City of Berkeley After-School Programs

Parent Q&A

Experiences with City of Berkeley after school programs? Aug 11, 2021 (2 responses below)
Afterschool BEARS Program at Ruth Acty Mar 17, 2021 (1 responses below)
Seeking Berkeley after-school care in May & June Apr 16, 2018 (2 responses below)
  • Like many, we're scrambling for after school care for our kindergartner. Does anyone have experiences they can share with the City of Berkeley's after school programs? I'm specifically looking at the one at Strawberry Creek, but I'd be happy to hear of any interactions with the city-run programs to get a general feel for how well run they are.

    The City of Berkeley after-school programs are the best deal around! My kids attended the after-school program as well as the summer camps for years at James Kenney, which was very convenient for me to pick them up from. The staff were always loving and fun, my kids got nutritious snacks, the program was flexible in terms of how often my kids attended, a bus brought them from school to the program, and it was the most affordable option. My kids made friends with kids who went to other schools, which was great when they went on to middle school and high school. I figured that, as a homeowner, I'm paying for the programs in my property taxes anyway so I might as well take advantage of them! It has been a few years since my kids have aged out, although my 17-yr. old now is applying for a job to work with them.

    We are only two days in, but we also have experience with the summer playground program, and from what I can tell they are very similar. Our kindergartener is at Live Oak Park and did the playground program at Strawberry Creek over the summer and has had a good time at both. There's a lot of free play and some activities led by the counselors, and it seems like a good mix of active stuff and quieter activities. Here's the schedule for the aftercare:

    2:00 arrival/free play

    3:00 circle time

    3:30 transition / snack

    4:00 homework / story time (so far this is story time, but I guess for kids in older grades it's a chance to do their homework?)

    4:30 group games / arts and crafts

    5:00 free play

    They seem well run and the staff are friendly. It's a lot of unstructured time with staff on hand as needed, so most of what I've seen is just the kids playing with each other on the playground or at the creek, which is exactly what I want for aftercare especially as my kid is transitioning to the structure of real school. Both days he's been there he wanted to stay longer and keep playing when I got there to pick him up, so that seems like a good sign.

  • Afterschool BEARS Program at Ruth Acty

    (1 reply)

    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? 

    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!

  • My husband got a new full-time job (hooray!), which means that we have a sudden need for afterschool care for our kids. Anyone know of an under-the-radar afterschool program that might have space available for two days a week, from May until the end of the school year? My kids are in grades K & 5 at Cragmont in Berkeley (where the LEARNS program for kindergarteners is full). Or, if you know of a good place to post a listing for a part-time babysitter (like at Cal or other nearby colleges), we might end up going that route. Thanks!

    I think there might be some openings at Frances Albrier, run by the city of Berkeley, in San Pablo Park. The school bus will bring them there from Cragmont. Call Berkeley Rec Dept to find out, or just stop by after school one day. connected us with the afterschool babysitter we're using for my Kindergartener. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


City of Berkeley After-School Programs?

April 2012

Planning ahead for the fall...does anyone have recent experience with any of the City of Berkeley After-School Programs, preferably the one at Willard? Looking for updated info from what has been archived here on BPN. Thanks. Working Parent

The after school programs in berkeley are, i think, run by contractors of the berkeley unified school district, and are not official city of berkeley programs. So you may have better luck searching on line on the BUSD web site. At King Middle school my kid likes the afterschool program and it costs $100 a month. A good deal for us. Anonymous

Hello, I beleive the city of Berkeley after-school programs, which are offered off -site are run by the city emnployees. There is transportation provided from the elementary schools to the programs. Here is a link to the after-school program listing in the City of Berkeley Program guide, As for the on-site programs, here is a link to Berkeley LEARNS; You may also want to check out the school's website. I hope this was helpful. Thousand Oaks and James Kenney After School Parent

City of Berkeley Afterschool Program


Afterschool programs in Berkeley. There are in fact more options than the YMCA Kids club and the Extended Day Care (EDC) offered through the BUSD. By the way, EDC is not free, rather one pays for it on a sliding scale. It can range from $50 a month to $300 or more. Another program to check into is the city parks.

I actually hesitate to write about this because it is such a fantastic deal that I'm sure they would be swamped if more people knew about it. The cost is, get this, $20 a month. Basically several of the City of Berkeley Parks, Live Oak, Frances Albrier, Willard, (others?) have community buildings and a big park to work with. They have teachers, many of them part time college students, of good quality, with a good ratio of kids/teachers. Usually your kid can ride a bus from their school to this program. How, you may ask, can one get one's kid into such a good, inexpensive program? The way it works at Willard is that sign up is on a designated Saturday or Monday. Sign ups on Saturday, say, start at 10 am, but people get there earlier and start a list, which we then follow when they actually open for registration. How early? Last August the first person got there at 3:20 am. I got there at 5:45 am, and made it first on the waiting list. Thus the program preselects people who have their act together enough to get there in the middle of the night and wait it out, a high level of commitment. It works pretty well, but we were all joking in August about pitching tents and staying in the park overnight (which is in fact against the law). But enough about this fabulous program. The Jewish Community Center also has a good program (probably at YMCA prices, though), and I'm sure there are many others. Good luck. Dianna

All of the Berkeley elementary schools offer various after-school programs for grades K- 5. Some of them are offered on-site at the school, for others the kids are bussed to another location. I found it a bit confusing trying to sort through all the options. Ultimately, we enrolled our five-year-old in "Kids Club," an after-school program run by the Berkeley-Albany YMCA, but offered on-site at the school she will be attending. It's not necessarily cheap. I think it ends up being about $550/month for kindergartners (the most expensive group, because they only go to school 1/2 day, so there are more hours of after-school care). However, we signed up months ago for "Kids Club." I'm not sure if there is still space available. I would think the Berkeley Unified School District Office would be able to tell you about options available at the particular school your child will be going to. Colleen

I'm glad that at least one parent has had such a good experience with the City of Berkeley's afterschool program (at Willard), but here's another view... My experience with the program at Live Oak Park is that while this program is almost free, it may be one of those cases in which you get what you pay for. My kids, who are not exactly sheltered prudes, found it pretty rough -- many of the kids in the program appear to come from families where it is acceptable to use rude, insulting and/or vulgar language and to tease and sometimes threaten others, and that behavior is pretty much unchecked (unobserved?) by program staff. The staff-to-child ratio is not great, and they often resort to dumping the kids in front of a TV. On occasion they have botched even this, and shown something PG-13 by mistake. On most days there is a room (sometimes quiet, sometimes not) to do homework in, but there's little staff or peer support for kids who choose to use it, and very few kids do.

In terms of getting in, if you have an extraordinarily focussed or resilient kid: I showed up at 5:30AM on the designated day and was 10th or 15th in line; some parents *did* spend the night in the park to be first in line. The registration process is phenomenally slow, inefficient and frustrating, so no matter what time you come, it's going to take you 6 or so hours in line. Bring a *thick* book.

I just had to put my two cents in after reading about the Berkeley Park's after school programs.

I used to bring my little one to Live Oak Park to play in the tot lot there. I was astounded at the low quality of the after-school 'program' going on around me. Unsupervised children running everywhere, NO adult guidance once they were outside, just a whirlwind of chaos. Seriously, half of the children could walk off the park grounds and it would never be noticed until the end of the day. I only saw one adult even relating to the children and he was always yelling. He didn't speak - he yelled. Every sentence.

I always wanted to slip notes into the pockets of all the children telling their parents to get them out of that program. Marian