilitates discussion of science and nutrition. Garden is nurtured by the entire community, teachers, parents, and kids. He also has continued a partnership with UC Berkeley grad schools, so that we have two grad students helping teach biodiversity and related topics each week in science. As a result of this partnership, the kids in 7th grade will have two great field trips, one to China Camp and one weekend trip. The same teacher partnered with another lower grade teacher to get the kids a field trip on a local schooner, where they received specialized science instruction related to the bay.

My impression of the 8th grade teachers is similarly positive. Our math instructor is well versed in algebra and has taught other teachers how to teach the subject. Our English and Science teacher is very dynamic, frequently seeking grants for new science materials, and has previously taken kids on a camping trip to Yosemite.

Our sixth grade math and science teacher is the liaison also to our student council and teaches the elective class that publishes our school yearbook. She is energetic and knowledgeable. The other sixth grade teacher is new to the position this year, so I have less information. But overall it is a good team. And our principal is engaged and focused on making the middle school a success. He is very responsive. He takes prompt action where needed. He is a good communicator. And he really cares about the kids.

For electives, the kids have had team sports, yearbook, nutrition, cultural awareness, and a few other topics. I do wish we had language. Perhaps that is something we can offer in the future depending on our teacher contingent. But overall, the warmth of the community, the small size of the middle school (making it easier to spot and address issues early), the incredible diversity, and the energy of the teachers lead us to feel satisfied with the experience our son has had. debora

My kid is in the 7th grade at Mira Vista, and my younger child will be there in a few years.

We are mostly quite happy with the experience. Frankly I am pretty thrilled with the faculty. I think the fact that they all have multi-subject credentials is actually beneficial: it allows the teachers to be more creative in their instruction, especially in the ability to capitalize on the connections between, say, Literature and Social Studies, or Math and Science. The teachers work really well together, too, and are committed to making the school academically strong.

There were some discipline issues last year, but I feel fairly confident that they've been (mostly) resolved. Some of the more problematic kids have left, and the new principal is keeping a tighter rein on the kids -- being clear about expectations and consequences, for example -- than the previous principal did.

I think new kids will be welcomed, in part because some of these kids have known each other since the early grades and are eager to meet more kids! I know mine has enjoyed getting to know new kids, and making new friends, as they've come in.

I do wish there were more electives (including Spanish!), and that the kids had lockers. But overall it works very well for us. Happy MV parent

Mira Vista or Crestmont School

Sept - Oct 2012

Hello BPN, We are considering buying a house in East Richmond, and are wondering about school options for our son when he's ready to start kindergarten. I would love to hear some current feedback from parents who have kids attending either Mira Vista or Crestmont School. What has your experience been like at these schools? We would appreciate any info you can provide on the teachers, administration, environment, curriculum, parent support, and student body at these two schools. Thank you! Parent of Prospective Kindergartner

Our child is now a 2nd grader at Mira Vista and has been at the school since starting Kindergarten. I'm sure you will gets lots of responses to your question, and many of them will likely be praising Crestmont. I don't have any experience with Crestmont, though lots of families that I know and respect have chosen it as their school, so I'm sure it is a wonderful place. I am writing to encourage you to choose Mira Vista if you do end up in the neighborhood.

Mira Vista is a great community. We have a new principal who has made some really great changes and who seems to be truly interested in working with parents to help make the school even better. Like any public school, money is tight. And as a result, class sizes have gone up this year. But our teachers and parents are working together to make sure that increased class size has as little impact as possible on learning. In Kindergarten, Ms. McLachlan (teacher) is amazing! You will not find a better qualified, more passionate, more effective teacher anywhere (public or private). Thanks to our hard working PTA, we have art programs (band, choir, art), two functioning gardens, and tons of fun events throughout the year.

Even if Mira Vista weren't such a great school, I would still encourage you to choose your neighborhood public school over private school. Part of the reason that public education is in such dire straights is because many (if not most) of the families who have means (money, time, education) have been choosing private schools. If those same families would commit themselves to their local public school and invest their time, money, energy and ideas there, then the whole community of children could benefit from the improvement of public schools. Please, bring everything that your family has to offer to your local public school. Mira Vista Parent

I wanted to respond to the question about Mira Vista School in East Richmond Heights. My son is in first grade there and went to Kindergarten there last year and I can emphatically say we're very happy at Mira Vista. His Kindergarten teacher was excellent, and I was hugely impressed by the PTA and parent involvement when we began school last year. I'd heard from many parents that Madera was the better school, and I'd checked BPN before he started Kindergarten, and was pleased to see the reports about the strong community at Mira Vista. I'm very happy to report that this has absolutely been the case.

Because Mira Vista is part of West Contra Costa Unified, it therefore suffers from the same budget cuts as all other elementary and middle schools in the district. The difference is in how the PTA steps up to serve students and parents in the face of those cuts. The good things: Mira Vista has a great arts and music program, with glee club, band, orchestra, rock band, dance, and some art courses -- all PTA arranged and provided. Field trips were fabulous last year in Kindergarten (they went to a farm and the SF Symphony; my son still talks about it); school events are well-executed and fun. The campus is stunningly gorgeous, with full bay views and an architecturally significant design. There are two working vegetable gardens. Most of all, I'm a bit of an introvert but I've made some of my best friends already through the other parents at the school. I've continually been surprised and delighted at the level of creativity and involvement parents have, and the strong sense of community.

The dark side? It's a public school, and faces public school challenges like any else. Administration has fewer staff than I would like (but the principle is great). Private school is not an option for us, and I'm not convinced it would be any better. As well, Mira Vista now goes up through eighth grade, so there's the opportunity for us to build and work towards success on all levels as my son moves through the grades.

Good luck--I highly recommend Mira Vista. Their web site is www.miravistaschool.com (PTA-run), and there's a really active Facebook and Yahoo group too where you can ask more questions. SF

We live in the Richmond Hills, and my kids have been at Mira Vista from K thru now 7th grade for my oldest, so we are 'veterans' of a sort!

We have been really happy with Mira Vista. The PTA and parent involvement keeps growing, with the result that we have a really strong community-feeling at the school AND we've been able to fill in some of the funding gaps from budget cuts (adding music, art, a garden, and many other activities).

