One of the many reasons the Almaden Valley of San Jose is so popular is the wonderful public schools.  Almaden, like the rest of the county, does not have “easy” school district boundaries.  Instead, it’s complicated – Almaden is served by several different public school districts and various schools within one of them. It can be very confusing for home buyers to figure out which areas belong to which elementary, middle and high schools. Today we’ll address this broad topic, looking at both the districts and the individual schools, providing links to both. We’ll include API scores and maps of district and school boundaries too.

Disclaimers about schools of attendance:

First, schools – especially the most popular ones – are sometimes impacted, or full.  If you move into an area it is likely that you can have your students attend the neighborhood school but it is NOT GUARANTEED. For example, if your nearest or assigned school is Williams but it’s full, your child may be assigned to Simonds or some other elementary school. You will remain in the same district but may not have the nearest school. This is particularly a problem when moves happen in the middle of the school year.

Second, sometimes boundaries change between schools in the same district. This usually only happens after a lot of public debate and discussion, but it can happen. (This is also true for some designated natural hazard zones such as flood plains – those maps can and do sometimes change!)

Third, the San Jose Unified Schools in the Almaden Valley did have court-ordered busing from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s to help with desegregation. This practice ended in 1996 and the court order was lifted in 2003. You can read about the history of the San Jose Unified School District online. Although it appears unlikely that busing will happen again, I cannot guarantee that it won’t.

These are the three broad regions and their schools:

  1. San Jose Unified School District covers the majority of Almaden (it includes schools at all levels).
  2. The Union School District and Campbell Union High School District is the next largest school district for Almaden – this is the northwest corner of Almaden
  3. The Los Gatos Union School District & Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District. This covers just a very few properties on or near Guadalupe Mines Road (Via Saronno, Via Lugano, Via Fortuna, Via Maggiore, part of Via Campagna)

The Santa Clara County Office of Education oversees all of the school districts in our county.

Public High Schools serving Almaden (you can check the API scores of these and all Santa Clara County public schools online):

  1. Leland High School (SJUSD) follows Almaden Expressway and is the school for the southern part of Almaden Valley. API scores are high (895 in 2013) so many home buyers prefer to be within this area.
  2. Pioneer High School (SJUSD) is not located in Almaden, but rather in Blossom Valley, but is the school for a significant number of Almaden homes east of Almaden Expressway (API 822 in 2013)
  3. Leigh High School (API  833 in 2013) and Branham High School (API 810 in 2013) (CUHSD) are both options for most of the northern part of Almaden which is close to Los Gatos
  4. Los Gatos High School (API 883 in 2013) (LGSUHSD) serves a tiny sliver of homes just off Guadalupe Mines Road. It must be at least a 20 minute drive for these students to get there, but the school boundaries were drawn long before the city of San Jose and the town of Los Gatos finalized their limits.

Public Middle Schools for Almaden Valley – all of these Almaden middle schools or junior high schools exceed the county’s target number of 800, and most of them can boast API scores of over 900.

  1. Bret Harte Middle School (SJUSD) – prized school with APIs over 900 (926 in 2013) – adjacent to Leland HS
  2. Castillero  Middle School (SJUSD) – a good school, APIs just over 800 (846 in 2013)
  3. Dartmouth Middle School (Union School District) – highly regarded with 2013 API at 917
  4. Fisher Middle School (LGUSD) – highly regarded with high scores (932 in 2013)

Public Elementary Schools for Almaden Valley students: every public elementary school in Almaden has excellent API scores, all over 900

  1. Williams Elementary (SJUSD)  –  incredibly high scoring with 964 API score in 2013
  2. Graystone Elementary (SJUSD) – highly regarded, 935 API in 2013
  3. Simonds Elementary (SJUSD) – another high powered school with 958 API in 2013
  4. Los Alamitos Elementary (SJUSD) – also over 900 APIs, in 2013 it was at 935
  5. Guadalupe Elementary (Union Schools) – also over 900 APIs, scored 941 in 2013
  6. Blossom Hill Elementary (LGUSD) – 951 API in 2013

To which school is a particular Almaden Valley home assigned?

It can be tricky to find out which property belongs to which district or individual school.  Within the San Jose Unified School District (which covers much of San Jose and some of Santa Clara), you can use the School Finder site online to see where an address falls. For other areas, there are maps of school boundaries.

Regarding the Almaden Valley luxury home market, most are in the San Jose Unified School District and feed into Bret Harte and Leland High.

Which part of Almaden Valley has the very best schools?

