Via Nova Children's School

Community Subscriber

Berkeley, CA

To see Department of Social Services records on this facility, click on its DSS Facility License # below.

DSS Facility License #: 
Via Nova Children's School
(510) 848-6682
vianovachildrensschool [at]
S. Berkeley on MLK
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
English, Spanish
Ages Served: 
24 months - 72 months
Monthly Cost: 
8:00am - 5:00pm
Additional Services & Features: 
Pre-K program, Year-round, Potty training support, Special needs support
About Our Program: 

Via Nova Children's School is a community of teachers, parents and children working and learning together through play. We provide a safe, warm and nurturing environment in which the uniqueness of each child is honored.

At Via Nova, children come together as a community where they learn to develop relationships based on trust and respect while exploring new ideas and the world around them. The teachers, informed by the children's emerging interests, facilitate hands on and cooperative learning that fosters the children's social, emotional, cognitive and physical growth.

Parent Reviews

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Via Nova near Ashby BART may be a good fit. You would be providing the food, but it meets the other criteria. 

We are not native Spanish-speakers but I speak pretty well and have lived in Latin America, and I wanted our kids to learn Spanish. We sent our older son to Mi Mundo and although most kids speak English at home it is truly immersion - teachers only speak Spanish, including if the kids say something to the teachers in English, the teachers translate it back to them in Spanish. The kids speak English to each other but Spanish to the teachers, and our son was speaking it really well after two years. Our younger son is at Via Nova, which calls itself bilingual but it is definitely less than half in Spanish (we love it for other reasons, but this is a big downside).

If I were you I would do everything you can to keep up the Spanish until the TWI assessment - once your kid is into Sylvia Mendez, she'll get so much Spanish reinforcement, but if she doesn't test into the Spanish-speaking lottery it's very hard. My son tested in for TK, but then the pandemic hit and we couldn't find a way to keep it up and he didn't test in for K and we are really really sad about it - obviously our experience is different because we aren't reinforcing it well enough at home, but just wanted to reiterate how brutal the TWI lottery is!

I adore our preschool, Via Nova in Berkeley (right by Ashby BART station).  After my son went to a montessori preschool, I moved him to Via Nova (based on a friends recommendation), and it was the best decision!   He completely blossomed, was utterly engaged, and often begged to stay longer at pick him. My daughter is now in her second year, and Via nova continues to be an amazing place for kids to thrive.  While now my son is "distance learning" 3rd grade at home, I am so glad my daughter gets the regularity and fun of her dear friends and teachers at preschool.  Via Nova is our extended family.  My son wishes he could go back!   My kids are different, but both benefitted and loved the outside play, involved and elaborate art projects, and deeply supportive social environment.  We are so grateful.

Via Nova is a wonderful, play-based, dual language Spanish/English prorgram located near Ashby Bart. Our oldest daughter has been attending since she was three, and our two-year-old is now enrolled as well. The Director, Franca, is more knowledgable about early child hood education than any person I have ever known, and I used to work in childcare. She has put together an incredible staff who are warm, patient, caring, and creative. When SIP happened they pivoted rapppidly, offering remote circle time and music classes that kept our daughter connected to the other children and staff while we couldn't be together. Franca has been on top of all new COVID protocol training and the news, and has drastically altered the center to provide the highest level of safety to the staff and children. We were nervous to send our daughters back, but her constant communication about the safety measures taken has made us feel much more comfortable, and our children are thriving under their care. 

I wanted to echo the sentiments of some of the other parents who have talked about the wonderful community that is Via Nova.  Our five-year-old is in his third ("dino") year and our four-year-old is in his second ("lion cub") year.  I couldn't be more pleased with the school, the teachers, the director, and the other families that form this special and unique community.  We are a two-mom, mixed race family, and we feel very much welcomed and comfortable at Via Nova, and our children are thriving.  The teachers are incredibly caring, thoughtful, and nurturing with the children, and they teach the children the significance of kindness, respect, and friendship.  The kids receive a lot of outdoor time, along with weekly classes (e.g., gardening, singing, capoeira), regular trips to the nearest Berkeley library, and occasional trips further afield.  We have found a friendly and open community of other parents who see each other quite regularly through birthday parties, playdates, an annual camping trip, volunteer projects, etc.  The school hours and schedule (open until 6!) are great for working parents.  In short, I cannot recommend Via Nova more highly for children and parents alike, and I understand there may still be space for one more 4-5 year old for the 2018-2019 year. 

I wanted to wholeheartedly recommend Via Nova to anyone who is considering it. My children (5 and 3) have been attending Via Nova since August 2017 and we have been thrilled with their experience.  The teachers and all extremely knowledgeable, warm and loving toward the children. The outdoor play space is beautiful and their gardening teacher and program is a huge highlight and discussed on a daily basis by my kids.  The school director, Franca, has a personal connection to each child and her knowledge about early childhood education is especially impressive. In addition, the children have field trips to the library, Tilden park, music classes and capoiera classes as well! 