The curriculum is set by the district, so it is consistent with all the public schools in the area. We've been fine with it. Most of the teachers are gifted and love their jobs. There are a few exceptions, as in probably any school, but overall the teaching caliber is high. We have a new principal this year, Gabriel Chilcott, who seems responsive, intelligent, and committed to making Mira Vista an even better school.

The student body is extremely diverse, with a very multi-cultural and multi-ethnic makeup. I think this is a real strength of the public schools in general -- our kids are really getting to know children outside their own particular demographic.

Though your child is still quite young, another advantage of Mira Vista is that it is now a K-8 school. There is a middle school component that is really strong, with a faculty committed to excellence.

I encourage you to see the school for yourself in December -- we will have the first of several K tours that month. Please see our website for details about this and other aspects of Mira Vista: http://miravistaschool.com/ Good luck in making your decision! Christine

Greetings. I am a Mira Vista parent. Our son is in 7th grade and started at the school for first grade. Our youngest niece is in 7th and has been there since 4th. Her sister attended from 5th thru 8th and was part of our first 8th grade class. I have been in the PTA throughout and also active in our site council. We have been very happy with the school.

Over the years that we have been part of the community, the PTA has expanded and increased its organization and activities. It is very engaged in partnering with our teachers and the principal to create a successful and enriching environment. We have a number of experienced and committed teachers who are just wonderful. Our principal came to us midyear last year from an assistant vice principal position at Helms. He has hit the ground running and our parents and teachers seem universally happy with his performance and direction. He is very available to staff, students, and parents, an effective communicator, and focused on moving the school forward particularly as we establish our new middle school.

Our PTA has been successful in filling many of the gaps that contracting budgets create. We help to provide art classes is many grades and dance. Last year a recently retired teacher wrote and directed a school musical, to tremendous school acclaim. We have band, orchestra, and a glee club. We have a lego engineering club resuming, artist of the month displays, and many well-attended school events, such as our fall festival, cultural potluck with many performances, spring dance for parents and students, winter performances and band and orchestra performances.

Our middle school is off to a good start. Students in those grades have class at the top of our campus, so they generally are physically separated from younger students. They also have separate schedules for lunch and recess and different release times.

Middle school students switch between two core teachers who divide the curriculum according to expertise. For example in 7th grade our son has one teacher for math and science and one for english and world history. He also has a separate PE teacher and an elective. Electives include team sports, yearbook/student council, nutrition, cultural awareness.

The American Heart Association gave us a grant to start a middle school garden. Our 7th graders also receive science instruction on biodiversity from two Cal grad students most Wednesdays thru a collaboration with the university and will take two or three special fieldtrips with them. We have a science demonstration and computer lab for the middle school equipped with computers, and a separate computer lab for lower grades. We have separate libraries for elementary and middle school students as well.

If you are interested in visiting the school or have questions for our principal, you can reach him by phone at 510-231-1416. Just hit zero when you get to the recording and you will be transferred to our school secretary. We also have a great web page which is frequently updated and to which you can subscribe:miravistaschool.com; and a facebook page where you can get news and also post questions: www.facebook.com/miravistaschool. If you have further questions, feel free to email me directly. Cheers. Debora

I replied previously, and then realized I had one more thought to share. When choosing between Crestmont and Mira Vista, please think of them both as ''Co-op'' schools. That is one mistake that I feel a lot of parents make when choosing a school. Parents who choose a Co-op go into it knowing that they will be expected to put in hours of their time, volunteering in the classrooms and working to make the school great. The parent involvement and commitment is what makes the school what it is. Public school is no different. If those parents who work diligently at their Co-op were willing to put in the same hours, the same passion, the same commitment at their neighborhood public school, the public school would be just as successful as any Co-op school. For that matter, if they were willing to attend their local public school and donate even 50% of what their Co-op/Private tuition would have been to the PTA, it would change the face of public education.

Some parents believe that if they choose public school then they have no obligation to work to improve the school. They don't give of their time or their money, and then they wonder why their school doesn't seem as great as the Private/Co-op school up the street. So, if you choose Mira Vista, please plan on being a ''Co-op'' style parent in our public school. We need you!

And if you do choose Crestmont (or any other private school), please remember that public schools still need your support. Vote ''Yes'' on our school funding measures, support our school fundraisers and donate some time by volunteering (even if you don't have a student enrolled). If you have the means, consider making a donation to the PTA that matches (in full, or in part) your private school tuition. Attending a Private/Co-Op school doesn't excuse you from the obligation that the larger community has to support public education. Mira Vista Parent

Welcome, (possibly), to the East Richmond Heights neighborhood! We have two children at Mira Vista and thus far we've been very happy. The community is wonderful. Our PTA puts on fun events all year long, including our Fall Festival, Craft Night, Multicultural Night and Free Book Fair. In the last two years, parents have returned art instruction to the school day, and started a strong afterschool Band/Orchestra and Glee Club program. We have a grant committee that procures yet more funds for field trips and classroom supplies. Parents volunteer in the classroom, the library and at recess. We have two gardens, one of which was funded by a generous grant from the American Heart Association.

Teachers: I am so grateful for the wonderful teachers we've had at Mira Vista. One of my children has some special needs, and I have always felt that he is warmly accepted by his teachers and the Speech/OT folks who help him reach his full potential.

Administration: Our principal is fairly new, but has shown strong leadership and is responsive to parent concerns.

Diversity: Mira Vista is a truly diverse school. You know how in Berkeley and SF, they have lottery systems to create ethnic and socioeconomic balance in their schools? We have that at MV without doing anything special--it's a neighborhood school.

I won't lie--it's a tough time in WCCUSD. Measure K narrowly failed to pass last spring, and class sizes went up for lower grades. Now we really, really need to pass Measure G--which is simply a renewal of an existing parcel tax--to keep what we have now. But I like our school and I like that it serves everyone in our community, so I'm willing to fight for it.

