Diverse Preschools

Parent Q&A

Preschool in the Berkeley flats for biracial (Black/Asian) child Nov 7, 2020 (14 responses below)
Questioning choice of mostly white preschool Oct 1, 2020 (10 responses below)
Looking for a preschool in Berkeley prioritizing diversity Mar 21, 2019 (10 responses below)
  • Hello BPN! We're looking for a preschool for Sept 2021 for our daughter. We would love to stay in South, Central, North, or West Berkeley. Our daughter is very outgoing and curious, so we think she'll adapt to most schools well. She's biracial (Black/Asian), and we'd love to find an inclusive and diverse preschool. We'd especially love for our daughter to have Black peers and teachers. Does anyone have recommendations?

    We've spoken to a few schools (the Berkeley School, Hearts Leap South, Little Elephant too) and have a few others on our radar (Aquatic Park, New School), and we'd love to hear from current parents (or parents of recent alums) about their experience. 


    My two girls (3 and 5) are at Little Elephant too. Happy to chat if you have questions, but generally we are really loving the program and staff, and our girls are thriving. Our family is white, fwiw.

    One school that you might want to add to your list is American International Montessori, if you're interested in either Chinese or Japanese language immersion (and Montessori, obviously). As you might expect, its student & teacher population is majority Asian. However there are no Black teachers and few (if any) Black students, which I can completely understand you seeking out. We do have a gender-diverse child at the preschool and have really appreciated the support we've seen from the teachers & school (and larger school community) on this type of diversity - so I'd give them general high marks for an inclusive atmosphere.

    My son attends the Nia House on 9th street. It’s a truly wonderful school with excellent teachers and staff. It’s a Montessori program, and my son has really flourished there. Of all the preschools I toured for my son, it was the most diverse. Good luck with your search!

  • We enrolled our child in preschool this past January. We have an active kid, so we prioritized a school with a lot of free play and a lot of outdoor time. We noted when we visited that the teachers and students were nearly all white (our family is white as well), but we decided that the benefits of the school for our particular kid outweighed the homogeneity. At the time, we felt like we could make sure they interacted with lots of others from diverse backgrounds on playdates, at playgrounds, in activities around the Bay Area & trips to other cities, etc. School would be just one part of their life.

    Fast-forward a few months and we're back at the same school, but with none of those other outlets available. It now feels like the white community we chose is the only one we have access to, and I'm feeling increasingly cringy and ashamed about that choice — my kid growing up in an all-white environment does not reflect my values. I also haven't seen any evidence that the school is engaging or grappling with this issue, even in light of the protests over the spring and summer and the subsequent reckoning and self-reflection many organizations have begun. I've been actively trying to do this reflection myself, which is part of why I'm writing now.

    What should we do? Should we move our kid to another school, disruptive and challenging as that might be? Should we press school administrators about why the program seems so segregated, and push for them to make changes that will make it more welcoming and accessible? Should we just wait it out and redouble our efforts to make new friends and build diverse community after COVID finally passes? I want to make a choice that pushes all of us to do better, and I'm not afraid to feel some discomfort in service of that goal. 

    If you want to switch, could try Grand Lake Montessori in Oakland.  We went there years ago and at that time the teachers were diverse (as in majority minority, I think, if I remember right).  Large play yard, but expensive at the time.

    I don’t know if this is helpful, but as the parent of older kids, I can say that preschool is a very short period in kids’ lives. It seems like everything at the time because it’s your child’s first real school.  But it passes quickly.  If the school is a good fit otherwise, you could keep things stable for your child right now (so valuable in these crazy times!) but take what you learned about prioritizing diversity and apply it to your choice of elementary school.  Elementary school 1) lasts longer, 2) is more likely to be the source of long-lasting friendships, and 3) is remembered more clearly.  If you choose a diverse K-12 environment, I’m not sure the white preschool experience will have all that much effect on your child’s long-term values and attitudes. 

    I'm a white, heterosexual (but unmarried) mom. I moved my child out of a majority-white preschool and into a preschool that was diverse in all senses and also employed an anti-bias curriculum, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I worried about the disruption of switching schools, but that disruption was very, very brief. And the benefits were so worth it. I also subsequently learned that, developmentally, preschool age is when kids really start to tune in to visible differences and perceived hierarchies among those around them, so it is the perfect time to proactively address race, gender, family structure and all kinds of differences. If you don't address it, they will draw their own conclusions at that age anyway. So it is valuable for your child to be in an environment where they will be mindful during those years.

    (My kids wound up at Monteverde Preschool in Berkeley. I cannot overstate how fabulous they are all around but particularly in this arena.)

    My kids are older now (grades 6 and 3), and I have spent the last 7 years engaged in processes around equity and inclusion at their OUSD schools. If you're considering asking your current preschool to grapple with this, I say that's great. But I would not expect it to materially change the experience your child has. Given the pace of change around race and equity in schools, my guess is that you would be doing work that *might* benefit future students at that school but not your own child. That is definitely worthwhile, but if your goal is to impact your child's upbringing right now, then you need to make an immediate change.

    Also, if you decide to stay where you are for now, maybe you could consider being more purposeful in your choice of an elementary school? Now is a great time to educate yourself on the politics and history of school integration and prepare for your upcoming choices about kindergarten. The Oakland chapter of Integrated Schools Network is a great place to start for white parents who want to support integration and choose integrated schools for their kids.

  • Hello!

    My family and I are moving back to Berkeley and I'm a little overwhelmed with preschool options. I'm looking at schools that prioritize diversity with students and support it with a culturally competent curriculum. (that has good structure, not just free play) Also, I really want  a preschool that has diversity amongst its teachers. Any recommendations? 

    Thank you!

