Distance Learning in Elementary School

Parent Q&A

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  • My wife and I have been having a tough time coming up with a plan on how to approach schooling for next year. We have loved our Berkeley elementary school (Sylvia Mendez), but are afraid that full time instruction won't resume next fall.

    Do we stick it out? Find a private school? Move to another district? Are these the types of options you are weighing? How did you decide?


    We had this debate last year after the horrendous distance learning during the spring semester in 2020. We decided to stick it out at our local public school because we believe in public schools and we did not want to contribute to depleting resources for our public schools. With our departure, our local school loses yet another middle class family who donates to the PTA. However, after a whole year of distance learning that feels mostly like a waste of time; the uncertainty about school opening in the fall; lack of trust in schools' ability to keep the schools clean and sanitized adequately; and concerns over the learning gap that will force teachers to teach to the bottom to try to catch up kids, we have decided that we need to switch to a private school. The thought of paying $30k/year is daunting and makes me feel sick to the stomach sometimes, but we do not want our child to hate school. They did not enjoy school pre-pandemic, and they now scream that school is stupid. So, it's time. They may need to take out a huge student loan to attend college, but they need to start developing good academic habits and love of learning. So, we will pay the cost now. We feel bad 

    Do you rent or own?  How easy/difficult would it be to replicate the things you like about Sylvia Mendez in another school?  I'd start to make an objective/quantifiable list of the factors in play and think about which ones can be controlled and which ones can't.  You could try one of the neighboring public schools in a different district but there is no guarantee that you won't have some of the same problems.

    If you were happy with Sylvia Mendez before, then I personally think you should stick it out. I believe the district is making every effort to be fully open in the fall and in fact (as I'm sure you know) will be offering 5 days a week starting April 12th. We are also a SM family and have been pretty disappointed in the distance learning program, to be honest, but still plan on continuing to send our son there. We believe in public education, don't want to spend our money on private school (would rather save for college), and still believe in the value of a bilingual education. Good luck with your decision -- it has not been an easy year and I think all the options for parents (and educators) have been super crappy. Here's to better days ahead!

    Mostly likely school will be full time next fall. I wouldn't worry about that. It will probably be mandated by the state at that point.  As a person that went to private schools in the bay area my whole life, I personally don't think it is worth it. To me it is more important to have my child be in a diverse school as it is the most anti-racist action I can take as a parent. And my annual donation goes a lot farther that 30,000 tuition would. Public vs private safety measures are all Safety Kabuki at this point. Don't mistake paying for school with safety. 

    Hoping by now you've seen the news that BUSD elementary schools are resuming in-person, 5 day a week education in April! Opt-in or Opt-out, this provides me with a lot of hope for the fall.

    This is such a tricky question. I am also a big believer in public school education. Both of our daughters attend public charter schools in Oakland that have really been amazingly great at pivoting for distance learning. Our 4th grader attends ASCEND and our 7th grader goes to EBIA now, although she could've stayed at ASCEND because that school is tk-8. (But she wanted a "real middle school" experience after 6 years at ASCEND... Ironic, right? So much for that.) EBIA is 6-7-8 on their lower school campus and they have a HS as well.

    Anyway, both of these schools have done much, much better than all the others I've heard of in OUSD, BUSD, private schools, and even the wonderful little school in Canyon (where residents all over the East Bay are allowed to attend; it's a public K-8). Our daughters are both getting REAL learning- in-depth, complete with PE, art, science, etc. And it's full-day! I know other kids who're attending only a couple hours of online school each day and the rest is "independent" learning, which I imagine is super-hard for parents to be able to constantly supervise and supplement, etc. 

    That being said, we're ALL dying for them to be back IN school and we're probably going to have to wait until fall as well. As far as I know, ASCEND won't be in-person again until the fall. EBIA might start trying some experimental small, outdoor groups sooner for families that want that... We do! (fingers crossed)

    For us, there's no decision to be made because both of their schools are doing stellar jobs- they just can't fulfill all of their needs, of course. But for you, if distance-learning has been crappy then I can see why you might want to make a change. However, if your kid's school was acceptable before the pandemic then I would suggest waiting it out. We will go back to "normal" (ish) in about 6 months or so (probably). If you bail now and it ends up not being as good of a choice as you thought it'd be, then you're going to be kicking yourself in 6 months.

