Managing Half-Day Kindergarten

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PM Kindergarden assignment and Aftercare nightmare

July 2014

My son will attend Kindergarten this fall at Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito. I got wind that he will be assigned to the PM Kindergarten class (starts at 11:20) because we didn't register him early enough (I know, parenting fail). Unfortunately, my husband and I both work full time and the complementary childcare program through the city told us that they may not be offering AM care if there is not enough demand. (They didn't have it this year for the same reason.) I am REALLY confused as to what other parents do who are assigned to the PM K class if both parents work full time out side the home? Anyone out there have the same problem? Are there daycares in the area who will take care of my Kinder kid in the morning, take him to school, and care for him afterschool?

I am seriously stressed out as to what we will do if he gets final assignment to the PM class and there is no AM care. The principal implied that maybe some spots my open up in the AM Kindergarten after the first week but it's not something I can depend on. Has this happened to anyone else? What did you do? Are you in the same boat as me this year? If so, could you please please sign up to get the AM care through the city? confused PM Kindergarten mom

I was in the exact same situation 2 years ago, and I remember really flipping out and being super stressed too. I really wish that EC/WCCUSD would communicate the situation better to parents when they are registering for K that the availability of the afterschool for K is dependent of how many K classes they have, and AM K is a better choice if you want aftercare. Then working parents who intend to use after-care can mark down ''no preference for AM or PM care, as long as aftercare is available'', which is basically what I put this year for my 2nd kid who is entering K this year.

What I did two years ago in your situation is to talk to the principal to explain how critical it is that my child be switched to the AM K if there will be no morning ''afterschool''. It sounds like you have already done that. My experience was that the principal did in fact switch my daughter to AM K. She told me she couldn't guarantee it (which of course freaked me out, bc I considered it essential, and should overrule someone else's ''preference''), but she did tell me there was a pretty good chance it would happen. And it did. I guess I can give you no additional comfort, except to commiserate, and encourage you to continue to work with the principal to explain the critical situation (and suggest they make this issue clear at registration time to avoid this hassle in the future!) another Fairmont parent with incoming K

First I just want to say that I sympathize with your summer-before-kindergarten anxieties - been there (last year). I think you're doing all the right things with letting the principal know your situation, and keep being a squeaky wheel with the City of EC. You may even want to try to communicate directly with Anthony (the school site before/aftercare director), if not him, maintain a relationship with the Rec Dept office. You should also be sure to attend all the kindergarten playdates going on this summer (starting the 26th) to meet other parents and find out if there are other folks on the fence about PM-K beforecare. Or, leads on daycares nearby. It WILL work out! Fairmont is a good school and once you're settled in, I think your kid will have a good experience there; ours is happy to be headed into first grade. Personally I think it's a District failure to even have PM kindergarten but that's a whole other subject. Make the City of El Cerrito meet your need! Fairmont mom

Dealing with a short kindergarten day

Nov 2013

I am wondering how other working parents handle a short day at kindergarten? I am thinking about Piedmont in particular, where the kindergarten class is 3 hours! There is no way to get to work, do some work, and then get back in 3 hours! Obviously this is designed for SAHMs who then drive their kids around to activities all afternoon to make up for the shortened school day. This is also WAY shorter of a day than preschool(!). Do some in Piedmont (or other neighborhoods) send their kids to private school for two years until the class day catches up? thanks for the feedback

Take a deep breath. Contact your child's new school. Find out your options and pick the one that works for you. How did you deal with your child's preschool day? Parents in Piedmont (and other areas) have a variety of strategies, including use of the school's onsite before- & after-care, hiring a private nanny, etc. In Piedmont, there is a higher percentage of SAHMs especially in the younger grades. But not everyone! And I don't know of any kindergartners who get ''driven around to activities all afternoon.'' Good luck to you. Been there, done that

If other options are available, I most certainly would not send my child to a kindergarten that lasted only 3 hours(!). When we were on the market last year, there was a private school that had a somewhat shortened day -- but still more than 3 hours; nevertheless, we chose not to send our son to that school in part because of this quirky schedule. We chose another private school, and kindergarten there is from 8:30-3:00. Our boy had enrichment classes every week = art, P.E., library, music, computers (certified/trained teacher for each) plus his ''regular'' teacher for the usual reading, writing, math, science, field trips, etc. There is no way he could have learned all he did in 3 hours, or had the experiences we as a family feel are central to a kindergarten experience. At all the schools we seriously considered, it was noted that whether the kids came in reading or not, they would leave kindergarten as strong readers; their math skills would be above ''common core'' grade level; there would be hands-on science experiments, group projects, and cross-curriculum tie-ins. The kindergarteners learn to become a part of the larger school community = assemblies, ''buddies'', holiday fan-fare, spirit days . . . You can't do this stuff in 3 hours! We may not be able to afford private school through 8th grade -- maybe we'll only make it to 4th or 5th. But I'm so glad we we decided to give our kid a full-day kindergarten experience at a school fully committed to the emotional and educational well-being of their youngest learners. Anonymous