To learn more about Mira Vista, check out our website, miravistaschool.com. Also, you are warmly invited to come to our Fall Festival, which is on October 27th from 11-3. MV Mom

We are very happy with Mira Vista K-8. I have a third grader and a kindergartner this year. In addition to the top-notch parents, who roll up their sleeves and make things happen, the teachers and staff go above and beyond to make our school thrive. These are difficult times for public schools, but despite the challenges, Mira Vista has art and music, a spelling bee, a science fair and more. It's great that my children can stay at Mira Vista through 8th grade. It is incredibly rewarding to invest my time, money and energy in our neighborhood public school where I feel that I am making a difference not only for my kids, but for all children in the community. Victoria

Editor note: reviews were also received for Crestmont

Nov 2011

Re: New to El Cerrito - Junior High and Elementary

Hello and welcome to El Cerrito! Our son attends Mira Vista K-8 school on the El Cerrito/Richmond border in the Richmond Hills, and we are very happy with the school and the community. It is our neighborhood school and it is great to walk to school and have his friends nearby. I do not know if the 4th grades at Madera or Mira Vista are full, but you could call to find out. Mira Vista is another option for middle school when you get to that point. Good luck. Grace

8th grade at Mira Vista?

Feb 2011

What are the upper grades like at Mira Vista? Is there a good teacher in place for 8th grade? We are considering transferring our daughter (currently independent study through a charter school) there for 8th grade and then going on to El Cerrito High. Would it be difficult to get a spot in the 8th grade? What were our experiences with the 7th grade class? Any info or suggestions you have would be appreciated. Exploring our options

Hi there. My daughter is a current 5th grader at Mira Vista, and we plan on keeping her there through 8th grade.

Right now there are no 8th grade teachers as there is not yet an 8th grade. In a conversation I had with the current 7th grade teacher, Mrs Van der Meer, she indicated she was hoping to move up to 8th grade next year. From what I've heard and observed, she is an excellent teacher who has high standards for the kids, and they seem to really like her too. The other current 7th grade teacher is Mrs. Tutass, who has a lot of experience and is also a great teacher.

Since the program is still new, I'd say we're in a transition period. It is unclear who the 7th and 8th grade teachers will be next year, at least to me as a parent, though it is clear that Mrs Van der Meer will be staying on for sure. I'm optimistic, as we have an excellent and committed principal, great teachers, and I like the small school experience. The negatives are that there are no real electives, at least yet, but that may change in the next year or two.

Make sure you check with the office about availability, especially if you are hoping to transfer. Christine

Both of our children attend Mira Vista, the older is in sixth grade this year. As I understand it, it won't be known for some time who the eighth grade teachers will be, however we have an excellent principal (formerly at Adams Middle School, and MLK in Berkeley), a dedicated PTA and lots of wonderful neighborhood families to lead the way. I strongly encourage you to visit the campus and check us out! -happy MV mom

After school care for kindergarteners?

Feb 2010

Hi, My son will be entering kindergarten at Mira Vista Elementary this August and I am wondering if anyone has any recommendations for aftercare. I have met April (The Kid's House) and been to her house which was great but I am wondering if any other options exist out there. The Kid's House charges $7.50/hour (and includes lunch). Does anyone have any information about other aftercare options? Thanks! MV mom

the YMCA has Y kids that is a good program juliet

Transferring from parochial school

Feb 2010

Greetings! We will be transferring our children from a Parochial School to Mira Vista in the Fall. What are your thoughts about the Community at this School? I am used to a close knit/family feel to my children's school as well as having concerned and attentive teachers. We are also used to children treating each other nicely (no not all the time but, most of the time), I have a very young son he started school at 4(November Birthday) because he was reading and doing basic math at the age of 3 and the teachers at his preschool basically said there was nothing more they could do and that he would probably get bored if kept there another year. I am concerned that he will be teased, taunted or picked on at a public school. I am not so concerned about my daughter as she is very outgoing. We unfortunately are no longer able to afford the school due to all the cuts at my husbands current job so, sadly we have to make this change. Any and all reviews will be greatly appreciated! Realizing more & more why they say parenting is the toughest job in the WORLD!

We transferred our son from parochial school to Mira Vista this school year. He is in the lower grades so the class is small. Smaller than those at his previous school. Of the 20 kids in his class 4 have significant behavior issues that monopolize all of his teacher's attention. There is more swearing, hitting and misbehavior than at his previous school. The kids don't line up and walk into the room, there is a lot of talking out of turn in class, and things aren't as clean and orderly as in his parochial school. However, I'd say that overall it is a safe place and he is happy. Considering the fact we've been at two difffernt parochial schools where there were significant bullying problems that were not addressed, I'd say that the public school is a fine option in comparison.

The biggest difference that I've found between the public and parochial schools is that since you don't get a school roster, it is hard to make playdates with other kids in the class if one or both families have working parents. Other than that I'd say that there are as many, or more, parents at the PTA meetings. The PTA holds events and fundraisers every month so it is possible to feel a part of the community if you show up and participate. mira vista parent

Our daughter is in kindergarten at Mira Vista and we love the school. It's very near to our house, the principal and staff are very responsive, and we absolutely adore her kindergarten teacher. Of course the school is not as wealthy or high-profile as Madera or Kensington Elementary, but I really like the close community of the school. And the parents - working class, multicultural, down to earth - rock. There is a lot of homework (a full packet per week!) but there are also fun things for kids, such as Holiday performance night, pajama/cookies reading night, garden clean up, field trips, etc. Mira Vista is not glamorous or really touch-feely, but it's a good basic school with a good heart. Plus, it's part of our community. I love getting to know people in the 'hood. Good luck. Jo

Welcome to the Mira Vista Community!

I think that you will find that we have a strong sense of community and collective responsibility at our school. I have a current kindergartner at Mira Vista and I feel very happy about the ''village'' we have found for her there. Like your son, my daughter is also a ''young'' kindergartner, and yet she has made many wonderful friends here and has been surrounded by supportive adults when she needed them. There is a great group of parents who are involved in the PTA. We are not a huge group, but there are enough people involved to help share the work. In recent years, there has been a renewed sense of enthusiasm and participation by parents. The school is also wonderfully diverse, so I feel that our children are learning to be kind, understanding and appreciative of students that are different from themselves.

The biggest challenges we face are those that are due to district and state-wide financial problems. This seems to be difficult just about everywhere right now. Nonetheless, we see good things happening in our school. I will personally be happy to speak with you or show you and your kids around the school if you are interested. Again, welcome to Mira Vista! Rachel

Mira Vista School is comprised of an excellent community of students, faculty, administrators, and parents. We're mainly a neighborhood school and so the students and parents are also our friends and neighbors, which strengthens our entire community. This is our fourth year at the school and I can only speak highly about every teacher our daughter has had. Also, parent involvement is relatively high, ever-increasing, and integral... so come prepared to get involved! Betty's Mom

Hi there. My son has attended Mira Vista for 4 years. He is in fourth grade and he has had a good experience. He is one of the younger kids in his grade and a good student.