If you are basing the idea of “best schools” purely on API scores, which may or may not be the best approach, the area you’ll be aiming at will include Williams Elementary as it has one of the highest scores in the state (though all elementary schools in Almaden have over 900 scoring), Bret Harte Middle and Leland High.  The next section of this post includes the maps for each of these schools.  If you are in the Williams area, it automatically continues on to Bret Harte and Leland (just remember my disclaimer, above, that if those schools are full they could, theoretically, send your student to the other nearby public schools in the district).

I. San Jose Unified School District Area Maps: maps of  each of these institutions’ coverage area

Pioneer High School – primarily the northwest part of Almaden, mostly west of Almaden Expressway

Leland High School – appears to be almost 50/50 on both sides of Almaden Expressway – includes some very nice areas east of Almaden Expressway such as the Shadowbrook area (maybe slightly more homes on the west side?)

Brett Harte Middle School – mostly southern part of Almaden

Castillero Middle School – largely northern and central Almaden

Graystone Elementary – most of the area east of Almaden Expressway as well as the far southern parts of Almaden

Los Alamitos Elementary – north central Almaden

Simonds Elementary – middle of Almaden

Williams Elementary – southwestern Almaden, 100% west of Almaden Expressway

II. Union School District & Campbell Union High School District Areas

Map for Guadalupe Elementary & Dartmouth Middle School areas – Map of Union School District with school boundaries shown. Please also see the Union School District “School Finder” online.

Leigh High School area map – much of this is a “free area” where students and their families can decide if they want to go to either Leigh or Branham – see bottom right corner of map.

III. Los Gatos Union School District & Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District

Los Gatos High (little sliver of homes off of Guadalupe Mines Road – see funny little snippet in bottom right corner of map) – this same area goes to Blossom Hill Elementary & Fisher Middle School.

What about schools and home values? Does the school impact resale value?

Getting the precise numbers on the price differential between one school area and another is not exact. Most homes are in SJUSD.  Far more Almaden houses, condos and townhouses feed to Leland than to Pioneer, so collecting the data is a little skewed. Additionally, some listing agents won’t put into the MLS that a property goes to Pioneer, but instead will elect to simply write in the school district.  So it may be that culling the data is somewhat incomplete.

Most of the time, there is a 5% to 10% difference in pricing between homes in the area served by Castillero and Pioneer versus those whose students attend Bret Harte and Leland High.  (Some Castillero homes do feed into Leland, though, so this is not “tidy”.) The section which goes to Leigh or Branham (CUHSD) has prices similar to those in the Pioneer/Castillero part of Almaden. (Too few for useable data in the LG schools neighborhood.)

When very few homes are selling, the numbers can get slippery and at times a couple of fabulous homes in one area may shake up the usual 5-10% range.  Sometimes there appears to be no difference in pricing at all.  At other times, it may exceed the 10%.

In the early 90s, many families preferred neighborhoods like Oak Canyon and Montevideo, which go to Guadalupe Elementary and Darmouth Middle and Leigh High (or Branham, if they so choose). This was due in large part to the busing situation, but also because the commute was easier and we did not yet have either Highway 85 or Highway 87.   Today, the Union Schools are all trending upward very nicely, and so is Leigh High, so many parents, guardians and students look favorably upon these regions too.  Finally, those areas, and nearby tracts and subdivisions do all have an easier commute than the areas which are southernmost in Almaden.  (Some buyers simply will not drive that far.)

Most of the time, homes that feed to Bret Harte and Leland will be more expensive than those feeding to Castillero and Pioneer.  So are these areas better for resale value?  Possibly…maybe probably.  But it may be that the difference could be more or less than when you bought it as this ratio slips around a bit.  Depending on when you end up selling, the difference could be very significant – or not.

Finally, while home values are largely driven by the schools, that is not the sole issue in determining value for every home buyer.  As mentioned, the commute time can be an issue.  So can road noise (distance from loud roads may be important), proximity to power lines (further often viewed as better), or closeness/distance to the hills, the golf course, or other places of value (shopping, parks, schools).  For each home buyer, it may shake out a little differently. Some may be largely concerned with natural hazards, such as earthquake faults, landslide areas, unstable soil areas, or proximity of creeks.   Being in a “walk to school” location may be ideal for some but a negative, due to noise, for others. Home buyers may want to be in an area zoned for livestock – and others may want to be far from “rural Almaden”.

As with the complicated school boundaries, so it is with predicting resale value in the future.  Good schools will always be in demand.  Almaden has many good and even excellent schools.  But there are many other plusses to living in this scenic valley in southwest San Jose.   They will probably continue to take shape – community events and involvement, preserving the natural beauty of the region, and much more.  Almaden doesn’t really have any bad areas.  I invite you to get to know it better. . . . And call or email me if you’d like help in purchasing a home in Almaden!

For further reading:

Almaden Valley houses – real estate market statistics and trends

Almaden Valley condominiums and townhomes – realty trends & stats