We had the same dilemma and hit upon a fantastic solution: Oakland JCC's after school program! Our daughter has been extremely happy there for the past 2 1/2 years (she's in 2nd grade now) and I love that they pick her up at school and bring her to the program so I can stay at work. Wonderful classes (gardening and then using what they grow for cooking are two favorites), enthusiastic and warm teachers (who seem to stay for years, I like the low turnover factor) and a small enough environment that happily doesn't resemble the chaos at public school-based programs. Kids can choose to be busy or mellow. The physical facility isn't inspiring but it really doesn't matter (and I usually care about that sort of thing). There are certainly Jewish aspects (I'm Jewish and like that) but there are plenty of non-Jewish families and the ones I've talked to think their kids end up learning some things that widen their perspective in terms of diversity but don't in any way feel excluded. Kids from different school districts go there (we're in South Berkeley) and parking is easy. Not sure where you are in Piedmont but it's super close to an on-ramp for 24/13. Feel free to ask the moderator for my email if you want to chat. You can call the JCC at 595-9222 and talk with Stan Berrin or Yaya Persing (both are lovely). Kindergarten can be a big transition and the JCC helped make it a calmer and happier one for our family. Good luck! Happy Oakland JCC Mom

Many Piedmont kindergarten moms work. You asked if some in Piedmont (or other neighborhoods) send their kids to private school for two years until the class day catches up. I have never heard of anyone doing it in Piedmont. Even though the Kindergarten day is short, there is a wonderful and reasonably priced before/aftercare program at each school site called Schoolmates. During the times of day when the older kids are in school, it is just a group of Kindergarteners together at Schoolmates. JD

Half day kindergarten, full time working single mom

Dec 2009

Hello! My daughter will be entering Kindergarten next year (we are thinking about Fairmont in El Cerrito). She has been in a full time daycare. It has recently been brought to my attention that my work hours are not going to work well with kindergarten 1/2 days! If she goes to morning, I don't know how I would even pick her up to bring her to daycare. If she goes to afternoon, she could be in daycare in the morning, but I don't know how I would get her to school. How do others handle this situation? concerned

The City of El Cerrito recreation department provides full time day care, 7am-6pm, for students at the El Cerrito elementary schools. Here's the website for more info: --EC mom

Hi, there are a few ways to deal with this. a) nanny/college student who will pick up your child and take care of them until you return home. i find wonderful people on b) there is in berkeley at least a van that will pick up your children and deliver them to an afterschool program. I can't remember the name but I'm sure you could google it. I actually think I've seen an el cerrito school van dropping off a child at my son's daycare in el cerrito c) many daycares will pick up your child after school and bring them to your house. My son is in Happy Garden, a wonderfully warm and lovely in-home daycare (it's chinese immersion) in El Cerrito and I know Eveline picks up children from school and brings them to her house after their school ends. good luck,

Does your school have an on-campus after (or before) school daycare? Ours (called Adventure Time) does, and it was well worth checking out. They pick up the kids at the classroom door after school (or would drop them off to afternoon classes if there were any at our school), personally signing them in or out. They provide sports, art, free play, and other activities (e.g. cooking, jigsaw puzzles, and homework for the older ones) for the kids, all supervised -- and kids' choice. At our school the program begins at 7:30 in the morning and runs until 6:00 pm. Surely, you are not the only working parent at your school -- most have some such program. Karen

Hello, You may want to look for a daycare that provides transportation for students attending Fairmont School in El Cerrito. My friend, Wednesdey Chavis, MA, owns Happy Lion School and Daycare Center in San Pablo, (510) 233- 3330, Her daycare center offers vanpool service for students that attend West Contra Costa District schools. She also has a Preschool Program. Wednesdey has a Masters degree in Education and over 24 years experience in the childcare industry. Check out photos of the center, They moved to this new location during the Fall, 2009, so they have a new, wonderful environment for children. If you want more information, please call her to schedule a tour. Sheila

Which schools offer all day kindergarten?

