Albany Children's Center
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I would love to know more about the Albany Children's Center, and I am finding it difficult to find any recent reviews online. We are moving our 4 year old daughter from a University-run preschool that we all love to the ACC in the Fall. We are excited about the tremendous cost savings, proximity to home, chance to meet Albany families, and extended hours. We are also nervous about the transition, and leaving a good thing. I would love to hear from families who have kids in the ACC preschool now. Thank you very much. Amy
Our child has been at the ACC for almost 3 years, doing 2 years of preschool and now enrolled in TK. Before enrolling we also looked at the UC options. This is the review I would have liked to have seen when we were making our decision. (BTW I think we made the right decision going with ACC)
- Long hours and limited shutdowns for holidays and breaks. This is really helpful for 2 full time working parents. Basically the only time ACC was closed were the days that I also had time off. The exception being an extra day around Thanksgiving and two weeks around Christmas and New Years, which we generally took off anyway so it was of little impact.
- A great and very diverse community of parents, children, and teachers. On any given day you'll hear 5 or more languages spoken at drop off. I love this! Kids (and parents!) are exposed to all kinds of new cultures. There is also a program for developmentally disabled kids, they have their own class room and teachers, but they are still around and add to the diversity of the school, and have sparked good conversations about kids with different kinds of abilities.
The price! This was honestly probably the biggest factor sending our kid there versus UC. There was a difference of 50%! I thought the UC facility was beautiful (we were looking at the Haste center specifically) and the teachers were great, but really I didn't think it was 50% better than ACC and that extra $500 or so a month is really nice to have and allows for things like extracurricular activities, family trips, and less stressed parents!
- This is a large school with more than 100 kids between the preschool and TK, and classes are pretty big, 24 kids per class. If your child needs a lot of individual attention this could be a problem. Kids aren't neglected or anything, but I've observed that the more social, independent kids tend to have an easier time of it than more reserved kids.
- The facilities. The playground is not the greatest, a lot of concrete, not a lot of grass. This is improving somewhat; there is a long term plan for improvement but that requires $$$ which they have yet to procure. But in the last year or so they did put a sun shade over then sandbox, which I think elevated it awesome, so if your kid like sandboxes, ACC has got you covered. Also there is a garden which the kids get to visit now and again (the garden used to be awesome, but then politics happened and now it's not as awesome anymore, but it is something)
The food. This too is improving, but I would still put it on the less than great list, especially compared to the UC program. Lunches have gotten better but there is still a ton of garbage snacks that get handed out. You can choose to send your own food, I know parents that did, but not having to think about food was important for us so we just made as much a fuss about it as we thought was reasonable (along with other parents) and then let it go. We eat healthy at home, the chocolate cookies passed off as 'healthy' because they contain 'whole grain' are grudgingly tolerated and used to practice the art of letting go.
I hope this helps, good luck with the transition! Andrea
Re: Preschool Reco- El Cerrito, Richmond Annex, Albany
I recommend Albany Children's Center on Jackson St. on Albany Hill. It is geographically within the area you are describing,and tuition (full-time only) is $990 per month.There is also subsidized tuition, but I don't know anything about that. The hours are 7:30 to 6:00, but of course most children do not come that early or stay that late. Lunch and several snacks are provided as part of the tuition.
This is the preschool run by the Albany school district, but unlike the other Albany schools, it is open to children from outside the district. That also means the classes are very diverse (there are about 10 languages spoken by the 24 children in my daughter's class). It doesn't have all the fancy bells and whistles of some other preschools (i.e. yoga classes, organic meals), but we are very happy with it. The director, Susan, is very approachable, and the teachers (unionized, school district employees)have many, many years of experience. The student-teacher ration is 1:8, and the 5 teachers in each class rotate throughout the day to prevent teacher exhaustion.
