Advice about Public School Transitional Kindergarten
General Questions about Pre-K and Bridge Programs
No feedback on the Sequoia program specifically--we are looking at TK for 2016 so curious to hear!--but more broadly, keep an eye on what's happening at the state level. Senate Bill 837 was recently passed by the State Senate. This bill eliminates the current TK program and reintroduces it as PreK for all low-income four-year-olds. Beginning in 2015, children born in the Sept-Dec window (current TK group) who are not low-income would no longer be eligible. (The original bill was for PreK for all four-year-olds, but to cut costs they limited it to low-income, as defined by free and reduced lunch eligibility.) I have very mixed thoughts on this for many reasons, not the least of them that recent studies of Head Start have shown far greater benefits for low-income children when the programs are mixed income. The bill still needs to make it to the governor, but it's definitely worth watching, as it may mean that TK/PreK is no longer an option for your family. Another prospective TK mama
Recently talk about TK (Transitional Kindergarten) has come up among friends and several assured us that we were in a good spot because of instead of having to pay for an additional year of preschool, our child will be able to go to TK since she's a winter baby!
Even though we have a few more years to really think about this before she'll be going to one, I decided to look up more information about TK since so much of it is new to me. Turns out she's born the day AFTER the cutoff date (but I was in labor before then, I swear! Does that count?!) which is December 2.
Any thoughts or advice on what our options are? Is there really a super duper strict cutoff date? Do we not stand a chance? Do we fudge the birth cert? Is there any movement or reality on TK for all (4 year olds) by the time she hits that age (in a few years)?? decembermama
The cutoff was changed to September 2 at every Public School I am aware of. It used to be Dec. 2 but not anymore. Ellen
We also have a TK-eligible kid so I've followed this with interest. First--yes, keep an eye on the state budget negotiations this year and next. TK for all four-year-olds is a hot topic and while it's not in the currently proposed budget, it's the top issue identified by the Democrats this year going into budget negotiations. So if you're a few years out, it could be a different ball game by then. As far as the cutoff, how strict it is varies by district, but many will accept children who just miss the cutoff (in either direction) if there are spots remaining once all of the Sept/Oct/Nov children have been placed. So I definitely wouldn't give up! Another prospective TK mama
You need to call your school district and talk to the program manager in its preschool division to ask what your district's approach is. My understanding is that currently each district has flexibility to extend the TK window, at least as far as the state is concerned. The May revise of the proposed 2014-15 state budget does not have any changes (or expansion) of TK programs, but you can keep an eye on it as it progresses to see if the Legislature's Democrats are successful in including universal pre-K (Gov Brown has rejected their proposal thus far). In the WCCUSD, I had many conversations with the preschool program manager about getting my son in TK (his bday falls just before the start date, so he was eligible for kindergarten), and they kept an interest list for kids outside the range. However, there's not much point in having those discussions more than the fall prior to when you want your child to start, because it does change year to year.
At the present time, the only children who are admitted to TK's are those who would have been able to attend kindergarten, if it had not been for the change in the cut-off for beginning kindergarten (so, kids born in September, October, November). Previously, those kids would have started kindergarten when they were not quite 5, but now they have to wait until the following year. Your child, born December 3, would not have been able to go to kindergarten previously either. So, currently, they would not qualify for TK. There is some movement toward the idea of TK for all-- I think that would be awesome! But I'm not sure that it's going to happen. It's going to be incredibly expensive and though the state isn't in quite the dire financial straits it was a few years ago, we're not exactly rolling in the money either. So, although it would be great, I wouldn't really plan on it!
You're kidding about fudging the birth certificate, right? You wouldn't start your daughter's official schooling with a big, fat lie, would you? Sometimes you just get the shorter end of the stick. Not everyone can have the perfect birthday (which now is probably sometime in October--you get to be one of the oldest in your class and get free TK for a year). Not everyone can be good at math and a super athlete and highly attractive, either. You get what you get (and you don't get upset). You might find yourself in a wonderful preschool situation that you don't want to trade in for free TK anyway. Don't start worrying about TK before your baby or toddler has even started preschool! Mom of 3, with very different birthdays
Bridge K programs that are only three days a week
I am wondering if there are any pre-K bridge programs (for a boy with a fall birthday) that are only three days a week rather than five. I work part-time so that I can spend some extra time with my child, and don't want to give that up until kindergarten. I'm trying to figure out options for next fall. I would also be interested in language immersion programs that are not full-week as well. Thanks
My son went to a PreK program at Linda Beach Co-operative Preschool in Piedmont. He also is a fall birthday, and we weren't sure what to do! The program is 12:15-3:15p M-Th and taught by two fantastic teachers, both of whom have many years of experience! You can check out their website lindabeach.org or email directly to membershiplbcp [at] yahoo.com with questions or to set up a tour.
Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm looking for a school for my daughter whose birthday is in early September. Not sure when she'll be ready for Kindergarten, so would like some flexibility in curriculum and approach. Anywhere in Oakland is fine. Focus on social/emotional development rather than pure academics is very important to me and would also love a place that engenders a strong sense of community and reflects my progressive values (so what I'm doing at home is reinforced during the school day). Tuition must be reasonable. I definitely can't afford the top dollar places. Thanks in advance for your help!! Sarah
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I am looking for an affordable preschool or bridge K type program in Oakland. My daughter has a late Sept birthday and I don't know when she will be ready for kindergarten. I am hoping for a strong community feeling and progressive values. Also lots of time for my child to PLAY, especially with nice outdoor space. Guidance or suggestions greatly appreciated! Michele in Oakland
Are you aware that Oakland public schools have ''transitional kindergarten'' starting this fall for kids with fall birthdays? No idea yet how they will be quality wise. Doubtful they will be anything as creative and progressive as the high price tag private programs out there. But if money is a big issue I'd check it out! We live in oakland and ended up doing Step One' s Bridge K which is just wonderful--but pricey and quite a commute. Bridge K Mom
Look into the Bridge K program at MCPC (Montclair Community Play Center). My child is in the preschool program there and I've seen first-hand the quality of the curriculum and the amazing, skillful teachers involved in this little gem of a Bridge K. The kids are nurtured and challenged, with plenty of art, science, literacy building, and lots of fun, imaginative play. The group is small and the student/teacher ratio can't be beat. From my observations, the teachers never miss a moment to enrich and support the kids emotionally and intellectually, and there is an emphasis on social skills and conflict resolution. MCPC is a parent co-operative, so you get to be directly involved, but the participation requirement at the Bridge K seems manageable for working parents. www.mcpckids.org mcpc parent
Beatie Street is an amazing place for kids with late-in-year birthdays. My daughter is a late September birthday, and I don't know whether she should start Kindergarten when she's 4 going on 5, or 5 going on 6. Especially since parents have to commit in DECEMBER the year before the kid starts! How the heck will I know whether she'll be developmentally ready 9 months prior?