We just learned that as of today (3/26/2018) they have one space to fill in the 4 year old classroom starting on August 27, 2018. My son started when he was 4 because he wasn't eligible for TK (late December birthday) but we wanted him to be in a more kindergarten-like atmosphere since he was previously attending a home-based daycare. We couldn't be happier with this decision. He absolutely loves Via Nova and seems very ready for kindergarten in the fall.  Please feel free to reach out to me with any specific questions at all. Thanks! 

Have you considered Via Nova? Via Nova is a wonderful Reggio inspired school with a great play space directly across the street from Bart and has a very rare opening in its Dinosaur/pre-k classroom. My second child is entering the school now and love the highly experienced teachers and director and the space! 


      One of my granddaughters is just finishing her "Beluga" year as a 2 to 3 year old at Via Nova.  Last year my other granddaughter had an amazing year as a "Dinosaur" in their 4-5 year old program.  I cannot speak highly enough about the programs that are offered at this sight.  As a retired public school educator I have been doing some volunteer work there in the afternoons, so I have seen the growth in my granddaughters as I know them as Nana, but also have seen first hand the incredible work that is done by the current teachers at all three age level groupings as I serve as a quasi staff member. (Lion Cubs are the 3-4 year olds and my younger granddaughter will be one in September). Amazing that by encouraging creative play in their classrooms and on their inviting back yard play area, how much children learn about cooperation and life skills, along with the developmentally appropriate educational skills that

    Although usually full, registration booked well in advance, there are 2-3 openings in the Dinosaur group for the 2016-17 school year.   If you are looking, this school is worth a visit and conversation with the Director Franca.  The teacher to student ratio is low and the support for both students and parents is superb!

Via Nova is a true diamond in the rough! I feel so lucky to be a part of its community. They take a Reggio Emilia approach and let the kids learn through exploring their own interests. They also help children to learn Spanish. My child has brought home incredible art projects based on the themes they were exploring. I can't recommend it enough! If you are looking for a preschool, definitely schedule a visit. There is a coveted opening in the 5 year old class right now!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

May 2016

RE: Spanish language daycare/preschool

Check out Via Nova: It is a lovely preschool with some Spanish. I am writing this as a happy and grateful Via Nova alumni family. It is conveniently located in South Berkeley.

June 2013

The reviews of Via Nova Preschool are all over two years old, and I understand they've had some transitions in leadership/program over the last few years. Anyone have more recent feedback? How much time do the kids spend outdoors, and how are the current teachers? A parent in an old review says that the parent participation was burdensome for them, has that been your experience? Caitlin

Hi there - both of my daughters graduated from Via Nova (in 2010 & 2012), and the second one was there during the ''transition year'', which was the 2011-12 school year. I only have a few minutes to respond to your question - hopefully a current parent will pipe in, too. I must say, our family was happy with our experience.

As for the new director, Franca stepped right in and made the transition remarkably smooth. The only big change we noticed was a dramatic increase in communication, which was quite welcome.

I think any complaints people had about the volunteer hours were actually less about the number of hours (they weren't too many, and I always appreciated having the connection with the school) and more about getting the opportunities to fulfill the hours. In my opinion, this was a communication failure. And seeing how Franca has been an excellent communicator, I would guess that this has been resolved.

Good luck with your preschool search! Sofia

I know you wanted current families but my daughter graduated from Via Nova 1.5 years ago but we visit often and have followed the changes. The main change was the sudden death of the owner Tisha who was amazing. Since her passing the school was saved by committed parents, teachers and friends. The new head of the school Franca is wonderful. She is kind, caring and extemely well educated and experienced in child development and education. She was a former teacher at Via Nova who went on to run other programs. The school is doing wonderfully! Almost all of the teachers have been there for many years. The school has an amazing huge yard for play and a garden and the classrooms are filled with wonderful projects, art and play. The kids also take field trips. The parent participation in my opinion is great and quite flexible. Some people help in the classroom or teach enrichment, others help with office or website issues, others plan fundraisers or help with maintainence projects. There is something for everyone. These are the things that help keep Via Nova much more affordable than most Berkeley preschools and more diverse. The Spanish Language component is also a great plus! I highly recommend Via Nova. My child thrived there and loves to visit! former Via Nova Parent

We have been a happy Via Nova family for four years and counting! The new director, Franca, is wonderful - organized, truly dedicated to Via Nova, incredibly knowledgeable about early childhood development. She will often stop you to tell you a little story about your child's adventures that day! The teachers are some of the best! Long tenure, dedicated to the kids, and SO patient. Under their loving tutelage, our kids have learned how to relate to themselves and to others. Yes, a lot of parent participation is required - that is what has kept the tuition lower than most of other schools. a happy via nova parent

I am a current Via Nova parent (my daughter is 4, and my son (6 now in K) graduated from VN last year) and our family *loves* Via Nova. Our kids have very different interests/personalities (one more cerebral/science-oriented, and one more dramatic/physically exploratory), and both have loved it for different reasons, with teachers really "getting" each of them, their needs, and interests. We LOVE the teachers, who are warm, great with boundaries and helping kids express ideas and resolve conflicts, and great at stimulating the interests of the kids, and we love the focus on spanish and play. The new director, Franca Cioria, is lovely - she has been in early childhood education for ages, worked at Via Nova with the former director/owner (she helped found the two's program at VN 10 years ago), so was already familiar with many of the teachers (all of whom have stayed through the transition in leadership). Personally, I also love the other families and have made close friends and an overall strong community of Berkeley/Oakland families.