The Mira Vista community is quite diverse, which we enjoy. And the kids all get along very well. My nieces from Peru recently joined the community and although they speak very little English they have already made quite a number of friends. Other spanish-speaking kids help to translate for them. But english-speaking children and children from other countries also have taken them under their wing. It's very sweet to see.

We have a thriviing PTA and many committed teachers who have been at the school for years. Turn out at school events is very impressive and to me heart-warming. Our parking lot and auditorium are full for events like the winter holiday show and a recent bookfair that was paired with a ''cookies and hot cocoa'' literacy storytelling event. We also have a fall festival at Halloween, a cultural awareness potluck, campus clean ups and gardening events, a spelling bee, a field day with athletic activities, and we are planning a Spring Dance.

It's a warm community and I think that your son and daughter easily could feel at home there in no time. My son did and he came from a small comparatively small neighborhood pre-school (Keystone). My nieces did also and they were coming to a school in a new country, with a new language, and many new customs. Good luck! debora

We live in El Cerrito and Mira Vista is our local school. Our daughter is a first grader at Mira Vista. She loves it. She had a great kindergarten teacher last year and this year she really likes her First Grade Teacher, Mrs Hoy. They also have a great new principal, Mr Szot. The school district recently put quite a bit of money into the facility and it is quite nice. Next year we will send our younger daughter there for Kindergarten. We think the school works out very well for us and there are lots of great parents that we meet at PTA events with whom we have become good friends. Cheers, Paul and Christine

I am a parent at Mira Vista, and I think I can speak to some of your concerns. You wondered about the community -- though we are a large school (400+ students), there is a strong (and growing) community of involved parents. I've met some great families both in my children's classrooms and through our PTA, and what I find wonderful is that I keep meeting more families as the years progress. Involvement in the PTA is really the best way to be a part of a great community within the school.

You also wondered about how an intelligent, shy, young-ish child might fare. I have no crystal ball but I can tell you that he would not be the only child at the school with those qualities. There are very smart, bookish children in each grade. I've observed that these children tend to gravitate towards each other for friendship. Additionally, I have not witnessed or heard of any bullying of the smart, shy kids (and I'm on campus quite a bit).

Finally, I want to say that we are very fortunate to have a fantastic, committed, and experienced principal who is very responsive to any concerns that might crop up. He welcomes input from parents, so you know you always have an ally should you experience any problems or issues. Christine

Welcome, future Mira Vista family!

My son is in kindergarten this year (so possibly a classmate of your son next year :)) Thus far, we have been extremely happy with the school. My son's teacher is wonderful, and quite attentive to his needs. Early in the year she noticed that he was having some challenges in the classroom, and she wasted no time in getting him the extra help that he needs to thrive. I am so grateful for the care and consideration that the professionals (including the principal) at Mira Vista have shown towards my child.

As for worries about teasing, etc: I haven't seen much of that kind of behavior, and I volunteer at the school often. There are plenty of kids with autumn birthdays, as well as kids who are reading and doing math at an advanced level.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you have any further questions. liza

Mira Vista Elementary School has a strong community of parents and a committed group of teachers and staff. My son is in kindergarten this year and we are very happy with the academic and social environment. In my experience, the older grade students seem very respectful and kind. Some of them are in after school care with my son and he looks up to them and they all play well together most of the time. There is a new principal, Mr. Szot, who is excellent. The parents step up to help where we can: in the classrooms, patrolling the grounds, helping with supervision on field trips, donating supplies and raising money. Sorry to hear that you have to switch schools, but I hope you will be as happy as we are with Mira Vista. vf

Moving to Richmond View

Oct 2009

We are considering moving to the Richmond view area and our neighborhood school most likely would be Mira Vista. Our son will be entering Kindergarten next fall (2010) and I'm curious to hear what current M.V. parents and their kids think of the school, in terms of academics, atmosphere, parent involvement, etc. Also, would it be worth it to request a transfer to Madera or Kensington? Thanks! public school supporter

Mira Vista elementary is a pretty great little school that tends to fly under the radar more than the ''big two,'' Madera and Kensington. We don't have their test scores or their population (mostly white) but we do have a lot of positives. We have some great teachers, a diverse student body who genuinely get along most of the time, a free after school program, and a new principal (Julian Szot) who by all accounts is very impressive -- involved, attentive, and present. Oh, and we also have a beautiful campus with million dollar views of the bay!

My kids attend Mira Vista and are doing great academically (they perform above grade level). I also like the fact that we can walk to school, and see other families in the neighborhood. I also like that we are helping support our local school rather than one several miles away.

I think kindergarten tours will start in January, at which time you'll be able to tour the facilities and talk to other current and prospective parents.

My son is in kindergarten at Mira Vista and we are delighted with the school. If I could go back and do it over, I wouldn't spend one moment fretting about a transfer or the possibility of private school.

My son's teacher is passionate about her profession, and is truly dedicated to each child in her classroom. The diverse group of kids are so sweet. Every morning before the bell rings and at pick-up time, the kids play and ride tricycles while parents, grandparents and teachers chat. It's just a lovely environment.

The parent community is active, and filled with friendly, unpretentious folks. Many parents volunteer in the classroom and donate basic supplies to the teachers.

The curriculum is the only area where I'm not %100 happy about my son's education. He does a few too many worksheets for my taste and I'm not thrilled that he has homework in kindergarten. But, the curriculum is the same throughout the WCCUSD. My son's teacher does everything in her power to make every day fun and exciting, even within the confines of the curriculum.

I wouldn't think about transferring if I were you. A) because the schools you mentioned are full and you won't get in B) while the other PTAs might raise more money, those schools don't necessarily have better teachers and C) walking to/from school with your kid is one of life's great pleasures :) . proud MV parent

Welcome to the neighborhood! Our experience with Mira Vista was mixed at best. The level of parent involvement was quite active, and we really liked the kindergarten teacher (and the principal the first year, but she was gone after that), but things went more or less downhill from there. Test scores drop off dramatically into the upper grades.

