Transitional kindergarten here is play-based, but the academic progress of our child was as impressive as the social skills gained. Parents love this school for its pretty seamless diversity; the personalized attention allowed by its small size; the pastoral feel of its creek and playgrounds (though near a busy intersection); and its late start time. Normal-hearing students get well acquainted with the deaf student community. Principal Audrey Amos is receptive and level-headed. The PTA is of course smaller than other zoned schools, and succeeds based on deep commitment from those willing to step up. They do seem entrenched in traditions that are working well. Communications could be better with the transitional K High-5 classroom, but this was its first year so improvements are surely on the way. Support for parental involvement in reading is encouraging.
John Muir is a wonderful small school with a beautiful campus, high quality teachers and principal, a great (private) after school program (Kids in Motion) and a dedicated core parent group. We can only hope that BUSD does not screw it up. JM needs better outreach to parents and families who do not live nearby (many are bussed in), an in-home tutoring program particularly for poorer African American and Sp. language kids, who still exhibit a strikingly stubborn achievement gap, and a higher percentage (50%) of neighborhood admits (now kept by BUSD to below 12% of applicants, which drives too many middle class Berkeley families into private schools). Allowing more of a neighborhood preference would foster a stronger sense of community, with consequent better parental involvement, better student peer modeling and more money. This should be combined with a diversity program that focuses on actual diversity, and not political favoritism and cheating in admissions by Oakland and Richmond residents.
My daughter started at John Muir School in 4th grade this year and has felt welcomed by the community and staff. The school is small enough that all the teachers and staff know the students and parents. The teaching staff is great, and include science teachers, music teachers and a dance teacher. The campus is large and beautiful, and supports a great PE program, and gardening and cooking classes. There are so many extracurricular opportunities at the school: book clubs run by the librarian, small sports teams run by the PE teachers, and after school classes sponsored by the PTA.
My daughter transferred from a private school to John Muir School. We've been really happy with her experience, and her teachers have been excellent. This year in addition to academics, she's learning about opera and some of the great artists. She has dance class, gardening and cooking class, as well as recorder lessons.
My son is in his 3rd year at John Muir. Generally, the teachers are outstanding. Despite its being the smallest public school in Berkeley, the building and grounds are extraordinary - a huge grassy field, a creek and playground. The classrooms are large and sunny. The PTA has a dedicated and welcoming core of involved parents. Probably the most special thing about the school is how responsive the administration and teachers have been to my son's needs. Our first year, my son had a traumatic experience (not at all connected to the school.) When I informed the school of what had happened to our son, everyone from the principal, to the school secretary, to his homeroom teacher took an ongoing and active interest in his well being and recovery. We felt incredibly supported. My son has also thrived academically, he has developed a great love and skill at reading and math.