About BUSD Kindergarten

Parent Q&A

Starting BUSD Kindergarten @ age 6 (seeking success stories) Dec 1, 2021 (2 responses below)
Berkeley public kindergartens info sessions Nov 1, 2021 (4 responses below)
Applying to Kindergarten amid COVID (BUSD) Oct 28, 2020 (2 responses below)
Montessori to BUSD -- Repeat/Skip K? (Turning 5 AFTER Sept 1) Oct 5, 2020 (2 responses below)
Kindergarten at BUSD during COVID-19 May 13, 2020 (4 responses below)
Technology in BUSD Kindergarten classrooms? Jan 11, 2018 (3 responses below)
What if BUSD kindergarten doesn't work out? Dec 26, 2017 (4 responses below)
  • My daughter has a June birthday. For some very complicated family reasons, we want to wait until she is 6 to enroll her in Kindergarten. I was told BUSD is very strict and they will simply put her directly into first grade once she's 6, even if she has not yet been to kindergarten. But another parent posted on BPN "as there’s no written district policy and the state only outlines minimum but not maximum ages for each grade, the district is on shaky terms with their attempts at regulating this."

    Are there any families out there who have been successful at delaying kindergarten for their child and enrolling in kindergarten once their child is 6? For non-medical reasons?

    OR Have any families out there opted for an extra year of preschool in lieu of kindergarten, and then enrolled their kids in BUSD at age 6?

    I dont know any success stories but I do know a family who opted for preschool an extra year in COVID times and had no options but to enroll their 6 year old with a June birthday in 1st. I think if you work to teach them reading and math over the summer it will be academically OK, but I cant imagine skipping K is good for kids.

    I don’t know anyone who has been successful starting kindergarten at age 6 at BUSD.

    It’s pretty common for Montessori preschoolers to remain in preschool for kindergarten year, and I know several families who did that. Their kids started BUSD at age 6 and were placed in 1st grade. They were all prepared for school. A few were behind in reading, but quickly caught up.

  • I'm the parent of a 4-year old who will be entering Berkeley public schools next year as a kindergartner. I'm having a hard time finding out if anything is planned to give parents of incoming kindergartners the opportunity to learn more about the schools we have the option to request in January. I'm guessing that whatever it is will be over zoom as friends I have with kids in school say current parents are not even allowed in the school, so I anticipate it being limited in scope, but still, would be nice to have some sense of these schools. If anyone has any leads, let me know!

    We are in the same boat (4 year old who will be entering Kindergarten in Berkeley next year). Here is I received from the BUSD admissions office:

    ”Unfortunately in person tours will not be available. We are encouraging schools to provide virtual tours. We have asked that they provide a link on their homepages by mid November if they plan on participating. We recommend checking back in about 2 weeks.”

    From what I've heard at my kid's school, there will likely be virtual kindergarten information nights again (probably in January) -- no tours, unfortunately, at least for now, as most visitors are still not permitted on campuses.  You can check the BUSD Admissions Office site for more info:  https://www.berkeleyschools.net/admissions/

    Hi! Kinder info nights (for TK and Kinder) are usually in the second week of January, a couple of weeks before enrollment requests are due (last year they were January 6 – January 21). I'd keep checking the website or call the admissions office to ask when they'll be planned for January 2022. I believe they'll stick with Zoom given parents are still not allowed on campus, but I hope for your sake you get to visit in person! The campuses are usually open all weekend if you want to visit to get a sense of the yard areas, peek into classroom windows, etc.

