East Bay Waldorf or Berkeley Rose?

We are in the thick of applying to schools for kindergarten for the 2020-2021 school year.  We're casting a wide net and waiting to see what comes back in terms of financial aid assistance, but we are already anxious about the decision we may have to make if we get accepted/get financial aid for both Berkeley Rose Waldorf and East Bay Waldorf, as we loved them both.  Does anyone have any insight they can share that can help us make a more informed choice?  Thanks in advance.

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My child isn’t old enough to look for schools yet, but one thing you may want to consider is that the vaccination rate for kindergarteners at Berkeley Rose Waldorf was only 29% in 2017 (https://www.berkeleyside.com/2019/05/01/school-notebook-ultra-low-vaccine-rate-at-berkeley-school-prizes-for-kids-fighting-waste-vaping). Good luck with your search!

First off -- you mention that you're 'casting a wide net.' It's possible you already know this, but speaking as someone who loves the Waldorf philosophy, it's VERY different from the way mainstream school works in a lot of ways. So if you haven't had a chance to look at the differences, you might want to do that to see how Waldorf fits with what you have in mind for your family.

That said: we have a 3-year-old who's in the preschool class at East Bay Waldorf. We've been attending classes there since she was a baby and love the ambiance, teachers, and beautiful campus; we're planning to keep her there at least for a 2nd year of preschool and probably send our son to preschool there too. We haven't looked at Berkeley Rose, as we live in West Contra Costa, so we'd be fighting traffic to go down into Berkeley for school. But I'm happy to share our experiences with EBWS. Short version: while we are on board w/Waldorf and love many things about the school, we're not certain of our kindergarten plans yet.

Things we love:

1) the teachers, who really seem to 'get' children and how to guide them through moments good and bad. At our daughter's Winter Spiral ceremony, we watched 14 3- and 4-year-olds sit still and silent while each classmate took a turn in a small lovely ritual with the teacher. When our daughter had a really hard time at the start of the year, each day at drop-off she was delivered directly into a teacher's lap where she could sit until she felt comfortable joining the other kids in their morning activity.

2) the extraordinary amount of outdoor time the kids get, and the great outdoor spaces. The preschool and kindergarten share a 'playground' with traditional swings as well as 3 different kinds of rope swing, plus a sandbox and several small trees. Every grade hikes into Wildcat Canyon every week. Our daughter comes home in 'backup clothes' (because the ones we sent her in got covered in mud) at least once a week and we're thrilled about it.

3) the community. There's a very active parent association that's really working to build community, plus lots of school-organized festivals both at the class level and school-wide (in 3.5 months, we've attended 3 or 4 parent-only events plus 6 events w/kids). We've already made some new friends, and look forward to meeting more folks as the year goes on.

Things keeping us in 'wait-and-see' mode about committing to kindergarten:

1) administrative turnover. The school's definitely in a period of transition, and there's been a lot of shifts in the staff in the last couple years. That said, the new school administrator seems fantastic: her communication with parents is very clear and she seems very well-organized and able to stay on top of the million things that need attention in any school.

2) the difference between Waldorf and mainstream kindergarten. Not sure if this was explained to you on either of your Waldorf tours, but since kids in mainstream kinder are taught to read and Waldorf kids don't start academics until 1st grade, if your child goes to Waldorf for kindergarten they may not be 'ready' for mainstream 1st grade without outside help. Many families feel like committing to kinder is committing to Waldorf until at least 2nd grade, and the idea of being 'boxed in' to any school makes us a little nervous. 

Hope some of this is helpful. Happy to talk more!

Hi there!! My son is now in first grade at EBWS, and started there as a 5 year old kindergartner last year. The kindergarten is a mix of pre-k and k, so a total of 2 years for kids who start at 4. Anywho I don’t know if you got the chance to meet Teacher Natalie, the K teacher. She’s amazing!!!! I can’t say enough wonderful things about her... she can sure herd a large number of kids together! We had a wonderful experience and my son is SO happy there. He loves to learn, participate in chores, he wants to be in school during school break. In K, we love that they are served wholesome snacks that are prepared right in the kindergarten classroom, and go on at least 2 hikes during the week. I think it might be 3. During rainy season, I love that the weather conditions don’t deter the kids from the hike! They take they’re rain gear and literally roll down mud. Ive never been to the Berkeley waldorf I hear from one of the parents who commutes from Berkeley that there is no comparison land-wise and EBWS offers such a large playing ground for the kids. 

I just asked my son what the best part of K was and he says “the snacks,” especially the bread. Lol. He WAS well fed in kindergarten, for sure. Best of luck! We hope to see you at EBWS!