Beatie Street has a wonderful ''Pencil Box'' program--which is a kindergarten year, for a small, cozy set of only 4-6 kids. So my daughter will attend the Beatie Street Kindergarten year (when she's 4 going on 5), and then I can decide whether she heads straight into first grade the next year, or just starts fresh with Kindergarten class at her public school.
There are only 15 kids total in the pre-school and Pencil Box Kindy program, and it feels really cozy. There's a wonderful parent community, and an amazing head teacher, Judy who I can't recommend highly enough.
My daughter will be attending Beatie Street for 2 years--from everything I've observed, it's really important for kids to attend preschool at Beatie Street least one year prior to the Pencil Box year. Socially and emotionally, they become the leaders of the school, and attending the preschool in conjunction with the Pencil Box year is a wonderful, seamless program that prepares them wonderfully for school and for life! I just attended Beatie Street's 30th anniversary party and met absolutely wonderful people--the ''alumni'' are a shining example of the caring, progressive, socially aware philosophy of the school.
Anyway, I know you were specifically asking about PreK and Bridge K and I wanted to give some information about this special program that really gives kids and families some flexibility around the choice for when late-in-year birthday kids start school.
Anyway--please feel free to get my name and email from the moderator if you would like more information. Thrilled to find Beatie Street!
Can someone please explain the purpose/benefit of a Bridge-K program to me? As I understand it, it's usually for kids with fall birthdays whose parents don't want to enroll them in kindergarten for various reasons. So the kids get a more academic preschool year...to what end exactly? Won't kindergarten be more of a repeat year then? How does this benefit the child? What am I missing exactly? My 3-yo has a September bday and I'm wondering what kind of preschool experience I should be looking for, whether I start her young or not. Thanks! Mom of fall birthday kid
This is a great article about Bridge K for young 5 yr olds. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/magazine/03kindergarten-t?pagewanted=all GreenZeebra
I think if you look just below at responses to questions in this current newsletter (Bridge school for 5 y/o not ready for kindergarten) you'll see some great comments on bridge programs. I think many parents confuse being academically ready for kindergarten with being developmentally ready. Kids are all over the map at this age and many are ready in one of these ways but not the other. You can find lots of articles about kindergarten readiness (google for more info) that will define it as a certain level of development that will allow kids to cope with the stress of school; sharing, following directions, comfortable in loud noisy groups, making friends, general coping skills. A child may be able to read but if they aren't ready for the social stuff they will have a very bad experience in school that will likely effect how they feel about school in the long run. Also academic curriculum now teaches a first grade curriculum in kindergarten so kindergarten is fairly academic now and that is challenging for young kids. Ask your preschool teacher for their opinion, most have a good sense of who is ready. I am a parent of a middle schooler and it is at this time when kids are rapidly physically maturing and emotionally maturing that I can pick out the kids that are a year younger. It is painful to watch. I know several that are really struggling socially and academically. Most parents err on the side of waiting to start their child in kindergarten so younger kids really stand out and I have yet to see the benefit of starting a child younger rather than older. Thus the benefit of a bridge program.... Good luck
I'm sure you'll hear several points about what is bridge k but in case this one gets overlooked I'd like to add what kindergarten is these days--at least in public school. Kindergarten has sort of become the new first grade. I work in OUSD elementary school and see that there is very little time for free play and what I believe to be natural And Optimal development of young children's minds and creativity. As private school is probably not possible for us I wanted one more year for my fall birthday son to just be a kid playing and exploring with some introduction to academics in creative ways as well. We are very happy with the program at Step One where he is. Its a financial sacrifice for us to go the extra year in private preschool but step one helped us with generous financial aid Every parent I have spoken to with an adult son who got that extra year says they never regretted it. Several patents with older children boys who rushed them into K said they wish they hadn't. Anon bb
What is a bridge K class? This is a good question. The challenge for every parent is to enroll their child at the right time in the right school. With different cut off dates in both public and private schools the idea of a bridge K came about in a number of schools. You can look at GreatSChools and the California Association of Independent Schools for which schools offer a bridge K program. The more important questions is what grade your child should enter in the fall. Know your child and his/her developmental age in: language, gross and fine motor skills, social and cognitive aptitudes. Also, be aware of your own cultural and academic objectives for him/her. Your child's chronological age is relevant but so is their developmental age. Hopefully they are overall in synch. Should you need further assistance in determining your child's readiness for school, let me know. I am an Admissions Consultant in the East Bay. Good luck
My 4 y/o son is currently attending the pre-K class at his Montessori pre-school, and doing quite well. Academically he would be ready to start kindergarten next year, however my husband and I would like him to wait until he turns 6 (his birthday is at the very end of August). I think he will be bored in repeating the pre-K class he is currently enrolled in, and we'd like to find a bridge school before he starts kindergarten in 2 yrs, something in the El Cerrito/Albany/Berkeley area, and may be even willing to look beyond Richmond/El Sobrante or Oakland. Any recommendations, experience shared would be most helpful. Kristin
I think you should check out the bridge-K program at Step One School in the Berkeley Hills. This is probably the most 'academic' of the pre-K programs. june
My son was in the exact same situation last year and I applaud you for not rushing him ahead. We chose the Berkeley JCC's Bridge K class and were very happy! The class was 7 5yr old boys and a great teacher. They did some kindergarten prep work, but it wasn't overwhelming and they had plenty of outdoor play, neighborhood excursions and field trips, as well as singing, dancing, gardening and cooking. The facility isn't new and beautiful, but it was a great year and he has good memories of it. Gwen
I just posted this last time, but it's worth repeating. We actually travel from North Berkeley for this program, and the 15-18 minute commute is truly worth it!! Park Day School in Temescal (Oakland) has a WONDERFUL Bridge-K program. Our son is enrolled now and we couldn't be happier. It is play-based, with a ton of emotional/social-learning and warm care-taking, but combined with some structure and expectations in preparation for kindergarten. They offer some phonics, writing, etc, but that is not pushed. There is lots of art, music, science and exploration of the natural world. The teacher is just a gem, with many many years of experience, warmth, educational sophistication, and nearly super-human patience. We feel very blessed to have our son there.
