Top L.A. Public and Middle Schools Where Hollywood Sends Kids

THR-Schools 3-Illustration by Guy Shield-H 2019
Guy Shield

Throughout Los Angeles County, high-performing LAUSD, charter and magnet schools supported by Kristen Bell and producer Mark Gordon are outfitted with on-campus farms, iPads and Mandarin programs.

Many of Los Angeles' entertainment-industry parents choose the public school for their young kids, even if they can afford private — and there are a wealth of options throughout the county, from neighborhood elementary schools to magnets and charters.

"A lot of my clients will do public for elementary," says Elizabeth Fraley, founder of Kinder Ready, which runs school-preparedness courses and camps in L.A. But many of those same parents, adds Fraley, "transfer out to a private school" for middle and high school.

That’s a phenomenon that producer and public-school proponent Jonathan Prince (Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral) notes as well: "You have all these wonderful parents, generous with their time, raising money for the PTA and getting involved with a great neighborhood elementary school. So it’s an especially big loss when they take that energy and enthusiasm, along with their child, to a private school, when their kids reach middle school or high school. And when asked why they've left, they say, ‘Well, our public middle schools and high schools aren’t as good as our local elementary.’ Of course! I know it’s more complicated than this, but each student that leaves a public-school system is also a family that’s leaving — and the schools suffer."

CAA agent Nancy Jones prefers public school for her two kids because public education reflects "the world we live in." She says, "We live in a city with staggering wealthy and with staggering poverty. That’s the world we live in. It’s really important for kids to see that there are some kids who wear the same shirt to school every day and there is someone who has never worn the same thing. It gives them the opportunity to understand that a loving home supersedes all the labels that they are becoming aware of."

For this guide to elementary and middle schools in Los Angeles, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to dozens of parents who work in film and television about their top choices in such districts as LAUSD, Santa Monica, Culver City and Beverly Hills, as well as charter schools.

The Westside

With so much movie and TV money concentrated near the coast, it’s no surprise that the area’s schools are considered first-rate and attract lots of industry folk. Among the most popular elementary schools are Palisades Charter Elementary and Canyon Charter, both of which send resident students to Paul Revere Middle School Magnet, which draws its 2,100 students (40 percent of whom are non-white), both from the area and, by lottery, from the city at large.

"My kids are biracial, so they have the opportunity to be at a school where a lot of other kids look like them," says CAA’s Jones, who has two sons there. "It’s a large school and has everything from a farm on the campus and a 4H club to a film club and a great music program."

In Santa Monica, producer Jennifer Todd has kids at Franklin (one of the city’s eight elementary schools) and Lincoln Middle School. “It’s great having a neighborhood school and we know all of the families in the neighborhood. I feel like the level of education has been incredibly high,” says Todd, who helped produce the fifth-grade graduation ceremonies at Franklin this past spring. “I was joking that I didn’t produce the Oscars this year so I could do a fifth-grade graduation.”

The schools in Culver City and Beverly Hills (which is adding a middle school to its district for the first time this fall) consistently rank highly. Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim is a parent who loves the Mar Vista location of Citizens of the World’s charter school network (which was founded by producer Mark Gordon). "They celebrate every child, not just the perfect child," says Lim. "The emphasis on mindfulness and social-emotional learning has been transformative, not just for my children, but for us as a family."

Other top schools include Venice’s Broadway Elementary (which has a Mandarin immersion program); Bel-Air’s Community Magnet Charter School (which is one of the hardest magnets to get into, taking around 3 percent of applicants via lottery); Brentwood’s Kenter Canyon Elementary; Westwood’s Warner Avenue Elementary; Westwood Charter; Cheviot Hills’ Overland Avenue Elementary; and Bel-Air’s Roscomare Elementary.

"Parental involvement at Roscomare is tremendous, and has played an integral role in funding the computer lab, music, art and theater," says Rene Jones, UTA’s global head of philanthropy.