In terms of volunteer hours - the # hours vary (~ 16 hours/year for 1 kid and 2 adult family), but you can work the hours however it works for you (grilling at annual camping trip, helping at yard sale, helping out in other ways based on your strengths/interests). Highly recommend! Please feel free to email me for questions. There may be space for a girl in the fall. Check out the new website for lots of info: Liz

I am the mother of an almost 5 year old who is in her second year at Via Nova and I have no hesitation about recommending the school to prospective parents. It is a warm nurturing environment with caring, seasoned teachers who really teach kids how to be little citizens and get along with their peers. There is very little staff turnover, which I think speaks well of the school. They spend a good amount of time outdoors both in the morning and the afternoon - often left to the child's choice.

The school has changed hands in the last year and though people miss the prior director's style, I would say that overall I think the school is better organized. Some might feel that it has lost lost some of it's ''co-op'' identity in the transition. I still feel it is a great community of diverse like-minded families. The volunteering requirement is 18 hrs per year for a 2 parent family. We don't find it too burdensome and enjoy the involvement.

We have had a great experience at Via Nova, and though we are off to K in the fall, I plan on sending my second daughter to VN in a couple of years as well. happy Via Nova parent

Via Nova has been the most amazing experience for my family and I highly, highly encourage you to look into Via Nova for your family as well. The teachers are incredible, the families supportive, the learning & play methodology was all the best fit for us - not to mention the wonderful yard and gardening program, in addition to field trips, art, music and more. We were at the school during the transition you spoke of, and, though it feels too personal for me to write about publicly, I will gladly answer any questions you have directly if you (or anyone for that matter) contacts me directly.

I will say that the new Director, Franca, was the best thing that could have happened to Via Nova during this transitional period, and the school and children are thriving as a result. As for the volunteering, I don't want to minimize anyone else's experience around this, but, for me, the sense of community I felt from working closely with other families at the school these last years also helped my family to get through some challenging times in our own lives as well, and I don't know that we would have felt that support had we not all volunteered in school activities together.

Basically, I encourage you to contact me, contact the school, go on a tour - I hope you'll fall in love with it as I have. My son has been well cared for, and I've always felt him to be in the best hands at Via Nova. Tanner

Hi There, Our son was at Via Nova during the time when the previous director passed away, a temporary director was brought on, and eventually the permanent director was hired. Despite the transition we found the school to be exceptional in so many ways and our son completely thrived. They give the children lots of flexibility to choose activities and our outdoor loving son got plenty of outdoor time. He came home tired, dirty and happy. He loved his teachers, as did we...and now that we're in kindergarten we miss the wonderful Via Nova community. Teachers choose fun and education topics and develop all kinds of learning activities focused on these topics. Children really do learn how to celebrate diversity and work out there conflict in ways I frequently wish adults could replicate. We have really connected with Franca the current director, and have stayed in touch with the school and other Via Nova families since our son entered transitional kindergarten last fall. We are really looking forward to having our two year old daughter join the Via Nova community later this year. The volunteer requirements were not particularly hard for our family despite both parents working full time jobs. We've recommended Via Nova to many friends and cant say enough good things about the school. happy via nova parent

Hi there, My son has attended VN for three years and we will be so sad to leave. The place is amazing--the teachers are devoted, kind, and fun. There is very little turnover (which I think is a sign of a really good program). There's a strong emphasis on helping the kids navigate and resolve conflicts among themselves, and they've been integrating more and more Spanish into the day. They do spend a lot of time outdoors (though I can't compare it to other places), and the outdoor play area is spacious and nice. The director is fantastic--very accessible, energetic and responsive. I have not found the parent volunteer hours to be burdensome (I believe it's 18 hours per year for a two-parent family with one child enrolled?). In fact, the work days, committees, and other volunteer opportunities are a really nice way to get to know some of the other families. It's a great school! VN Mom

April 2013

Hello - I wanted to send along a glowing recommendation for Via Nova Children's School in south berkeley (across from Ashby BART). The school has a fall opening for a 3 year old girl. If interested, contact the director, Franca, at: vianovachildrensschool [at] As a current & past present (my 3 year old daughter goes there & my six year old son now in K went there), I have nothing but positive things to say - loving teachers (that speak a lot of spanish with the kids), fabulous south berkeley/north oakland families, child-led curriculum with a strong focus on getting messy, art projects & learning about conflict resolution, lots of time playing outdoors in a big back yard, fabulous director, inquisitive & happy kids that launch off into the world of elementary school very well prepared. Liz

