Alameda middle schools: What are your options?

Alameda middle schools: What are your options?

Michele Ellson

Updated at 7:35 p.m. Wednesday, February 26

Parents of fifth graders all over the Island are preparing to send their children to middle school in the fall. And next year, they’ll have more choices than ever before, as Wood Middle School evolves into a science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) school open to all of Alameda’s middle schoolers and Bay Farm adds eighth grade.

To help families navigate their options, The Alamedan asked the leaders of all seven of Alameda’s public middle school options – a list that includes charter, magnet and traditional schools – to offer some basic information about their programs. Their answers to our short questionnaire are below. (Wood’s program is being restructured and is not yet finalized, so some of their answers to our questions are pending and will be offered in a follow-up piece on the restructuring effort.)

Students who choose to attend their neighborhood middle school don’t need to do anything to enroll. Lincoln Middle School is open only to students who live in the school’s attendance zone; enrollment in Alameda Unified’s other middle schools – Wood, Junior Jets @ Encinal and Bay Farm – is open, with forms due on Tuesday, March 4. Alameda Community Learning Center completed priority enrollment at the end of January but is still accepting applications; The Academy of Alameda Middle School’s enrollment deadline is this Friday, February 28, and Nea Community Learning Center’s enrollment is open. The district’s enrollment information and online form are here; forms for Alameda’s three public charters are available on their websites, linked below.


Submitted by Matt Huxley, executive director

Name of school: The Academy of Alameda Middle School

Address: 401 Pacific Avenue

Year founded: 2010-11

Number of students: 480

What is your school's philosophy/mission?: The Academy of Alameda empowers all students to be conscious contributors to their communities by equipping them with the critical thinking skills, knowledge, mindset and personal qualities to be successful in high school and college.

What makes your school special?: The level of dedication from the staff, parent body and board; the diversity of the student body; a strong academic program that includes a challenging core academic program, a comprehensive support program, and opportunities to stretch students including advanced level classes; and a comprehensive after school program. We also have a comprehensive social emotional program that includes the teaching to and celebrating of six critical student qualities including a growth mindset, integrity, resilience, preparedness, self-control and cultural competence.

Elective wheel: In the sixth grade students can take music and art, and all students take an enrichment wheel consisting of character education, literacy circles, and technology I. Seventh and eighth grade students have an expanded list of electives to choose from, including art and advanced art, beginning and advanced band and orchestra, choir, Spanish 1a and 1b, journalism, and technology II.

Foreign languages offered: Spanish 1a and 1b

Special programs: Seventh and eighth grade honors literacy seminar, a sixth grade honors literacy project, advanced art, an array of after school enrichment classes including robotics, cartooning, computer programming, creative writing, and filmmaking.

Sixth grade schedule: Core: English language arts and social studies, math (grade level, advanced, intervention math courses), science, physical education, enrichment wheel

After school program: Next year our year-long GOLD after school program will cost $100 for three to five days of after school program classes from 3:35 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Classes include homework support (the first hour for all students), and then students can choose different classes including cooking, leadership, dance, sports, technology, and leadership.


Submitted by David Hoopes, lead facilitator

Name: Alameda Community Learning Center

Address: 400 Grand Street (Editor’s note: The school is expected to move next year; space decisions will be finalized later this spring.)

Year founded: 1996-97

Number of students: 339

What is your school's philosophy/mission?: The Alameda Community Learning Center is an educational model that empowers all youth to take ownership of their educational experience, to celebrate their diverse community, and to actively participate as members in a democratic society.

What makes your school special?: At “the Center,” students (referred to as learners), are challenged to become active participants in their education. They document, self-assess, and demonstrate mastery of their learning through multimedia, artistic and written presentations, and practical applications. As empowered members of this small school community, the learners engage in the administration and evolution of the Center, shaping it for those who will follow in their footsteps. Combining best practices in education with state-of-the-art technology, ACLC teachers (referred to as facilitators), play a dramatically different role from those in a traditional classroom setting. Learners are given one period per day when they are in the Center for unstructured project time. In this time, they work on projects, homework, and socialize. Similar to a college experience, ACLC learners use this one period a day to practice independent learning. Come see it for yourself, it really works.