    Too bad you can't just pull out your child for "independent study" and take a 6-month road trip with them. This would be a perfect time to become a temporary nomad and learn about our country by actually visiting all those cool places... That's what I want to be doing right now! But you probably have to work and don't have the extra time or extra money to fund such as adventure... haha

    Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about ASCEND or EBIA. I love our schools, but I'm also happy to share their weaknesses as well.

    Full-time instruction is resuming in BUSD on april 1 of this THIS year.

    OUSD parent here.  I have heard that BUSD will be returning 5 days/week at the end of March, so this may be moot for you at this point.  In any case, I just wanted to say that we have been having a lot of the same thoughts about private school over here and have decided to stick it out through 5th grade (1 more year).  We are strong believers in public education, but are just worn out from dealing with OUSD.  We have concerns about being able to afford private school, but have decided to do what we can to make it happen.

    Full-time instruction for BUSD Elementary schools is resuming in a couple weeks, on March 29th. Not sure why you would think it won't (also) be full-time in Fall '21? We had initially heard that going back on 3/29/21 would just be a hybrid model (2 days/week on-site), but the Superintendent's last letter on March 8th indicated we are now offered a 5 day/week schedule of on-campus learning. 

    Fight for schools to reopen! There is no excuse to allow distance learning to continue. The science is clear - schools should fully reopen. Please don't give up, for the sake of your kids, for kids who don't have other options, and for the future of public education.

    We are in OUSD, so this isn’t directly relevant to your question. But, we are VERY envious of BUSD that will be welcoming back students 5 days a week!!!!!! OUSD is offering measly two 2.5 hour afternoons a week. This triggered a hot debate between moving to a different school district or paying for a private school. I began looking at Zillow for houses in Berkeley, Albany,  Lamorinda, and Marin.

    After dealing with the chaos and uncertainty every year and then COVID-19, we are fed up with OUSD. We are exhausted beyond belief. We supported the teachers through the strike which was hard as we were suddenly thrown into juggling full time work and remote working. Little did we know that those weeks were a piece of cake and just a taste of what is to come except it’s 10 times harder now because we can’t even share care with others.

    Public schools were acceptable enough before the pandemic. Our child didn’t love the school, which by the way is one of the most popular elementary schools in Oakland, and we always felt it was a good enough option for lower grades and we would be better off saving money for private middle school, college and retirement while praying that the child ends up choosing Oakland Tech HS (our zoned school). We felt good about supporting public education and became active in PTA.

    However, with guilt and tails between our legs, we have decided to leave OUSD and will be enrolling our child in a private school. My mental health can’t handle the way public schools work anymore and my child cannot handle online schooling any longer. It’s a huge sacrifice for us financially and we discussed with our child that this means we will have less money for vacations, toys, sushi dinners. That second bathroom we wanted will have to wait — 3 people sharing 1 bathroom while being home full time hasn’t been easy. A dream to have a hot tub in the backyard isn’t going to happen. The overdue HVAC upgrade and roof replacement will also have to wait.

    you mentioned that you loved your school before the pandemic, So I think sticking with it seems to make sense. If you didn’t like it and it’s causing you a high level of distress, changing to another option may make sense. 

    I think CA schools will be back full time in the fall. But, things are uncertain with the pandemic and our child requested to go to school in person. OUSD is not making any commitment about the fall and I fear that prolonged and difficult negotiations will ensue between the district and the union causing uncertainty into the fall as was the case for distance learning in the fall of 2020. We gave OUSD a chance for 4 years and I absolutely hate change. But, we are leaving OUSD while we continue to discuss whether we should move out of Oakland all together or not. 

  • A heartfelt hello to all parents of kids struggling with remote learning. As we head into 2021, I have accepted that, more likely than not, our middle schooler will not see the inside of a classroom this school year. So I am looking forward to a return during the 2021-22 school year. That said, there's already talk that, even with the potential for teachers to get vaccinated by fall 2021, there still may be resistance to returning kids to the classroom, particularly within the Berkeley Unified and the Albany Unified school districts (both are options for us). We are getting pretty much zero news coverage on the road to returning to in-person learning, and what the districts say and what they do don't always match up. So it's hard to know whether what I'm hearing on the street regarding the fall is pure conjecture, or if there's some factual basis to these rumors. Our child simply cannot endure another year of remote learning, so if there's a chance that the fall will be anything less than full-time in the classroom, we need to plan for something different (up to and including just moving). Participating in the re-opening process has proven to be futile, so I'm just looking for some fact-based predictions on what is likely to happen in the fall assuming that teachers and school staff will be able to get vaccinated.

