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Which neighborhoods have the best elementary schools?


eabeyta29 January 18, 2011

I am in the process of relocating to san francisco and was wondering which neighborhoods have the best elementary schools and which neighborhoods are family friendly. Thanks, Elaine

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fujirama February 28, 2011

Hi Elaine,

SF School district had a complicated lottery system that chooses a school for you. It never took into account where you lived until this year. This is the first year that the admission system has been altered to start putting kids into neighborhood schools. But not entirely. Parents still submitt a list of the schools that you would like your child to go to. Now the assignment system takes into consideration where you live along with many other factors that I still do not understand. You can read more about at the SFUSD website.

Just FYI - the best schools are in Twin Peaks but just because you live there it is not guaranteed that your children will go to those schools.

I truely wish I had better news to share with you.
Best of Luck!


mareike March 23, 2011

I don't know if it is at all possible for you, but if you can, move to Marin County (Mill Valley, Corte Madera for example). The public school system is excellent all the way through High School.

Good Luck!


leslynl April 19, 2011

Cynthia's post is right on with respect to the SF public school system. Just to add, it was found that only about 25% of SF residents picked their neighborhood school as first choice. If you want to stay in SF and find that public schools don't fit your criteria, there are a lot of private school options. However for top "name" schools such as Stuart Hall, SF Day School, etc., the tuition is about $28k. If you are willing to look outside the City, you may want to consider the Peninsula communities such as Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos. Further north, Hillsborough and Burlingame can also be good alternatives. I've lived in the City and relocated to Palo Alto years ago for schools (with three children, the City didn't make sense for us) and would be happy to answer any of your questions.

Good luck!


efcooke May 22, 2011

Hi Elaine -

You can certainly find some very good public schools in San Francisco. They are spread out, but many cluster around the Twin Peaks/Sunset neighborhoods (e.g. Clarendon, Rooftop, Alvarado, West Portal, Miraloma, Feinstein, Jefferson, Grattan, McKinley). A few great neighborhoods to check out are Noe Valley, West Portal, Inner Sunset and Cole Valley. All of these neighborhoods will put you in close proximity to several of the best public elementary schools.

Due to the school lottery, getting into one of these schools may require some patience and persistence. But it can be done, and it's well worth saving $25K a year on private school. I have a few friends who were all successful in getting into one of these top schools by putting all the best schools on their school lottery form and persisting with an appeal if they didn't into one in the first lottery round.

My wife and I live in San Francisco because it's extremely diverse, cosmopolitan and exciting. We have two children in elementary school, and are very glad that we were able to stay in San Francisco and have our children attend a good elementary school close to our home. I encourage you to stick to your vision if you want the full San Francisco experience. -Ethan


lizandgage July 19, 2011

Lafayette Elementary is an awesome school, I highly recommend it!


msalimcollins August 14, 2011

I don't understand all the gloom and doom. This has not been my experience in SF. I live and have friends in the Russian Hill/Nob Hill/North Beach area and feel it is a GREAT place to live and raise kids. We have raised our daughters here and couldn't be happier. We walk everywhere and ride the cable cars and buses to parks, libraries and museums. Schools in the neighborhood are wonderful, and often overlooked by parents elsewhere in the city looking for the name recognition of other SFUSD schools. Last year, even with the dreaded lottery, all my friends got into their top choice and have been very happy with their schools. My kids go to Jean Parker Elementary, which is AMAZING. Other popular choices are Spring Valley, Yick Wo, Sherman and Garfield. Best of luck!


causeworks August 26, 2011

The Sunset District has excellent schools, and you have an excellent chance of getting into one if you live in the area. Sunset Elementary and Feinstein are probably the most diverse and are wonderful options. Sunset has been nicely renovated, ocean views, a green schoolyard project underway, and will likely feed students into AP Giannini Middle...which is next to the school. A new public library and playground are being built adjacent to the school. Very safe, excellent test scores, great extracurriculars, fantastic principal. Ulloa and Stevenson have test scores comparable to any Marin school and its possible to get into Lafayette on the Richmond side as well (if you live near it).


sfcasun October 3, 2011

I'd like to add Lawton Alternative Elementary to the list. I have a 5th grader there, and she's loving it (it's her first year). She has an outstanding teacher, Ms. Wong; previously, she was at Clarendon Alternative, which was another wonderful school, but it only went up to 5th grade and I really wanted her in a K-8 school.

I have another daughter in the 8th grade at Rooftop Alternative, she's also been there since the 5th grade (it was also her first year at public school), and it's been a wonderful experience for her.

My daughters initially started out in private school, but once I made the switch to public, I never looked back. The diversity that they've encountered in public schools has prompted family discussions that probably would have never come up, had they stayed in private school, or at the very least, it gave them true empathy for their fellow students. Not all students come from well-to-do households where both parents are well-educated and have a lot of resources for their children.

Unlike private schools, public schools require that all their teachers be credentialed. I'm not saying that all of my daughters' teachers have been great (you'll get not so great teachers anywhere: public or private); however, my daughters have had some truly outstanding teachers who have inspired, motivated, and made learning fun for them -- you can't put a price on that!

All in all, I'd say that best public schools tend to be "westside" -- Sunset, Richmond, Twin Peaks, etc.

Yes, it's true that the outlying counties have very good public schools without the complicated (and frustrating) lottery system that San Francisco has, but what San Francisco has going for it, is diversity, and that it's a CITY, with all the attendant attractions that living in a city bring, and I think this is especially important for older kids, i.e., teenagers. I have a sister who lives in Marin, whose daughter is the same age as my older one -- 8th grade -- and she keeps my niece very busy with sports, etc. However, what I notice in my niece's behavior compared to my daughter's is a certain awareness at a younger age. What this awareness translates to is a social pecking order, which at times has turned into bullying and a sexual awareness, that for the most part, I don't see in city kids, as much. You can almost use the analogy that if you cut off your kids from junk food, it makes them crave it more. I personally think that raising kids in a large and vibrant city makes them less-inclined to seek out risky behavior and activities. I don't want to say that city kids are jaded, it's just part of the normal background noise to them.

On a final note: I sure don't miss paying $30K/year (for both kids) in tuition.

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