Elective wheel: The Art of Science (sixth grade), Learning to Learn (sixth, seventh and eighth grade), Creative Expressions (sixth and seventh grade), digital video studio (seventh and eighth grade), digital music (eighth grade), art (seventh and eighth grade)

Foreign languages offered: Fundamentals of Spanish (seventh grade) and Spanish 1 (eighth grade)

Special programs: Seminars implement standards-based curricula through project-based learning, collaborative assignments and multimedia technology. Though seminar meetings are the vehicle for action in our educational program, most learning happens outside the classroom, when learners work on projects, do research, and collaborate in teams. Our innovative approach to education makes learning dynamic, and has produced one of the highest ranking schools in Alameda according to the Academic Performance Index (API).

Sixth grade schedule: Math 6, humanities (English language arts and history), Science 6, physical education, The Art of Science, Learning to Learn, Creative Expressions

After school programs:

  • Facilitators are in their classrooms meeting and support learning every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until 4 p.m. The Center is open until 5 p.m.
  • Rock Shop is a rock band class. It is offered every Wednesday and is free to learners. (1:45 p.m.-3:45 p.m.)
  • Debate is offered every Wednesday and is free to learners. (1:45 p.m-3:45 p.m)
  • Poetry is offered every Tuesday and is free to learners. (3:10 p.m.-4:30 p.m.)
  • Cartooning and Animation is offered every Friday and is free to learners. (3:10 p.m.-4 p.m.)
  • Drama Ensemble is offered every Wednesday and is free to learners. (1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.)
  • Many learners also catch the bus to the Alameda Boys and Girls Club Underground Program.

Additional information:

  • ACLC's API is 869.
  • The primary instructional model is Project Based Learning.
  • Every year, 85 percent to 90 percent of our graduates go directly to four-year colleges.
  • Smaller classes make middle schoolers feel accepted.
  • Rigorous academics promote high school readiness
  • We are ready for Common Core standards.

For more information, please contact David Hoopes at 995-4300 or e-mail


Submitted by Babs Freitas, principal

Name of school: Bay Farm School

Address: 200 Aughinbaugh Way

Year founded: 1992-93 (elementary school)

Number of students: 564 (K-7)

What is your school's philosophy/mission: Our school: Bay Farm is committed to being the heart of our community, bridging home and school. We provide a collaborative and inclusive environment where everyone values cultural and learning differences. Students enjoy the pursuit of personal and academic excellence as they become confident and compassionate citizens of our local and global communities. Our school as a 21st century school: We seek to develop 21st century citizens who are creative problem solvers and intellectual risk takers, so that they are prepared for a world of the 21st century. Our 21st century learning environment is an aligned and synergistic system of systems that:

  • Supports professional learning communities that enable educators to collaborate, share best practices, and integrate 21st century skills into the classroom practice.
  • Enables students to learn in relevant, real-world 21st century contexts (e.g., through project-based or other applied work).
  • Allows equitable access to quality learning tools, technologies, and resources.
  • Supports expanded community and international involvement in learning, both face-to-face and online.

What makes your school special?: We are a neighborhood community school that currently has students from grades K-7, but are growing to eighth grade next year and are in the planning phase for that now! With our innovative plan for 21st century learning, all of our general education classrooms are equipped with SMART boards and we have been able to provide 1:1 technology (either Google Chromebooks or netbooks for all of our sixth and seventh grade students and iPads in the media center). We are working on a BYOD (bring your own device) initiative for next year! Our sixth and seventh grade students have been able to participate in some amazing overnight field trips. Our sixth grade attends a three-day leadership camp and our seventh grade spent the night at the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Elective wheel: Our sixth and seventh grade students attend weekly music classes with a trimester each of choral music, instrumental music and musical theater. They also receive weekly instruction in our media center where they learn how to apply the multi-platforms (netbooks, Chromebooks, iPads) available at our school.

Foreign languages offered: Seventh grade students are introduced to foreign language with Rosetta Stone and have a choice of either Spanish, French, or Mandarin. We are in the process of developing our eighth grade program with the district.

Special programs: Students have the opportunity to join our ukulele band that practices at lunchtime and play at many of our events and competitively.

Sixth grade schedule: Our sixth grade teachers team teach using a flexible block schedule model.

After school program: Currently, our after school programs are primarily offered through the Alameda Education Foundation and include a variety of classes such as band, seasonal competitive sports, karate and computer programming. Fees vary depending on the class. Additionally, we offer a free after school glee club.