We felt the same way about our son, and sent him to the JCC East Bay's bridge-K program and loved it. The teacher is amazing and the community was great! Sally
Our son is loving The Berkeley School's Bridge-K program--lots of literacy work, art work, original plays, and fabulous science (he'll be happy to tell you all about solids, liquids and gases). The primary teacher, Nancy Leiblich, is wonderful. She has been teaching at The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori) for a very long time (20+ years?), and she has loads of experience with both pre-schoolers and kindergartners. Check it out! Sarah
I'm looking for recommendations for bridge-K programs i.e. a year of classes for kids who are just under the 5 year kindergarten mark on sept 1st. In Oakland, either pre-schools or real schools. Ideally looking for somewhere that challenges the child both physically and mentally. Thanks, Becky
While it's not in Oakland, I and another Oakland family that we know chose the Berkeley JCC Bridge K program last year. While it's not a fancy facility, it was a small class (only 8 boys) with a wonderful teacher. The class did fun outdoor stuff, like walks around Berkeley, picnics, a visit to the Oakland museum and to a shoreline park in alameda, as well as artwork, singing, dancing, cooking, and gardening. They also did kindergarten readiness things like letter and number recognition, sorting, writing etc. You don't have to be Jewish to send your child there but they will learn songs and some holiday info. It was a great year. Gwen
Park Day School in Temescal (Oakland) has a WONDERFUL Bridge-K program. Our son is enrolled now and we couldn't be happier. It is play-based, with a ton of emotional/social-learning and warm care-taking, but combined with some structure and expectations in preparation for kindergarten. They offer some phonics, writing, etc, but that is not pushed. There is lots of art, music, science and exploration of the natural world. The teacher is just a gem, with many many years of experience, warmth, educational sophistication, and nearly super-human patience. We feel very blessed to have our son there.
We are seeking an opening for the 2011-12 school year at an excellent pre K program for our almost 5 yo daughter. We want a school that is warm and nurturing, has a high teacher/student ratio, is ethnically diverse and where a bright and shy child will thrive as a new incoming student. Any leads or recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thanks from a family moving to the east bay. sue
Hi! I have 2 sons, both with late fall birthdays. We had my older son continue with a Pre-K year at his local private school and he entered public Kindergarten at age 5 and turned 6 y.o. two months after the school year started. We don't regret waiting, at all. Kindergarten is no joke these days! What we do regret is spending over $38,000 for 3 years of playdough, snacks and napping when he could have been just as prepared and had just as much learning as at MCPC (Montclair Community Play Center). My 4 year old will be going starting there this fall, and it is amazing! There will be 2 incredibly overqualified teachers to about 10 children, and I love Teacher Therese already. Our private school had some great teachers, and some not-so-great teachers, and there was quite a bit of turnover and lots of drama. MCPC has been around a long time, they get it, I have done their Toddler programs and summer camps and it is always more organized than the private school was. Check it out, I have looked at many schools around the East Bay for over 7 years, and MCPC is still at the top of my list. lou
I'd urge you to take a look at The Lake School. Our son attended the Developmental Kindergarten (''DK'') program last year and loved every minute of it! It's a wonderful school, a fantastic program, and the philosophy and feel of the school are so, so special. The kids really benefit from the caring teachers and experienced Director. Come take a look! http://www.thelakeschool.org/index R.
- The Berkeley School's pre-school, which is launching a 5 year old program this fall, might be a good fit for your daughter. My son (who will be 5 at the end of September) has been enrolled at TBS this past year. It has been a GREAT experience for him--both academically and socially. We really can't say enough good things about his teachers, who have taken our rather shy, somewhat anxiety prone little guy and somehow transformed him into a confident, socially capable being. He is excited about learning and asking questions. He knows how to negotiate conflict with his peers. He has many friends (not true at his previous school). He LOVES going to school. We would keep him at the pre-school next year even without the new 5 year old program, but I think this program will give him yet more opportunities to grow. grechtel
My 5 1/2 year old son is currently in the Bridge K program at Step One School in Berkeley and I can honestly say deciding to enroll him in their amazing program has been the best decision I have made thus far! This is our third year at Step One School and last year I was faced with deciding to enroll him in public school kindergarten, or enrolling him in Step One's Bridge Kindergarten program. I just didn't feel he was emotionally or socially ready for kindergarten and thus chose Step One. My son is also very bright and quite painfully shy and the personal attention he and all the bridge k kids receive from the Step One teachers helped foster in him an amazing sense of self confidence. Over the past year I have watched him come into his own. Now, as he faces entering kindergarten in Public School this fall, I am fully confident that he has the social and emotional skills needed to flourish!
Although, leaving the warm, nurturing, diverse, rich Step One family will be very difficult for my son and I ....we do so knowing that our lives (and specifically my son's life) will forever be shaped by the love and dedication of the entire Step One faculty.
