How Do Working Parents Manage School Holidays and Short Days?

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi Parents, I am interested in TRIS and am very impressed with their academic, music, arts and trilingual program and am looking forward to enrolling my child there. However, the one thing that is giving me pause is the amount of time they don't provide child care.  I saw their latest calendar and I counted 11 weeks (one week short of 3 months) whereby no child care is offered and that doesn't even count the days that have early dismissal. The school does not provide any back-up child care. Both myself and my spouse work full time and won't be able to take that much time off to look after the child. We don't have any relatives or a care taker who can look after the child. I would like to hear from current and former TRIS parents how they managed to handle the school taking 3 months off a year and working full time? We really like the school but for this challenge. 

    Thanks  very much in advance. 

    I think most schools have breaks for Thanksgiving, Winter, Spring, and a long break over the summer.  Many parents sign kids up for full-day camps during breaks and over the summer.  Since many families have 2 working parents, there are a lot of different options.  The camps are a lot better than just child care, and they can be high quality enrichment programs.  My kids really love camps, as they get the opportunity to learn new sports, play, and make new friends.  The only downside is that popular camps fill up quickly and can be expensive.

    For one-day holidays or teacher in service days, you can try finding a new friend at school and trade-off full day playdates so you don't have to use up so many vacation days.

    Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Working parents vs. West Contra Costa School District's brief Kinder hours

April 2015

Hello! We are just starting to look into the many school choices in the area and we just read that some West Contra Costa School District kindergartens only go until 11:30 and there is no afterschool care offered until first grade. I am just genuinely curious as to what families with two working parents do in this case? Private childcares that provide transpiration? Any insight would be most appreciated! Jackie

The school or district itself doesn't provide an after-school program, but the city may. For example, if you are zoned for Fairmont, Madera, or Harding, the City of El Cerrito has an after-school program at each of those schools that does include a K class. I know other cities in the district do the same at other schools. I would advise you to request morning K for your child, because at least at Fairmont, there is only K after-care for the morning K kids (no care from 8:30-11:30 for the afternoon K kids). There is before care also offered from 7am until class starts at 8:30, so you could have care all the way from 7am until 6pm if necessary. In my experience with the Fairmont afterschool program, the teachers for the K kids are very good, caring, and professional. They will let your child do their homework, help them with it if possible, provide snacks, crafts including cooking, and lots of play and exercise. EC parent

At Kensington Elementary (Hilltop), there is an afterschool care program run by Neighborhood School, which is on the campus of Hilltop. It is a great program and a lot of kids go there (from K-6). Extremely convenient and very reasonable rates. Happy Neighborhood Parent

Hi Jackie, we'll start at Madera this fall and they do have before and afterschool care. Some schools might also have full day kindergarden (until the early afternoon). I would ask the schools directly. At Madera, the afterschool is on the same campus but technically operated by the City of El Cerrito (you can ask them as well, there's an afterschool coordinator at the WCCUSD - check online) so maybe that's why they say the ''school'' doesn't offer it. Apply for afterschool soon though because they might fill up. (application for us went through the city, we couldn't apply at the school) julia

Hi, Often there's aftercare (paid and affordable) on school site. In our case, run by the city of El Cerrito rec center. Our kids go to Madera Elementary. I believe Fairmont and Kensington Elementary have similar options.

The incredibly short Kindergarten day in WCCUSD was a problem for my family too. My kids would have ended up in after-care for more hours than actual school! And we would have been paying at least as much as we did for pre-school (once transportation is added in), for mostly programs that seemed very uninspiring.

So, what we did was go with a public charter school in the area. My children go to Caliber Beta Academy, which is in Richmond about a block from the El Cerrito border (near Del Norte BART) (The location is changing next year, but will be in the same general area. They have a long school day, from 8am to 4pm plus there is free aftercare on site afterward. The long school day may sound a bit intense for Kindergarten, but it allows them to fit in lots of time for playing, exploration, building motor skills and social skills, as well as academic subjects. In addition to the basics (math, reading), they do hands-on science, social studies and art/publishing/writing every day. Plus other things like mindfulness, computer coding, and music. It's really an amazing school.

Charter schools are still public, so it's free for members of the community (admission is by lottery). I think their spots are officially full right now, but if you apply and get on the waiting list, I'm pretty sure some spots will be opening after parents have to commit or not to enrollment soonish. It's a great alternative.