The curriculum is definitely play-based,with a little structure in terms of a morning and afternoon circle time. Apparently there is also a little academic instruction (''Writing Without Tears'' and some math instruction) that happens for the kids going to kindergarten the following year. I know in my daughter's class they do a lot of art projects. There are two 50-minute long outdoor recesses, and each classroom has an outdoor courtyard where kids can play at other times, too. The school recently (1.5 years ago) moved to its current location, so we are still in the process of greening and adding color to the playground.
I'd recommend coming to see it in action. My daughter loves it. It has been my experience that after you rule out the preschools that give you a bad vibe, you go with the one that is convenient (hours/location) and affordable. Teri
Re: Affordable pre-school that's not a co-op?
This may not quite work for you right now..but the Albany Children's Center is a wonderful public preschool (it's run by the Albany School District) on Albany Hill. It is not a co-op, but there are some parent participation expectations of 15 hours per YEAR per family. They only offer full-time, and the non-subsidized tuition is $990, but subsidies are available for families who qualify. Since we pay full tuition, I don't know the details about that. The director, Susan Stevenson, is very helpful and approachable, so she could tell you more.
The teachers are very good; they have a lot of experience, and since they are district employees, they have good benefits compared to many preschool teachers. That means little turn-over. Also, since the school offers subsidized tuition and accepts students from outside the district, there is a tremendous amount of diversity. Out of the 24 kids in my daughter's class, there are 10-12 languages spoken!
We looked at various private preschools in the area, but ultimately chose ACC because of convenience (location and hours) and the quality of the teachers.
I did not look into the public preschools in Berkeley, but that may be an option, too. Hope that helps. Teri
We have an appointment with the director of Albany Children's Center next week but before going there, I'd love to hear from the parents about the school. I have read some previous postings but it is better for me to hear from people whose children are currently enrolling in the program. I am really undecided about the school. Although the fee and the location are the pros, I'm concerned about the parent-school relationship. A few months ago, right before they were moving to their new places, we visited the school to ask about our status in the waiting list (without an appointment) and we were told in no uncertain terms by the director that there were thousands (!) of people on the waiting list and we would have to wait perhaps a year or longer! Then we noticed their posting in BPN informing that they have places! I'm so frustrated with this preschool search period... So, any kind of comment or advice will be helpful for me to decide... Thank you! -confused about ACC
Albany Children's Center is going through major changes. These changes could be the cause of staff behavior. Most of the changes are blamed on the State budget situation. If the Center's budget is so tightly driven by the State budget then stability will be an ongoing problem and certain to cause instability. A lot of documented dialogue and meeting reports are available on the web just look for the Albany Patch. The School District is struggling and it seems that child care and the Children's Center is taking a hard blow. Good Luck Anon
We love Albany Children's Center. This is our second year at the school, we made the move with the school to the new location over the summer.
One of our children is in the pre-school prepping for Kindergarden and the other is in the Special Needs Class. Every one of our children's teachers and support staff has been exceptional.
If anyone had inconsistent contact from Albany Children's Center while on the wait list, it really is no reflection at all of what a supportive environment exists for students and parents. It was a very difficult summer, with threats of cancelling all assisted programs throughout the school system. It affected every level of staff and EVERYONE received a layoff notice. Some of the staff have not been re-hired, but now that the dust is settling after the move (mind you, threats of huge budget cuts, lay-off notices, and needed marches in Sacramento all happened in the middle of the move) the combination of old and new staff seems to be working out very well.
The office staff is also taking on the monuemental task of converting to computer based billing (a welcome upgrade, but a lot of work). The director Susan is very accessible and absolutely has the best interests of the children at heart. She fought hard to protect our little school this summer and continues to look to the future and making Albany Children's Center a wonderful environment of educational play. Julie P
Re: Subsidized preschools in Bay Area?
I have to second the post for the Albany Children's Center in the UC Village (see the post below). I have one kid there now and one who attended for 2 years. Both kids really enjoy/ed the school. It's sliding scale and part of the Head Start program (which means you get lots of bonuses - including free dental/eye and ear check-ups each year and programs like brushing your teeth after lunch! - I never did that in pre-school.) The student population is mainly from the UC Village, meaning the children of UC graduate students - from all over the world.