And, in 2020, look out for the opening of a new $74 million campus of Ocean Charter School, a Waldorf school currently located near Marina Del Rey. "Ocean Charter is the perfect combination of the low-technology, high-creativity Waldorf approach with the diversity and academic standards of a great public school," says writer/producer Gavin Purcell (I Love You, America).

Central Los Angeles

The well-regarded schools in or near West Hollywood include West Hollywood Elementary, Gardner Street Elementary, Rosewood Avenue Elementary (a new magnet for urban planning and design), the Fairfax location of Larchmont Charter and Melrose Avenue Elementary (a math, science and technology magnet), where Geffen Playhouse executive director Gil Cates Jr. has two kids.

"Melrose is one of the first public schools to implement one-to-one technology throughout all grades, with K-2 students getting iPads and third through fifth graders getting MacBooks,” says Cates. "They’re used as tools to assist in their innovative, project-based learning approach, and it also gives students the opportunity to learn at their own pace."

Many industryites move to Laurel Canyon to attend the neighborhood’s Wonderland Avenue School (which houses a magnet program for gifted students). "It’s really special having the option to walk your children to their elementary school," says ICM agent Brad Schenck, who has a son in first grade there, adding that "Public education is so poorly funded that the parents at Wonderland raise around $750,000 each school year to personally fund music, art, P.E., gardening, library assistants and teachers’ aides."

Other mid-city elementary schools of note are Larchmont Charter’s Hollywood elementary campus; Citizens of the World’s Hollywood location (actress Kristen Bell is on the board of the charter organization); Hancock Park Elementary; and Third Street Elementary, which has a school for advanced studies and a Korean dual-language program.

"We feel a true sense of community at Third Street Elementary,” says showrunner Mark Lafferty (National Geographic’s The Right Stuff), who has a daughter at the school. “The teachers are some of the most committed and hard-working people I’ve ever met.”

To give your children an immersion in Spanish and English in their formative years, look at City Language Immersion Charter (CLIC) in Arlington Heights, where Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects costume designer Alix Friedberg sends her two boys. “I have never seen another learning environment that is so culturally and socioeconomically diverse. It’s a direct reflection of faces of Los Angeles,” she says. "CLIC created an environment where every student is supported socially and emotionally through project-based learning. This hands-on approach forces them to learn from each other and problem-solve together."

Some parents complain about the lack of great options in mid-city Los Angeles for middle school, sometimes resorting to moving east to Los Feliz to be in the district to attend Ivanhoe Elementary, which feeds into the mightily improved Thomas Starr King Middle School. Also in that area of town, Silver Lake is home to a third elementary-school location of Citizens of the World charter. “Their focus on social emotional learning has created an empathetic community that is so badly needed these days,” says H2R Productions partner Jamie Rosenblatt. “The kids are self-possessed, self-aware and are passionate about the world they are going to someday lead.”

The Valley

Encino has a trio of top-notch schools: Lanai Road Elementary (where UTA’s Brent Weinstein’s kids attended); Encino Charter; and the Academy for Enriched Sciences. In Sherman Oaks, the schools that tend to draw kids whose parents work in movies and TV are Sherman Oaks Elementary and Dixie Canyon Community Charter, which is known for its arts programs.

"There is a real sense of community at Dixie Canyon,” says Arrow creator Marc Guggenheim, whose daughters attended there. “Everyone cares about the school and wants to see it succeed. And in a town where it can be challenging to raise children, my wife and I appreciate the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the families who make up the school."

A bit to the east is the well-liked Carpenter Elementary in Studio City and Colfax Elementary in Valley Village. Parents of gifted kids often seek out Balboa Magnet Elementary in Northridge. The schools in the Burbank school district rank highly by test score. Middle schools of note include Sherman Oaks’ Millikan (which includes a performing arts magnet) and Studio City’s Walter Reed (which includes STEAM, media arts and technology, humanities, environmental sciences and global leadership academies). Walter Reed feeds into North Hollywood High, known for its highly gifted magnet.