Some of the other charter schools in the district (such as Richmond College Prep also offer full-day kindergarten and/or free and/or affordable onsite aftercare-- one of the many ways that some of the charters are more responsive to the needs and realities of the local parents compared to the WCCUSD district, which seems oblivious or apathetic about such things. --Caliber parent

You are misinformed. The WCCUSD is in the process of phasing in ''full-day'' K. Call or stop by your local school to find out when it's slated to start full-day K (or if it already has it). The half-day program goes until 11:50, and at least at the El Cerrito schools, aftercare is provided for a fee by the City of EC. [I don't know what provider does aftercare at the other schools, but I have heard it's free at Mira vista and possibly others??] EC Mom

WCCUSD is not family-friendly. WCCUSD is also the only East Bay public school district that follows the private schools in taking a week off in February (aka "ski week") in addition to a week in April for spring break. Considering that WCCUSD has some of the poorest families in the area, it is very unjust.

Dealing with a short kindergarten day

Nov 2013

I am wondering how other working parents handle a short day at kindergarten? I am thinking about Piedmont in particular, where the kindergarten class is 3 hours! There is no way to get to work, do some work, and then get back in 3 hours! Obviously this is designed for SAHMs who then drive their kids around to activities all afternoon to make up for the shortened school day. This is also WAY shorter of a day than preschool(!). Do some in Piedmont (or other neighborhoods) send their kids to private school for two years until the class day catches up? thanks for the feedback

Take a deep breath. Contact your child's new school. Find out your options and pick the one that works for you. How did you deal with your child's preschool day? Parents in Piedmont (and other areas) have a variety of strategies, including use of the school's onsite before- & after-care, hiring a private nanny, etc. In Piedmont, there is a higher percentage of SAHMs especially in the younger grades. But not everyone! And I don't know of any kindergartners who get ''driven around to activities all afternoon.'' Good luck to you. Been there, done that

If other options are available, I most certainly would not send my child to a kindergarten that lasted only 3 hours(!). When we were on the market last year, there was a private school that had a somewhat shortened day -- but still more than 3 hours; nevertheless, we chose not to send our son to that school in part because of this quirky schedule. We chose another private school, and kindergarten there is from 8:30-3:00. Our boy had enrichment classes every week = art, P.E., library, music, computers (certified/trained teacher for each) plus his ''regular'' teacher for the usual reading, writing, math, science, field trips, etc. There is no way he could have learned all he did in 3 hours, or had the experiences we as a family feel are central to a kindergarten experience. At all the schools we seriously considered, it was noted that whether the kids came in reading or not, they would leave kindergarten as strong readers; their math skills would be above ''common core'' grade level; there would be hands-on science experiments, group projects, and cross-curriculum tie-ins. The kindergarteners learn to become a part of the larger school community = assemblies, ''buddies'', holiday fan-fare, spirit days . . . You can't do this stuff in 3 hours! We may not be able to afford private school through 8th grade -- maybe we'll only make it to 4th or 5th. But I'm so glad we we decided to give our kid a full-day kindergarten experience at a school fully committed to the emotional and educational well-being of their youngest learners. Anonymous

We had the same dilemma and hit upon a fantastic solution: Oakland JCC's after school program! Our daughter has been extremely happy there for the past 2 1/2 years (she's in 2nd grade now) and I love that they pick her up at school and bring her to the program so I can stay at work. Wonderful classes (gardening and then using what they grow for cooking are two favorites), enthusiastic and warm teachers (who seem to stay for years, I like the low turnover factor) and a small enough environment that happily doesn't resemble the chaos at public school-based programs. Kids can choose to be busy or mellow. The physical facility isn't inspiring but it really doesn't matter (and I usually care about that sort of thing). There are certainly Jewish aspects (I'm Jewish and like that) but there are plenty of non-Jewish families and the ones I've talked to think their kids end up learning some things that widen their perspective in terms of diversity but don't in any way feel excluded. Kids from different school districts go there (we're in South Berkeley) and parking is easy. Not sure where you are in Piedmont but it's super close to an on-ramp for 24/13. Feel free to ask the moderator for my email if you want to chat. You can call the JCC at 595-9222 and talk with Stan Berrin or Yaya Persing (both are lovely). Kindergarten can be a big transition and the JCC helped make it a calmer and happier one for our family. Good luck! Happy Oakland JCC Mom

Many Piedmont kindergarten moms work. You asked if some in Piedmont (or other neighborhoods) send their kids to private school for two years until the class day catches up. I have never heard of anyone doing it in Piedmont. Even though the Kindergarten day is short, there is a wonderful and reasonably priced before/aftercare program at each school site called Schoolmates. During the times of day when the older kids are in school, it is just a group of Kindergarteners together at Schoolmates. JD


Half day kindergarten, full time working single mom

Dec 2009

Hello! My daughter will be entering Kindergarten next year (we are thinking about Fairmont in El Cerrito). She has been in a full time daycare. It has recently been brought to my attention that my work hours are not going to work well with kindergarten 1/2 days! If she goes to morning, I don't know how I would even pick her up to bring her to daycare. If she goes to afternoon, she could be in daycare in the morning, but I don't know how I would get her to school. How do others handle this situation? concerned