    Step One School in Berkeley has a diverse community.  They stress inclusion and compassion, no matter what type of household you come from.  I've found the staff, teacher and parents to be open minded and supportive, and their own staff reflect a diversity of gender, ethnicity and age.  Fortunately, I think you'll be able to find many preschools in Berkeley that value and promote diversity.  Time to begin touring school!  :D

    New House Day School on Hopkins is great in this respect, and in pretty much every respect. Mabel Perez, the director, can answer any questions you have about how they manifest and teach diversity. You can tour the school with your child and see how it feels to you both. We love it and miss it (2cd and K now).

    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...

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Full day, diverse preschool

August 2010

Hi BPN! My 2.5yr old is currently in preschool but i'm ready to find another one for her. I feel like her current school is too too play based. I don't believe she is learning all that she should/could be learning. However the plus is that she loves the kids and teachers and the tuition is affordable for me. so where can i go? I want her to be happy, yet i want to make sure she is learning and prepared for kindergarten (i know its a few years away) My other issue is my daughter is mixed (black & mexican) and i'm having a hard time finding a school with a diverse atmospher. lastly i work full time so i will also need a program from 7 - 5;30/6pm. Lindsay

We love the diversity of families and teachers at Rising Star Montessori School in Alameda. You can look at their website: http://www.risingstarschool.org/. The Cottage Campus near Webster Street (and downtown Oakland) is great for the younger students. The main campus on High Street (closer to Fruitvale BART) also has preschool classes, but usually for older kids because they need to be fully potty trained there. - appreciating diversity

First of all, I want to say that I don't think that a pre- school can be too play-based for a 2.5 year old. I suggest you read this article about the benefits of play on psychological development: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=76838288.

Second, I want to throw out Lakeshore Children's Center (LCC) as a possibility. While it is definitely play-based, my daughter was right on the edge of reading by the time she started K--she knew all her letters, all their sounds, etc., etc.

Anyway, LCC is geared toward working parents. It is very diverse, with a high proportion of mixed race kids (black/white and other combinations). The teachers are black, white, hispanic, Asian and Moroccan. And it is pretty affordable. Carrie

Culturally Diverse Preschools

May 2002

I've researched fairly thoroughly the postings on the site for preschools and it appears they don't go beyond 2000. I'd like to know what experiences people have had with preschools over the last year or so. I'm looking for a place for my child that emphasizes art and movement as well as respect and cooperation. Also a site that is not small and crowded. Cultural diversity would be a big plus as well as bilingualism, but not a must. Thankyou, MB

Recommendations received:

May 2000

Can anyone recommend a pre-school with an understanding of what it means to affirm cultural identity in young children, and addresses issues of cultural diversity in deeeper and more thoughtful ways than celebration of holidays. I'm a single Jewish mom of an adopted daughter from China and am looking to enroll my daughter in a pre-school by January when she'll be 2.6. (I'm open to September 2000) We live in El Cerrito so programs in our area, Albany, Berkely, Richmond would be possible but I have yet to find anything even close. Are my expectations realistic? If I hear one more instructor respond to my concerns saying 'Well we celebrate Chinese New Year, Cino De Mayo, Chanukah.....' I think I'll scream or cry. While it is important to me that the kids in the pre-school come from diverse racial,cultural AND class backgrounds, (something that is also hard to find in these geographic areas) it is also important to me that the books, visual images, music and styles of teaching also reflect that diversity in a CENTRAL way. As a parent and an educator myself I bring this into my child's life and have seen the positive impact it has on my daughter in many ways, and would like to see this as part of her pre-school experience as well. The closest thing I know of is HEADSTART which while our economic situation is not pretty,we don't qualify for. I do see pre-school as a time for her to play, create, explore, develop and strengthen social skills and am less interested in an academic emphasis. Any recommendations/ suggestions would be much appreciated.

I am Chinese American educator and have just finished selecting a preschool for my 2 and 1/2 year old son so I recently visited the schools I will suggest. Although I did not pick either of these school, I thought they might be possible for your daughter. When I toured Step One (with its infamous long waiting list) in Berkeley, I was favorably impressed with one of the teachers in particular who had activities and images throughout her classroom of racially diverse people. Also, Step One has a small scholarship fund and likes to recruit children and families of diverse background. You seem to fit. In addition, I understand that there is a program in downtown Oakland but I don't know its name which also has instruction in Mandarin and Cantonese and there is a Cantonese English Bilingual preschool in Oakland Chinatown, probably too much of a schlep for you. While I know it is difficult to pick the perfect preschool program, I would encourage you to pick a school or perhaps other enrichment that would allow your daughter to be exposed to or learn some Mandarin Chinese if you do not speak the language yourself for the simple reason that language and culture or so inextricably tied. Logically, your daughter will have better access to her country and culture of origin later in life when she may have more questions and issues with cultural identity if she has some facility with the language. Kudos to you for considering such an important issue.

I'm not sure how much this preschool provides an understanding of cultural identity, but the school has a very diverse staff from many different nationalities and also has several men working there. Try New School of Berkeley , 548-9165. I totally love New School.

I recommend Cedar Creek Montessori School on Sacramento Street at Cedar. (see Cedar Creek Montessori School page for the rest of this review.)

I'd recommend you check into Via Nova . When looking for pre-schools I found Via Nova, located on MLK in Berkeley, to have a real understanding, appreciation of and participation in diversity. Ages 2 to 5. Minimum 3 full days.

Have you looked into Children's Community Center on Walnut Street in Berkeley? I don't have a child there, but I did my dissertation research with their children a few years ago, and I remember the teachers talking about something they called a "diversity curriculum." It's a parent co-op, so if that appeals to you, you might want to look into it.