A few examples: our child was a decent reader entering kindergarten (for that age - knowing letters, simple words, etc.). In the last month of the school year, the teacher said, ''you know, [xxx] can READ!'' as if it was a shock to her. Going into first grade, homework consisted mainly of repetitive busy work (tracing letters and words). Although the teacher adjusted by sending home more advanced work, it became very quickly apparent that teaching in the classroom was to the lowest level in the class. I appreciate the need to not leave kids behind, but at the same time the more advanced kids in class were clearly not challenged. In fact, in talking with the teacher it seemed as if our child was more often than not acting as a teacher's helper in class, as opposed to actually learning.

Our child now attends a nearby parochial school. The request for transfer (or finagling not-so-ethical ways to switch) into Kensington and/or Madera schools appeared to be a common one in the time we were there, but was not something we wanted to do. Might help explain some of the dropoff in test scores. former Mira Vista parent

My kid actually goes to an arts-based school in downtown Berkeley near my workplace, but when I was shopping around for schools a year ago, I was favorably impressed by MV and would have been happy for my child to go there if we had gone the public school route. I live a few blocks from Mira Vista and often walk my dog in Mira Vista field, a community-run park and nature reserve just adjacent to the school. It seems to be a well-run school and people speak highly of the kindergarten teachers. Campus is very nice, all-new playground equipment, etc. Mira Vista is proactive with parent tours and info sessions and setting up pre-kindergarten socials before school starts. -Mira Vista Neighbor

Mira Vista has several K tours for prospective parents every spring, which is a good way to see the K program in action. Before requesting a transfer, my suggestion would be to visit Mira Vista, meet our principal and connect with some of the PTA members via our group email (found on the school's website). Both of our children attend Mira Vista and we have been very happy with the teachers and the school community. Do I wish the test scores were higher? Yes, I do (and they have, in fact, increased 32 points in the past year). Do I wish more local families would choose to stay at their neighborhood school instead of requesting transfers to other local elementary schools? Yes, I do. What's important to me about the concept of a neighborhood school is that my children grow up attending school with other kids who live nearby; they make friends and see each other in the neighborhood on weekends, at the local stores, etc. The school is part of their community and vice versa. With Mira Vista scheduled to become a K-8 school over the next two years, entering families have the option to keep their kids in the neighborhood school through their middle school years. Bottom line: when you make a commitment to a place, whether it's a home, a neighborhood or a school, you get out of it what you put in. Glad we stayed at MV

My son started at Mira Vista kindergarten this year and we are very happy with his teacher, the school and the community. The kindergarten teachers are very experienced and committed and are planning on at least three field trips for the year. The kids go to the computer lab, school library, and bookmobile regularly. There is an active PTA coordinating fundraising and lots of great activities including a fall festival on Saturday, Oct. 24 from 11 to 2. Perhaps you can come by to meet some of the families and teachers and/or look for the kindergarten information sessions early next year. Happy Mira Vista Parent

Our son is in his 4th year at Mira Vista and we are very happy with his experience and the community there. He has had wonderful committed teachers each year and has made many lasting friends, all of whom live near us, which makes it very easy to coordinate their getting together on the weekends and after school. This year in particular feels full of promise at the school. We have a new principal, Julian Szot, who is very experienced, has a great demeanor with kids, parents, and staff, understands how things work, and knows how to work with the district. We also have a vibrant PTA, that has many plans for the coming year and for ways to support our teachers and student learning.

Our son is doing quite well academically. And he also is getting important opportunities to connect with a really diverse and rich cultural array of kids from other communities. They learn from each other. And they connect over common interests.

With the school going K-8 in the coming years, we are very happy to think that our son will be able to remain in a community where he knows the teachers and other students well, and can walk to school as he gets older. Although the middle school experience offers some exciting changes, there's a lot to be said also for foregoing the transition at that age, when so much else in their lives is changing. The move to K-8 has become something of a trend nationally (and of course is well entrenched in many private schools) and we understand that students' academic progress often benefits from the continuity at that age.

Wishing you all the best for your family. If you have questions or would like to talk directly, please feel free to contact me. debora

June 2009

Can families with children at Mira Vista school please give some feedback about their experiences? We did the WCCUSD transfer rounds and just found out that we got in. Of course this is after we've already put down a deposit at a private school... but saving on the monthly tuition is nothing to ignore. We are interested in information about the sense of community, quality of program, discipline etc. potential parent.

Hi! I'm a Mira Vista parent of an incoming 4th grader and 1st grader. Overall we are very happy here, for a number of reasons: excellent teachers, *nice* student body (upper and lower grades), beautiful campus, active but small PTA, and inclusive (though small) community of involved parents. We also live close by and have really enjoyed getting to know our neighbors through the school. My two kids LOVE their school and the teachers and friends there. As far as negatives, I wish that we had more involved families. As far as I can see, that is the big difference between our school and the neighboring 'better' schools like Madera and Kensington. We have a lot of working class families who simply don't have the time or money to donate to the school. This year will bring challenges as our class sizes are going up, and the school is transitioning to a K-8. Watch the announcements for the next upcoming Mira Vista K playgroup -- it'll be a great way to talk to current parents and meet incoming parents & kids. Happy MV parent

Our son has been at Mira Vista for 3 years. He began in 1st grade and will enter 4th grade in the fall. We've been very happy with it. Our son has had great teachers so far. And it's a warm community. Very diverse. Our PTA recently elected new officers and there's a good energy going there. Our school was rebuilt and has a really pretty site. There's a free after care program. We also reportedly will be going to a K-8 format, beginning gradually in the next few years. Our family is happy to have the alternative of keeping our son at the school through the middle school years. He's made a lot of good friends there and also knows the campus and the staff well. Although middle school can have advantages, we've also heard that minimizing the added disruption that a transfer to middle school means in those important years can be helpful in keeping kids focused on learning and feeling more confident. Also it's quite lovely to avoid the private school tuition. Rather save the money for college and family trips (which themselves provide some good educational opportunities about new places and people, etc.).

Hope you find a decision that feels right for your family. All the best! debora

We have two children who attend Mira Vista. While these are certainly challenging times for public schools in the WCCUSD, and will continue to be, I encourage you to give our school serious consideration. We enjoy the campus community and the fact that we can walk to school and to the homes of the friends that our children meet in class. We have a growing PTA for the coming year with many new parents stepping up to support the school. Our school community is very reflective of the Richmond community with many different ethnic groups, languages and cultures represented. The school was recently renovated and there are plans to make Mira Vista a K-8 school by adding a 7th grade in the 2010-11 school year and an 8th grade the year after.