    Parent of a sad teen.

    I'm sorry your teen is sad. The whole world is sad. Schools will reopen when the region's covid cases and icu bed capacity decline to the state-mandated levels. The thing is, no one knows when that will be. School districts cannot predict what the virus will do. What if the vaccine is not effective against any unknown future virus mutations? The world is done with covid but covid is not done with the world. You can follow the Alameda County Covid web page, https://covid-19.acgov.org/data.page, to see when cases are declining, but really I feel that the best we can do is change our mindset to find contentment in the current situation, because the old normal may be years away.

    There is no plan in place to reopen schools for in person learning in the fall.  If there is no planning, it will not happen.

    We know a kid that is currently working on a degree in mechatronics from a CSU campus.  He is in his final year, but his education is completely on hold.  The coursework he needs to complete his degree is all hands-on labs.  There is no plan for the lab coursework to re-start — not even in Fall 2021.  He is stuck.  There is no option for remote learning in his degree, yet there isn’t any plan to try to get the classes going again.   Honestly, I would expect this type of program to be a bellweather.  If coursework that can’t be done remotely can’t restart in person, what hope is there for virtual coursework to switch to in person?

    Unless there are concrete plans for reopening, schools will remain virtual.  That is the nature of inertia.  

    I don’t want to move, but I just don’t see another way.  It is heartbreaking.

    Why not look into schools that *will* have on-campus teaching and learning and not resign to other people's judgements of safety? My 8th grader (now in public school) will go, with financial aid, of course, to a high school that will be open for the most part. Independent schools are just that, independent. You, the family, play a role in the decision making so if you are comfortable sending your child to school (statistically, schools are of the safest places) then pursue that. Hope things work out. My son is sad, too, being out of school. 

    I don’t think anyone has a real answer to this right now.  My best guess is that even if the school year starts online or hybrid with only a few hours a week at school, it will return to full time sometime during the first semester. But this is conjecture on my part. Some Bay Area school districts, especially in Marin, have been much more aggressive in their opening plans and are more likely to fully reopen sooner. A number of them have hybrid in-person programs running through 6th grade right now and will open the rest of the grades hybrid 2-3 weeks after the county leaves the purple tier. I expect they will be quicker to take each step and will reopen full time school before inner East Bay and SF districts.  Many districts are facing declining enrollment and budget shortfalls, making it easier to get out-of-district transfers. If you are open to a commute, one of these districts might offer a public school option for your son without a move. 

    Hello dear parent,

    we are in the same situation, our sophomore is not doing well in virtual schooling  to the point he is not logging to class.  On the other hand, he is somehow busy with other stuff (building a model car, want to continue piano classes etc).  He lost motivation  enroll in virtual schooling,  and going back to classroom setting is essential and important.  I believe the percentage of students struggling is higher that what is REPORTED  by schools district. 

    The last I heard,  the issue is Teachers Unions and teachers themselves hesitant of returning to classroom teaching.  I don't understand the rational as they are on the priority for vaccine.  I work with homeless individual and I go to work, there is an ethical responsibility I need to be present in order to conduct my job and help people in need ( not such as thing as let's talk over the screen). I guess the same for nurses, doctors, people working at groceries stores etc.    

    Once receiving a vaccine, I don't think teachers should have option to remain at home, otherwise they might need to consider career change.  I do support PPE and also a gradual process of bringing students back (with those struggling to be first on line fo classroom education).   For this year, students will remain virtual but I am hoping next year teachers should and must be teaching in classroom. This year plan to return is on hold and the Teachers Union don't come with an agreement.

    I believe those students doing great and wanting to continue virtual should be honored.  Parents with hesitation should keep students at home AND those students struggling should be giving the option and the right of returning to school. 

    Again,  the only barrier in the way is the  Teachers Unions and not  addressing the matter from a proactive approach but more political non sense agenda. 

    I am so sorry to hear your struggle, and unfortunately I don't have an answer for you.  Our family is struggling, too.  We have 2 kids at Berkeley High.  This school year has been very disappointing--not as bad as the disaster of last spring but still bad.  Our kids gets 12 hours of instruction time per week vs. the 30 hours they got before March.  That means 40% of the instruction time they are supposed to receive.  With such a limited amount of school, they are not learning much and they have a lot of free time.  They fill the free time primarily by watching You Tube and playing video games.  We work with them so they read and exercise and do chores, but there is only so much that parents can do.  We counted on the schools to provide the bulk of their education, and it's just not happening. 

