About BUSD Kindergarten

Parent Q&A

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  • What are the drawbacks or tradeoffs to enrolling in BUSD for Kindergarten vs first grade? 

    We are in the great position of having a kindergarten option at our preschool. However, we are concerned that delaying enrollment in BUSD until first grade will reduce the likelihood of us getting into our neighborhood school or Sylvia-Mendez. 

    Delaying the enrollment will effectively eliminate the likelihood of getting into neighboring school. Unless you live less than 0.5 mi radius of the school for KG. For the first grade, the application starts much earlier, because it is a transfer, not admission. All slots in your favorite school may be already assigned and your child will likely get a slot in the school which has a slot available based on your child's gender, race, ethnicity, parents' education, and numerous other factors.

    According to BUSD, skipping kindergarten, your child loses 1 year of learning...After the KG, kids are expected to read by themselves fairly well. If a child enters the first grade, the expectations are not lowered, just compressed...

    I'm assuming that by "kindergarten option" you mean that it's an actual kindergarten class that happens to take place at the preschool. In that case, they're not really skipping kindergarten so much as transferring in from a private school. 

    Elementary schools are assigned by lottery, so you may not get assigned to your closest school either way. I will say that for kindergarten, all 5-year-olds are being assigned at the same time, whereas for first grade, some schools will already have full cohorts. I knew a family who tried transferring in every year and kept getting assigned to a far school because that particular cohort happened to be small at that school but impacted at their nearby school. (They still are at private.) Also, I believe that Sylvia Mendez doesn't take transfers after kindergarten unless the child has been in an immersion school. 

    We recently had the same decision to make, and chose to enroll in public k after getting our top choice elementary school. If you wait until first grade to transfer, the likelihood is much lower to get into your preferred school. if you truly don't care between the schools in your zone, than I would opt into the preschool kinder program because of the longer hours and resulting educational opportunity. I think BUSD elementary schools are all quite excellent, so you are in the position of choosing between two good options. 

  • BUSD forcing child to go to First Grade

    (20 replies)

    Our son has a late August birthday so we intentionally decided to keep him in Daycare an extra year hoping he could start Kindergarten the following year at age 6 - even his teachers thought it would be a good idea.  But we didn't realize BUSD is so strict about the age limit and we were told he is "aged out" of Kindergarten and has to jump straight into First Grade.  I'm so infuriated and don't know what to do.  The whole reason we kept him back is bc he has issues communicating when he gets frustrated, and we noticed when he's in a class with older kids, they pick on him a lot bc he's so sensitive and unable to speak up for himself. Being around younger kids this year has been wonderful for him bc he's a natural caretaker and loves to help the little ones and it helps build his confidence.  When I spoke to the BUSD person over the phone she basically didn't care that I was concerned for him.  As the parent of my own child, I feel like it should matter whether we think he is emotionally/mentally ready or not, but they don't seem to give a damn.  Is there anything I can do to fight this?  (doing another year at daycare is not an option for us).

    You can try to fight, but BUSD is strict. I don’t know anyone who has been successful getting their kid into a different grade than their age dictates unless they transfer from another school at a higher grade level. Generally the options are to accept it or private school. 

    Many families we know with children with learning differences (not due to age but due to learning disabilities) end up leaving BUSD for private schools for basically this reason - it’s very hard to get the district to accommodate any sort of differential development.

    If your child is so asynchronous that he may qualify for an IEP, you could try requesting an assessment. But they have to be 2 grade levels behind before the district will do anything. So unless he is really immature - more so than kids a year or more younger than him - it’s unlikely to go anywhere.

    BUSD is quite strict about this. There are neighboring districts that are not, so you could potentially request an interdistrict transfer if you live close enough to Oakland or Albany for that to make sense--but not sure if BUSD will approve one for that reason. Could be worth exploring, though. 

    My daughter also has a late August birthday and started in kindergarten this year. I was really interested in keeping her back a year as well and starting her next year but everything I read said that what you’re experiencing would be the case. I could hold her for a year in preschool, but then she’d have to start in 1st grade the following year. I’m so sorry you’re in this position! My sense is that Berkeley is one of the only districts nearby that are super strict on this. I have friends in Oakland school district that held their kids and started them at the point you’re wanting to. You could apply for an interdistrict transfer to Oakland or Albany and see if that works? The biggest issue with that though is getting Berkeley to release you to the other district as it means a loss of money to them. For what it’s worth, Berkeley schools seem pretty great. If you start him in 1st and he’s really struggling, you might be able to advocate to get him back into kindergarten once he’s at an actual school.