  • Applying to Kindergarten amid COVID (BUSD)

    (2 replies)

    Hello parents and caregivers, 
    We have a child who will be old enough to start Kindergarten in the fall, and we aren't sure how the process is going to work right now amid COVID and schools still operating remotely right now. Does anything have experience with the process (pre-COVID) that they can share some advice? Do you typically reach out to the school individually within your district to express interest and ask for a tour (which we assume will be virtual for now)? We have the applications and were hoping that it would be possible to meet potential teachers that our son could have, as we care less about the overall school/location itself, and more so that he will have a supportive teacher and environment to help him thrive as SIP and distance learning has been such a challenge for the past 7 months. He had just started preschool for a few weeks before SIP happened, and has had a hard time with transitioning to new people, which he never did before. We hope that whichever school he places at can be a steady one to make things more consistent. Any advice would be great! So hard to keep planning for things during this uncertain time!


    I don't know what is happening with COVID but usually the schools post their tour schedules (led by PTA parents) and each school has an evening open house where you can meet teachers. Of course, the teachers can change from year to year. So, even if you meet someone in the spring they may not be there in the fall or may not be teaching kindergarten in the fall. Also, you will have no control over which teacher in a school your kid gets. You won't even know which teacher they get until after the school year starts. 

    One thing to consider more than the teachers is the principal. Throughout elementary school the teachers will be a mix, some will be a good fit for your kid and some won't. The principal is the person you will deal with if you have a problem. 

    BUSD also has a lottery system, so you need only look at the schools in your zone. Since the schools have similar approaches to many things and you have no control over the teachers your kid gets... I would rank based on start time, how easy it is to get to, the principal, and potentially the size of the school if you think that will matter for your kid. 

    Hey Thao,

    Do not worry too much about the school tours. In any case, your child will be ASSIGNED to the school in order to balance the school in terms of race, gender, income, education level of parents, special education status, siblings already in school, and a host of other factors. YOUR school preference would the the least of their concerns. During school tours you have a chance to observe classrooms, not to talk to teachers. One a few of teachers come out to say a few words to touring parents. You do get to meet the school principal during the tours. In my school, parent volunteers conduct these tours. All teachers are highly qualified and experienced as these jobs are coveted for. The curriculum in all classrooms and school is the same and in centrally determined by the district. In December the applications open up at the district. This is the key thing not to miss and collect all the documents required. I would suggest you do that early. I have seen many parents rejected on the first attempt....Best of luck and stay safe...

  • Hello all,

    I tried searching for a similar situation and couldn't find any threads (but happy to be pointed to any!).

    Our child is at a Montessori preschool, which includes a "Kindergarten" year. She turns 5 a little over a month after the Sept 1 cutoff, so she will be almost 6 to start Kindergarten (BUSD enrolls based on age: age 5 by Sept 1 for K, age 6 by Sept 1 for 1st, etc.). Assuming that she is academically/emotionally/socially ready, our preference is to have her as one of the younger children vs. older children in her classroom, as she learns by observing her peers, and tends to regress to baby-like actions/emotions when around younger children.

    Have any of you with Montessori-educated fall babies repeated Kindergarten? Or, been able to skip to 1st grade? Any options available other than private elementary? It sounds like BUSD enrolls strictly by age, so even if she were to transition at a later grade, they would still enroll her based on the Sept 1 age cutoff for that grade.

    Thanks in advance!

    We did not end up enrolling, but Albany USD was happy to place my Oct birthday baby in 1st grade (she would start the year at age 5 then turn 6) after completing 3 years of Montessori preschool and kindergarten. I believe CA law about birthdate cutoffs only applies to K and 1st grade, so if you stay private through those years and then move to public, they can’t force you to repeat a grade. Anyhow, Albany USD has been actively recruiting and accepting district transfer students, so it might be worth a try... 

    In BUSD I have heard of many parents trying to enroll their kids early / late because they’re near the cut off, but I’ve never known of anyone who was successful. If this is important to you, you may have to go with private school for a few years and then transfer.

    As for whether you should try to enroll your young kid in the higher grade, I’m not sure I’d recommend it at BUSD. Maybe at private school? As to why - my kids came from Montessori and are young for their grade at BUSD (July and Aug birthdays). The public school is pure chaos compared to a Montessori classroom which takes some getting used to and can be really hard on younger kids. It’s not a social or academic maturity thing, it’s an ability to deal with unpredictable situations thing. And that can be HARD for the youngest kids.