    Until March, we loved Berkeley schools and the teachers.  Since March,  I am disappointed and frustrated with Berkeley schools and the teachers.  The teachers are getting 100% of their pay while providing 40% of their product.  I don't know any other job that offers that kind of a deal, certainly not mine.  We have gotten limited communication from the district about why they structured distance learning with only 40% of the instructional time.  We have also gotten limited communication on what the plan and criteria are for getting the kids back in school full time.  The limited communication has also been pretty defensive like there's something wrong with parents for wanting their kids to get a good education.   BUSD talks a lot about equity, but equity is not giving all the students a 40% education.

    I was going through the same decision-making process in September. We decided that given the complete absence of leadership on the school reopenings (both BUSD and the Berkeley Mayor/health department who have been trying to put this entirely on BUSD, same for CA political leadership more generally trying to put this on individual districts and avoid responsibility) we would make alternate plans. For obvious reasons, it's clear now that was the right choice. Despite the crazy commute and other logistical issues, it is so worth it to see the difference it makes for our kids. We are likely to move if things don't change soon in BUSD. 

    Every data point available shows that BUSD still has no concrete plan for reopening, even for the youngest students. Also, according to the BUSD Superintendent the teachers union leadership refuses to accept state and county public health guidelines as the proper framework for discussion ("When Elementary Schools Should Reopen. The district believes that we should reopen when the community transmission rate returns to the Red Tier, in keeping with state and county public health guidelines. BFT has proposed that school reopening would begin when the City is in the Orange Tier, and that schools would close again if the City returns to the Red Tier.") I'm optimistic that a Biden administration will provide more support, but there remains a glaring lack of meaningful local and CA leadership on this issue.  

    I think you can see where I'm going. I suggest you move your child now if at all possible, and wouldn't plan for any fall reopening. Many teachers, parents and children in BUSD are burnt out and miserable. Other schools are reopening without issue, yet BUSD is unable or unwilling to find a way to safely reopen for those who want/need in-person instruction. I wouldn't count on changes until we see someone step up to provide meaningful leadership. (Note that many parents have already made alternate plans for this year. They may not engage until this summer when it becomes clear there is an issue for fall. By then it will be too late. A similar dynamic happened at the beginning of the 2020/2021 school year.)

    Check out busdparents.com, a group of parents who are advocating for safe re-opening. I agree with you that based on the Teachers Union requests, it's highly unlikely that there will be 5 day in person school in fall. Consider joining the next BUSD Board Meeting and speaking up during public comment, demand that they share their plan for 2021. You are not alone, there are so many families who are thinking of moving. Let's amplify our voice and put pressure on BUSD leadership and Teachers Union. This is not right. 

    I believe I’m in the minority, but my son, who is a sophomore at Berkeley High, is thriving academically this year.  While he very much misses his sports team and just being part of the hustle and bustle on campus, he is LEARNING.  He’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, getting his work done, and attending classes.  He is also happy to have a lot of spare time to work out and play video games, but he isn’t having to deal with all the time-wasting discipline problems that plague classrooms at BHS.  When class is in session on Zoom, the teachers teach, and the students listen and engage. Someone in another post compared the number of hours spent now in Zooms vs the number of hours spent in class normally, but they’re apples and oranges.  So much of class time is wasted in a normal class setting.  Just another point of view...  F rom a parent whose older two also went to BHS.  

    OUSD is taking their time as well. I would like to think that if the teachers are vaccinated, and the high-risk and normal risk adults in the home are also vaccinated, there is no reason not to return to school. Health care providers, grocery employees, bus drivers, etc. have had to work the entire time. They all wear PPE (masks and face shields are super effective, as seen by the very low rates of transmission in health care clinics). They have time to find a way to make classes smaller if needed so they can space students 6 feet apart, but with a face shield and mask, the risk of transmission is incredibly low, and there is no reason schools should not start in person this fall. The delay has wreaked havoc on so many families across the board. One year of remote learning is enough!

    I have two children in BUSD and of course I want them back in the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so. This year has been devastating to so many families. But I think it is unfair to blame the teachers or claim that they  “are getting 100% of their pay while providing 40% of their product.” Teachers and administrators at my children’s middle and high schools have worked extremely hard to learn how to teach online, become familiar with new technologies, adapt their curriculum plans, try to help all students especially those struggling, and to provide a steady, stable environment for their kids, all via a computer screen. It is of course not easy for students but it can’t be easy for teachers either, and I don’t think blaming them for the situation is fair or compassionate. This situation sucks and there is no easy solution for anyone. 

