BUSD Preschools

Per the above website, there are three pre-school campuses in the Berkeley Unified system: Franklin (on 8th north of Cedar), King (near Derby and Milvia), and Hopkins (near Hopkins and Josephine).

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello,

    I am relatively new to the area and was hoping to get some feedback on Berkeley Unified, which my child will soon be attending. I am curious about both preschools -- I know the district has 3 -- and elementary and beyond. How are the teachers? Are they evaluated on a regular basis? Do teachers bring politics into the classroom? Can parents visit class whenever they want? What about music, arts and non-academic programs? I know it's been cuts, cuts, cuts in recent decades, but wondering what the situation is like now.


    Welcome to Berkeley! Your inquiry is broad, really really broad.  I'll give you my perspective, but I'd highly recommend spending some time on this website in the "schools" and "BUSD" subsections.  You will find a lot of information from various parents over the years which will give you a flavor of the strengths and challenges of BUSD.

    In answer to your questions, I don't have any experience with the public preschools so hopefully others will chime in on those.  My two kids are both in elementary school and we have been very pleased with their experiences thus far.  Their teachers (we have had 7 between them over the years) have all been very seasoned educators.  I have always felt welcome in the classroom.  Some teachers have had a regular volunteer schedule whereas others are open to a "come when you can" approach with parents.  All of my children's teachers have communicated regularly with parents, usually through a weekly email.  If I have had any concerns, I have always gotten a quick response via email.  I don't know how teachers are evaluated by our principal or the district.  The facilities are amazing, particularly for public schools.  Unlike my friends in other districts, we haven't been given a list of classroom supplies to bring in on the first day of school. The classrooms are well-stocked with books, paper, art supplies, etc.  Our school's PTA also gives our teachers a stipend each year to augment their supplies.  The students at our school have weekly art classes, dance class, theater class, gardening class and PE class with a PE instructor.  They go on plenty of educational field trips, such as to the CA Academy of Sciences, the Lawrence Hall of Sciences, Berkeley Art Museum and to see performances at Cal.  My kids' peer group is very diverse both ethnically and socio-economically and is reflective of Berkeley as a whole.  Overall my kids are having a fantastic educational experience. Sure, there are problems.  We have had issues with disruptive kids in the classroom as well as limitations in differentiated learning to accommodate the varied educational levels.  I truly feel, however, that the teachers and principal are up to tackling those challenges and that they are striving to deliver an excellent education to each student. As your child nears school age, you should come to one of the elementary school's kindergarten information nights (each school has one sometime in January).  Those presentations will give you a flavor of each school. 

    BUSD is considered a desirable district to send your kids to. At every election, the city of Berkeley passes a bond measure to raise funds for the school- this funds music and arts and others.  At 3rd grade, students may choose a musical instrument to learn.  The district is divided into zones from in which families can rank their preferences for an elementary school. Then, by lottery, kids are matched with schools.  About 70% of families get their first choice.  Siblings are matched into the same school.  The result is that no school is better or worse off than others- all schools have the same proportion of socio-economically challenged families.  When I looked at the different elementary schools in our zone, they had a different flavor, but they seemed only to different in what their respective PTAs liked to focus on- one was into visual arts, another into sports, another into theatre arts.  We ended up choosing ours based on location (walking distance).  As for budget, in addition to the bond measures, our PTA tries to raise about $400/student per year, to pay or supplement other programming, like the garden, arts, music, and PE.  As for politics- I'm not sure what you mean.  As far as I understand, the district has adopted certain programs regarding bullying, conflict management, gender and racial diversity.  So on these issues, there's been some thinking to develop a uniform approach.  We've been very happy with our kindergarten teacher so far.  

    PS- we have some experience with the pre-schools.  They're very, very nice. Very nice facilities, very well maintained.  We had our kid at Bright Horizons (corporate  day care ) which was ridiculously nice, and these facilities are comparable.  The pre-school teachers we've met are very, very good: caring, experienced, professional, knowledgeable.  The program is mainly for  low income  families, with a few slots for kids with IEPs, and a few slots of paying families.  There is child care, reserved for the  low income  families.  DM me for more deets if you like.