Feb 2011

Re: Preschool for 3 yo with ASD PDD-NOS in East Bay
My son was diagnosed at 18 months with PDD-NOS. He is currently enrolled at Via Nova Children's School in Berkeley and is thriving. I can't say enough how incredible Ticia and the entire Via Nova staff have been - to embracing him wholeheartedly and what's needed to support his success, to integrating him into the larger class and supporting his relationships with peers, to being flexible to the therapy services that are performed on-site (and seeing them as an opportunity for staff development). We feel incredibly lucky. anon

May 2010

We visited Via Nova today and I'm wondering if anyone has any recent experiences with this school. It seems like a friendly place. The location and cost is great for us, but wanted to hear some recent reviews (good, bad, or otherwise). curious about Via Nova

My child attended Via Nova for several years. There are a lot of great things about it. The staff is really dedicated and truly care about the kids. They are very responsive to kids and know what they are doing. The classrooms always had fun activities and the teachers were structured yet easy-going which was a really good blend.

There were also some downsides; the administration was disorganized but I believe that is fairly typical of most preschools. The community of parents and families was great but I found it hard to keep up with the demands of parent participation being a single mom. There was an overriding sense that you had be a part of this community when the reality (for me) was that I had NO time with multiple kids and a full-time job. It always made me feel a bit guilty and the ''community'' thing is a big deal for Via Nova.

If you have the time to dedicate to the school your child and family will get more out of it. Also, keep in mind that they are a play based school so there is not much taught in the way of letters and numbers unless your child specifically asks for it. My child didn't care much about the letters or numbers but it was a problem when she was the only kid in her K class that didn't know how to read. I should have been working with her at home more often but enrolling her in a preschool that offered a bit more K prep would have been a wiser choice for our family. Via Nova is a good school and, if you have the time to dedicate to it, your child will flourish. Good luck with your choice. anon

We currently have two kids at Via Nova (one in the oldest class and one in the youngest) and (clearly) love it. Both kids are thriving there, and we've found it to be a really supportive community. You didn't include any specific questions, so it's hard to know what you're looking for in a school. But I'd be happy to talk with you about our experience over the past three years that we've been there. sofia

my son currently attends Via Nova and I think it is a very good school. We also live very close and I think that also weighs very heavily - I would take a local good school over a non-local school that was considered better.

The main pros are - teachers are really nice, my son seems very happy there. Main con I would say is all the staff are female and I really feel that energy there - my other friends talk about their kids having supervised wrestling at their pre-schools - I could be wrong but don't think that would fly there. I also saw someone post about the community aspect - I can assure you as a current parent that is definitely voluntary. While it is expected plenty of parents do not partake in this so if you want that great but I wouldn't rule the school out of you don't have time for it.

March 2009

Can a parent who has (or had) a child enrolled at Via Nova give advice about how to contact staff about the enrollment/application process?

I've heard wonderful things about the school (via BPN), it seems like a wonderful fit for us in many ways, and it's even in our neighborhood (a big deal, since we don't have a car).

But, I can't get a call back. I've called about 6 times, each time, in a friendly way noting that I've been calling since mid-December. I've also emailed. I really don't want to be a stalker. I can't imagine how much effort it is to run a successful school and manage a ton of calls at the same time. Does anyone know if they are accepting any applications at all?

Should I give up? Very interested in Via Nova!

Hi, I called Via Nova once a month for a year and a 1/2 (always very politely), sent letters, emailed. Not one response. I enrolled my daughter in The Snuggery which is on McGee and University last June. They responded to my call immediately even though they didn't have any openings at the time, they told me when they would have openings gave me a tour. They were so nice, my daughter loves it there. Via Nova finally responded to me about 3 months after my daughter started The Snuggery (I had stopped calling them for at least 5 months by that time.) I think it's bad business and plain rude to not respond to people. Had they at least called me to say stop calling, we'll call you, it would have been nice. I hope other parents have better tips for you. One tip I read on BPN was to just show up at the school and walk in with other parents, but I think that 's kind of rude. Good Luck! Over Being Ignored

Our daughter is in her 2nd year at VN and really likes it - wonderful teachers, creative play setups, fun outdoor playground space. Great place. I had the same problems getting called back from numerous messages left, e-mails, over a period of several months. The director eventually called and the rest of the process went fine. I hear in the past, parents have offered to help set up and run a system for calling back interested parents and help the process (as part of their volunteer hours) but no go. There's no secret beyond what you're doing, and the no-calls-back early on was the one big downside for me. Polite persistence (''I've called x number of times and would really like to hear whether this wonderful school would be an option for us'') may win out in the end. Good luck. current Via Nova parent

I hear ya - we had a hard time also. We're in now and it really is a lovely place. That said, I think you're reading the situation correctly: I'm pretty sure there aren't any openings. These days the classes fill up really quickly with siblings and family friends. And the director does focus her energy on the families that are currently enrolled, which unfortunately leaves little time to let other families know whether or not there are spaces.