    I'm in AUSD and I do think schools will re-open as soon as they are allowed, taking a measured approach. Please remember, that some of this is totally out of the school district's control. There is state and county guidance which determines when districts are allowed to re-open and, in Alameda County, we have not reached that level - so even if our schools wanted to reopen, they are currently prohibited from doing so. My sense from AUSD is that they are committed to a re-opening plan and I think the youngest kids may well start going back to a hybrid model this year. I doubt high school will go back this year, but I anticipate some in person learning in the fall. Personally, I would prefer to stay online for safety reasons and we plan to stay home as long as possible, but I do think by fall most people will be able to go back, even if it's part time at first. 

  • This pertains to High School, Middle School and Elementary.  Are there any private schools who have decided not to pursue in-class instruction during Covid, presumably until there is a vaccine?  We are really unhappy with the online option our school is offering now that some kids have returned to in-person instruction, and the public schools don't seem to yet have their act fully together even though they are all online.  My impression is that all private schools are doing some hybrid thing right now.  I'm wondering if any are sticking to online-only.

    I'm sure there are a few options out there. We love Fusion Global Academy.  (It's distinct but related to the Fusion Academy centers that are in Walnut Creek and other locations around the Bay and actually throughout the country)  Everything is 100% virtual, 1:1, mastery based, and individualized to our child's level. Works great for our child who actually is twice exceptional (social issues) but accelerated two grades. She's 11 and in 7th grade. So, she is taking high school biology and pre-algebra (we had her repeat pre-algebra from last year because we didn't think the curriculum was very rigorous at her in person school. So glad we did because we feel her understanding is much deeper this year?).  The teachers and content in every subject have been amazing.  We couldn't be happier. Good luck! https://fusionglobalacademy.com/

  • Could folks please share what these schools are doing, particularly for elementary school kids, in terms of in person learning?  
    - Are kids back in school?  
    - Is it hybrid, so families that want/need to can keep up remote learning from home?  
    - Will the school stay open (for regular school days) through Nov/Dec?


    All schools that are reopening are required to have their plans posted on their websites, so you can check there if you are interested in specific schools. (That said, Head-Royce began the transition back to campus for lower grades in late October; the other two are just starting to shift back, and I believe are also starting with the youngest students.) 

    Park Day is back in session for elementary school, although I have paid attention to the details, as my child is in middle school.  They hope to open for middle school in a few weeks, once allowed.  They also have detailed plans for how to accommodate students who will not attend in person for whatever family reasons (eg 360 camera in classroom, to attend remotely with the class).  Sessions are outdoors, very small groupings, 6 feet distanced, masked, and COVID testing every 2 weeks.  School is following their regular academic calendar, so will be in session through mid Dec.  Very detailed and throught out plans with lots of resources and committed follow through.  If go back to fully remote again, that experience has been well managed this year. ie very, very small cohorts so that have lots of teacher time, and connection with peers, as well as on track academically.

    At Redwood Day, K-3 are back in school with plans to bring older elementary children back next week, I think (or the week after).

    Right now the children are back short days, it will extend a little longer next week and then extend to full days. Aftercare will start again at the beginning of December. The school has a hybrid program going on for families so some children are still distant learning. There will be an additional week of distance learning after Thanksgiving week, but otherwise, the schedule is normal through Nov/Dec.

    Hi - EB in Berkeley is now open for in-person instruction through 3rd grade full time with the option to continue with distant learning. Once a family chose distant learning they can’t switch to in-person until the following break. I believe that 4th grade and up are back but with a hybrid model (2 days in person, half group, Friday everyone is home). 
    The school should stay open unless obviously Alameda county says otherwise.

    Just wanted to add that Crestmont School (K-8) in Richmond Heights is open for full day in-person school. It's pretty awesome for the kids to be back together.  The kids are in pods, they learn mostly outside or on rainy/super cold days inside with all windows and doors open and fans on. They play no-touch recess games like pool noodle tag.  They have distance learning options for those who want/need to stay at home. Let me know if you want more info.