    In our experience BUSD is fine if your kid is fine. But you don’t get any say in anything for better or worse. Nothing advanced for your advanced kid, no special treatment for “minor” problems that don’t severely limit academic performance. If you want that level of input or support, you might consider private school. We have one kid with medical problems related to stress at school, but nothing severe enough to be labeled a disability. This child performs at grade level academically. So there is no assistance or accommodation for that child at all and the child is frequently in trouble at school. We have other friends with kids with similar issues - their kids are struggling but not enough for services. There is no help for these kids, and I’ve seen a couple of families move kids to private school where their kid goes from underperforming troublemaker who hates school at BUSD to performing at grade level, far fewer behavioral issues and loves school. 
    All of that is to say, if you want something special for your kid, BUSD is not the place to get it. It’s a fine district, and there are many great teachers, and it’s fine for most kids.  But if you want something special for an individual kid (like placement not based on age and birthdate) it’s rarely going to happen. At least in our experience.

  • Kindergarten at BUSD during COVID-19

    (4 replies)

    My child will be heading to Emerson in the Fall, and there is so much uncertainty going on right now, and I am planning for the many eventualities. One of the most trying would be to do several months of remote Kinder. And, my heart goes out to those of you that just had to do that, have a job while helping your child extensively with the new distance learning. My question is, how was distance learning for Kinder at Emerson? How many hours a day of work did you and your child have? My friends in other districts report 3 to 5 hours a day spent in Kinder education, including navigating the computer. That seems like a lot. Also, answers from other schools in BUSD for Kindergarten would be helpful too, to get an idea of how many hours to expect. 

    My son is in kindergarten at MX and has an amazing teacher. This year there is really no requirement on the amount of work you do or turn in. It is up to your family. Not sure if that will change. She provides enough work that you could theoretically spend 3-5 hours a day if you wanted to, but she recommends about 2 hours a day. She gives you a matrix for each week with lots of options to choose from: individual Zoom, small group Zoom, class-wide Zoom, videos she made, videos made by other MX teachers, videos made by other sources, worksheets and paper based activities, reading, Flipgrid, and some apps (RAZ kids and Freckle etc.). It is up to you how much you and your family want to engage in. 

    We are in K at John Muir. We haven’t had anywhere near 3-5 hours a day of Kindergarten work. That sounds like too much, for both kid and parents. Our child has three times a week Zoom class for about thirty minutes, plus daily activities and journal entries. The activities and journal entries maybe add up to an hour per day (we spread them out over the day rather than do them all at once). We could never do 3-5 hours of work with our kindergartener since we both work full time and are also caring for a younger, preschool age child. I wouldn’t stress about this. One advantage of having a younger child in this pandemic is less academic pressure. (The disadvantage is that they’re not yet very independent.) You don’t have to be a full substitute for school and probably couldn’t even if you wanted to try. 

    No way do I spend 3-5 hours a day on Kinder education. I have a 2-yo to entertain and we both have full time jobs.
    But even if I had the time, in our case (Kinder at Rosa Parks) this is absolutely not the expectation.
    There is a 30-minute morning meeting with all kids Mon-Thu, and once a week a 10-min checkin with the teacher.
    Then every day, try to do some form of reading, writing, math and arts. There are learning plans and tons of apps, but we try to limit screen time and just go with what the day brings. Seriously, it's Kindergarten. No stress.

  • Technology in BUSD Kindergarten classrooms?

    (3 replies)

    Hi bpn! Can anyone tell me about technology use in Berkeley Public elementary schools? (Specifically, Kindergartens in the Central zone.) 

    i.e., Do teachers use screens in the classrooms? For what? Do kids take tests on computers? (My niece in another state does, and I've realized I don't have any idea what happens here.) Anything else noteworthy?