The facilities are not the new and shiny but the rooms are full of wonderful art and all have big windows, there is a large yard with lots of swings and sand and room to ride trikes fast. You won't find a Zen fountain around but there's a small library building in the yard (built in the shape of a train) and lots of dedicated teachers, many who have been there for 20 years. And the director Susan is WONDERFUL - a smart, engaged leader and a real advocate.
Do get on the wait-list early (like now). Albany residents get preference, and here's the trick - if you can start your child during the summer you'll have a good chance to get in because that's when the students graduate and start leaving .We started both our kids in July/August.
Joanne does all the administrative work and has been there forever. Be kind and thoughtful to her and she'll watch your back. She really helped us navigate the system when my husband and I were really struggling financially. We pay full-fee now and wouldn't go anywhere else. Good luck, it's a great school!
mom of happy healthy well- cared for kiddos
My daughter has been going to Albany Children's Center for over a year now, and my son is in their waiting list.
I think the two major strenghts of the center is the teachers, and the diverse student body. My daughter adores her teachers and connects with them very easily. The main teachers are stable and most have been working there for several years. They are very experienced and very caring. On the diversity side, I think about half of all kids in our class are bilingual. My daughter is proud to sing ''twinkle twinkle little star'' in Chinese; has a Korean best friend, and a Chinese best friend; and can count in 5 languages (well, up to ten, but at her age, that is all to the numbers).
Other pros are: it is open for long hours (at no additional cost); open all year (very relaxing for a full time working mom); provides free lunch and snacks.
So, ACC can be a great choice, depending on what you expect from a pre-school. We have been really pleased with our experience, and feel free to contact me if you have more questions about ACC. Nuriye
Re: Low-Cost Preschool
Check out the Albany Children's Center - in the UC Albany Village - my daughter just started there and it's a great program. It's subsidized -you pay according to your income (I think if you make more than 3,000/mo you pay full fee)- I do think they close at 6:30 but I'm not sure. anon
I suspect the quality varies from classroom to classroom. When my child first went there, I too was dismayed the the high student/teacher ratio. But then I realized the ratio tends to rise during pre-school, and no matter where I went, the ratio would have gone up.
Whatever the official ratio is supposed to be, due to the high number of absences of children taking long vacations to visit family outside of the country, the ratio was usually around eight to one.
I thought my child's experience at the center was pretty good overall. Sure they could use more money and staffing, but I thought the same of some private centers I visited, too. I kept my child there even though I wasn't subsidized at all. I tried to participate as much as I could, and generally had lunch with the kids 3-4 times a month.
No center is perfect. You can either vote with your feet or get involved, I chose the latter. I think the multicultural nature of the center makes it a special place.
I would not recommend the Albany Children's Center. Staffing is too low. My child was overstimulated by the unbridled engergy of the children which could have been channeled through proper staffing and redirection. Also, the year I was there there were too many boys. From time to time, the individual teacher is left there with no aide and cannot go to the restroom without taking all the children. We've gone to Kids Club- Berkeley YMCA and find it immensely superior to ACC. This is because of really great staffing, consistent approaches to structure and discipline and good programming. I might add that I had a fully subsidized position and willing gave it up for a paid position at Kids Club.
My daughter went there two summers because UC chidcare system is closed in summer and we couldn't afford an alternative. Albany Children's Center is short staffed: there is one head teacher for a classroom of 26 children plus 3 teacher assistants. The teacher assistants have no formal education in child education, but lately they have started to attend night programs which I think is very nice. Children don't get much personal attention. I must say however that the head teachers in the two classes that my daughter went to were very good and experienced. The good thing about it is diversity: there are many children with many different backgrounds. I would not enroll my child there if I could afford a good child care program. (Albany Children's Center is on sliding fee according to your budget.) I strongly recommend that you visit the center and stay there for at least an hour (preferably more hours in any child care that you think of enrolling your child) before making a decision.