Step One is everything you are looking for and so much more! I encourage you to call them and arrange for a tour, I do believe they still have an opening for next fall. Their number is 510-527-9021 www.steponeschool.org good luck!! Cindy
We will be so sad to leave the amazing Little Red Schoolhouse as our daughter turns 5, and begins kindergarten. Gloria's decades of teaching experience, her multi-sensory lessons, and use of original songs, sign language, and dramatics with her students have been a highlight of our child's toddler, and pre-school years. John's cello playing for the children, his reading to them, and his gentle assistance with crafts, games (indoor, and out), and play add to the children's feelings of joy, and security. The pack of photos they give you every Monday of your child's previous week take the sting out of returning to work, and leaving your child for the day. Shall I mention the amazing events/performances? They sponsor the Little Red Apolis yearly with Big Wheel races, and ''driver'' biographies, they have multiple presentations around seasonal observations (a nut party, or other Fall theme for instance), and different units throughout including in past years Japan which included Children's Day, The Rainforest which included learning many animal names in Portuguese, Long, Long, Ago-- from the Big Bang, through pre-historic anthropology. Each unit includes sign language vocabulary, languages from geographical/cultural subjects, often with songs in foreign languages, or with sign accompaniment, and amazing craft projects. Gloria is creative, endlessly patient, has the personality required to be permanently enthusiastic in a room full of young children, and is a person of tremendous character. The class size is small-- I think around 10-12 total with several being part-time, and their hours are great: 7:30am-6pm. They are up in the Richmond hills, near the El Cerrito border, and have a lovely home, with a sweet yard. They usually sponsor visits in Winter, and accept students by early Spring, but a family with 2 children in the class moved unexpectedly, and so they have openings. Here's their phone (510) 234-5966, and their link: http://www.lrshpreschool.org/index2.php?page=look Beryle
My son has been enrolled in Global Montessori International School in Berkeley since the age of two and we love it! Small class size, wonderfully kind and attentive teachers and staff, and immersion education of children in Mandarin are what make this program special. They provide potty training as well. The kids have dual exposure to english and mandarin at the upper levels. Extracurricular activities include gardening, cooking, art under the guidance of MOCA, Soccer shots, field trips to various museums, visiting musicians, and education on various topics ranging from dental hygiene to Asian cultures. The kids achieve a very high level of proficiency in math at a early age. Because they are learning both languages at such an early age, both come naturally and pronunciation seems to be quite clear for each respective language without accents or crossovers. The kids just seem to know to speak Mandarin to the Chinese speakers and English to the English speakers. If you really want your child to fully develop both sides of his or her brain in an attentive, loving environment, this is the place for you. Over half of the kids enrolled come from backgrounds with no Mandarin, so no need to worry if you're a non-speaker like me :)I Vivian
The Rose Kindergarten in El Sobrante is the most wonderful place I can imagine for a pre-K child. They have a couple of very rare fall openings -- don't miss out on a wonderful opportunity! Both my children were lucky enough to attend Diana Mei's fabulous program. My son, now 12, absolutely thrived in her care. Her program is Waldorf-inspired, but not dogmatic. Although Waldorf was not a good fit for my son once he entered 1st grade, his time in the Rose Kindergarten was invaluable to him and one of his happiest times. My daughter, 5 1/2, is at the Rose Kindergarten now. She adores it and has blossomed there. It's located on 2 gorgeous acres of oaks, redwoods, native flowers, fruit trees. The children pick grapes and make juice in the fall. They garden & care for the chickens all year. They cook and eat the most wonderful, nourishing food. They make art and music and have yoga & Spanish weekly and learn ASL. Children can stay at the school through Kindergarten and go directly to 1st grade; a great option if you need a full Kindergarten day or don't want heavy academics in Kindergarten. A wonderful, supportive & vibrant parent community too which is a great resource for parents & families. Absolutely highest recommendation. Karin
I am having a hard time identifyingBridge/Transitional kindergarten programs in the East Bay through my online research. Is there a list of such programs (public or private), or any specific suggestions?
We may be moving back for this fall or at the beginning of the year, and our son turns five in October. He is just ready for kindergarten developmentally (and would go to our local public school in Davis if we do not move), but if we are also moving then a year in a transitional/slower-paced setting might help. We are considering Alameda or Walnut Creek, so anything in Alameda/Oakland/Walnut Creek/Lafayette would be most convenient.
Any suggestions on specific programs/schools, or are there ''magic words'' when searching? Thanks!! Looking for the in-between
I'd urge you to take a look at The Lake School. Our son attended the Developmental Kindergarten (''DK'') program last year and loved every minute of it! It's a wonderful school, a fantastic program, and the philosophy and feel of the school are so, so special. The kids really benefit from the caring teachers and experienced Director. Come take a look! http://www.thelakeschool.org/index R.
In Alameda, Garner Learning Center (run by Bright Horizons) has 2 bridge-K classrooms and 1 kindergarten classroom (which many people also use as a bridge-K program). We chose to delay our son a year for kindergarten and put him in one of the bridge-K classes there - we couldn't be happier. It's a wonderful place and the kids come out more than ready for kindergarten. Garner Mama
Hi. Please check out the website to the Heavenly Touch Preschool Program. It's a home base program, but do not be deceived by it being in home. It is far from a daycare, high quality program, ran by a young lady with her M.A. in education from Mills College. The curriculum is project based and writing, pre reading, and math are incorporated into every theme. I could go on, but you should visit for yourself. www.heavenlytouchpreschool.vpweb.com Hope that helps moon
Contact Berkeley Unified School District and ask about their new (in its second year) Pre-k Bridge program called ''High Fives'' offered at Washington Elementary school. Birthdays between Sept and Dec are invited to go to this transitional program with the same hours as Kindergarten, free of charge. Your other alternatives are private pre-schools. Berkeley Parent
The Berkeley School (http://theberkeleyschool.org/) is rolling out a bridge program next year at their Early Childhood Campus (ECC). The program is called ECC5 and is designed for kids that are hovering around kindergarten ready, that are ready in some areas but not others, or are ready in all areas but for whatever reason would benefit from a bridge program. The ECC has lots of experience in educating pre-schoolers and kindergarteners alike, so they will be ready, willing and able to tailor the ECC5 to the individual needs of the students. IC-m an ECC alum, my oldest (November birthday) is graduating from the ECC after three years this year, and IC-ll likely be sending my twins there year after next. We love it and could not recommend it more highly. Good luck! SLN
Our son is just finishing a year in the bridge-K class at Park Day School; it has been a wonderful year for him. He was ready for something more than preschool, but wasnC-t quite ready to start kindergarten. This was an ideal solution for us. The class has a much more structured environment than preschool, so the kids start to get the feel of school (they have circle time every morning). They are exposed to reading, writing, math but there is no pressure for them to learn them (yet our son has started to read with almost no coaching from us). The teacher is amazing; she has developed a very rich curriculum; filled with art, finding art in nature, recurring themes and projects, outside play and projects, science (such as studying water and its different properties), lots of socializing and play (thereC-s a big block area and dress-up corner). There is always a focus on play and stimulating and supporting their interests. I hope this is helpful, good luck in your search! anon
My son is finishing up at the JCC East Bay's Bridge-K program. He has had an amazing year in a very intimate class led by an incredible teacher. I think all of the parents in the class would agree with me! Sally
After reading all the bridge and pre-K information on BPN, I still find myself searching for what I want, so I thought I'd ask. We may be sending our young 5yo boy to bridge or pre-K in the fall of 2012, and I'm researching schools now. I'm looking for a program that is mornings-only (not afternoons) and doesn't cost as much as college. If you know of a reasonably priced, morning bridge K program that you've been happy with from personal experience, please tell me about it! -Hunting for Bridge K
Step One School in Berkeley has openings for their Bridge-K program. We have really loved it for our child. It is 5 mornings a week (with an option to do afternoons as well). I would definitely recommend you contact them and go and visit. Their website is steponeschool.org. Or you can call them 510 527 9021. Good luck Step One parent
We sent our oldest daughter to the bridge K program at Step One School in Berkeley. Her birthday is in October and we felt as though she would benefit from an extra year in a pre-K program before elementary school. She thrived in that environment and was so well prepared for her first year at our local public school. The learning was so thoughtful and infused with play that she didn't even realize she was ''working''. Time and time again during her first year at elementary school (she's in first grade now) she would say, ''Oh, we did that at Step One''. I would highly recommend the program, and specifically the brilliant teachers Steve and Gege. Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk more. Sarah
Our child is having a great year in the Kindergarten Transition/Bridge classroom at Montessori Family School in El Cerrito. The classroom accommodates children ages four to six. Our child is one of ten children in the KT classroom with two excellent teachers, one male and one female. This year our child is receiving incredible individual attention and is engaged academically and socially. He is developing a solid self-confidence, interacting with peers in the safety of his classroom as well as playing sports in the play yard with his classmates and older children as well. He is now ready to dive into the elementary classroom at MFS and go. Our experience in KT has been exceptional. Happy with Bridge-K at MFS
I need recommendations for a transitional kindergarten or preschool in El Cerrito/East Richmond/Albany/North Berkeley area that has a good program for older preschoolers. My daughter will be almost five at the start of next school year (Nov bday) but is a little young emotionally for kindergarten. Her current preschool is not an option as we are moving out of the area. Thanks! anon
We have a 'young' 5 year old at the JCC East Bay's new Bridge-K program and couldn't be happier. He is making great friendships and feeling so positive about learning, I highly recommend it. The teacher is great and the community wonderful! Sally
We just re-located to Berkeley don't know what to do about school next year. We are looking for either a Bridge-K or a challenging 4/5's pre-school program for our terrific son who will be 5 in September. I'd like to give him another year before sending him to K. We missed all the application processes so we are at a loss. Does anybody know of any schools with openings? Thanks.