Submitted by Tracy Allegrotti, principal

Name of school: Junior Jets @ Encinal

Address: 210 Central Avenue

Year founded: 2013-14

Number of students: 190

What is your school's philosophy/mission?: We believe our scholars need to:

  • Talk to each other
  • Solve real world problems
  • Read complex text
  • Integrate technology
  • Extend their learning outside of the classroom
  • Engage with different learning modalities
  • Work with a variety of types of people
  • Be introduced to college and career options
  • Engage in meaningful community service experiences
  • Have 21st century presentation skills
  • Feel known and respected

What makes your school special?: As part of a 6-12 school, our scholars have access to many more electives than at most middle schools, as well as athletic facilities, school plays and other clubs, and accelerated coursework. By eighth grade, most students will have taken at least one class with high school students (electives, math, etc.). This eliminates or minimizes the often-difficult transition to high school. We also integrate technology into our core classes, with our Nexus tablets and Google Chromebooks. We have several electronic accounts for textbooks, curriculum, and other online programs. As a small school with a strong focus on our students’ social and emotional needs, kids cannot “hide” at Junior Jets. We interview all students and families before school begins in order to get to know our kids and their needs and strengths. We also have an Advisory program that addresses academic, social, and emotional growth.

Elective wheel: Our sixth grade elective wheel consists of digital literacy, college and career readiness, art and drama. Additionally, our sixth graders may choose band or orchestra (in lieu of the wheel). Our seventh graders have access to a two-semester wheel that consists of digital art and integrated art history, or they can choose Spanish, French or band/orchestra. Eighth graders have access to all of the electives that our high school students do, including foreign language, multimedia art, drama, art, ceramics, 3-D design and advanced band or orchestra.

Foreign languages offered: Spanish 1, 2 and 3; French 1, 2 and 3

Special programs: Because our eighth graders have access to high school electives, they are able to continue on to advanced levels since they have already met introductory requirements. Eighth graders who have completed levels 1 and 2 in a foreign language may go on to level 3 as freshmen. Drama students may advance to drama 2. Students who have completed multimedia 1 can go on to video game design or 2-D animation. This is true for the arts as well. What is exciting is that every current eighth grader has chosen to move on to the next level of courses for their freshman electives. We also have a competitive math club, Girls Who Code, and access to all clubs that are offered at the high school level. Our Junior Jets have also started clubs that they wanted to see at Encinal, including art club, glee club and Junior Jet Ambassadors.

Sixth grade schedule: English language arts and history core, math/science core, elective wheel or band, physical education/Advisory

After school program: Our after school program (Junior Jetsetters) is offered Monday through Thursday from 3:10 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (students must be picked up or excused by 6 p.m.). It is a free program. High school students are trained and serve as tutors and mentors, supervised by two adults. Programs include homework help, tutoring, culinary arts, team building activities, sports, debate, cosmetology and more.

Additional information: For more information, please contact Tracy Allegrotti at 748-4023, ext. 3407 or e-mail


Submitted by Michael Hans, principal

Name: Lincoln Middle School

Address: 1250 Fernside Boulevard

Year founded: 1977 at its current location

Number of students: 957

What is your school's philosophy/mission?: Our mission is to meet the needs of all of our students in their academic, social and physical development. We strive to provide an engaging and challenging curriculum. We have high expectations for all of our students.

What makes your school special?: The role of a middle school is to prepare its students for success in high school. We do an incredible job preparing our students and in fact, I would say that we offer more of a traditional high school experience than many high schools do today. We offer a seven-period day every day so students experience having multiple teachers and moving from class to class. We have lockers for every student so they don’t have to carry all of their books.

Our elective program and our campus facilities are what truly set us apart. Next year, we will be offering beginning strings and I believe we are the only middle school that will offer a strings class. We are hoping to grow this program and offer advanced strings the following year. We have an award-winning marching band that was recently seen on television preforming in the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade. We have a dynamic wood shop program, one of the last of its kind in any school district middle or high school.

