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Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Old Oct 18th 2017, 12:36 pm
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Default Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Hi,

We'll very likely be moving to Palo Alto area in a few months time.

We're being flown over to look at houses/schools and sign contracts etc but my OH has tasked me with looking into schools in the area for our two oldest boys - ages 9 & 10 (currently in years 5 & 6 in UK primary school).

I have no idea where to start. Is it middle schools I'm looking at? We haven't even pinpointed an exact area yet.

Any advice from people who have been there, done that, very much appreciated!!

Lisa x
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Old Oct 18th 2017, 1:01 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Unless you are going to send them to private schools, your postcode will dictate which school they go to so it's best to decide on the school and then look for a home in the school district.

The good news is that Palo Alto has some of the best public schools (what we would call 'state schools' in the UK) in the region (and, if I am not mistaken, in the entire country).

The bad news is that you are going to pay a hefty price for housing *anywhere* in Palo Alto. Budget *at least* 5k a month for a three bedroom family house in Palo Alto.

Steer clear of East Palo Alto.
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Old Oct 18th 2017, 1:14 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Originally Posted by LisaH1981 View Post
Hi,

We'll very likely be moving to Palo Alto area in a few months time.

We're being flown over to look at houses/schools and sign contracts etc but my OH has tasked me with looking into schools in the area for our two oldest boys - ages 9 & 10 (currently in years 5 & 6 in UK primary school).

I have no idea where to start. Is it middle schools I'm looking at? We haven't even pinpointed an exact area yet.

Any advice from people who have been there, done that, very much appreciated!!

Lisa x
What you could do is look at the property websites like trulia. It will show you ratings for schools. https://www.trulia.com/CA/Palo_Alto/
You'll also find all information in relation to crime etc.


Here for example a cheap 4 bed house and schools above average: https://www.trulia.com/rental/402954...-Alto-CA-94306

Last edited by Moses2013; Oct 18th 2017 at 1:28 pm.
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Old Oct 18th 2017, 4:23 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Thank you.

That's what I'm trying to do, look at the 'best' schools in Palo Alto and then pick a neighborhood based on that. But I'm a bit confused about the school process. Most seem to be elementary schools which finish at year 5 which is my son's current school year. Then it's on to middle school, then high school, is that right?
So essentially we need to move to an area that has all three at a decent level? I'm aware that the standard in Palo Alto is very high so I'm not too worried, just a bit flummoxed on where to start.

We're aware of the rental values, crazy expensive! But we've budgeted enough to be ok, but not with private school fees on top so very much fixed on state/public.

I've basically got a list of 7 elementary schools now and I'm trying to move on to Middle. Is it that there are less and less options as they get higher up so not to worry because most will end up at the same high school? (I really only found Palo Alto and Henry M Gunn.

Thank you!!!
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Old Oct 18th 2017, 4:36 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Originally Posted by LisaH1981 View Post
Thank you.

That's what I'm trying to do, look at the 'best' schools in Palo Alto and then pick a neighborhood based on that. But I'm a bit confused about the school process. Most seem to be elementary schools which finish at year 5 which is my son's current school year. Then it's on to middle school, then high school, is that right?
So essentially we need to move to an area that has all three at a decent level? I'm aware that the standard in Palo Alto is very high so I'm not too worried, just a bit flummoxed on where to start.

We're aware of the rental values, crazy expensive! But we've budgeted enough to be ok, but not with private school fees on top so very much fixed on state/public.

I've basically got a list of 7 elementary schools now and I'm trying to move on to Middle. Is it that there are less and less options as they get higher up so not to worry because most will end up at the same high school? (I really only found Palo Alto and Henry M Gunn.

Thank you!!!
Having lived in the area :

1.) Avoid living in or near East Paolo Alto, or too close to El Camino Real
2.) As far as Palo Alto school system and its being a good school system this is true just in comparison to some nearby other areas, the education is hardly at a very high level- the public schools teach to the state curriculum, and standards in California are not that high in the first place as they have been declining for years. ( Personally we chose private schools in the area rather than spending too much money on rent).
3.) The first 6 years are elementary school usually, and 7th and 8th are middle school, usually. I don't recall in Palo Alto whether the middle school starts earlier at 6th grade.
4.) Rents are insane for what you get. Location will generally determine which school children will attend.

Good luck !
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Old Oct 18th 2017, 5:14 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Originally Posted by LisaH1981 View Post
Thank you.

That's what I'm trying to do, look at the 'best' schools in Palo Alto and then pick a neighborhood based on that. But I'm a bit confused about the school process. Most seem to be elementary schools which finish at year 5 which is my son's current school year. Then it's on to middle school, then high school, is that right?
So essentially we need to move to an area that has all three at a decent level? I'm aware that the standard in Palo Alto is very high so I'm not too worried, just a bit flummoxed on where to start.

We're aware of the rental values, crazy expensive! But we've budgeted enough to be ok, but not with private school fees on top so very much fixed on state/public.