I highly recommend Montessori Family School, and I know that they still have places available for next year. They are located at Scenic and Hearst, right across the street from Cal. Their ''Kindergarten Transition'' program might be just what you're looking for, based on your post. Our son has been very happy at MFS and has been thriving both socially and academically. The teachers are amazing, and we really like the atmosphere in the classroom and at the school generally. The teachers do a wonderful job figuring out what each child is ready for. The after school program is also terrific, with outstanding teachers. Happy MFS parent
Tehiyah Day School, a Jewish community-oriented school in El Cerrito, is starting up a bridge K program for fall 2010. There will be bus service from Berkeley and Oakland. They have hired a terrific program director and will be using a newly renovated building. The curriculum will have a strong science focus. They will also be providing hot lunch on a daily basis. I will be sending my daughter there to be part of their first class. I believe they still have one or two spaces available for the fall. Elisabeth
It's not billed as a bridge-K program, but my late Fall birthday boy is at Escuala Bilingue Internacional (EBI). It is Spanish emersion, so you might want to ask how many other new kids would be joining in Mid-K (as the year before Kindergarten is called). It's a great program with an engaging mix of activities, art, gardening, PE, and Kindergarten prep. anne
Welcome to the area! The JCC of the East Bay in North Berkeley has added a Bridge-K program to their excellent preschool. There are still a few spaces available, but you may have to act quickly. Our kids went to the preschool, and did absolutely great there - we are big fans. For more info: http://prod.jcceastbay.org/childhood/bridgek Good Luck! *** Happy JCCEB family
If you would consider a school in North Oakland, I suggest you contact Flo Hodes at Park Day School. Their Bridge-K program is taught by the beyond-fantastic Harriet Cohen, and I could not imagine a better experience for a child than to spend a school year in Harriet's classroom. She is absolutely remarkable; a living legend! Satisfied Parent
Hi! I can highly recommend Berkeley Hills Nursery School (849- 1216; Franca is the director) for your son. It's not a Bridge K per say, but children come out ready for kindergarten! The program is play based, but the teachers are fabulous at creating an engaging and enriching program. Check it out. There are still a few spots in the 4-5 year old program. Good Luck! Happy preschool mama
Montclair Community Play Center (MCPC) in Oakland is starting a Bridge K program for next year. The program is afternoons only, with parents helping in the classroom once every three weeks. It is looking very exciting. There are a few more spaces available. Email preschool [at] mcpckids.org to schedule a tour and find out more. jolie
My almost 6 kid (who's currently a Kindergartner) went to a really good preschool in El Cerrito (very close to Solano Av). Is a bilingual preschool (English and Spanish) where they can prepare the kids for the challenge of Kindergarten. When we moved here (2 years ago) my son didn't speak much English and thanks to that preschool is doing perfectly fine in an all English speaking class. The teachers are two nice ladies who treat the students like family while preparing them for that new world they will find in Kindergarten. Also they have a small farm where they grow (and eat) their own fruits and vegetables and music and gymnastic classes. My youngest child is now attending this preschool, so I happen to know that they still have openings. Give them a call. The school name is ''Rising Sun'', (510) 5286041. Good luck! Carmen
Have you tried talking to Amy Utstein, Director of Admissions at Tehiyah Day School (510-233-3013) in El Cerrito about openings at their Bridge-K. We decided to send our daughter (who will turn 5 in January) to this brand new program in the fall. I am very impressed with the schools commitment to learning and to creating a challenging environment for the students. I have also been pleased with the director they hired. Susan is clearly great with the kids and has many years of early education experience with a focus on science. When we toured the school, we fell in love and continue to be impressed with the quality of kids they produce. My daughter is a precocious and, yes, sassy little one that is academically beyond her age group but socially needs another year. We had to make a very hard decision because she is at a school we love but ultimately decided that the Tehiyah Bridge K was the right environment for her. I encourage you to consider the Tehiyah Bridge-K. I believe there are spots available. anon
I would like to highly recommend Tehiyah's new Bridge k program. I cannot say enough good things about Tehiyah in general, but I am also really impressed with what I saw during the tour of the bridge k program. The head teacher is amazing! Very thoughtful and creative. Her background is in the sciences and she really wants the kids to learn through experience. I am extremely excited about the messy room. The kids are just going to go to town with materials and ideas. They are going to be encouraged to explore and create. The art teacher, who I have known for 3 years now is one of the best I've ever seen. She is very process oriented. She really wants the kids to explore different mediums. She also uses her lessons to teach childen about different artists and different cultures. I cannot wait until my son starts in the fall. This is going to be a unique and one of a kind experience. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. I have a lot more to say, but not enough room. Lara
Tehiyah Day School now has a Bridge Kindergarten! Check out this link for a wealth of information about the program as well as contact information: http://www.tehiyah.org/Learning_at_Tehiyah/Bridge_K/ Joan
We love The Berkeley School! And while the program isn't specifically labelled ''Bridge-K,'' you should tour and see for yourself whether your son would be happier at the Early Childhood Campus or the Elementary/Middle School Campus. Without knowing your child, it's hard for me to say. Our child started at age 3 and is now in 2nd grade and is really happy there. www.theberkeleyschool.org Happy TBS Parent
There are spaces available at the JCC East Bay for Bridge-K children. Contact Ruth Shorer at 510-848-0237 x122 Ruth
I highly recommend Tehiyah Day School's new Bridge-K. My husband and I researched and toured the various programs in the area and felt Tehiyah was the best for our son.