  • Hello parents and caregivers, 
    We have a child who will be old enough to start Kindergarten in the fall, and we aren't sure how the process is going to work right now amid COVID and schools still operating remotely right now. Does anything have experience with the process (pre-COVID) that they can share some advice? Do you typically reach out to the school individually within your district to express interest and ask for a tour (which we assume will be virtual for now)? We have the applications and were hoping that it would be possible to meet potential teachers that our son could have, as we care less about the overall school/location itself, and more so that he will have a supportive teacher and environment to help him thrive as SIP and distance learning has been such a challenge for the past 7 months. He had just started preschool for a few weeks before SIP happened, and has had a hard time with transitioning to new people, which he never did before. We hope that whichever school he places at can be a steady one to make things more consistent. Any advice would be great! So hard to keep planning for things during this uncertain time!


    I don't know what is happening with COVID but usually the schools post their tour schedules (led by PTA parents) and each school has an evening open house where you can meet teachers. Of course, the teachers can change from year to year. So, even if you meet someone in the spring they may not be there in the fall or may not be teaching kindergarten in the fall. Also, you will have no control over which teacher in a school your kid gets. You won't even know which teacher they get until after the school year starts. 

    One thing to consider more than the teachers is the principal. Throughout elementary school the teachers will be a mix, some will be a good fit for your kid and some won't. The principal is the person you will deal with if you have a problem. 

    BUSD also has a lottery system, so you need only look at the schools in your zone. Since the schools have similar approaches to many things and you have no control over the teachers your kid gets... I would rank based on start time, how easy it is to get to, the principal, and potentially the size of the school if you think that will matter for your kid. 

    Hey Thao,

    Do not worry too much about the school tours. In any case, your child will be ASSIGNED to the school in order to balance the school in terms of race, gender, income, education level of parents, special education status, siblings already in school, and a host of other factors. YOUR school preference would the the least of their concerns. During school tours you have a chance to observe classrooms, not to talk to teachers. One a few of teachers come out to say a few words to touring parents. You do get to meet the school principal during the tours. In my school, parent volunteers conduct these tours. All teachers are highly qualified and experienced as these jobs are coveted for. The curriculum in all classrooms and school is the same and in centrally determined by the district. In December the applications open up at the district. This is the key thing not to miss and collect all the documents required. I would suggest you do that early. I have seen many parents rejected on the first attempt....Best of luck and stay safe...

  • Hi all,

    I’m seeking advice about online learning programs for gifted children. Our son (now in 5th grade) was GATE identified in all three assessment areas. We’re in a great public school, but distance learning has made it very apparent that their “regular class work + extra worksheets” enrichment approach isn’t meeting his needs as we had hoped. He’s starting to rebel against school in general, saying it’s “too boring,” and that he hates having to go the same speed as the rest of the class.  There’s not much available support-wise for advanced learners in our school district (and teachers and administrators at our school is stretched very thin right now!), so we’re hoping to find some online options that might better meet his needs - ideally courses aimed at advanced learners that use live instructors. Would also love any advice on folks (counselors, etc.) who might be able to help us navigate the process of finding resources for him, or any other ideas/experiences from other parents who have walked this path. Thanks so much. 

    My 2E student had a good class through CTY at Johns Hopkins a couple years ago, it was synchronous and asynchronous. They have their own assessment process, and it's pretty expensive, but may be worth checking out, as may be other schooling options.

    Our kids are advanced in math and have basically tested out of their grades in math. Khan Academy has been helpful as kids get to do more advanced materials. We have also been happy with Prodigy Math's tutoring program. The tutor provides math instruction at the kids' level, and kids say school is boring but tutor sessions are fun. They say it's not work time, it's fun play time. 

    Pandemic learning is so difficult. My kids are checked out during their regulat school time as well. 

    Check out Firecracker Math! They have wonderful classes, both online and in person, and they were a lifeline for my own advanced learner when he was in elementary and middle school. Classes are small, and they tailor instruction to each student— they always have extra challenge problems if someone masters the initial content— and their content is really interesting— delving into subjects that kids usually don’t get in school, like number theory, topology, and probability. My son was captivated. They are a true local treasure. https://firecrackermath.org/

    Our son went through public and private schools before we found Connecting Waters East Bay Charter.  No school offered advanced learning despite claiming they knew how to teach gifts children.  Our son is not 2E and was left with little options before we developed his own learning plan.  Contrary to what many believe "home schooled" learning is, CWEB sets you up with an educational specialist who works with you on learning plans.  Our son took classes from BYU online and UC Scout plus did independent learning for Elementary and HS credit.  Then as a 9th grader, he took up to 11 units at Berkeley City College. Classes that met HS requirements and yet fulfilled undergrad GE for UC's and Cal State schools.  It took four years for us to "figure" out the best learning approach for him.  He is now applying to college and we have no regrets going this route.  The best advice we received when he was evaluated as a gifted learner was to be his vocal advocate.  There are few programs and expensive counselors that specialize in advanced learners. Also look into Duke TIP program.  BAGHS (?) is also forum for homeschooled kids. Very helpful when our son was younger.  Please note...homeschool comes in many forms.  It is definitely not me sitting down teaching.  It can be creative and inspiring.