I've basically got a list of 7 elementary schools now and I'm trying to move on to Middle. Is it that there are less and less options as they get higher up so not to worry because most will end up at the same high school? (I really only found Palo Alto and Henry M Gunn.

Thank you!!!
Hi, we live just down the road in Mountain View.

Elementary in most areas goes to 5th grade, Los Altos school district is the only exception I know of, and that goes to 6th grade). 3 years of middle school (2 in Los Altos), then 4 years of high school. Schools start 1 year later than in the UK, so if your son is in 5th grade in the UK, age wise, he's likely to enter 5th grade in the US.

Moving into the school district means they have to give you a place at a school within the district. It won't necessarily be your catchment area school, closest school or first choice.

Yes there are fewer schools as you go up the years, they funnel into each other to make bigger schools.

PAHS and Gunn are both excellent schools academically, but beware of how hard these kids are pushed. Lots of these kids feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to have a GPA of 4.0+, take all AP classes, do school sports, volunteer... It can all become a bit much.

Take the Great Schools scores with a pinch of salt, my daughter attended a 10 school, and we all disliked it.

Charter Schools are another option to look into. They are free schools, but run differently to the normal state schools. Personally, knowing what I know now, and if we could have done things differently, I'd have pushed to get my kid into Bullis in Los Altos for elementary.

As a bit of history, while living in the states my daughter attended 2 different private schools and 1 public school for elementary. 1 public school for middle, and 1 charter school for high school. The charter environment works much better for her.
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Old Oct 18th 2017, 5:34 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

@morpeth what makes you say the education isn't so good? From everything I've heard the schools in PA measure up to private schools in the UK, with most pushing for a 4.0 average (which I understand may be the wrong environment stress-wise for a lot of kids).

I think we've settled on an area between Terman Middle School and Henry M Gunn High school, and keep our fingers crossed.

Hubby might be working out of San Francisco quite a bit so if it all goes wrong we can consider moving to a cheaper area and going private.

I really appreciate all your advice! I'm sure I'll have tons of questions as we go along x
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Old Oct 18th 2017, 6:25 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Originally Posted by LisaH1981 View Post
@morpeth what makes you say the education isn't so good? From everything I've heard the schools in PA measure up to private schools in the UK, with most pushing for a 4.0 average (which I understand may be the wrong environment stress-wise for a lot of kids).

I think we've settled on an area between Terman Middle School and Henry M Gunn High school, and keep our fingers crossed.

Hubby might be working out of San Francisco quite a bit so if it all goes wrong we can consider moving to a cheaper area and going private.

I really appreciate all your advice! I'm sure I'll have tons of questions as we go along x
I don't have experience with private schools in the UK so I cant comment how public or private schools in Palo Alto area compare. I can say having had children in schools in the Palo Alto and nearby cities area, and seeing the level of education, especially compared to my own experience in a school there several decades ago, and the same children in schools in another state, and another country. I am not impressed at all with the education in California- and one of the reasons we moved. Hard to get an unbiased opinion as American parents love to say the schools their children go to our good, always would amaze me. For high school if child takes AP classes, the education isn't too bad. Private schools generally teach to the same curriculum, but at least are safer, administration more likely to listen to parents- keep in mind private school teachers do not have to meet same qualifications as public school teachers. Recently I was in Croatia at a dinner with several Croatian and Italian secondary school students, their general knowledge ( let alone for some their level of English) was far above the average English and general knowledge of the average high school student I would have met in Palo Alto or surrounding areas. Just anecdotal evidence to be sure.
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Old Oct 19th 2017, 6:33 am
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Thank you, definitely something to think about 👍
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Old Oct 19th 2017, 9:07 am
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Keep in mind that Americans don't view private schools the same way Europeans do. They aren't seen as status symbols or markers of social class, and due to things like IB, AP, and extracurricular options (which tend to be run through schools in the US rather than private clubs), American families don't send their kids to private schools the way families in other countries do except in really particular circumstances - ie, they want their child to have a religious education, or their child is world-class at music and needs to be in a specialist school for that, etc.

Generally speaking school quality closely tracks neighbourhood socio-economic status. In most parts of Palo Alto I would expect the schools to very good.

Your best bet is to talk to locals in the prospective neighbourhoods. They will know the goss far more than anyone in this forum or some for-profit publication.
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Old Oct 19th 2017, 7:40 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Originally Posted by carcajou View Post
Keep in mind that Americans don't view private schools the same way Europeans do. They aren't seen as status symbols or markers of social class, and due to things like IB, AP, and extracurricular options (which tend to be run through schools in the US rather than private clubs), American families don't send their kids to private schools the way families in other countries do except in really particular circumstances - ie, they want their child to have a religious education, or their child is world-class at music and needs to be in a specialist school for that, etc.

Generally speaking school quality closely tracks neighbourhood socio-economic status. In most parts of Palo Alto I would expect the schools to very good.