Feb 2008

Does anyone know of public schools offering all-day Kindergaten schools in either, Berkley, Oakland, Alameda or Albany or perhaps other communities? My friend in Chicago tells me their school district has adopted this successfully. Thank you
looking at option

I could be wrong about this, as my son doesn't start kindergarten till next fall, but I'm pretty sure all Oakland schools have all-day kindergartens. That was my understanding, and it's mentioned several times in their 2007 Annual Report: Public School Mom-to-Be

All OUSD public schools have full-day kindergarten. I don't know about other districts, but this FDK was implemented in 2005. OUSD Parent

My son is an Oakland Public School kindergartener this year. I think the entire OUSD is full day kindergarten. Certainly all of our pre-school and daycare friends are in full day programs at various OUSD schools. ncaton

The Oakland Unified School District mandated several years ago that all kindergartens be full-day. Oakland Public School Mama

As I understand it, all kindergartens for schools in Oakland Unified School District are currently all-day only. This generally means from around 8:30 to around 2:30 (varies a bit by school). Karen

All Berkeley Public Schools have ''all day'' kindergarten. The exact times the day runs depends on a given school. Some start and end earlier than others. Kindergarteners end their day one hour before the upper grades do. Most schools offer after school care on site, and some of the later starting schools (around 9 am) offer before school care as well. There are also other after school care programs at city parks, the JCC in Berkeley, to name a few.

Oakland, I believe, now has ''full day'' kindergarten now at all schools.

Albany is still on half days. There are before and after care programs on site at some schools and also through the Albany YMCA on Solano. Anon.

How do you deal with the short day?

March 2004

How do parents and children who have had full-time daycare/preschool cope with the transition to a short kindergarten day?

Our daughter will start kindergarten in Fall 2005, when she will be 5.5 years old (Feb. birthday). Since she was six months old, she has been in daycare and now preschool from about 8:30 am to 5:30 pm 5 days per week. In fact, by the time she starts kindergarten, she will have had three years of full-time Montessori preschool. This schedule has worked out very well for our family.

We live in Albany and my understanding is that kindergarten here is only three hours per day. I'm having trouble dealing with the idea that our daughter will spend more time in some sort of before- and/or after-school program than she will in actual school. This seems like a schedule that's better suited for families with at least one parent working less than full-time outside the home. (I'm not blaming the schools, by the way -- I understand that they are short of money and that there may be other good reasons for a short kindergarten day.)

How do kids who come from full-time, fairly structured preschool do in a combination of kindergarten and before/after school programs? Some of the private schools seem to have longer kindergarten days plus on-site after-school care -- did this schedule factor into anyone's decision to choose private school over public, and if so, are you happy with that decision? Is there any reason why a shorter kindergarten day might be better even for a ''full-time'' kid?

I will greatly appreciate any thoughts on this. BTW, changing our work schedules is not an option. worried mom of a full-time preschooler

We are well into the kindergarten year at our local public school and the short day issue has been our number one problem. My daughter had been in three full days of daycare since six months old. She loves kindergarten (AM until 11:40) and her teacher. She is thriving but the afternoons are long for all of us. I decided to lower my hours to pick her up myself. It's a lot of juggling and has made it hard to meet other moms since I have always worked. The on-site daycare was not going to work out because I didn't want my tiny little kindergartner spending all of those hours with all of those big kids. Know this, the days don't get much longer because in first grade through third grade school is out at 1:50 and in fourth and fifth I think it is 3:00pm. Count on a daycare bill for many years to come and use the quality of it as a factor as well to determine if you go the public school route. HL

I'm so glad you asked this--I'm struggling with exactly the same question. (My son was born 4/00.) I spoke to someone in the before/aftercare program for our districted school and was not impressed and, like you, have reservations about my son spending more time there than in K.

My (private) daycare feeds into its private K-8 school. Two of the teachers I like have been transferred there already, and the price is the same as I'm paying now. Also, I can use my Cafeteria 125 plan to pay for the first $5k in cost. I'm strongly leaning toward doing this for K.

OTOH, I do want to support my local school district, get to know the school, have him know his future classmates, and support public school. I sure wish it were set up better for families where parents work FT outside the home. Frustrating. Jennie in Alameda

Thank you so much for your question. My daughter and I are in about the same situation (in El Cerrito) and I am looking very forward to the responses. liz