    This is the law in California and you're unlikely to have much success fighting it. It sounds like your son might benefit from a special education evaluation to see if he qualifies for an IEP, especially considering he's going to be significantly behind his first grade peers who have had the experience of Kindergarten.  The other option is to pay for private school. 

    Unfortunately, you should have checked with BUSD before you held your son back. I've been a parent in BUSD for 13 years, and I have found that they mostly stand their ground. They have heard it all, and they very much follow the rules. You can try to fight it, but they seem to never make exceptions. I've never won any of my battles with them. You may need to look at private schools. 

    The only option is to pay for Kindergarten in a private school and then enter BUSD in first grade. I'm sorry. (We learned of this rule and tried to fight with doctor's notes, preschool director letters and nothing worked. Our child is now youngest in his grade and indeed has an IEP, but didn't get one until end of 2nd grade — see other answer to your question.)

    I am so sorry to hear this. It happened to a friend of mine who kept her kid back because of COVID and she didn't want Zoom K and he also was a summer bday. There is no option with BUSD. K is not a state requirement so they will force him into Grade 1. I would consider a private  school if this is a priority. They have good financial aid packages and there are some amazing ones in berkeley. He can still get an IEP if he shows any learning differences also

    I'm sorry you didn't realize that would happen. It's quite established that this is BUSD's policy and has been this way for a long time. It's been extensively discussed in this forum (BPN) as well. It's my understanding that the district needs to use birthdates as a cutoff and hold the line, or it would be a slippery slope all over the place with parents trying to move their kid one way or the other (younger/older). It had been a problem that parents were trying to hold their kids back so they'd be older in their grade for sports, so the boys would be bigger/stronger, etc. I'm not questioning your rationale, but rather supporting the established policy. I think you should start your son and see how he does! He might just amaze you! Maybe aim for one of the smaller schools, like Emerson - the staff are wonderfully supportive and communicative, and they were there for my sensitive son every step of the way. The alternative, of course, is private school. 

    You might look into whether a neighboring district might be less strict. More districts are accepting transfers now because of falling enrollment. Another thing to research is BUSD‘s policy for assigning grade level to kids transferring in from private schools. If a kid is coming from a private school (or another public  district) and has just finished kindergarten, do they assign by age or keep the kid in their grade sequence? Find out the policy for kids entering both after kindergarten and after first grade. Because it may be that once kids are already in elementary school (or past 1st grade) they follow the grade track, not the age. If so, you could find a private kindergarten for a year. Some montessori and other preschools have attached kindergartens. Or you could enroll him in a regular private school for two years if the policy shifts first grade. I‘m not sure, but I have a feeling there’s a point after which students transferring in from elsewhere are placed according to their grade level at their old school. 

    You could submit a "request for assessment" to your local educational agency in your school district. By law, they are required to assess your child and create a plan to best fit his specific needs and required accommodations in school at no expense to you. However, the team of professionals evaluating your child may decide he doesn't require any accommodations and then you'd be back where you started but I think it's worth a try. 

    This was many years ago, but our daughter, who was in a private primary school that is no longer in operation, was not ready to enter first grade.

    She was on target with academics, but struggling socially.

    There was a meeting between the two teachers (1st grade and kindergarten) and us, the parents.

    The school wanted her to go forward.  We agreed to it. But she was really not ready.

    Midyear, the first grade teacher came to me with her metaphoric cap in her hand. "You were right," she told me.

    So our daughter repeated first grade.  I was OK with it because the first great teacher was excellent.

    But it was not ideal She was teased by the other kids. It was not a total disaster,  but was an avoidable upheaval in our lives.

    If I were in your position, I would spend the money for a private kindergarten and then return her to BUSD first grade in one year, with extra maturity to help her move forward.

    In my experience, although Kindergarten is not required by the state of CA, by January of Kindergarten, my child was expected to know 30-40 sight words, recognize and recreate fairly complicated geometric patterns, and simple addition, have life skills such as opening lunch containers, tying shoes, zipping jackets, buttoning sweaters, and social skills such as circle time, standing quietly in line, and following playground rules.