Since it is summer, you may be able to connect with other MV parents by contacting miravistapta [at] gmail.com. I'd be happy to talk with you more about our experience, Lisa

Nov 2008

My child is due to attend Mira Vista next September, and I'd like some candid, recent information about the school from parents whose kids have attended. Everyone I know wants to transfer to Madera or Kensington, and I'd like to give MV a chance before applying for transfers (the archival info is pretty old). What were your experiences at the school? Did your child feel challenged? Were the teachers nurturing and/or engaging? Was there a balance between academics and play, especially at the kindergarten level? What's the parent community like? I'm a little anxious about this whole process, so any info you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. He's growing so fast.

We have two children at Mira Vista Elementary and it is our neighborhood school. We have been happy with the teachers and the parent community. We live within walking distance of the school and many of our children's friends do too, which enhances the sense of community that we feel with other families.

I encourage you to seek current information about the school by coming to campus to visit, attending a PTA meeting and reaching out to parents as you are now before making a decision to attempt a transfer. Every school has its challenges and I'd be happy to share more with you about Mira Vista if you care to contact me through the moderator. We choose to stay because we believe in supporting public education in our neighborhood, because we value the diversity of a school like Mira Vista and because our children are thriving there. happy MV mom

My son is a current K student at Mira Vista. We also considered the transfer to Madera or Kensington, and in fact got the Madera transfer but turned it down.

We are mostly very pleased here. Two of the K teachers are *really* excellent teachers: engaged, enthusiastic, committed, intuitive at solving classroom problems, etc. My son is very challenged and is SO excited about learning to read, which is happening in leaps and bounds. He loves his classmates, which are a very diverse group ethnically, and economically. I think the balance between ''academics'' and fun is good -- there is lots of coloring, and a variety of other art projects. We have some amazing parent volunteers in the class, one of whom teaches dance and another who performs and teaches music. We have a small group of active and committed parents who do make a real difference.

Schoolwide there are a lot of problem kids, or kids with problems, but for the most part there seem to be various strategies in place for dealing with them. I have an older child at the school as well as my K student, and neither have had any problems with other students (i.e., no bullying, etc.). Happy MV parent

Feb 2008

I am interested in learning more about the after care program for kindergartners at Mira Vista, or options other than y-care. Does anyone have their child in after care at Mira Vista that could share some insights? Thanks! Heather

April Jorden runs an after-school program out of her house that serves children from Mira Vista. It is called The Kids House. You can reach her at 510-237-2870. April picks the kids up from school in her big van and brings them back to a well run, fun environment. Call her to schedule a visit and see for yourself. Allison

We have not used the school's afterschool program, but have a son at Mira Vista in third grade and a kindergartener-to-be next fall. Both will attend April Jorden's The Kids House for their after school hours. My son has been there since first grade and I can highly recommend April's program. She picks kids up in her passenger van and returns them to her house each day, which in and of itself is a lifesaver. Her program operates out of her home...and it feels much like the house in the neighborhood where kids just like to hang out. She has a great art room, tons of books and games, a back yard that's very kid-friendly and the ever-popular air hockey table. There's no screen time, but a quiet time for homework begins at 5:00. She is warm without being a pushover, creates an environment of respect and boundaries without being rigid and gives great hugs. You can contact her at 237.2870. Give her a call! Lisa

My son is a second grader at Mira Vista. He is not in the After School Enrichment Program but many of his peers are. You can get more information about the enrichment program from the program supervisor Shallah Jones. She's can be reached at 510- 231-1416, ext. 23519. She forwarded to some information about the program. As I understand it, the program is free of charge. Care is provided after classes let out until 6 p.m. on Mon., Tues., Thurs. and Fri. On Wed., care is provided until 5 p.m. Children do home work and receive tutoring. They also have the opportunity to do art projects, take computer lab, creative writing, cooking, hip hop dance, and math classes, and engage in sports activities.

When our son started at Mira Vista, the after school enrichment program hadn't yet begun. We found the ''Kids' House,'' instead which is run by a wonderful woman named April Jordan. April primarily cares for kids who attend Mira Vista. She is licensed to take care of 14 kids in her home and has staff to assist. Our son really loves being at the Kids' House and sometimes it is a bit of a struggle getting him to leave at the end of the day. If you are interested about details, please feel free to e-mail me.

Hope you find the right place for your child. Debora

Jan 2008

We are interested in any current reports from families with children enrolled at Mira Vista Elementary School. We would especially like to hear from parents who have children in 4th and 5th grade. Thank you for any information you have on the school community, administration and upper grade teachers. East Bay Mom

Our son attends Mira Vista Elementary School and is in the third grade. We look forward to enrolling his brother for Kindergarten in the fall of '08. Like most parents, we want strong teachers, a nice campus and a friendly, active community of kids that our kids can learn with and from. We also want to support our neighborhood school and see our children develop friendships that carry over into the neighborhood. On all counts, we've been happy with Mira Vista. Our son's teachers have been excellent, our campus community is diverse, we've participated in the PTA and attended most school events. Our son is happy at school and although we don't utilize the afterschool program, he attends a program called The Kids House, where some of his classmates also spend the after-school hours. We already know a number of siblings who will be entering Kindergarten in the fall and look forward to our younger son's experience at Mira Vista as well. I recommend a campus visit and kindergarten tour and would be happy to talk further about our school. Lisa

My daughter finished 7 years at Mira Vista this past year and my son is now in his second year there. We have been very happy with the love and commitment of the teachers and have found wonderful parents to share in the growth of our children. If you are seriously interested in a neighborhood public school, come check it out. There are many events that are open to the public, you don't have to wait for a formal tour to get a taste of the school community. Keep checking the website for PTA meeting times (usually the 1st Wed of the Month) and other upcoming dates. Kindergarten Tours are Jan 23rd at 8:45am. Happy Mira Vista Parent

I am posting this for a friend not on this list: Hi! I'm a Mira Vista parent of a former 5th grader, current 2nd grader, and soon-to-be kindergartner. In answer to your questions about the upper grades, Mira Vista currently has one 3rd/4th grade class, one 4th grade, one 5th grade, one 5th/6th split, and one 6th grade class. If you are wondering why they are so many split classes it is all due to class room sizes. Once we get into the 4th grade, class size jumps to 33 per class. Here are my takes on the teachers: Ms.Tutass (3/4) came to us this year, but she only has accepted the position for one year, so she might not be here next year. Mrs. Zittel (4th) is actually one of our former MV parents, she has been with us for about three years. Both of these teachers do a good job.