I can't say whether or not you should give up. But if you're still interested, here's what I'd try: when you call, let them know that you live in the neighborhood. Be clear about how old your child is and when you're interested in coming. And ask everyone you know to find out if you know anyone with a child there. From what I can tell that's the surest way to at least get a call.

Good luck! VN parent

Jan 2007

My son is, currently, attending a preschool in Oakland and we'd really like to have him closer to home now that we've moved to Berkeley... I have heard lots of good things about Via Nova (including many positive reviews in the BPN archives) and went to check it out, but felt really underwhelmed by the upstairs environment (chipping paint everywhere and no artwork on the stark walls). Downstairs seemed warm and lively, on the other hand. Do you have any opinions about Via Nova that are specific to the program for four-year-olds? Did anyone start their child at a later age and did that work well for your child? How strict is the school about requiring a rest period in which the child must remain still and quiet (and, presumably prone) on a mat? Thanks for your comments! MG

Hi, Our daughter attended Via Nova from 2 to 5 years old. I have to say I was surprised by your comments about the dinosaur classroom. But I wondered if you visited right around the holidays when they take down all the art and give it to the kids to take home. Because most of the rest of the time the walls are filled with lots of wonderful colorful art projects. Now, regarding the dinosaur year...Rory had a great time. The kids continue to have lots of fun and the teachers start working with them on skills they'll need for kindergarten--a bit more sitting in circle, more field trips, etc. During our parent/teacher conferences we talked about kindergarten readiness as well.

Also, regarding nap times; the upstairs gang is not strict about them--they're also trying to support them get ready for kindergarten when they won't be taking naps. Some kids sleep, some rest, some go outside. Actually when Rory was downstairs and finishing her Lion Cub year, she was not into sleeping and was into keeping others awake. The teachers got her ''helping'' the little kids take their nap--she loved being a helper. My daughter's in 1st grade now. I'm very happy we sent her to Via Nova. They've got an excellent group of teachers there now and Ticia is a great director. Good luck on your search. Arl

When I saw your posting I just had to respond because as a parent of two kids from VN (one a grad from last year and one a child in the youngest group-we call it the six-year plan!) I wholeheartedly believe in Via Nova as a school that has made a difference in my children's lives. My older son was in the upstairs older group(Dinosaurs)for two years due to his birthdate and I think that was the most stimulating time he's had. The head teacher upstairs, Siloni has a spark to her and an amazing understanding of who the kids are as people. Her observations of my older son were always so compassionate and astute, I could tell she really GOT him. I don't think that in any way was limited to our family. She has a patient, diplomatic and creative way about her that really rubs off on the kids.

One of the other strengths I've seen in the older group (in no way limited to Siloni)is a true sense of the children's creativity being harnessed and nurtured. If there was no art or projects on the wall when you went, then maybe it was in an in-between stage. Last year, over about half of the school year, the children did an elaborate series of projects on cars and transportation that combined elements of art(drawings and paintings), science(how cars work, maps and map-making), social understanding(rules of the road), presentations by ''experts'' (parents, a mechanic, a 12 yr old boy who presented on radio controlled cars, a parent who showed them how to change a tire!), math(counting the cars that went by the school and then sorting them into groups by type), etc etc and that was driven by the kids themselves. The kids deceided what they wanted to learn about and then the teachers followed. That was pretty amazing! As a former teacher of more than a decade, I can tell you a lot of schools talk about child-directed and experiential learning but few have made it happen. This to me is the great success of VN. They know their stuff and they have framed their work environment to make it possible.

I've found their art curriculum to be accepting and expansive, much in the way an adult would want to do art. No focus on rote craft projects but a truly supportive and expressive art experience where the children are not focused on everyone doing the same thing and bringing home matching art. At the end of the year there is always an Art show in the vein of a gallery opening, complete with cheese crackers and faux champagne as any opening worth it's salt has. The art is treated with the same respect and veneration as something you'd see at the MOMA. It is really cool.

As far as sleep goes, the state requires a certain amount of rest time a day in schools but as the year rolls on, more and more kids at this age don't nap. What my son did between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 there was to have quiet time laying down with a book for an hour a day and there were always a couple kids just lollygagging around on mats while the rest slept and it never seemed to be an issue (and rest time in the PRONE position is required I think at all full day programs at this age). If you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly. Rebecca

We started our son there last year when he was 4 yrs and he was there till September when he started kindergarten. The walls had a few art pieces, lots of the children's art as well as space for the projects that the children collaborate on almost daily. It is not the 'shiniest' space, but they have lots of manipulatives and activities, plenty of light, interesting rooms to explore in, lots of books - basically all they could need. My son enjoyed it there immensely. The teachers he had were warm and he bonded with them quite quickly.(One teacher stays and the other teacher goes back to the beginning class to continue with them throughout their career at Via Nova. This makes for continuity and ease for all especially the kids).