    Since BUSD, and I would suspect most if not all public school districts, is not flexible on the age/grade component for first grade, I suggest enrolling in a virtual kindergarten and going through the curriculum with your child on evenings and weekends. Additionally, ask his daycare to work with him to get the life skills and social skills.

    Please do not express your concerns to your child, make the virtual kindergarten a fun and exciting adventure!  Play kindergarten camp!

    Welcome to the incredibly inflexible shitshow that is BUSD. Send your kid to private school. I wish I had.

    Age requirements are set by state law, not districts. Which is why BUSD is insistent on following the law. Personally, I think the cutoff should be August 1 not Sept so everyone is 5 when they start kinder. We need to get the state legislature to change it.

    It's not too late to enroll him in kinder for this year so he won't be behind in 1st grade. Once you're assigned to a school, maybe you could plead your principal/kinder teacher? But that would depend on space/enrollment too.

    I recommend that you let your kid go to first grade. You are very lucky to be in the Berkeley district as the teachers and schools are very good to great and aren't as overenrolled as the other districts. I realize that it is upsetting to miss Kindergarten but your child had an entire extra year in a small environment. It is likely that in a school environment, they will rise to the challenge, as most kids do. Kindergarten is not required in most states, including ours. At the beginning of the school year when you're assigned a teacher you can let them know that your son is in this situation and may need a little extra social help. Teachers want to know about the kids in their class and they want to help. First graders are still so young and still have so much learning to do, particularly these days post-covid. There is a still wide range of experience and knowledge in a first grade class. 

    I think it's the State of California that is inflexible with the dates, and BUSD is just an instrument of the state. Being "infuriated" at BUSD seems like an overreaction to the school district following state law. This is the consequence of the choice you made to not send your child to kindergarten; I think the first poster was right that your two options are go for 1st grade in the district or apply to private for K.

    Thanks so much for everyone's input.  Just to clarify, the Director at his current preschool and his teachers both recommended he be held back.  Unfortunately, they were not aware of this rule... they're claiming it's a new rule implemented this year, but many of you are stating this rule has been around.  On the website, all it states is that a child must be 5 on or before Sept 1.  They mention the minimum age required but not the maximum - they don't mention a child CANNOT be 6 when entering Kindergarten - hence, why I am infuriated by this arbitrary date and the lack of information given on the website.  When I called BUSD the woman stated we could do private kindergarten so we are researching that as we speak.  But bc I don't trust BUSD, I emailed again to make sure he could enter 1st grade the following year if we do a private school.  I got a response stating that he can't be entered into ANY private kindergarten.  It cannot be a Montessori school.  They need to be clearer about these rules  bc we already applied to some Montessori schools.   I emailed asking them to clarify which schools they would find acceptable bc we are not paying an arm and leg for a private school that we can barely afford only to find out later that it was not acceptable to BUSD.  We want to put him into Berkeley schools and we appreciate that we're able to live here, but we are annoyed that we were told by his school director and teachers that he should be held back, while they were completely unaware of this rule.  Yes, it's not BUSD's fault but on the other hand, their website is not clear on the age maximum.  We are looking into inter district transfers but I've read that Berkeley will sometimes deny those as well... so we are also looking into homeschooling.  That's a whole other thing we have to research as well.  

    I say go ahead and enroll him in first grade and, while you're at it, request an assessment for special education.  If you write a letter requesting the assessment, they are obliged to respond in 15 days.  My experience is that public schools are really great at meeting children where they are, after all they serve everyone!  I think the preschool misinformed you, which is too bad.  It will all work out....

    If you go the private route, I would recommend double and triple checking that after one year of private kindergarten, your son would actually be allowed to go to first grade in BUSD. My understanding is that BUSD only allows younger elementary kids to be enrolled in a grade that is not determined by their birthday (I.e., your son would be “old” for first grade in BUSD), is if the child is entering 2nd grade or above - which in your case would require both k and 1st at a private school. I’m not completely sure about this rule, but wanted to flag it so you can investigate!