    Welcome to Berkeley, Karina!

    My son attended one of the Berkeley public preschools (and now attends a BUSD elementary), so I can answer your questions about them.

    I am a low-income single parent, so public preschool was a lifesaver. My sense is that almost all of the families at his school income qualified for low- to no-cost preschool, and you also do not have to live in Berkeley to send your child to the BUSD public preschools. Each class generally has the state maximum of students (24) with three teachers. The teachers I met were all very caring individuals with a lot of teaching experience. That being said, it is definitely a standard, traditional public school experience. These are not like private, high-cost preschools with nature time and child-led play. Your child will eat some junk food from time to time, watch a Minions movie on a rainy day, and get their name written on the board if they act up. However, your child will also become accustomed to a diverse public school experience, and that is a huge bonus that I think outweighs everything else.

    The public preschools offer before and/or after care for working families who need it, and although parents could of course drop by class or volunteer at any time, most/all of the families had working parents, so I never saw that happening. Special education teachers work with the classroom teachers to be on the lookout for possible learning disabilities, which means kids can get support earlier than at private preschools.

    When considering public vs private preschool, I suggest that if the cost of private preschool is not a barrier then you should probably go that route, especially if you are looking at high-cost private preschools as a standard. If the cost of preschool seems unworkable, take a tour of one of the public preschools and check them out. Your child has to be at least 3 years old and potty-trained to apply; you can apply in June for the fall school year or just apply any time and be on the wait list for when a spot opens up. Your child will be in a vibrant, multicultural, multilingual school community which is about as instructive as anything else they could possibly learn.

    Best wishes with your preschool journey!

  • I'm really overwhelmed by the wall of information on the Berkeley's Website and this is the first child I've ever sent to school and it's just a lot.  None of my phone calls actually reach a live human being, so hoping I can just get some answers here. I know there are a bunch of questions so feel free to just answer what you know. 


    • My daughter will be 5 year old on December 6, 2018. (She was born in 2013)
    • She is extremely bright, is the top of her preschool class & well ahead of her peers in milestones and academics per her preschool teacher. 
    • I am a single mom and for sure cannot afford private school tuition but I will be able to manage the price of the BEARS program which will help me so much with before and after care. 
    1. TK seems to be for those born between Sept xx and December 2nd.   What does this mean for a child with a December 6 birthday? 
    2.  Residency requirements.    I share a house with a person who is the actual owner of the home.  Of course as the owner she has all the utility bills in her name, I just pay my portion.   This means I have NO documents from the "A" Group of required documents. (link below).   I do have oodles of  other documents from the other groups with my address, (Bank statement, rental documents, rental receipts, etc,) but no actual utility bills.  This must come up a lot but it says you have to have one document from each section.   What do they accept in this kind of instance? 

    Thank you!

    My understanding is that BUSD is fairly strict about their age limits; I’m not sure they will even let you apply for TK with a later birthday.

    That being said, have you looked into the BUSD public preschools? I am a single mom, and the public preschools were a lifesaver. There are three of them, and if you qualify for BEARS you will most likely qualify for free full-day preschool. My kid went to King, and it made for a smooth transition into public kindergarten. Call or stop by one of the locations for an application.

    To answer your residency question, I also did not have a bill in my name, and they let me bring in an extra item from column B to make up for my lack of bills. Attend the district kindergarten fair, and you can ask an admission worker in person.

    You can do it!


Parent Reviews

RE: Part time (affordable?) preK ()

You might want to look into public preschools.

Berkeley USD runs 3 (Hopkins, Franklin, and one more) of them (called "child development center"), Albany USD has 1. I do not know about Oakland.

