Centro VIDA Children's Center

Berkeley, CA

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Preschool, Afterschool Care
Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement (BAHIA)
CentroVIDA [at] bahiainc.com
W. Berkeley on Camelia St.
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
English, Spanish
Ages Served: 
24 months - 60 months
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
Editors' Notes: 
  • BAHIA After School Program:  License # 010211909 (capacity=65)

Parent Reviews

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Archived Reviews: 

Feb 2011

Hi We are in the lucky position of having had our son accepted at Centro Vida's 2 year old program for next fall. We would like to hear from any parents who currently have kids attending Centro Vida so we can get a sense of your experience. What's the good, bad, and ugly about Centro Vida? Some specific questions we have are: - What is the quality of the care and instruction? - How structured is the program for younger children? - What are your opinions on the facility/location? - How engaged is the school with the parent community and vice-versa? Thanks in advance! OJ

Though by now you have made your decision as to whether or not to enter Centro Vida in the fall, I wanted to post anyhow. As you know, there is a great demand for the full-cost spots at Centro Vida, and there are several reasons for this. The teachers at CV are second to none. All of them have ECE training and several have completed full certification programs. But that is not what makes the place so special. As a current (and future) parent at CV, I see on a daily basis the love, warmth, encouragment and hope poured onto all of the children at CV. Having recently toured lots of elementary schools, I can also comment that the CV facilities reflect real engagement from the teachers. The instruction is amazing, and has always (the past 2 years) seemed exactly age-appropriate. I have especially been impressed with how the entire staff handles transitions of every type, for example going from one classroom to the next. I also appreciate the low child to teacher ratio compared to other local preschools. We could not be happier with the school. Lucky to be at Centro Vida

April 2009

We are same sex parents to a toddler and preschooler, and we are considering Fall enrollment for at least one of our children at Centro Vida. Can anyone share their experiences of this school as part of an ''alternative'' family (glbt, single parent, adoptive, foster, etc) structure? Is/was your family validated and recognized by teachers, students, families, and within the curriculum? A review from the archives suggested that the concept of family can be treated from a more ''traditional'' standpoint- has this been your experience? Thank you! Queer and Curious

We're a family of two moms and two boys. Our youngest son went to Centro Vida, and is currently a first grader who goes to Bahia for the afterschool program (run by the same folks). As a family, we felt accepted and supported by the staff and families at CV. To be honest, I d/n really remember whether we had any problems with the curriculum -- it is a pretty play-based curriculum, which we liked, especially in the younger groups. I do recall that our son once came home (at age 3 or 4), w/ a portrait of his family. He laughed when he told us his teacher suggested he use a triangle shape for his moms to show they were wearing dresses. He told the teachers his moms never wear dresses, and that was the end of that.

So far as I know, our family was the only lesbian family at CV while we were there. Although that registered w/ me and my partner, I'm not sure our kid ever noticed -- there were other kids w/ only one parent, or being raised by a grandparent, and there was tremendous racial, language and class diversity, so he understood that families have similarities and differences. But it would have been nice for us as parents to have had other gay parents to connect with.

If you have other questions about CV or Bahia, please feel free to email me directly.

June 2008

Re: Spanish immersion-type preschool programs
Centro Vida is a wonderful Spanish immersion preschool. However, I would get on their waiting list NOW. I put my son on the list as soon as he was born, and he didn't get in until part way through the first year! But he loved it, and spoke Spanish fluently while he was there. hablamos espanol

Nov 2006

The reviews onthe webiste for Centro Vida are quite dated. Do you have your child enrolled there now, and if so, what do you like/dislike about the school? Thanks!

My two girls finally got into Centro Vida after 2-3 yrs on the wait list (the younger one is in the 2 yo class, the older one in the 4 yo class). It's great. There are lots of activities (MOCHA art classes, music/dance, swimming in the summer); a strong parent group; and a warm, loving staff. I feel very lucky since the school is also walking distance to our house. There is a Saturday program, as well, called La Academia that my 4 yo attended last spring. rmgomes

Our son is in his third year at Centro Vida, and it has worked well for him. He is a child who takes a long time to transition, and the first few months of his first year were rough for all of us, but the 2 year old class room is a very nurturing place, and the teachers gave him a lot of loving support to help him through that period. The two year olds have a pleasant classroom and their own play-yard, so they are pretty sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the school, especially in the beginning. The 4:1 ratio is really terrific for the kids. The three year old class room is smaller, more chaotic, and is not laid out particularly well. The 4 year old class room, however, is a much better space -- larger, airier with good traffic flow.

The school tries hard to bring in local resources to enrich the kids learning -- my son really enjoys the ballet folklorico, and artists from MOCHA do art projects with the kids on a regular basis. The general orientation of the school is play-based learning, and the kids have a good amount of time outside in well-supervised play each day. The teachers work to foster community among the kids, and my son loves the food. Our son clearly understands a lot of Spanish, knows a lot of Spanish words, and has a good accent when he says them, but he does not speak Spanish. The teachers conduct a lot of the day in Spanish, but the kids may answer in Spanish or English. Neither my partner nor I speaks Spanish -- although it would have been nice, we did not expect him to learn to speak the language at school.