    Knowing the reason for this might be helpful. When boys (it was 90% boys) were red shirted you ended up with a classroom with many older boys and younger girls— there would be up to an 18 month difference between the oldest and the youngest in the classroom. The social dynamic was very unstable. You can see this in some private schools. On the other end of the K12 years, many seniors were socially ready to be away from home and had a hard time still being in high school. Public schools are really about doing the best possible for the group as a whole which at times might not be the perfect outcome for a given student. 

  • BUSD Kindergarten for mid-September Birthday?

    (10 replies)

    My bright, precocious kid will turn 5 years old 17 days after the September 1 kindergarten cut off.  He's currently in his 2nd year at a great preschool, in the oldest class at the school - which means all of his friends/classmates will be heading to kindergarten at this time next year.  Is there any option for him to go with them!?  Has anyone seen BUSD make an exception to the September 1 cut off for kids who are ready and have birthdays close to the cut off?  It seems so arbitrary that all the kids who have July and August birthdays (there are so many!!) would go to kindergarten, and my son would spend another year in TK/preschool.


    With a September birthday, your child will be eligible to attend BUSD's Transitional Kindergarten programs.  They will be grouped with other kiddos of the same age for a 2 year kindergarten experience.  https://www.berkeleyschools.net/admissions/enrollment/tk/

    It is completely arbitrary and can feel 'unfair' to those of us w/kiddos close to the cut off date. The December 1st cutoff date was arbitrary too, but they do have to draw a line somewhere and I don't think they want to (or have the resources to) deal with each situation on a case by case basis. My oldest is similar - turns 7 this September 10th and just started first grade. She skipped TK because of zoom school/pandemic and stayed in a preschool. I had similar concerns about her being the oldest in class (esp since I was always the youngest), but think that in general it's been completely fine for her. I've heard the TK program at BUSD is pretty great and may be a great option for you given how challenging the transition to K can be (even for an older kiddo, btw). That way he'll be off to a new school with kiddos all similar in age. You can certainly appeal to the district but I have not personally seen them make an exception for K. Best of luck!

    Here's what I did for my fall birthday child 7 years ago. I enrolled them in TK through the school district (at a different school site than our neighborhood school, that's just where the program was). They learned to read by May of the TK year, so spouse and I decided we wanted to accelerate them to skip K (from our older child, we knew that K was all about learning to read & stand in lines). We asked the TK teacher to recommend it and she said she was not allowed to (district rule) but otherwise implied she agreed with our assessment to accelerate our student. We emailed the TK school principal, no response. Right before the end of the school year, we got a meeting with our home school principal (where our older child was a student), who agreed to convene a meeting of the "Student Success Team (SST)" - ie., her and us - to discuss our student's needs and recommend acceleration right into 1st grade at our home school for the next school year. That's what we did and I am very happy we did it. Yes, my student is the youngest 7th grader at their school, but zero academic problems and they can't say they've been bored. This was a different school district than BUSD, but my strong recommendation would be to enroll in TK and see how your child does. You will have to advocate for acceleration if that's what you feel is appropriate, but there is ultimately a path.

    Hi there is no exception. The best option is to consider a private school, if you get financial aid it will be less than another year of preschool and great for their education

    We will be in the same situation next year except in OUSD (our son's birthday is on Sept 16). Very curious to hear if anyone knows whether exceptions have ever been made.

    Is your kid eligible for TK? That’s what most fall birthday kids do. We decided with our December birthday kid to keep him in preschool another year because he would have been the youngest possible in TK, and all his friends are staying preschool another year because not fall birthdays. Plus he only started in year ago due to the pandemic. Being an older kid in the class has developmental benefits you might look into, for example it tends to build confidence. 

    We had a similar situation where our child was born a 5 weeks past the cutoff (Oct birthday).  We met with BUSD, several board members and teachers to try to get her in with the class she knew.  Unfortunately, at that time (9 years ago) the district had a very strict rule to deny children whose birthday did meet BUSD cutoffs.  We met with the Deputy Superintendent of Education at the time and she clearly told us that we had to do transition kindergarten or something else.  Also, all the private schools we spoke to at the time had similar guidelines and wouldn’t start children early.

    I would not dissuade you from trying to advocate for your child (especially since they are so close to the cut-off) and BUSD could have relaxed its policies since our experience, but you should have a back-up plan ready.

    Good luck!