I thought the upstairs teacher Siloni who should still be upstairs was warm, kind, graceful and very engaged with the children. Best - I thought the two teachers were always respectful and kind. What I loved most about Via Nova is Ticia the director - she keeps involved yet allows the teachers to really own their class and so they really seem to enjoy and be fully engaged and take ownership of what they do. Ticia also seemed to be open to learning new things, getting educated regularly and seemed very compassionate. She seems to really love the children in her care. She also listens very well to the parents.

The children seemed very happy. My son loved it although he was there only three days a week. My understanding was that children that napped went to sleep first while the others played outside. The others then came in a bit later to lie down and have some quiet time, reading a book or just lying quietly. I believe some also could stay outside if they were non-resters but I am not sure about that. No-one was forced to sleep. I thought the upstairs teachers were very respectful. I also felt the teachers needs were considered - they had breaks and time to do their errands and so on. No-one seemed bored or simply non-present as I've seen in a few places.

The teachers combined have varied backgrounds and interests and a good educational mix. Some are from other nations. They bring their diverse interests to their teaching. A few teachers have their own child there (not in their class) - a wonderful way to bring their hearts fully to the actually seems to work at Via Nova due to the structures they have in place.

I thought they do interesting projects and plenty of creative thinking. Parents can meet with the teachers and class parents as a group every other month or so and contribute to the ideas for class activities. There is a work requirement that allows you to stay involved and a few events a year.

They teach a form of conflict resolution to the children. The older children and younger get to interact during breaks and lunch and at days end.

I found it to be a very inclusive school - I saw single parents, co-parents, single-by-choice mums, gay dads, lesbian moms, multi- ethnic families all feel quite at home there. Shy kids and outgoing kids seemed to do fine there. It is wheel chair accessible. It felt like an eclectic all-are-welcome 'Berkeley' kind of school...

I highly recommend it - it worked for us after a long search for the 'right' pre-school...this seemed to fit my values and needs best and had a space when we needed it. It's kinda like trying on shoes...If it doesn't fit your values and your family please do find a school that does - what is unacceptable for one family may be fabulous for another. Best wishes. happy via nova alumni

March 2006

Hello, I'm looking for some recent reviews of Via Nova preschool (the reviews in the archives are about 2 years old). We're looking for a preschool for this fall when our son will be 2.9. Are there any current Via Nova families who can tell me about the school? Do you like the program, do you feel it is stimulating enough for your child? What is the application process like, and do you have tips for getting someone to return calls? We have heard a lot of good general things about Via Nova, but have not had any success in getting a call back. Thanks in advance for your help. cachien

Our 2.5 year old son has been at Via Nova for 3 months in the Beluga (2 year-old) class. We are extremely happy with the school. I don't know how the teachers manage to be so attentive to each child: they are very perceptive and really gifted at finding good ways to work on social, emotional, and language skills that are respectful and compassionate. The program is also very stimulating. The outdoor space is great with different activities inside and out every day that the children can choose among. I feel that my son is stimulated without any pushing. It is hard to get in-touch with Ticia. I know a child who is 4th on the waiting list for the 3 year- old class for the fall, so it is presumably full. You may have better luck if you are shooting for the 2 year-old class: it sounds like your child could go either way. Keep calling Ticia or send her an email. She is very hard to reach, but when you get her, she gives you her full attention. VN parent

In four words: ''Love this school!'' Keep calling - it is hard to get through initially, but keep trying. It is a lovely place with loving, attentive teachers, friendly parents and a smart empathetic director. I think my child is in incredibly good hands and really enjoys being there! inspired mom

Via Nova has been really good for our family. My older son is finishing his third year there and my younger one starts in the Fall. The community of parents, really amazing teachers and rich experiential curriculum have made it a place for my child to grow from a sensitive slow-to-warm-up quiet guy to an emerging leader and explorer. I say this as both a parent and an early childhood educator: I have seen many schools where diversity is valued but not achieved, where teachers aren't allowed to lead or are not cherished as the backbone of the learning and growing experience. You won't find any of that at Via Nova. Ticia Casanova, the Director, has set the tone for growing in all directions. All that said, yes, it is hard to get someone to call you back. Here's the inside scoop: If you get a call, there's a spot available, NO waiting list, NO jumping through hoops, period. If you get a visit, you're in. Tours are kept to minimum to keep disruption for the children low (as frustrating as that is from the outside looking in, I really love that as parent there). So the upside is, unlike most schools, you know where you stand. I don't know for sure but I think the two year old group is close to full for the Fall but as the ages go up the groups are larger, hence more spots open so you probably have a better shot for threes or fours. Feel free to e-mail me if you have specific questions. Rebecca

Our son is at Via Nova and we all absolutely love it! It took about a year to get him in, because although we did get call backs, we weren't persistent in arranging a visit and we were okay with where he was. Well, let me tell you, there is no comparison between the home daycare he was in and Via Nova. Via Nova is hands down the best thing ever for his development, and for making us feel like we're part of a loving, involved community of parents.

