Advice about Childcare Centers

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Choosing a daycare center from afar

March 2014

I will be relocating to the East Bay from New England this summer and am trying to find a full time daycare for my 1 year old daughter. Although I've read many reviews on this site and visited a few centers in person when last out in California, I am not able to return to visit the remaining centers prior to my move (although I have family nearby who may be able to).

I am wondering if anyone can offer comparisons or share their experience with the following centers that we are looking into. They are all currently full, but we are on the waiting lists and I am trying to figure out how to choose one versus the other given my limited information/exposure (and with the hopes that my daughter gets offered a spot in at least one of them!) The centers we are considering are:
- Model School (Berkeley)
- Blue Skies (Oakland)
- St Johns (Berkeley)
- Aquatic Park School (Berkeley)
- Daisy Child Development Center (Oakland)
- Mills College Preschool (Oakland)

Also, any advice on choosing childcare while living in a different state would be helpful! We currently have our daughter in a fantastic University (where we work) day care center with very low student: teacher ratios (1:3 most of the way through), plenty of exposure to outdoors and art, and caring, developmentally minded teachers. These are our priorities when looking into a center in CA. Thank you! searching from afar

It sounds like you may be joining UC Berkeley? If so, contact the Calcierge, Lisa Bagnatori for help. She did this for us!

Welcome to the Bay Area! We have friends who are at and love the Model School, Blue Skies, APS, and Daisy. We visited Blue Skies and the Model School for infant care; especially loved Blue Skies (but they have a long waiting list, as you've no doubt discovered). None of them have 1:3 ratios beyond the infant rooms, though. Of those, I think you'd be fine with any; I don't know St. John's or Mills, so can't speak to them.

However, my bigger concern with your list is how geographically scattered it is. You don't say where you will be living or working, but that will make a HUGE difference. Rush hour traffic in the Bay Area is horrific (worse than any part of New England that I can think of--I'm also a transplant). So, for instance, you do not want to choose one of the East Oakland centers (Blue Skies, Daisy, or Mills) if you plan to live and work in Berkeley, or one of the Berkeley centers if you will live and work in Oakland. The commute will consume your life. Really--I know it looks quick on paper (and it is when it's not rush hour), but we've done it going both ways and it's awful.

Consider St. John's, Model School, or APS if you will live in Berkeley and commute to Oakland (or vice versa) or live/work in Berkeley. Consider Blue Skies, Daisy, or Mills if you will live in East Oakland and commute to Downtown Oakland or Berkeley, or if you will live in Oakland/Berkeley and commute to the South Bay. We do know a few people at Blue Skies who live in Central Oakland and go out and back and feel it's worth it, but it's a trek during rush hour. You do NOT want to be commuting out there from Berkeley and back again. (And similarly, you do NOT want to be commuting from Oakland to the Berkeley centers and back again, either.) That would drive my decision more than anything else. Also, if you will be at Cal, you may also want to consider the university daycare centers. Another East Bay parent