The downsides: the school culture is more traditional than our family, so our son occasionally comes home reporting things like, ''we were drawing families today, and my teacher told me mommies wear dresses.'' (He wasn't upset, just puzzled, since that did not jibe with his experience.) Many of the art projects seem to be pretty ''closed-ended,'' in that the kids are given instructions on what they should do with their art materials, and what the finished project should look like, whereas I'd prefer to see more open-ended creative projects.

On the whole, our experience at CV has been very good, and I would send my kid there again. You can email me if you have specific questions.

August 2005

we have heard about centro vida preschool. i am looking for more info. i hear the waitlist is 2 years. any advice/info would be great. what is the day like: is it all play? any learning? how long? what are they learning. our daughter will be 3.5 next sept. i plan on keeping her home another year. our son will be 20 months next sept, but i think i want to keep him home as long as i do my daughter. also, does anyone know the costs of the program for full time and part time? thanks, any info would be super helpful. yemenia

I've been looking into daycare/preschool for my 19-month-old recently and have been recommended to both Centro Vida and Child Education Center in Berkeley. I'm aware of the waiting list at Centro Vida and would most likely be eligible for the subsidized assistance if and/or when my child attends. Currently CEC has space in the toddler room and if I like the facility and staff I may utilize them for part-time immediate care. Does anyone have more current comments on either of these programs? I am currently working with only one personal recommendation each for these centers and am really interested to hear more varied and current feedback from fellow BPN members. Thanks. Maria

I too heard great things about Centro Vida. Unfortunately, when I attempted to enroll my son (2001 Fall), the wait list was too long. He was no. 46. Since I was there, I decided to enroll my then 1 year old daughter for Fall 2005, she was #25 on the list! I remember being told that there were only a few spaces for non- low income children. Another thing, they expect YOU to call/write every few months to continue to express an interest on being on the wait list. Disappointed and Wait Listed

Nov. 2003

Hi!I am interested in current information regarding Centro Vida Children's Center.The posts that are up rave about the school, but state they have an extremely long waiting list. I confirmed that when I called earlier this year and was told that most parents apply while their baby is in utero!!!! I was really turned off. Soon after that I visited a couple of preschools in the oakland area but just havent found the right one for our daughter. We are extremly intersted in the language immersion program the school has to offer but would appreciate any information regarding other aspects of their center...ie....approach to discipline, rigidity, happy children...etc.Since our daughter will be starting preschool next year and we are expecting I decided to revisit the idea.I called and placed my unborn on the waiting list(weird!)and after talking to the director briefly they agreed to place my toddler on the list as well as meet with the both of us in the upcoming weeks. I am looking forward to this but at the same time I can't help but wonder is the whole never ending waiting list a marketing tatic that preschols use to draw parents in? (The oakland preschools we visited were said to be,''hard to get in'', not only us but friends have found the contrary) The dishonest energy just feels wrong. Thanks in advance for your response. anon

My advice to you about the waiting list is persevere, it's worth it (and not a ''marketing tactic''). After hearing rave reviews from friends who sent their kids to Centro Vida, we put our son on the waiting list when he was 8 months old. I am a native Spanish speaker and I wanted to maintain Spanish as a part of my son's life and culture. We did not get accepted for the beginning of the first preschool year and I was disappointed, but we did get a call in January 2002 (4 months into year one). At the time I decided that I couldn't change my child care situation and told Vida that we would like to defer until the summer if possible. I was given no guarantee there would be slots, but in July of 2002 my son began at the end of year one (the class size is larger in year 2). There are, in fact, two waiting lists at Centro Vida, one for subsidized care (those with greatest financial need go to the top) and one for full cost.

I'm glad I waited it out. The care my son gets at Vida is warm, loving, and safe. There is always an adult nearby to do projects with him, to hug him, and sometimes to just watch over him and friends when they play. He is stimulated, challenged, and given plenty of time to play and just be a preschooler. He gets 2 nutritious meals a day and snacks. He tells me that their food is better than mine (and he's right). As an extra bonus, I am part of a wonderful community of families. The truth is that we need more preschools like Centro Vida that offer a top quality preschool education, place a high value on supporting the diversity of language and culture in the Bay Area, and have a long-standing commitment to serve the Berkeley community (regardless of ability to pay). Alina

My son went to Centro Vida last year and we loved it. I put him on the waiting list when he was two, but he didn't get in until he was almost 4 - and that was only because they had a last minute cancellation. The school has a waiting list because it's an excellent school, and maybe 1/2 the students there receive aid thanks to various state grants. There is a strong sense of community and parent support and involvement. For the 4-year old class, there were a lot of art projects, field trips to museums, local businesses, and even swim classes in the summer(parents help out with these). Lots of kindergarten readiness activities. shankel