Your best bet is to talk to locals in the prospective neighbourhoods. They will know the goss far more than anyone in this forum or some for-profit publication.
In Menlo Park next to Palo Alto there is a private school called The Menlo School, I think grades 6 through 12. There is also in Menlo Park an elementary private school called Trinity school which is very nice. It is run by St Bede's Episcopal Church but religion doesn't play a big part in the school. I think it is from pre-kindergarten to 4th or 5th grade. Catholic schools in the area include Nativity ( Menlo Park) Seton ( Palo Alto) and Sacred Heart ( Atherton) - I have good comments about Sacred Heart. I would avoid any schools in Redwood City. Often Catholic schools give a discount for more
than one child attending.

If one doesn't mind the Evangelical emphasis there are several Christian schools in nearby Los Altos , usually very affordable.

A bit of a driving distance, but I have heard often Woodside Priory School ( Portola Valley) one of the best schools in the area academically, but I haven't had direct experience with that school. There is also an international school in Woodside if I recall called Woodside International school.

If the child goes to high school my advice is wherever possible have them take AP classes instead of regular classes, and if they are planning to study at a higher level, take also what are called CLEP examinations, and any dual-credit ( high school and college credit same time). AP stands for advanced placement and colleges can give credit for these classes- and usually many brighter students take AP classes.It is quite possible a bright and diligent student to gain that way 1 year college credit, and a bit more, thus saving money and saving time spent in university.
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Old Oct 20th 2017, 7:59 am
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Originally Posted by carcajou View Post
Keep in mind that Americans don't view private schools the same way Europeans do. They aren't seen as status symbols or markers of social class, and due to things like IB, AP, and extracurricular options (which tend to be run through schools in the US rather than private clubs), American families don't send their kids to private schools the way families in other countries do except in really particular circumstances
Perhaps it depends where you live, but my experience in Silicon Valley is that, while "social class" isn't really an issue, parents are obsessed with the quality of their child's education and, while the quality of the public schools is generally very good, many parents will opt for private schools if they are making enough money to be able to afford it.
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Old Oct 21st 2017, 9:40 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Wow thanks guys!

It seems very different from the UK then. Here, there is the social class aspect which definitely plays a part in the decision to privately educate but generally it is because the quality of the education, extra curricular activities, facilities etc are far far superior to the state (non private) schools. There is such a lack of government funding for education here in the UK that it's pretty much a no-brainer that if you can afford it, you would send your child to a private school.
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 6:00 am
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Generally speaking, remove 1 from their UK school year to find their US grade. However, it's also dependent on when their birthdays are - the law in California regarding age for starting Kindergarten began changing incrementally in 2012.

Kids born between Dec 3rd 2005 and Dec 2nd 2006 started K in 2011 and are now in 6th grade
Kids born between Dec 3rd 2006 and Nov 1st 2007 started K in 2012 and are now in 5th grade
Kids born between Nov 2nd 2007 and Oct 1st 2008 started K in 2013 and are now in 4th grade
Kids born between Oct 2nd 2008 and Sept 1st 2009 started K in 2014 and are now in 3rd grade

So the cut off date for starting K is now turning 5 by September 1st of that year, but your boys *may* be affected by the changes that have taken place recently.
It's also worthwhile noting that if their birthdays are close to the cut off dates (on the younger side - i.e. they had only just turned 5 by the given date for starting K), the US system gives you an awful lot of leeway to decide to hold them back and not start school until the following year, so you likely could decide to put them into a grade below that which they're actually slotted for. They're highly unlikely to need it since they've been in full time education for a year longer than their US peers anyway, of course!
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Old Oct 23rd 2017, 6:15 am
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Default Re: Moving from UK to Palo Alto area - Schools Help?

Originally Posted by LisaH1981 View Post
Wow thanks guys!

It seems very different from the UK then. Here, there is the social class aspect which definitely plays a part in the decision to privately educate but generally it is because the quality of the education, extra curricular activities, facilities etc are far far superior to the state (non private) schools. There is such a lack of government funding for education here in the UK that it's pretty much a no-brainer that if you can afford it, you would send your child to a private school.
You ain't seen nothing yet.

Government funding here essentially pays for the buildings (and associated costs) and salaries. There are no free clubs, sports, or other after-school activities at elementary level: you'll pay for everything. You'll also be expected to provide basic classroom supplies at the beginning of the year (and throughout, if they run out) - paper, pencils, crayons, markers, glue sticks, tissues, cleaning supplies, soap, hand sanitiser, printer ink, science project supplies and so on.

Funding for larger items usually comes from the PTA (expect multiple fundraisers - jog-a-thons, auctions, catalog sales and other school fundraising events), or from a local education foundation (multiple other fundraisers - crab feeds, "fun" runs), or from donors choose projects set up by the individual teachers (in many cases, it's the only way the teachers can get new chairs and tables, let alone IT equipment). You'll also likely be asked for a direct donation at the beginning of every year: our school's suggested donation is $100.

When educational funding is tied so directly to community fundraising, areas where parents have more spare cash have schools which are correspondingly better funded. Hence, the more expensive areas have the better schools.
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