We plan to send our young children there when they are old enough - Via Nova starts with 2-year-olds (Belugas), has a three-year-old room (Lion Cubs) and then the older kids (Dinosaurs). Kids don't have to be potty trained. The teachers are very involved, interested and work with the children to help them negotiate their world. There are lots of field trips, enrichment classes (such as music, sign language, dance - covered by the regular tuition) and trainings for staff to keep them up on child development and learning.

The school is ethnically diverse and has queer families, single moms, involved dads, and families with adopted children. And the parents all serve the school in some way through volunteer time - spent on committees, or doing activities best suited to their skills.

You will always hear that the communication could be better - between the staff and the parents, but this is not something that should dissuade you from checking out this wonderful, enlivening school. Also, there's a fairly active email list for the Via Nova community which helps everyone at the school stay informed. Keep calling until you get a call back. It's worth it. Via Nova Fan

My 3.9 year old son started at Via Nova this past September. We both love it there! The teachers are warm, loving, and very devoted to the children. There is a very involved and active parent community, and there is a great deal of diversity of family type (2 mom or 2 dad families, single parents, adopted kids), and pretty good ethnic diversity (better than most other preschools I visited anyway). You asked if the children have enough stimulation -- yes, I definitely think they do. My son is constantly bringing home art projects, or singing songs he learned in the weekly music enrichment class, or showing me new moves he learned in the weekly dance class. He can sing the Itsy Bitsy spider in Spanish, and his pronunciation seems quite good to me (he can roll his r's like a native, something that has eluded me despite years of trying). There is an emphasis on conflict resolution -- helping the kids to resolve conflicts without inappropriate behavior (hitting, pushing, etc.). This has been a big issue with my son, who still has a tendency to hit first and talk later. One of his teachers has been working closely with me on this, and I appreciate the way she can talk to me about my son's behavior without making me feel like he's ''bad'', or a problem kid.

You asked about getting a call back. Unfortunately, you've hit upon the one big drawback of Via Nova. The director is a wonderful person in many ways, and overall I think she does a great job, but administrative stuff is not her forte, and she's notoriously bad about returning phone calls. Fortunately, this has been less of an issue since my son started at the school, because Ticia is there nearly every day, so I can just talk to her when I see her.

I don't know what to recommend other than persistence. The next time you call and leave a message, I recommend saying ''This is the xth time I've called, and I'm hoping you'll be able to call me back SOON''. That should get Ticia's attention. Or, just show up at the school and follow a parent in -- Ticia is generally there by 9:30.

I know people who've decided against VN because of this one problem, but the way I look at it, all preschools will have their strengths and weaknesses. At VN, at least the one weakness is not one which negatively impacts on the experience the children have at the school.

You also asked about the application process. I found that to be quite straightforward -- I sent in the application (in December for the following September) and got a call back from Ticia almost right away, letting me know that my son had been accepted. Admissions are done on a rolling, first come first served basis. I believe the classes for Sept. 06 are close to full, so if you do want to apply, I recommend doing so right away.

If you have any more questions, feel free to email me personally. Diane

June 2004

I'm looking for thoughts on Via Nova preschool. We're considering it for our 4 year old son. Any comments about the present staff and the school would be much appreciated Thank you. Berkeley mom

My son has been at Via Nova for three years, and I can recommend it highly - with, of course, some caveats. For the children, I think it's an amazing place. It's play-based, and the kids really learn strategies for resolving conflicts and achieving consensus and cooperation. That's an amazing thing, and I often think of how many adults I know who could use that kind of training! There is some structure (a curriculum, esp. for the older kids, circle time, enrichment including singing, movement, and sign language), and lots of free play time, both inside and out. They do follow up on kids' interests with art projects, books, and other investigative activities. The yard is good, and the supervision is good. The teachers are warm and talented. I think my son has been lucky to have been there.

But - the downside is in the adult realm. The administrative functions are patchy. You may find, as many have, that it takes many tries to get a return call when you call to find out about the school. This, unfortunately, can continue while you're there. If you catch the director at the school, she'll give you her full attention, but if you don't, it can be difficult. The teachers are available and knowledgeable, so it's not hard to get information about your child, but administrative/communication issues on a larger scale don't work very well at the school. That, frankly, has driven me insane at times. But I still am glad that my son has been there - I think it has been great for him. A Via Nova Mom

My older daughter has been at Via Nova for two and a half years, and my younger daughter is winding up her first (of three) years there. We are very happy there. The community is involved and wonderful, and the teachers are great. There are sometimes communication problems between the school and the parents, but they're workable. Good luck deciding -- I recommend that you visit several preschools to see which feel like a good fit for you and your child. Laurel

Sept 2002

Re: Urgently seeking preschool opening
Although it has been 3 years since my son attended preschool, at the time, Via Nova preschool across from the Ashby BART station did not require potty training. They have a wonderful program for a wide variety of age groups. Bennett

June 2002

Re: Preschools with good playgrounds 
Check out Via Nova Preschool on MLK near Ashby, but set back from the street and enclosed. Indoor and outdoor areas are great, as is the school generally. Ticia Cassanova, the wonderful director is sometimes a little too busy and may not get back to you right away, but keep trying. Phone 848-6682 Deborah

