Pre-school choice - foreign family is looking for your advice
We are about to move from Denmark to the Bay Area (most likely close to Berkeley) and I am looking for advice regarding the choice of preschool (& kindergarten).
I have started to look for accommodation, but I guess that we will make final decisions in May. So far we only know where I will work (at Haas Business School).
We have two kids (5yo daughter and 3yo son), so in principle, we need two places, but based on what I have been reading I should make sure to enroll in preschool already now (otherwise we may get into the risk of not getting a place at all). I would like my son to start between July and September. He has been 'institutionalized' since he was 7 months old and currently attends preschool in Denmark. He is fluent in Danish and Polish but does not know English.
I have noticed that in comparison to Denmark, where we have two local preschools (within the closest proximity to home) in Berkeley and surrounding the choice seems to be enormous and I have a hard time comparing different options. Could you recommend any webpages where one could read about preschools/ kindergarten rankings?
So far it seems that we will need a full-time preschool, with some potential afterschool activities (if these things are available). I noticed that the average price is 1700 $ a month, which is very expensive, so if there would be any cheaper options I would gladly look into them. I have heard about some potential activities that kids can join while in preschool and obviously it would be lovely to continue with playing violin (or piano), swimming classes and be in touch with Danish/Norwegian or Polish, but I am afraid that it would be way too much to hope for. Montessori preschool would be nice too, but I have heard that these are even more expensive. I have no idea what the preschool in America is like and following Danish principles, I would like my son to like it and feel good there (despite not knowing English). However, so far he has been adapting very quickly to the new environment, so I guess that he will accept whatever gets offered to him. I am wondering what did you take into consideration while choosing a preschool for your kids?
I am also wondering about the way how kids get recruited to pre-school. I have heard about long waiting lists and the need to apply in January to make sure that one gets place during summer. Is this really the case around Berkeley? What is the typical enrolment strategy? Should I apply for a place in multiple places and hope to get one of them or it is enough to apply for just one where I know that I would like the kid to go?
I know that some of my questions may sound weird but in Denmark, we have a central system with an officer responsible for preschool allocation in every municipality. I can give him/her a call and get to know exactly where the municipality will offer places in my desired time span. In my current municipality newcomers had a priority to choose whatever place they liked and the municipality offers place guarantee if they get a notification at least 2 months before the earliest possible starting date. It is really simple and price is exactly the same everywhere (regardless of choosing public or private kindergarten) and on average it constitutes no more than 10% of one parents' gross income. There are no (financial) switching costs.
Thank you in advance for all the recommendations (all PMs are very welcome too)!