The projects that our students are making are at a high school level. We have a fantastic art program, and we offer an advanced art class that allows our students to enter higher level art classes when they get to high school. We have a drama program that puts on a yearly play. We have an award winning tolerance class, taught by Alameda County Teacher of the Year Chris Hansen. We have a journalism class that not only designs our yearbook, but they have an online magazine where they post articles, on our school’s website. We have a cheerleading club and a dozen other clubs that meet and organize events. We have an outdoor development program that not only works on the landscaping of the school, but they also work in our nature area and run our recycling program.

What is also so special about our school is our facilities. We are large school that still has lockers for every student. We have a huge athletic field, large blacktop, and large multi-use room that serves as a gym. In fact we are the only middle school that has what could be considered close to a real gym in its size and its ability to seat spectators. We have a boys and girls locker room and our students still dress out for physical education every day – we are the only middle school in the district that has students dress out for physical education. We are the only school in the Bay Area that I know of that has a nature area that runs along the bay, which is used every day by our science classes and our outdoor development classes.

Elective wheel: Sixth graders have two choices: They can take band for the entire year or they can be placed in the sixth grade elective wheel. This wheel is our way of exposing our sixth graders to a variety of electives, which we offer as year-long or trimester classes to our seventh and eighth graders. The wheel classes run for six weeks and every sixth grader not in band will take intro to French, wood shop, intro to drama, art, engineering and academic strategies (a how-to-survive-middle-school class). Our seventh and eighth graders take either trimester wheel classes or year-long electives. All of our eighth graders get two electives choices since their core classes are only two periods (English language arts/social studies), unlike our sixth and seventh grade core classes, which are three periods long (English language arts/literature/social studies).

Foreign languages offered: Eighth graders can take French 1, Spanish 1 and hopefully next year, Mandarin 1. All of these classes count as their first year of foreign language and if they are successful, students can enter high school at a level 2 class. This allows them to progress and take an advanced placement class their senior year in high school.

Special programs: We have a very successful green waste program which is doing a fantastic job in reducing our amount of landfill waste. We offer English language development for students who are not yet fluent in English. We have a Fusion reading program that is designed for students who are reading two or more years below grade level. We offer a variety of special education classes for students with individualized education plans that run from mild to moderate and special day classes for our moderate to severe students. We also have a bridge program that is designed to support our autistic students.

Sixth grade schedule: All sixth graders take a three-period core (English language arts/literature/social studies) with the same teacher. This gives them the support they need as they transition from elementary school. They then have different teachers for science, math, physical education and their elective.

After school program: Our school site council funds after school study hall with a teacher three days a week. We have several math support programs after school. The Alameda Education Foundation also runs multiple classes on our campus. They offer various classes at a cost to the student. The foundation also runs the district’s middle school sports program. Lincoln is only middle school in the district that can field an A and B team for all of the sports provided by the foundation. Those include co-ed volleyball, girls’ basketball, boys’ basketball and track & field. We won the A and B volleyball championship and our A and B girls’ basketball teams played in the championship games on February 25. Many of our clubs also have after school activities, such as our running club, which runs off campus every Friday after school.

Additional information: Safety is our number one priority at Lincoln. We know we are a large school and that can be scary for some families. The reality is that we have very few safety issues. We want our students feeling safe and ready to learn when they come on campus. We have a full-time campus supervisor, an assistant principal and a principal who are always out and about. You will see us patrolling before school, at lunch and after school, and we are in the hallways at every passing period. Our school counselor and our admin team are very proactive in addressing student issues and concerns. It should also be noted that Lincoln is not an open enrollment campus. We have more than enough students from our four feeder schools of Edison, Otis, Earhart and Bay Farm. Students must live in our attendance zone, which is everything east of Park Street, to attend Lincoln. I’ve had a number of parents ask me to accept their child even though they don’t live in the Lincoln attendance zone. I cannot do that. Again, we are not an open enrollment school.


Submitted by Maafi Gueye, lead facilitator

Name of school: Nea Community Learning Center

Address: Currently, K-5 at Poggi Street and Buena Vista Avenue; 6-12 at 500 Pacific Avenue (Editor’s note: The school is expected to move next year; space decisions will be finalized later this spring.)

Year founded: 2009-10

Number of students: 520 (K-12)

What is your school's philosophy/mission?: Nea Community Learning Center is an educational model that empowers all youth to take ownership of their educational experience, to celebrate their diverse community, and to actively participate as members in a democratic society.