Our 5th grade teacher, Mr. Haynie, has been with us quite awhile. He is excellent with kids who love school, but has very little tolerance with kids in his class who are just there to be social (lots of detentions). Mr Johnson came to us this year and he teaches the 5/6 split. The kids really can relate to him, he is young with lots of energy. From what I see is a great asset to MV. The 6th grade class is taught by the wonderful Ms. Posner. Some of our 5th graders and their parents do not believe their child is ready for middle school. Ms. Posner is a wonderful teacher who engages her students and encourages them to think outside the''box.''

Please give out school a try. This is the most diverse school in the district. There is very little bullying, most of the kids get along wonderfully. Please come by for open house and check out the campus. Mira Vista Parent

Dec 2007

My daughter is assigned to Mira Vista Elementary in Richmond for Kindergarten. I saw some very nice reviews on the website and when I called the school, the people I spoke with were extremely friendly. I was just wondering if anyone has any new reviews of the school. This is my first daughter going to school, so I don't have any experience with this stuff yet. Thanks!

Hi there. Our son attends Mira Vista. He is in second grade. He began school at Mira Vista in first grade, having completed kindergarten in his pre-school.

We are very fond of Mira Vista. Our son has had wonderful first and second grade teachers. The school is very diverse and there is a warm and active community. Many of the teachers have been at the school for years and are well-loved. The school recently won a grant that permits it to provide free after care through 6 p.m. The facilities also were recently renovated, new landscaping has been put in on the grounds, and work on the play ground is nearing completion (new play structure for the older children, new play equipment for the kindergartners, a ball wall, new striping on the grounds, etc.). The school also has a lovely garden that students help to tend.

The school has a number of annual events and the turn out is really impressive. There's a fall festival around Halloween. Recently we had a winter holiday show during which different classrooms performed songs and poems with an international theme. The attendance was wonderful. It was standing room only.

Our test scores are not quite as high as those of Madera and Kensington but they are reasonably good and improving. As I understand it, the improvement in the students' overall reading scores last year was one of the best in the district.

My son has learned a lot during his time at the school. He's comfortable and happy there. Parents are very welcome in the classrooms as volunteers and vistors and my son's teachers have been available, kind, and helpful. We think Mira Vista is a wonderful place.

Happy to talk if you have more questions. debora

I have been a Mira Vista parent for 3 years now, and have been quite happy for the most part. Most of the teachers have years of experience, have been there a long time, and are great educators. MV has a small but dedicated group of parents who help make things run, and has a really nice community feel. The school and grounds look fantastic as it has been renovated quite recently. If you want to talk further please email. chult

Oct 2007

Re: Kindergarten options in west contra costa unified
I missed the original post, but I'd like to put in a plug for Mira Vista Elementary in Richmond. My daughter is a second grader there, and my son will enter next year for kindergarten. The teachers are excellent (with a few exceptions!), the school has been updated and remodeled, and the PTA is small but active. The principal, Mrs. Hendon, is new but I've liked what I've seen so far. I have volunteered in the school library and my child's classrooms, so have met many of the children. The student body is very diverse racially, ethnically, religiously, and for the most part get along as well as any group of children. The school is K-6, which means you may be able to put off middle school decisions a bit longer! Christine

April 2006

Our girls currently attend Ocean View Elementary and Albany Middle (next year Albany HS). Originally, we got into these schools because we lived in the village and when we had to move due to my graduation, we secured an inter-district transfer. Now, due to the Albany schools being impacted, we may not be able to renew the transfer and our girls would go to Mira Vista Elementary and Kennedy HS in Richmond. These schools dont look great on paper (test scores) but I am aware that isnt a great gauge of the school. My daughter does horribly on standardized tests, so I am leery of relying on them to judge the school. Does anyone have experience with these Richmond schools that might help? Please let us know if you have ANY advice. Jodie

My daughter attends Mira Vista as a kindergartner. I am active in the school, to a certain extent -- volunteering in her classroom, serving as a ''room mother,'' and attend PTA meetings when I can, and I can say that I am very happy, and somewhat pleasantly surprised, with MV. It is a small school with great diversity (ethnic, racial, economic, etc.), and the children (at least in the lower grades) seem to get along quite well. I have heard really good things about most of the teachers (our K teacher is phenomenal), though there are a few lemons. We are very fortunate to have a committed, energetic, and very loving principal, Ms. Brown- Garcia. She makes it her business to know each kids' name, and seems to be involved in everything. We also have a very dedicated, if small, PTA. There is not as much parental involvement as I'd like, but this is definitely a place where you really feel like one individual can make a significant difference. (By the way, there is a movement afoot to make this school a K-8, allowing our children to say in this smaller, more secure environment until high school, which I for one support.) Christine

After-school programs for 1st grader

Jan 2006

I've checked past postings, but wonder whether anyone has more recent experience or advice about after school programs for a first grader? We live in El Cerrito and our son is to go to Mira Vista Elementary School in the fall as a first grader. The Y runs an after school program at Mira Vista. But we are wondering about other options in the area. For example, we are considering the possibility of sending him to the after school program at Castro Elementary. We're also looking at private after school programs but have not found many so far. Another issue will be transportation between school and after school. We've heard of ''A Car 4 Kids,'' which provides transportation but wonder if anyone knows of other providers . We appreciate any information or tips you may have. (We have not found much current information in the postings.) Thanks very much. Debora

There is this great afterschool program at the Berkeley Richmond JCC. My daughter (kindergarten) goes there, and she has a lot of fun. They do art, cooking, drama, aikido, capoeira.. and they help with homework. The children's program director, Karen Cagan, is just GREAT with kids, and she has a great team working with her. So, check them out at their web page: www.brjcc.org


December 2003

Any recent experience with Mira Vista Elementary in Richmond? What are its strengths/weaknesses? The info on their web site is quite old in some areas. Looking at Contra Costa Unified's web site, Madera's standardized ratings are much higher than Mira Vista. Is it possible to get a transfer to Madera? Should we try? Is there something concerned parents can do to improve Mira Vista before a child attends? Our daughter will be entering Kindergarten in '05. Thanks. Curious

Both my boys went to Mira Vista for the primary grades. We live diagonally across the street from MV and it made sense to send our kids to our local elementary school. I have lots to say about MV...I'll try to be concise.