We are very excited about the new curriculum which incorporates science (ecology and conservation)into the classsroom. Tehiyah's community is warm, inclusive and extremely supportive. This is very important to my husband and me.
Please feel free to email or phone (510) 891-1809. Details about the program are available at: www.tehiyah.org/Learning_at_Tehiyah/Bridge_K/
FYI--Meals are provided as well as free bus service to and from school. violette
Step One in North Berkeley has an amazing bridge-K program. They have one spot left. Their facility is wonderful with lots of outside space, gardens, outside kitchen, etc. The community of parents is very welcoming. It is the perfect program for a child that isn't quite ready for kindergarden. http://www.steponeschool.org/ NB
My 4 yr-old daughter is maybe not quite ready for Kindergarten next year so we'd like to find a pre-K or bridge-K program for her where she can begin to learn the skills and routines of ''real'' school but in a fun, supportive and creative environment. Any recommendations? Thanks! Sue A.
Linda Beach Cooperative Preschool has an afternoon PreK program for kids that turn 5 between August and December(ish). My son goes there now and it's been great for him. Teachers are wonderful, small class size (11 this year) is perfect, balance of play vs structure is ideal. Social and emotional growth are key elements of the program. Call 547-4432 to schedule a tour or visit www.lindabeach.org. Or email me. Rachel
The JCC in North Berkeley is starting a Bridge-K next year for kids like yours. The current ECE director will be directing it--she's great, and currently directing the preschool (where my daughter is--she loves it), and they'll be providing everything you mention. Although it is a Jewish Community Center, and has some Jewish content, it is open to all, and there are lots of kids in their afterschool programs who are not Jewish. You can call Ruth Shorer at 510 848 0237 x122 for more info. JCC parent
My 4 year old is in a similar situation. He is currently at MCPC (which we love!) and they are starting a new bridge-k program this year. It sounds amazing. The parent info night is Thursday, February 4th at 7:00. Good Luck! lori
I think my son's preschool, Keystone Montessori in El Cerrito, would be a great fit for your daughter. We have decided to send my son to private school and he misses their birthdate cutoff by just a few weeks. On top of that, we think he would benefit from being more socially mature so we are keeping him at his preschool for another year. The beauty of a Montessori classroom is that it is designed to be mixed age but the school has also developed some unique materials and activities specifically for the group of kindergarten age kids whose parents choose for them to stay there either for kindergarten or as a bridge- K. This group gets special lessons and work that is fun yet challenging. There is great friendships built based on the amount of work the children do together and this group of older kids really blossom as they are looked towards by the younger ones in the classroom as role models and leaders. You can check out their website at: www.keystonemontessori.org. Best of luck with your search. Happy Keystone Parent
Saklan Valley School in Moraga is a lovely little nursery - 8 school. Our daughter attended their PreK program the year she was 4-turning-5 and, as you describe, not ready for K but beyond another year of play-based preschool. It was wonderful, fantastic, fun -- just the right amount of learning and structure balanced with plenty of play and hands-on activities. For example, they have a superb pre-reading curriculum that she just loved. Another example -- the music teacher -- she still talks about and imitates her fabulous Saklan Valley music teacher.
Saklan is in Moraga which isn't as far as it might sound from Oakland -- especially going the back way from the Montclair area, it's just a 15-20 min hop over the hill. They've got a perfect little playground, kind and well-trained teachers, a very happy environment. It's an excellent little school in general -- in fact we would have stayed until 8th grade, except that in the end we decided it was a bit too small for our child (one class per grade). That smallness is a real advantage in many ways, however, so I highly recommend having a look. anon
We're looking for a pre-K program for our son for the 2010-11 school year (he will be 5 in the Fall of 2010). We don't need a 6 hour long program which is what most of them seem to offer. We would love to find a 9-1 program at an affordable price. Any recommendations?
Growing Light Montessori school (with campuses in Oakland and Kensington) has a 1/2 day option. It is a wonderful Montessori with well trained teachers, and a warm, caring environment. Both my children went there, and we highly recommend it. A happy parent
I can highly recommend New House Day School, on the corner of Hopkins and Alameda in N.Berkeley as a fabulous preschool with a shorter day and 3 to 5 day a week options, M-F from 8:30 to 3:30. We currently have our 3.5 year old there. She loves it and is excited to go to ''school'' where they strike a lovely balance between free play, structured play, and learning. My now 7 year old just the other day said that his time at New House was ''the best time of his life so far''. There is a sun- filled yard with swings and playhouses and a veggie garden and apple tree, loads of art projects inside, a whole two rooms devoted to play and dress-up, and teachers who are loving and fun. Dance and music classes weekly, and walks to library for story time there. My older kids were extremely well prepared for Kindergarten, both academically and socially. The director is Mabel Perez, 524-3465. Rebecca
We moved here last month, and I am looking for a placement for my 4 1/2 year old son in Berkeley, Oakland, or Alameda (live in Berkeley, work in San Leandro. I would love to get input on ideas of the best place for him. Because he is a fall birthday (11/1/04 bday) and doesn't seem ready for kindergarten, I have been looking at Bridge K programs for him. It would be ideal though, to find a Pre- K/Kindergarten combo class. Do these exist anymore? He is extremely tall for his age and likes playing with older kids, so I like the idea of him being mixed with Kindergarten students.