    As far as I know, it's a hard cut-off. They have to make it somewhere. They are not in the business of ascertaining whether kids are "ready". When I was a kid, they let me start Kindergarten at 4 years old (with a late October bday!) but those days are long gone. They will suggest TK (Transitional Kindergarten) for your son. FWIW, lots of parents are in the opposite camp as you - they're trying to find ways to delay their son's entry into K for a year (even if their bday makes the cutoff) so their son can be physically bigger, more mature, socially sophisticated, better at sports for their grade, etc... In those cases, I think public schools are subverting this by admitting those kids directly into 1st grade. All this to say, it is what it is. 

    I am going though the same situation at a different school district. I disagree with all Bay Area parents who voice their opinions about other people’s children being better off staying in TK vs the child’s parents advocating for K with birthdays so close to the state’s arbitrary cut off date, which, by the way grossly, varies between many states. If you feel your child belongs in K, the best option is private school. Many do not adhere to the strict September 1st cutoff.  However if that’s not financially prudent, there are a few public schools (in neighboring towns) with policies to “skip” a grade, in this case TK. It will require strong persistence and constant follow-up without guarantees, but schools do have the policy in their handbook. Good luck.

    My kid just started TK and turns 5 in early Sept, as does 2 classmates. Your kid won't be alone and will make new friends. You'll probably end up at different schools anyway. TK is NOT preschool. It is what Kindergarten used to be before "No Child Left Behind" and the pushing of our kids to learn too much too early. Enjoy the fact that your kid gets another year of fun childhood before testing and homework start. Down the road, you'll appreciate that your kid is the oldest in the class as opposed to the youngest. I teach at the secondary level and can see the difference for the kids with fall birthdays versus summer. 

    However, I think the cutoff should be July 1 instead of Sept 1 so we don't have 4 year olds starting K/17 year olds going off to college - let's email our state reps who are the ones who set the Sept 1 cut off. :)

  • 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.

    From John Muir's weekly family newsletter (this week):

    We are excited to announce we will be hosting outdoor school tours for prospective families. The tours are being held on Sundays at 10am and will last approximately an hour. The tours will be held on the following dates:

    • November 21

    • December 12

    • January 9

    • January 23

    If you know of any prospective families interested in a taking a tour, please direct them to this sign up sheet.

  • 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.

    I also have a kindergarten student at MX and I have been terribly disappointed with the teacher and the school's approach completely inadequate to distance learning. The teacher has offered no direct instruction beyond three full-class zoom calls per week. No individual or small group instruction whatsoever. No videos from the teacher -- nothing that fosters connection. My child has been absolutely miserable and has gone from loving school to hating it and thinking it is worthless. This has all been heartbreaking to witness, so much so that I am now submitting applications to private schools because I can't bear to watch my child's love of learning extinguished.

  • 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.

    If you don't have a great experience with the Berkeley school system, you won't have a great experience with any school system. None of them are perfect. None of the teachers are perfect. None of the administrators are perfect. ANYWHERE. Home schooling won't be perfect either. And plenty of people complain about private schools. You'd be much better off approaching the school as if it will work for you. There might be issues that you have to address (our son was getting way behind in reading and no one seemed to care until we made them care) but that's how it's going to be anywhere. My husband had the attitude that if we could only find the right school, our child would miraculously and immediately know how to read and start doing well in school. You can see how foolish that is. My husband didn't want to do the 20 minutes of reading at night because it wasn't fun. He didn't support me in making it happen so I was the bad guy all the time. It took paying a lot of money to a counselor for my husband to finally understand that if we wanted our son to read, we had to make him read. Why am I telling you this? It's because your post seems to indicate that you have unrealistic expectations about school like my husband had. All schools have their pluses and minuses. You think that by moving you'll find the perfect school district? You won't. Your child's success is going to largely be a factor of how much effort you put into your child's education, regardless of where he/she is going to school. You have to make the kids do their daily reading no matter how painful it is. Now that my husband is finally on board and isn't making excuses for our son to not do his reading and homework, our son is doing his work and succeeding (and he feels a lot better about himself). We could have moved our son to 20 different schools but he wasn't going to be successful until we got on the same page and my husband stopped blaming everything on the school/teacher and started accepting responsibility. The schools with the really high test scores are the schools with highly involved parents who don't accept failure. 

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.