Mira Vista has a really strong, yet small community of very involved parents.I think being involved in your child's school is an essential part of making a school work, and this is definately true for MV. MV has some of the most wonderful dedicated teachers I've ever met, especially the K-3 teachers. (our kids didn't go beyond 3rd grade at MV...another story).

MV's principal, Carlina Moss knows every child's name in that school, as did our previous principal, Dean Karahalios. My boys got a good education at Mira Vista and also really great exposure to kids of different races, ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles....some they made friends with, some they didn't.

We started a fabulous garden project at Mira Vista about 8 years ago and it's still going strong. We got grants from various organizations including Aquatic Outreach Institute.The students are involved in the school gardens and various projects.

I thoroughly support having a neighborhood public school. I'd suggest ignoring the negative things you've heard, and go check it out for yourself (as you are doing by writing your post)...go on the school tours, talk further with the teachrs, principal, other parents, some of the kids...attend a PTA meeting or a school event and see what it's like.

Personally, I think state test scores are an unfair view of a schools quality. There are too many variables such as non- english speaking kids, kids who don't take tests well, and kids who work carefully and slowly and can't finish a test in the alotted time(such as my younger son).

In fairness, I should tell you why we left MV and are now at Tehiyah Day School (also in the neighborhood). When my oldest son was in 3rd grade he was bored and needed more of a challenge. He's a bright boy and loved learning and he needed more than he was getting at MV. There happened to be room in his class at Tehiyah...long story short, in 4th grade he started at Tehiyah. He's now in 7th grade and is doing well.

Our younger son went through 2nd grade (very happily) at MV but he has some anxiety issues and was not ready to go on to 3rd grade. Rather than keep him back to repeat 2nd grade at MV when all his friends were going on to 3rd grade we chose to enroll him in the 2nd grade at Tehiyah. This was a good move for him but we were very sad to leave Mira Vista and our friends and teachers who we adored. We'd NEVER considered a private school before but this sort of fell into our laps and seemed like the right thing to do. Please feel free to e-mail me if you'd like more info and opinions about MV. Given the problems and lack of funds that most of our public schools have, I think Mira Vista is a gem. June

All three of my children attended Mira Vista from K-5. The principal is a strong leader, the PTA is active, the larger adult community is involved, the teachers are caring, open and engaging. My children left prepared for middle school (in another school district with ''better test scores''.) We still attend certain school functions there; my children's former teachers remain in touch with them and are interested in their lives as they move through middle and high school. That's what we call a real community. We couldn't have asked for better from a public school.

Test scores don't tell the entire story about what a great school Mira Vista is. Please don't pass over it in a search for higher test scores. You'd be missing a gem. Mom of 3 Alumni

July 2002

Does anyone have experience with Mira Vista and/or Madera Elementary Schools? I would love to hear experiences with 1st grade teachers and the principal in particular. Thanks!

My sons are former Mira Vista students and I say YES! Go to Mira Vista!!! Your child will have the unbeatable experience of attending the shool that is actually located in their neighborhood (gasp! what a concept!) thus being able to develope friendships with children ALSO located in that neighborhood. The principal, Carlena Moss, has a great reputation and all of the parents that I have spoken with are extremely pleased with her performance. There are a bunch of GREAT teachers (and, of course, a few stinkers - don't worry, the other PTA parents will let you know who they are). OK, so Madera's scores are higher, but let's be realistic here - socio-economic factors figure HUGELY in those scores (ever wonder why Kensington's scores are so high? hmmmmm....). Mira Vista offers a true cross-section of Richmond - mostly working class families of many races and ethnicities and, I can't state this enough - ITS IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD! Viva Mira Vista! a Mira Vista neighbor

Both of my boys went/go to Mira Vista. My 11 year old went there through 3rd grade and my 6 1/2 year old is now in 1st grade.

We have been very involved at Mira Vsita school even before my oldest son was in kindergarten. I can only tell you about our experience through 3rd grade. It's been great. The kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade teachers are gems. You have never seen more loving and dedicated teachers (we have our favorites and there are 1 or 2 teachers that I would not choose for my kids).

We have a new principal this year, Carlina Moss. She is even more of a jewel than the fabulous principal wehad for the past 5 or 6 years, Dean Karahalios, who is now at Terra Hills. Carlina is so supportive of our students and teachers. She's very honest and real and knows how to get a job done. She diciplins with love and support, knows each and every student. She spends time in the classrooms so she really sees what's going on. The teachers, as I know them are very caring and loving and are good teachers. We have been very involved in the school and that has given us (and other families who have been involved) some leeway in requesting specific teachers for our kids.

Mira Vista is a very diverse school racially, culturally, socioeconomically. If you want clean and prissy and white, don't come to MV. If you want your child to go to school with children of different races and backgrounds, thats the place to be.

I volunteer in my sons classroom regularly so I get to see how his teacher teaches. Classroom volunteers are always welcome. The library welcomes parent volunteers, any event thats put on is done so by volunteer parents. We also have a wonderful school garden project at MV. It was started about 6 years ago by my husband and some of the teachers. We've gotten several large grants from Aquatic Outreach Institute to install and build our gardens. This year we received a $5000.00 environmental project grant from the PG&E environmental dept. We were 1 of 4 schools in Calif. and 30 schools in the US to receive this money. We are very proud of our school gardens. Some of the teachers involved with the gardens (specifically Mrs. Underwood (K), Mrs. MacCracken (2nd) Mr. Watts(2nd) take their students out to the gardens to do planting, art, nature, science, etc. We have a great community of very involved and dedicated parents at Mira Vista. If you're someone who likes to roll up your sleeves and get involved, you can sure do it at MV.

On a different note, my older son goes to a private school and there is no comparison. The private school teaches in what I consider a more creative way (I speak only from experience of 4th and 5th grades), it's kept cleaner, there is a lot more parent involvement....but we pay dearly for it. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that for a public school, I think Mira Vista is a great place to be. I especially love that it's a 2 minute walk from my house...my son has friends in the neighborhood that he can play with, whereas my son in the private school has to be driven to play with his friends.

It's a tough decision. My suggestion is to talk to people (as you are doing), go visit the schools you're interested in, talk to the teachers and principal, and don't listen to anyone who trashes other schools...they usually don't know anything about them. Good luck. June