The City of El Cerrito recreation department provides full time day care, 7am-6pm, for students at the El Cerrito elementary schools. Here's the website for more info: --EC mom

Hi, there are a few ways to deal with this. a) nanny/college student who will pick up your child and take care of them until you return home. i find wonderful people on b) there is in berkeley at least a van that will pick up your children and deliver them to an afterschool program. I can't remember the name but I'm sure you could google it. I actually think I've seen an el cerrito school van dropping off a child at my son's daycare in el cerrito c) many daycares will pick up your child after school and bring them to your house. My son is in Happy Garden, a wonderfully warm and lovely in-home daycare (it's chinese immersion) in El Cerrito and I know Eveline picks up children from school and brings them to her house after their school ends. good luck,

Does your school have an on-campus after (or before) school daycare? Ours (called Adventure Time) does, and it was well worth checking out. They pick up the kids at the classroom door after school (or would drop them off to afternoon classes if there were any at our school), personally signing them in or out. They provide sports, art, free play, and other activities (e.g. cooking, jigsaw puzzles, and homework for the older ones) for the kids, all supervised -- and kids' choice. At our school the program begins at 7:30 in the morning and runs until 6:00 pm. Surely, you are not the only working parent at your school -- most have some such program. Karen

Hello, You may want to look for a daycare that provides transportation for students attending Fairmont School in El Cerrito. My friend, Wednesdey Chavis, MA, owns Happy Lion School and Daycare Center in San Pablo, (510) 233- 3330, Her daycare center offers vanpool service for students that attend West Contra Costa District schools. She also has a Preschool Program. Wednesdey has a Masters degree in Education and over 24 years experience in the childcare industry. Check out photos of the center, They moved to this new location during the Fall, 2009, so they have a new, wonderful environment for children. If you want more information, please call her to schedule a tour. Sheila

How do you deal with the short day?

March 2004

How do parents and children who have had full-time daycare/preschool cope with the transition to a short kindergarten day?

Our daughter will start kindergarten in Fall 2005, when she will be 5.5 years old (Feb. birthday). Since she was six months old, she has been in daycare and now preschool from about 8:30 am to 5:30 pm 5 days per week. In fact, by the time she starts kindergarten, she will have had three years of full-time Montessori preschool. This schedule has worked out very well for our family.

We live in Albany and my understanding is that kindergarten here is only three hours per day. I'm having trouble dealing with the idea that our daughter will spend more time in some sort of before- and/or after-school program than she will in actual school. This seems like a schedule that's better suited for families with at least one parent working less than full-time outside the home. (I'm not blaming the schools, by the way -- I understand that they are short of money and that there may be other good reasons for a short kindergarten day.)

How do kids who come from full-time, fairly structured preschool do in a combination of kindergarten and before/after school programs? Some of the private schools seem to have longer kindergarten days plus on-site after-school care -- did this schedule factor into anyone's decision to choose private school over public, and if so, are you happy with that decision? Is there any reason why a shorter kindergarten day might be better even for a ''full-time'' kid?

I will greatly appreciate any thoughts on this. BTW, changing our work schedules is not an option. worried mom of a full-time preschooler

We are well into the kindergarten year at our local public school and the short day issue has been our number one problem. My daughter had been in three full days of daycare since six months old. She loves kindergarten (AM until 11:40) and her teacher. She is thriving but the afternoons are long for all of us. I decided to lower my hours to pick her up myself. It's a lot of juggling and has made it hard to meet other moms since I have always worked. The on-site daycare was not going to work out because I didn't want my tiny little kindergartner spending all of those hours with all of those big kids. Know this, the days don't get much longer because in first grade through third grade school is out at 1:50 and in fourth and fifth I think it is 3:00pm. Count on a daycare bill for many years to come and use the quality of it as a factor as well to determine if you go the public school route. HL

I'm so glad you asked this--I'm struggling with exactly the same question. (My son was born 4/00.) I spoke to someone in the before/aftercare program for our districted school and was not impressed and, like you, have reservations about my son spending more time there than in K.

My (private) daycare feeds into its private K-8 school. Two of the teachers I like have been transferred there already, and the price is the same as I'm paying now. Also, I can use my Cafeteria 125 plan to pay for the first $5k in cost. I'm strongly leaning toward doing this for K.

OTOH, I do want to support my local school district, get to know the school, have him know his future classmates, and support public school. I sure wish it were set up better for families where parents work FT outside the home. Frustrating. Jennie in Alameda

Thank you so much for your question. My daughter and I are in about the same situation (in El Cerrito) and I am looking very forward to the responses. liz