Application is free. I sent my both sons to Hopkins (in Berkeley) and I believe they are second to none. The teachers are very well paid (they are employees of a school district) compared to regular preschool teachers. The tuition includes school lunch (we still packed ours). They have enrichment classes like gardening, PE, language development (theater-like performance). They go on field trips on a school bus (part of the school district): on inside Berkeley and one outside Berkeley.

Hi! Welcome back to Berkeley.

My son, who is now 7 and in BUSD elementary, attended one of the Berkeley Public Preschools (King CDC) for the two years prior to kindergarten. We had a good experience, and I often feel like I'm the BUSD preschool ambassador now. Here's some quick info, although calling the office at King CDC will give you a fuller picture.

Your child does have to be at least 3 yo and potty-trained. The program runs M-F 8:30-3:00, and there is before and after care available if needed. When my son first started there was a half-day program, but they may have eliminated it since then (worth checking). I am not sure that you can go fewer than 5 days a week. A bonus is that the program runs year-round, so if your work doesn't have two weeks off for winter break, no problem!

When I applied it was in the summer, and they had one spot open right then, but I delayed it until the start of the school year. We did qualify for full subsidy. My understanding is that some people of higher income qualified for partial-subsidy, and that you'd pay full price if you didn't income qualify at all. (It's worth calling to double-check that.) They start accepting applications in the summer for school-year start (when the ones going off to kindergarten leave), so I'd recommend calling now if you're interested. Your child does have to be 3, so they may have you submit your application once she has her birthday. You fill out an application and income form, and they let you know what kind of subsidy you qualify for. (They have a chart.)

The program is mixed-age, which I liked because my son got a chance to be a younger classmate and then an older kid, and he had continuity of classroom and teachers.

The BUSD preschool is definitely a public school and differs from small, private preschools. The advice I give to high-income people who can easily afford private preschool is to just go that route, because I find those parents have a certain aesthetic and expectations. One of the biggest strengths of my kid's preschool experience was the diversity of the student body as well as staff. He was friends with kids of many different backgrounds and had the opportunity to hear several different languages spoken by families. His teacher also taught ASL to all the kids.

Because the preschool is in the district, it was a pretty seamless transition to public elementary. During his second year at King CDC, they even had district admissions come to the school and help us work through the kindergarten application in person. When my son started kindergarten, getting him into aftercare was easy because he was considered a continuing student. Another bonus to being in the public system is that if a learning disability is discovered, there is in-class support, and the child can begin kindergarten with an IEP (or 504 etc) in place. I don't have direct experience with this, but I talked to parents who did.

Let me know if any other questions pop up!

Both of my children went to preschools of Berkeley USD. There are 3 of them (King, Franklin, Hopkins). They are both affordable, diverse, sensitive and attentive. Because they are part of the USD, they know and carry responsibility to prepare children for the Berkeley USD schools. Actually they are called CDC-childhood development center- for some legal reason...

My son went to a preschool in Berkeley, run by BUSD 2015-2016. I paid less than $800 M-F 9-3. I know that they have groups run on academic year and also groups for a longer day (these are very hard to get into). I was happy with the public preschool. I visited or spoke to ALL preschools in Berkeley-Albany-Kensigtin area. This was my top choice. My other son will start at the same school (they are called childhood development center, not preschool) in August. The downsides are that children must be fully potty-trained and if you are late 3 times to pick up your child-you are out! The had a weekly library, garden, PE, and theatre performances. Lunches are included in the price. Also they had two field-trips on a school bus. Firefighters visited them on a fire truck and dental hygienists did to teach them how to brush their teeth. I felt that my son, who is now in second grade, was  perfectly prepared for school. There are 3 sites: Franklin, Hopkins (we went there), and another one. Information is on BUSD website.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Related Pages

Reviews of BUSD Preschools

Nov 2015

RE: Inexpensive school near Berkeley for my 2 year old?