As for Bridge K programs, I have had my eye on Step One (waitlisted), Park Day (nice but $$), Hearts Leap (full), Grand Lake Montessori (full), JCC of the East Bay(will visit), Home Sweet Home in Alameda (will visit). Am I missing anyplace? It is not easy to find an opening this time of year. Would love to send him to the same place for the summer as well, if possible. Thank you for your ideas! gm
We live in Alameda and send our son to Bright Horizons at Garner Learning Center. http://centers.brighthorizons.com/garner/ We absolutely love it there - the faculty and the facilities are wonderful. They have a bridge-K program as well as a private kindergarten. Depending on your child and their skill set, I'm sure that one of them would be a great fit prior to public kindergarten. Another Mom of a Fall Birthday Boy
We looked at pre K programs last year for our son who was turning 5 in December. We ended up at Berkeley Montessori and have been very happy with the school. You can check to see if they still have any spots for next year. It's a great school, and our son has thrived there. You can look online at http://www.bmsonline.org/index.php
We are considering a move to Berkeley from NY - my primary concern is finding a preschool for our 4 year old boy/girl twins that can still take them. To give them a bit of stability we want to consider a preschool that offers a kindergarten program as well.(though it's not essential) We come from a coop preschool the demands on the parents are pretty minimal, so anything that requires a weekly all day visit from parents is not something of interest. Oh one more thing, because we have not settled on a town I am guessing Berkeley/Albany/poss oakland. Thanks for your help. Newcomer from NY
Check out Growing Light Montessori, which has campuses in Kensington (10 min. drive from Berkeley, 5 min. from Albany), and in Oakland. The school goes from toddler classroom through kindergarten. There's no parent participation requirement. More over, it is an authentic Montessori school, a warm community with well trained staff members and teachers who have a remarkably low turn-over, and also, it has a low teacher/student ratio. My older daughter graduated from there last year, and the younger one is still happily thriving there. The school works wonders. Katrine
I'll put in another good word for Lakeshore Children's Center in Oakland. It is a play-based, full-time preschool geared toward working parents. The kids are divided into two houses of about 24 kids each (the 2's & 3's and the 4's & 5's), but both groups have ample play time together They have a bridge K program. Not a co-op; they ask for 12 hours of volunteer effort per family per year. And perhaps most importantly, the last two years, since my daughter has been there, they have had openings well into the fall. A happy LCC parent
Try Hummingbird Montessori Preschool, Albany. We love it! Home-based of 10-12 kids with 2 teachers who are kind, disciplined, and care about their students. My 2 daughters (almost 3 and 5yr old) are there. My older one started since she was 2.5 yr old. For the past 2 years, the kids have had really gymnastic class and swimming class. They are looking for more 4 yr old since some of the bigger students will be moving on to K. I have had good experience with the school. Worth checking out. The number is 510.524.8007 Jeanne Devin
Albany mother of 2
If you are not already a member, I would suggest joining Twins by the Bay (www.twinsbythebay.org), which is a great support group in the East Bay for families with multiples. They have a listserve like this one to which you could post this question. Best, Daria (mom of twins and member of TBB)
There's plenty of discussion and advice in the archives about whether to send a kid with a December birthday to K or to hold them back. I'm gathering that there's not a lot I can do about my daughter who will be ready to go to kindergarten, but because of a mid-December b'day won't be eligible until 2010.
My question is, where do they go in the intervening year? We are at a great play-based preschool right now, but I can't really see her spending another year there, especially since most, if not all, of her classmates will be in K next year. (If the other kids weren't going, I'd be happy to keep her there.) Being the only 5 year old with a bunch of 3-4 year olds is not going to cut it.
So what programs did you choose for your kid and why? She loves school so I want her to be challenged and around similarly aged kids. And I think that she's ready to do more - although I'd consider a play-based program if it had enough older kids.
I'm looking for advice and recommendations. Many thanks! claire
I would suggest the Berkeley Montessori School for your daughter. They will be starting a blended K-1st grade class at their university campus in the fall. My daughter, a late September baby, is in her 3rd year at the Early childhood campus. We chose this school precisely because they didn't arbitrarily place children in grades according to their age. When touring many of the private schools we were often faced with the Sept.1st cut-off. BMS doesn't use this system and opts instead to blend children into age groups that are socially and academically beneficial. My daughter loves the school and is very excited to attend the Upper elementary campus next year. Give them a call to schedule a tour. Good Luck. Happy BMS parent
At Ecole Bilingue (the French-American school in Berkeley), the cut-off is December... I don't think there is a specific day in December. In my children's classes, there have been children who had late December birthdays and so were quite young compared to some of their classmates. You don't say if exploring private schools is an option, but here is one that will let younger kids (December birthdate) do kindergarten if they are ready. Good luck to you and your daughter. eb parent
Have you looked at any Montessori preschools near you? Not sure where you live but I have one child currently enrolled at Keystone Montessori in El Cerrito and because of the mixed age environment, there are plenty of kids who are 5. Some are there because they miss the cut-off and others actually choose to stay for kindergarten. The school is well established, has fantastic caring teachers and a great program. My first went there as well and was well prepared for kindergarten. Most importantly, we learned that being ready for kindergarten meant emotional and social readiness more than academic readiness and I think Keystone does a great job in that area. Good luck with your search and if El Cerrito is doable, I'd highly recomment checking Keystone Montessori out. Happy Keystone Parent
My boy will be 5 in July and yes, old enough for a regular K class, but it's not looking like he'll be mature enough for one, especially if we want to go public. He needs another year, and we are looking for programs in the Oakland area that fill the gap between preschool and K. He's reading, and starting to write, so I want him to continue to move forward academically at his pace, while getting a little more time to develop socially and emotionally.
I've looked at the preK recs (Beacon, Lakeshore Learning, etc.) and then when I go to their websites, see no mention of preK anywhere! We are looking for a one year program with kids who are all his similar age. If we wanted, we could keep him at his old preschool, but we were looking for the next level. He might be okay at his preschool for about half the year, but I think the second half will be hard for him.
