Homebuyers sometimes call or email me, explaining, ˜I want to buy a home so that my child can go to Williams Elementary in Almaden Valley or ˜I want to buy a house and have my kids attend Alta Vista Elementary School in Los Gatos or ˜If I purchase a condo in downtown Saratoga, my son or daughter will be able to attend Saratoga Elementary School.


But its not guaranteed. Schools tend to drive real estate values here in highly educated Silicon Valley. But we dont have as much control of this slippery issue as most might think.

It is a big mistake to believe that if you purchase a home in a certain location, you’ll be guaranteed that certain school. Lots can happen.

In the 1990s, for instance, the huge San Jose Unified School District had forced busing for the purposes of racial and economic integration. You might have bought a home near your neighborhood school, only to end up with your kid on a bus for 20 minutes to get to a school far, far from home.

(A lot of strange things happened as a result of that. One was that many home buyers started preferring any other school district to San Jose because they feared the non-neighborhood school. Another was folks finding that they had very tiny ratios of minority ancestry and then claiming it to keep their kids from being bused.)

And just a few years ago, several schools in Cambrian Park were closed. One of them was Lone Hill Elementry School on Harwood Road near Little Branham Lane. The Cambrian kids who were previously assigned to Lone Hill were reassigned to Noddin and Alta Vista Schools, possibly others too. The lines got redrawn for ˜who goes where’ when that happened.

And on an ongoing basis, schools get impacted, or full, and cannot take more students. This happens all the time. So if you buy a home in the middle of the school year especially, and say you want your child to go to Daves Avenue School in Monte Sereno so you purchased near there, you arent guaranteed placement in that school at all. If Daves is full, your son or daugher may end up at Van Meter or at Blossom Hill Elementary School. You have no say. Your child will go to school in the district, but not necessarily the school you want. Its not a slam dunk.

Just this week, it came out that kids in the Los Gatos Mountains are getting shipped off to middle school not in Los Gatos, but in Campbell! I wrote about it on my Live in Los Gatos blog: Some Los Gatos Mountain Kids Being Bussed to Campbell Middle School.

How can you improve your odds that if you buy a home, your son or daughter will attend your neighborhood school that youre targeting? Here are a few tips:

  • the closer you are to the school (physically), the better your odds
  • older schools in central areas like downtown Saratoga or downtown Los Gatos are less at risk for being closed (in this Realtors opinion)
  • dont move in the middle of a school year if you have school-aged children; if you get into the neighborhood before your kids enter school, youll improve your odds of getting your target school

Do realize that consolidations sometimes happen, so do closures, and so could busing. Small school districts mean smaller chance of forced busing, of course. Know that your child could end up at any school in the district. So it is wise to buy with the district in mind rather than just the particular school.

By the way, a great resource for knowing which schools a property is assigned to is this one:
http://www.SchoolAndHousing.com. Input the address (anywhere in Santa Clara County) and it will give you the schools AND the API scores for that home!





  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.

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