We put our 3 month old on the waiting list (and subsequently our second child while in utero) but did not get in. When our oldest was two and ready for pre-school she was 7th from the top of the list, so didn't get in (we were on the full-cost waiting list). We decided to wait a year and in the interim found another pre-school where the waiting list wasn't so ludicrous and provided environs we were happy with. I'm sure we would have been happy as can be at Centro Vida, but it just goes to show that there is more demand for good bilingual pre-school experiences than there is availability. I don't know why ''the market'' hasn't caught onto to that. Anyway, my advice is find a back-up plan that you will be equally happy with. anonymous

June 2003

Can anyone comment on the pros and cons of Centro Vida in particular and bilingual education in general? We are considering this route, beginning with the Spanish Preschool Centro Vida for our son. My husband and I are not bilingual. I have a rudimentary Spanish knowledge but would study it again if my I enrolled my son. Also his two older sisters have both taken a few years of Spanish so we would encourage them to speak with him. In my son's case, I would consider enrolling him in an immersion program for elementary school. My questions are:
-Has anyone sent their non Spanish speaking child to Centro Vida and how was the experience for the child?
-Does anyone have thoughts on our idea to try to have the public school system successfully teach our child a second language?
-And what impact would this have on his overall education?
Thank you for all comments! dmm

My 9-year-old spent 3 happy years at Centro Vida. Despite my husband being bilingual, he had not ended up speaking much Spanish. However, I still can highly rc'md the preschool program; I do think that though he does not use it much he understands the rudiments of Spanish. More importantly, though, he spent 3 years in a warm, multicultural and loving environment. If your child has a chance to go there, you should take it. The staff is wonderful, the environment warm. Susan

May 1999

I have two kids, ages 2 and 4, at Centro VIDA. This pre-school program has it's unbelievably long waiting list for a reason. I cannot recommend it more highly. The program is remarkable for its nurturing and loving staff. Many of the teachers have as much as ten years in and several have over twenty! It is the only bilingual (Spanish/English) pre-school in Berkeley. The school has a play-based curriculum. It is not highly structured. There's a lot of art and singing. There is a focus in the 4 year-old's classroom on preparing for kindergarten. Recently, a BUSD kindergarten teacher came to visit Centro VIDA because she felt VIDA children were among the best prepared kindergarteners. She wanted to see what the teachers were doing that was so special. If you want to get your child through the Centro VIDA waiting list, my recommendation is that you call the staff often. Make sure they know your name and your child's name. Visit. Write. Make sure that they know you want to be there. Di

I can't say enough good things about Centro Vida education-wise and nurturing-wise. My son has been there since he was two and he has thrived. The staff is well trained and there is little turn-over. The teachers put thought into their curriculum and work closely with the kids. Parent are active too. Contact me for more details if you like. Martha

March 1999

Centro Vida in Berkeley (1000 Camelia Street) is a *fabulous* place. Our son is in the middle of his second year there, and continues to look forward to school every day. We're also looking forward to sending our second son there, in Fall of 2000. Alexis

Probably others will tell you this also: Centro Vida, 1000 Camelia, Berkeley CA 94710, 525 1463. Ask for Lupe. Call immediately to get on the waiting list visit the school a couple of times and keep calling to let them know you are still interested. Some have been on the waiting list since their kid was born. Siblings have priority.

It is a great school. My son has been there for two years and I hope that when he starts kindergarten next fall, he will be able to go to their after-school program, Bahia, that is held at a different site. There may be some other bilingual programs in the East Bay, but I think Centro Vida is the only truly bilingual preschool in Berkeley.

October 1996

My daughter attends Centro VIDA here in Berkeley (behind REI and Smith) at 1000 Camelia. Its a great program, spanish/english and has 2-4 year olds (3 classrooms: one for 2's, 3's, 4's); All staff are native spanish speaking, and all parents but 3 of us don't speak spanish. The phone number is 525-1463. Beatriz is the director and Lupe the site Head Teacher. The waiting list is long so apply as early as possible. It costs $ 620 month for full fee, including breakfast, lunch and snacks. Open 7:30-5:30. From a satisfied daycare customer & happy mom--Tavie

About a year ago, I looked into this school called, "Centro VIDA Children's Center" located at 1000 Camelia in Berkeley. The person who we saw was Beatrice Ayala, I believe they started at 3 years old. We took a tour around the place during school hours and I thought it was great. They spoke Spanish to the kids and had story time in Spanish. When we visited it was the beginning of the semester (Sept) and they were very caring and even took special attention to those who had separation anxiety.

I felt very comfortable there and I recommend that you call and make an appt. to see the school. Their number is 510-525-1463... Carolyn

Centro Vida, part of BAHIA (Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement) 1000 Camelia St, Berkeley, 94710, 525 1463 They also run an after school program for older children.

My son is starting at the pre-school in January. I've been visiting the school for the past year and am very impressed. They have been around for 25 years and just won some national award. The staff are very dedicated. The primary language is Spanish, but all the teachers are bi-lingual.

Call to get on the waiting list and then keep calling and visiting at least once a month. Martha