My son goes to Berkeley USD preschool and we all love it. There is no residency requirement. There are 3 preschools, officially called Berkeley Child Development Centers (CDC). They provide enrichment programs almost daily: gym class, library class, garden class, literacy class. There is also lunch provided, no volunteer requirements, and two field trips included

Franklin Preschool
Maura Blanco, Secretary
1460 Eighth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
Hopkins Early Childhood
Maria Elena Romo, Secretary
1810 Hopkins Street, Berkeley, CA 94702
King Child Development Center
Margo Wilson, Secretary
1939 Ward Street, Berkeley, CA 94703
Victoria Hritonenko vicka17 [at] hotmail.com

Application process for BUSD preschools

May 2015

We are searching for affordable preschool options for our 3 year old daughter starting in August or September (late June birthday). We live in Oakland, but I read that BUSD preschools do not require residency, and I have not heard much about Oakland's programs nor received any responses when I have written into this newsletter about them. Can someone provide feedback on the different BUSD campuses, the structure of their programs, fees, and the admissions process? Ideally, we would love our daughter to have as much time as possible outside (it's why we live in the Bay Area!) with lots of freedom to explore and a not too academic schedule. But we cannot afford most of the private preschools in the area and missed the boat on scholarships and admissions for most of them anyway, so I am scrounging for options. King looked nice when we walked by the other day, but I don't know anything about it or about the other campuses. Please enlighten me! Thanks. rachel

I wish I had better news for you, but while it's true that the BUSD preschools are open to students from other cities, there is a long waiting list and you must qualify through the state criteria. The income limit is $3,518 per month (about $42K per year) for a family of three before taxes, assuming both parents are working, in school, or looking for work. If you qualify, you should go ahead and apply, but know that there are many more applicants than spots so it may take time to get a space.

If you haven't already contacted BANANAS, you should do that too--they manage state child care/preschool subsidies for Alameda County and can give you a full list of programs, including some private preschools that accept subsidies. The income limit is the same as for BUSD--it's set by the state. Full eligibility and application information for BUSD preschool programs is here: http://www.berkeleyschools.net/schools/early-childhood-education/ece-eligibility/

Cast your net widely, and hopefully you will get into one of these programs--good luck!
Another preschool mama 

Free Pre-K classes at Berkeley Parks and Rec?

Oct 2013

Hi everyone! In looking for affordable preschools in the Berkeley area, I came across the free pre-k classes offered through the Parks and Recreation Department. Does anyone have experience with this program? The City of Alameda apparently has an amazing preschool through its Parks and Rec. Dept., and I'm wondering if this is comparable. More broadly, do you know of affordable preschools in Berkeley that aren't co-ops? Both my boyfriend and I work, so we wouldn't be able to fulfill the parental involvement requirements. Thanks for your help! - Zoe

Hello, My son was in the Berkeley Parks and Rec Pre-K Power Play program last year and is in it again this year. We love the program and my son loves it too. He has learned so much and has really matured as well. At first, the structure of it was a big change for him. There is some free play, but there are also activities where kids are directed by the teachers. The teachers really worked with us to address issues that he had, and now he is a leader and helps in the class. I really like the teachers and the diversity in the classroom. There is also a really strong feeling of community between the families in the program, and many of us hang outside at the park for lunch after class. We are enrolled at the YAP location but there is also a class at James Kenney. There are also parent education classes offered, and they offer free childcare. It is wonderful that this high quality program is available for families, and for free! We live in Oakland, but the program is open to all Alameda County residents. Becca

Berkeley Unified Full Inclusion Preschool?

Dec 2010

Our child is currently in the evaluation process for preschool special education services in BUSD and we are struggling to find information about the full inclusion classrooms at King and Franklin. Can anyone write about recent experiences and about the basic structures of these schools' programs? We especially need to know about times of day that the full inclusion programs are open, whether the preschools are open in the summer, extended day care offerings, the teachers, and occupational therapy services available? -Need to know the preschool options

I can't give you my own recent experience since my son went there 5 years ago, but consider joining Berkeley Special Education Parents Network; we're an informal group of parents who have kids with special needs at BUSD. More info here: http://www.berkeley.net/index.php?page=bsped Jill