    Some advanced kids really enjoy math contests.  Many of these now have online tutorials or at least practice problems with full solutions.  (e.g. Math Kangaroo, AMC8, Math Olympiads).  Some programs which might have been "too far" in the past have gone fully online.  Sign up for a math circle mailing list for notifications (e.g. Stanford Math Circle).

    If your son is PG he can qualify to be a Davidson Young Scholar. Davidson provides many resources and support for gifted kids and you can work with one of their counselors. They are great for giving suggestions and helping you advocate for your child. https://www.davidsongifted.org/young-scholars. 

    Also my son took a lot of courses through CYT  and enjoyed math circles (check out Berkeley Math Circle). My son also loved the Elements of Math courses. We also contacted teachers of classes that he was interested in but where he were considered to be too advanced for him due to age. We sent test results and proof he could handle the class. He was able to take numerous high school level classes when he was younger.

    CTY: https://cty.jhu.edu/

    Elements of Math: https://www.elementsofmathematics.com/

  • We're very lucky that we're in a private school with high quality teachers who have managed teaching on zoom decently. We are also a high risk family, and will not be able to put our kids in in-person school now that schools are reopening. Some schools, like ours, are offering a hybrid model that I worry will work very poorly for the kids at home. Other schools, I hear, have surveyed parents and created separate in-person and all-online pods. Is anyone at a school that offers online-only sections for this year? Would you recommend your this?

    We are at Crestmont School, which is a co-op school in Richmond. The school leadership did do several surveys to determine the plan for each grade. We are a small school and they were able to come up with plans that worked for each family and teacher. We have a mixed grade of 2nd and 3rd graders that will remain online for the remainder of the year while some of the school returns to campus. There are spaces available in that class. My daughter is in a different class, so I can't speak to that class particularly, but I've heard nothing but positive things from all families at our school about the class experience. Teachers are doing a great job of making it a creative and connected experience. You don't mention what grade you are looking for, but if that might be a good fit, you can get more information by emailing admissions [at] crestmontschool.org

    It's such a logistical challenge for schools to figure this out. I have heard from other teacher friends and parent friends that the hybrid model (where there is simultaneous teaching of kids who are in-person and remote does not work well, especially for young kids). We made the switch to Ecole Bilingue earlier this year, having experienced home learning at another private school last spring, and at a Berkeley Public School for a few weeks this fall, and we are so happy with our decision and grateful we were able to make the switch.  Ecole Bilingue surveyed families at the start of the year and offered both home-based and in-person learning options. There are separate pods with separate teachers and the curriculum is coordinated so that when the kids are all eventually back to school together they won't have been learning different things, but the curriculum is not identical because the school realized the home-learning curriculum needed to be adjusted to the specific circumstances of home learning. Parents have to commit to home-based learning for a specific academic calendar cycle so as to maintain the integrity of the pods and then can opt to switch to in-person or continue to stay at home.  We've been very impressed with the home-based learning option and with the school on the whole. What we experienced at the other two schools was adequate, and I'm loathe to critique any school these days since it's such a challenging time and public schools especially are working miracles with limited resources, but our experience since making the switch has been really eye-opening in terms of what home-based learning can be. Before, we were underwhelmed and worried about how much our son was missing out on (and frankly we'd been underwhelmed pre-COVID). Now we can't believe how much he is learning and how effective and well-thought out the curriculum is. 

  • I am beginning to hear that private schools are opening up. Our friends at EBI just began in-person instruction. We would be particularly interested in learning more about how the following schools' in-person instruction is going. We are in OUSD and there's virtually no meaningful learning happening at school. I have no idea if private schools are accepting students right now. The cost is a big concern, but it's heart breaking knowing that my kids are falling behind their friends in private school and cousins in other countries that are managing the pandemic better and have opened schools up many months ago. American public school kids are falling behind and CA public school kids are in trouble. I cannot see how public schools will be able to open up safely until the pandemic is over, whenever that may be.  I have been a supporter of public schools and have kept my kids in public school, but I'm not sure anymore when I feel that online public school education is a big waste of time and the only thing my kids are learning is tricks to look like they're paying attention to combat boredom and how to do cool virtual background on zoom... Academically, all of my kids are ahead, so they're not learning new materials either and teachers are not able to provide differentiated learning.