April 2002

Re: Preschools using the Reggio Emilia Approach
Check out Via Nova Preschool on MLK near Ashby. Great space, skilled and loving teachers/director, fees in the low-mid range, accept children a minimum of 3 days/week. The ''learning through play'' program empasizies creativity, problem-solving, cooperation and conflict resolution (and incorprates some Reggio Emilio). My son was there for three years. He was very well-prepared for Kindergarden, because of the social (not academic) skills he developed at Via Nova. Ticia Cassanova, the wonderful director is sometimes a little too busy and may not get back to you right away, but keep trying. Phone 848-6682 Deborah

September 2001

I highly recommend Via Nova Children's School for your son! There are a handful of openings still for this fall. The school serves ages 2 - K and is located on MLK right across from the Ashby BART Station. The school is in a rennovated house that is completely fenced in and you would never know that you are on a busy street.

But, the best part, is that the teachers are SO wonderful, loving, kind and gentle. My son has been there for a year and a half and we are so pleased to have found Via Nova. Also, there are children there who have food allergies and the staff are very helpful in this area.

You can call Ticia Casanova, the director, at 848-6682 to check out the school. B Avalon

My son's preschool, Via Nova, has openings now for three year olds. My son has been at Via Nova since March, and we are very happy with the school. I particularly like the teachers, who are all warm and caring people and seem to love playing with kids all day. I also like the balance of structured activities (in addition to the standard "circle time" there are enrichment classes in dance, music, puppetry, and sign language) and time to just play. I have to admit that the environment has been on the chaotic side, but the school just restructured their program to increase the separation of the three age groups (2,3,4), and it is working very well. The three year old group, which my son is part of, has about eleven kids (depending on the day) and two teachers. This arrangement gives my son, who is on the needy side, all the personal attention he needs. Via Nova is near the Ashby BART station and can be reached at 848-NOVA. Laura

July 2000

My son is the proud graduate of via Nova class of 1999. He entered Via Nova at just under two years old and grew to be an amazing little boy under the care of Ticia and her very capable staff.

The play based approach and enthusiasm for cooperation and exploration have definitely benefitted Max now that he is in public school. All the teachers are genuinely interested in the children.

The daily activities are varied, but there is a sense of structure that little ones need. Though we left before the upstairs "older" section was finished, I felt that the staff found creative ways to engage children with age appropriate activities. The regular parent/teacher conferences are also wonderful opportunities to address concerns and create goals for the future.



This is in response to D's request for information on Via Nova Children's school. My daughter, who will be 5 in August, has been going to Via Nova since she was 3 years old. She really loves the school, and so do we. The director has a strong education in children's development and has a children-focused philosophy that we really appreciate. The teachers are wonderful, and the community of families is really great, too.

They've just recently expanded, so there's a downstairs program for the 2-3 year-olds, and the upstairs for the 4-5 year-olds -- and consequently there are probably a lot of openings for two-year-olds right now. The playground is large and conducive to varied outdoors activities -- the kids can bike around, play in the sandbox or a fi-bar covered open area, or play in the "clubhouse" which has a slide and a spider-web climbing structure.

Is the program too structured for a two-year-old? I don't think so. Children have lots of options for play. When arriving in the morning, the teachers usually have some kind of art-based project for the kids. The painting easel is also set up for morning time -- so if a child doesn't want to participate in the group project, she/he can paint at the easel. There are many other play areas set up, and it's the child who decides where to go -- the puzzle/lego area, or the big block/construction kinds of play things or the dress-up area. When the weather is nice the kids play outside -- though there are times when kids can choose to play inside or outside.

Every day is supplemented with an enrichment activity that is led by a teacher who comes for just that activity. There's sign language, Spanish, music, puppetry (led by one of the moms), and movement. The enrichment teachers are well loved by the children. About once a month the kids go on field trips -- usually to the PFA for children's films.

Ticia Casanova, the director, holds quarterly meetings for the parents to discuss various issues relating to the school, as well as a different child development issues and on play-based child development. Sometimes she invites a child psychologist to lead discussion on topics like effective discipline for children. We also have parent-led committees, like the Earthquake Preparedness committee. And a monthly newsletter is issued by one of the parents, in coordination with the director. Probably the biggest challenge for the director has been in hiring teachers who are truly dedicated to the philosophy of the school and who use appropriate discipline with the children. Since we've been at the school, three teachers were hired and then asked to leave when their philosophies clashed with the school. We've appreciated Ticia's willingness to hold out for the best teachers -- I really think the current group of teachers is wonderful. Most of them have taught at preschools for years, and they're all very gentle, patient, and respectful of the children, as well as a lot of fun! There's *lots* of appreciation among the parents and children for the teachers of Via Nova. Another feature of the school, at least currently, is that there are a number of gay and lesbian families -- right now there are seven gay and lesbian families (four of the kids will be going on to Kindergarten in the fall). Via Nova provides a very supportive environment for children of gay and lesbian parents.

I'd encourage you to visit the school and talk to Ticia.