So, do Pre K (or even developmental K) programs exist anymore? any recommendations? I would appreciate any leads. I may even be able to go to Berkeley if that's the only option. -Mama of a boy who needs more time
Check into Linda Beach Preschool. My son attended their pre-k program for a year and had a great year there. The hours are short (12-2:45), but he got the extra year he needed to get ready for kindergarten. It is truly a pre-k. The program is three years old now. There are families from Oakland and Piedmont at the school. The school is located in the Piedmont Community church on Highland Ave.. Children from Linda Beach go on to Oakland public, Piedmont public and independent schools. Happy former pre-k parent
I believe that Lakeshore Children's Center on Lakeshore Ave offers pre-K. My neighbor has a daughter who went there last year (she has a Feb birthday, so went from 4.5 to 5.5) and was very happy with her progress there. Website: http://www.lakeshorechildrencenter.org/index a Neighbor
The Piedmont Rec Dept offers a pre-K program Monday-Friday from 12:30-3:30. You don't have to be Piedmont residents--many kids in the rec dept programs aren't. Our kids have not done pre-K (it's new as of last year) but have done preschool through the rec dept and we have nothing but great things to say about the programs and teachers. Check it out at: http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/recreation/pre-k.shtml
We'll be sending our daughter to preschool at 3yrs 9 mos next fall. She is precocious and has a late December birthdate. Does anyone have a recommendation for a preschool with an accredited Kindergarten program that might put her into K despite her late Dec birthday? Giving her options
Come visit Beatie Street in Oakland off of Park. There are only 15 kids and instruction is differentiated to support both preschoolers and kindergardeners. There are two instructional circle times per day with all kids participating at their developmental level and then there is individualized instruction for kids who have shown reading readiness (most of these are of Kindergarten age). Many students graduate and move into first grade while others, though most can already read, go into kindergarten. The program is both Montessori and play-based, a unique combination that seems to work great for the kids. Beatie Street's director, Judy Kahn is a passionate and committed teacher and is a wonderful person. The school is committed to creating a strong community, having diversity (in all senses of the word), and also offers sliding scale tuition. Full time only and commitment through kindergarten is preferred. Marielle
I am looking for a Pre-K program for Sept '06 for my son who was born in December. He will miss the cut-off for Kindergarten at Hillcrest next year and will already have attended two years of a Montessori preschool. Ideally, I am looking for a program that would seperate kids his age from the younger preschoolers and from the true kindergarteners. We live in Oakland but are willing to travel. Any suggestions? Thanks! Natasha
- Beacon Day School
- Hearts Leap Pre-K Program
- Linda Beach Cooperative Preschool
We are looking for a pre-k program for our 4 yr old sons. I would love to hear your recommendations on schools; hints on what to look for and any other information you think might be useful. Thank you! ajg
I am looking for a school with pre-kindergarten openings for this Fall. My son is 4 years old and his current school advises me he will thrive in an environment with play and some structure. He is coming from Treehouse (First Covenant) and the director informs me provides they provide ''too much structure'' for my child. I am looking for an alternative for this summer and fall, because they will only provide coverage from 9-12pm because of the situation. We live in Glenview in Oakland. Any advice or help is greatly appreciated. Thank you. tyche Recommended:
- Linda Beach Cooperative Preschool
- Step One School Pre-K program
I've checked the archives but didn't find answers specific to my question...Our daughter has a January birthday and won't start kindergarten until she is 5 1/2, in Fall 2005. She has never been in preschool, but is ready, and will go this fall, for the year before kindergarten. Does anyone have any recommendations for a North Berkeley preschool that is well-suited to 4.5 year olds? Larger, more structured, like a ''real'' school, (as opposed to a small, unstructured, homebased one)? She is a bright, sociable girl who gets along well with peers as well as adults. Thanks much. a Berkeley mom
Dear Berkeley mom:
I suggest that you consider some of the Montessori style preschools. The Montessori preschools are usually designed to be a three-year program ending with a kindergarten year. Thus, they are often ideal for children who are older but not quite old enough for private and public school enrollment. My particular favorite is Berkeley Montessori...which has the added advantage of a separate K-8 program. (It is a school at a very exciting time in its institutional evolution. The K-8 program is moving to brand new digs at University and Acton in February.) Their Pre-School program is located in a wonderfully cozy nook at Shattuck and Francisco. (The climbing tree there is just awesome!) Call 843-9374 and talk with Diane Johnson, the Director of Admission.
Another good Montessori program is Growing Light Montessori. It has a Pre K/Kindergarten class at both of their locations - one of which is in Kensington. Their Kindergarten teacher, Deborah Carr, is the best! Call Maggie Scheving at 527-1278.
Another North Berkeley pre-school is Step One on Spruce. I was the Director of Admission at Bentley School, evaluating children for kindergarten admission from a wide variety of preschools. Step One's kids were very well prepared for the accelerated curriculum...again because of the availability of a kindergarten bridge year. They also have a very organized parent outreach and education program. Call Sue Britson at 527-9021.
Try Gay Austin School on Hopkins in North Berkeley. My daughter is there now and we love it. They may have openings in the fall for the 4s program. Andrea
I have been scouring the website while researching possible schools for my children when we move to the East Bay area. There was one topic I did not see mentioned. My boys will at the time of our move be 4 going on 5 (in Dec). I do not want them to be young kindergarteners as this can be hard on boys so I am very interested in knowing if there are any good schools (public and/or private) that offer a junior kindergarten or pre- kindergarten program that would lead into regular kindergarten the following year. This would give my guys a little more stability since they will already have changed schools twice by the time we move and will be adjusting to our re-location as well. Much thanks, CB
- Beacon Day School preschool program
- Duck's Nest Preschool Pre-K program
- Seven Hills School preschool program
- Step One School Pre-K program
- White Pony Preschool 3 years of preschool
Pre-K vs. Pre-schoolMarch 1999
Based upon the visits I made to pre-k programs a year ago, the main difference between a pre-k program and regular pre-school(assuming the pre-school is a developmental, free play oriented school) is that the pre-k's are more structured timewise, (circle time, readingtime, free play time, "centers" time) spend more time on "academics" (alphabet, math manipulatives,some phonics, etc.) and assigned projects to improve fine motor skills (cutting, pasting,writing). If your child's pre-school already does some of this, there is probably no reason to switch to a pre-k program. Generally speaking, I found the pre-K programs attached to pre-schools to be very much like preschool, while the pre-k programs attached to elementary schools, RedwoodDay and one in Moraga whose name I can't recall, to be more "academic". The Moraga school in particular had a very structured routine, with flashcards and worksheets to be done daily.
We chose to send our son to a pre-k program because he has a late September birthday and we felt he needed to mature for another year before enrolling him in kindergarten. He had also been at his preschool (a totally developmentally oriented, play based school) since he was two and felt that he needed some new and different stimulation. Although we and he loved his pre-school, we felt that he had "done it all" there and would probably be bored if we continued for one more year.
We enrolled our son at Redwood Day's Junior Kindergarten program because it seemed like a good balance between the two kinds of pre-k programs. Lots of stimulating academics, but presented in a fun way and also a lot of "free choice" time and outdoor time. Unfortunately, this school has been a terrible "fit" for my son and our family. Although their program is a good balance between academics and play and the environment, materials, and curriculum are rich and stimulating, the school culture is extremely rigid and bureaucratic. Also, the JK teacher, although very competent in presenting the curriculum and providing stimulating and varied activities, is quite cold and critical. Although I admittedly have a very spirited and challenging child who tests every limit to the max and can push anyone's buttons, the parents of many of the other JK students feel the same way. Although my child has greatly enjoyed and benefitted from the academics at the school, he has had a difficult time socially and emotionally. I would avoid it if you have a "spirited" child, an extremely bright child, or a child that needs extra help.
A few notes re other pre-k's: The other pre-k I visited was at Heart's Leap School. I didn't care for the director or the teacher but you might feel differently.
From: melissa (3/99)
I'd like to recommend Step One's bridge kindergarten program. Our daughter, with an October birthday, had a wonderful year there between preschool and kindergarten at Jefferson (in Berkeley). Great teachers (Marla and Gigi), nice school culture, and everyone in the class seemed to be really happy, learning, and enjoying themselves. It was a great decision for our October girl.