What makes your school special?: As a college preparatory, project-based learning center, Nea seminars provide many opportunities for individual, partner and group projects that encourage research, depth of knowledge, and mastery of concepts. Projects are initiated by driving questions that elicit the "need-to-knows" that frame the substance of the content and the direction of research and discovery. Learners are supported to produce high quality products through the establishment of checkpoints that provide the opportunity for feedback and revision.

Electives: In the Upper Village (grades 6-12), electives are chosen for the semester or the year, and learners choose their electives based upon interests or post-secondary goals. Elective choices for all include BioSTEM, digital music studio, band, art 1 and 2, robotics, software certification, creative writing, fashion design, tinkering, maker studio, leadership, yoga, musical theater, public speaking and debate, band A and B, beginner digital music studio, advanced digital music studio and yearbook/graphic design, to name a few!

Foreign languages offered: Spanish 1, 2, 3 and AP 4+; Mandarin 1 and 2

Special programs: Nea's middle school program prepares learners for Nea's high school program. Middle school learners begin learning to manage their time and their tasks within a seminar schedule, and may start taking college classes as early as seventh grade. Nea's first graduating class of 2013 saw 100 percent of graduates eligible to attend colleges and universities, with over 85 percent garnering awards for high achievement in academics, scholarship procurement and community service. One hundred percent of Nea learners in high school take college courses as a part of their graduation requirements. In addition to Nea having the highest graduation standards in Alameda, Nea is an approved provider of advanced placement courses offered through the University of California Scout, creating for Nea learners more options for academic rigor in addition to the honors courses already offered.

Sixth grade schedule: Math (by diagnostic placement), humanities (English language arts and history), science, physical education, and electives by choice.

After school program: Free after school programs (3 p.m. to 4 p.m.) include seminar tutoring and support, chess club, animation, Python programing, and the Minecraft club. After school childcare is available at $5 per hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Additional information: The nine Nea Principles are the core values and expected learning outcomes (ELOs) of Nea graduates, facilitators, staff, families and the extended Nea community. These core values help learners develop beyond academics into engaged citizens, productive and responsible people, and active and lifelong learners. At all levels we teach, emphasize, model and celebrate the nine Nea Principles: teamwork, persistence, organization, accountability, compassion, problem solving, courage and integrity.


Submitted by Cammie Harris, principal

Name: Will C. Wood Middle School

Address: 420 Grand Street

Year founded: 1965 at its current location

Number of students: 411 (as of September 23, 2013)

What is your school’s philosophy/mission?: We are proud to teach and nurture the whole child. It is the intent of the faculty of Wood Middle School to provide a safe and nurturing environment where the academic, social-emotional and physical needs of a child are supported. This is being done through school wide implementation of Alameda Unified School District-adopted Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS), systemic Response to Intervention (RTI) and mentorship through an Academic-Social Advisory taught by credentialed faculty. Next year, all students will be members of small learning communities where teachers will collaborate to create meaningful, and aligned content in a balanced academic program.

What makes your school special? Wood Middle School staff, students and parents are excited about being the first true STEAM middle school on the Island. STEAM is a Rhode Island School of Design led initiative to add Art and Design to the national agenda of STEM education and research in America. STEM + Art = STEAM. The goal is to foster the true innovation that comes with combining the mind of a scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer.

Foreign languages: Spanish

Special programs: We currently offer art, drama, Spanish, leadership, a Service Learning Waste Reduction Project with, the EPICS/Teen Techs robotics program with Purdue University and an award-winning music program.


Submitted by Deni (not verified) on Wed, Feb 26, 2014

This is really a fantastic resource, thank you Alamedan!

I find it amazing, actually, that our town of 70,000+ residents offers 7 public middle school options, each of which is quite distinctive. In Berkeley (pop. appr. 112,000), there are only 3 public middle schools.

I know it has not been easy so I wanted to convey my deep appreciation to the AUSD and the Board for facilitating this great degree of school choice.

We have a 5th grader so middle school has been on our mind for some time. Thoroughly exploring all of the options has been a major undertaking for us. But we are thankful to have had so many options to explore.

Submitted by Tracy Zollinger (not verified) on Wed, Feb 26, 2014

Excellent guide! Thanks!

Submitted by Heather Little (not verified) on Thu, Feb 27, 2014

Wonderful synopsis of what is out there. Thanks for doing the leg work!