    This is going to vary greatly by teacher and you have no control over which teacher you get or the ability to switch teachers (at least in my experience). Our daughter's teacher starts the day with 10-20 minutes of YouTube videos for various songs (e.g. welcome song, ABCs, counting, days of the week etc). Many teachers also use Go Noodle at some point in the day. I know another K teacher at the school uses iPads in the classroom for some Math work. This teacher also has shown movies for special occasions (e.g. Frosty the Snowman before winter break). As far as I can tell, they aren't using computers for testing.  

    Our son is at Washington kinder and quite happy there. No screen time as far as I know. I think that might start in small doses by 3rd grade.  There are some folks in the PTA there who are trying to stave off technology in general that you can hook up with.


    It's worth noting that all students in California take state SBAC tests on computers beginning in third grade, so most schools do introduce technology well before then, and often as early as kindergarten. I can't speak to the specific Berkeley schools in the Central zone, but would be surprised not to see fairly regular technology use (iPads or Chromebooks) by second grade, if not before then.

  • Has anyone had experience pulling their child out of a Berkeley school partway through the school year? Specifically if the child is five-years-old? As I understand it, CA doesn't make school compulsory until age six. Trying to figure out our options if we don't have a great experience in the Berkeley school system next year. If we're really not happy, I'll try to home school until we can move/come up with a Plan C. I'm hoping it might be easier since my daughter will be under six. Thanks in advance for any advice you're able to offer.

    Poke around on this site: http://hsc.org/withdrawing-your-child-from-school-mid-year.html

    and feel free to call their help line.  1-888-HSC-4440

    So you child is not yet in kindergarten and you are already making plans to pull her out mid-year? Why? I'd guess that Berkeley Public Schools work out fine for north of 99% of students who enroll? Is there some reason that you think your daughter is going to be the exception? Why not go into the school year with a positive attitude that it will work out, rather than planning for failure? Even if there are issues you didn't mention, approaching the year with an optimistic attitude that you can work through any problem is more likely to produce a good outcome than coming in with backup plans because you are sure it will be a disaster.

    But to answer your question, there would be no consequences from the school district to a 5 year old dropping out of school, even if you weren't going to homeschool. Consequences for the kid emotionally and socially, yes. Penalties for truancy, no.

    Well, I think you're jumping the gun for sure. I bet you and your daughter will be very happy in a public Berkeley kindergarten. Why are you anticipating a problem? Of course you can pull your child from any school any time you like, but I don't think you will want to.

Parent Reviews

We pulled our daughter out after a disastrous Kindergarten year, and wish we'd never sent her there. Her teacher was the least charismatic Kindergarten teacher I've ever encountered - and apparently she's still there. Our daughter's creativity tanked - it was all about reading and math all the time, worksheets and homework. A little boy said to me at the end of the year that he felt stupid because he was having a hard time with reading. Meanwhile our daughter soared to a ridiculous 2nd grade level in reading - all the result of focusing so hard on getting 5-yr-olds to read. I attended a meeting with the new superintendent at the start of that school year in which it was clear that gifted children are not well served by this school system. It's been our experience that all of the energy goes toward the problem kids, of which there are many. If you like your private school, stay. 

I don't have experience with Cragmont but, I can say that if things do not go well it is difficult to make a change. Our daughter had a rough year in Kindergarten at another BUSD public school. I could tell from the first few days that the teacher was not a good fit. We were told by our principal that they never switch kids to another teacher within a school. You have to switch to completely different school in the district. We were offered a spot at Cragmont, but  it was not a viable option for us because we have 3 kids to drop off at 3 different schools, the 9am start time, and the fact that it is across town and out of zone and we wouldn't get any bus service. We tried all year to get a spot someplace else in the district but couldn't. We ended up sticking it out and taking our daughter to a child psychologist to help her cope. I know the private school we got into would have been a better fit for my daughter but we just couldn't afford to do it. 

That being said, most people seem to love BUSD public schools.