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We have a kindergartner starting this fall at Ruth Acty and are looking for after school options. Does anyone have experience they can share about the BEARS program or other recommendations?
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My child has attended the BEARS program (not at Ruth Acty) for a few years, and I've been generally happy with it. Everything here is pre-COVID experiences:
Since BEARS is a subsidized program, there is an income requirement, so when you apply, you'll have to provide proof of income in a way that you don't with private after school care. Many families (including mine) get full care totally subsidized, and that has been life-saving for me. Some families qualify for partial subsidy. I like the fact that the BEARS program is smaller than the other program at our school. The teachers really get to know the students. Because the funding is separate, the BEARS group and on-site paid after care do not share activities, unless they both happen to be on the yard at the same time. The paid after-care has actual enrichment classes, but the BEARS program does offer academic intervention for students who need it. There's a demographic difference between the two programs, and it sometimes strikes me as odd that low-income kids are separated out into their own program. Still, like I said, it's a small, mixed-age group so my child was able to make friends (or at least buddies) with kids of all ages.
The other plus to BEARS is that it (again, pre-COVID) operates during breaks and the summer. I don't get two weeks off for the holidays, so it was nice to be able to send my kid for many of those days in full-day BEARS camp. They went on field trips and did lots of fun activities. We did the BEARS summer program once. It was convenient and consistent, although my child ended up preferring the City of Berkeley camps.
I would say if paid after-care is something you'd have trouble affording, apply for BEARS and see if you qualify, even with a partial subsidy. Best wishes with whatever you decide!