    I know very little about the below schools but they are geographically the closest to where we live. Mill College school is almost $10k cheaper than other schools, so it's a very attractive option even though it's far from our house. 

    - Aurora

    - Park Day

    - St. Paul

    - Bentley

    - Mills College Children's School

    We are a St. Paul's family and are pretty satisfied with how it's going. St. Paul's is definitely taking a slower path back to in-person than some of the other schools on your list, but I have deep appreciation for the fact that they are letting teacher and family comfort levels guide the pace, with frequent check-ins and a great deal of communication and transparency (and honesty/humility about how uncharted these waters are). We are happy with how the distance learning aspect is going--it's a lot more live time than our OUSD friends have (and sometimes flirts with too much) but the structure has worked well for our kids, and they are making steady academic progress and maintaining social-emotional connections, which is all I can ask for in this moment. Differentiation even in the remote environment has been good (and was strong pre-COVID as well). I will say that the in-person time, as it ramps up, is still very short relative to the good old days of aftercare until 6, so proximity to school matters more than ever. Reopening plans are posted on each school's website, so I'd take a look to see how their approaches to both in-person and distance learning vary. I'd also note, on the cost front, that most/all of these schools do offer flexible tuition/financial aid and it's absolutely worth asking about before assuming a school costs too much, especially if you have more than one child. Good luck--it is so tough to navigate all of this right now!

    We have a child at The Academy in Berkeley and have been happy with their remote learning program. Kindergarten is returning to school this week and then the other grades will slowly return. Kids must have a negative Covid test before returning.

    If you are looking for less expensive private schools, check out the catholic schools. St. Theresa School is a good option. 

    We were in the same boat as you, and after the difficult spring decided over the summer to switch our child from our well-regarded OUSD school to a small, non-religious private school in Lamorinda. At the time, many (but not all) of the private schools we spoke to in Oakland were accepting new students because there has been so much flux due to Covid. It's with mixed emotions that I say we have been thrilled with the switch, because we also very deliberately chose Oakland public schools when my child began elementary. But this situation is just bonkers, and it wasn't sustainable for our family to keep going the way we had been in the spring. We have been blown away by how organized and data-driven the new school has been. The online learning has been as good as it can be. My child was in online classes from 8:45 - 2:45 each day, with ample breaks of course, and which included many "extras" multiple times a week, such as Spanish, PE, Music and art, with dedicated, excellent teachers for each. They set the bar high academically, and it was an adjustment for all of us to help my child keep up with the schoolwork and to be accountable. The school just reopened for in-person instruction a week ago and it's all going well, my child loves being back, but obviously there may be a roller coaster ahead. There is a parent-driven Covid task force, close cooperation and ongoing communication with the Contra Costa Health Dept, and the school had the resources and the small size to swiftly meet all of the safety requirements, apply for the waiver, and reopen. However, we are fully aware of the risks involved in returning to in-person learning, and we're bracing for the notification someday that an exposure has occurred in my child's cohort. Unfortunately I think you just need to be prepared for that if you're going to send your kid to in-person instruction while we're in the middle of a pandemic. Anyway, I had to respond, because like you, I felt that the "handwriting was on the wall" for the upcoming year, and maybe even 2021-2022, given that children are unlikely to be allowed to get a Covid vaccine anytime soon. Anecdotally, 2 families from my child's class have moved away already during the school year, so I would imagine there may be spaces available at some of the schools you're interested in if you contact them.

    I'm so sorry OUSD is not doing more for your kids. That is totally unacceptable. My kid attends TRIS (The Renaissance International School). I am pretty sure they are accepting new students since many moved away due to the pandemic. Elementary school is a hybrid right now (2 days in person, 3 at home), but will be reopening fully as soon as they get the green light from county health. Estimated end of October/beginning of November. There will also continue to be a fully online option because some parents need it.

    The school is amazing, and in normal times I recommend it to everyone. It is very different right now, though they are doing their best to retain their high standards. Engaging remote content is being provided, though at my kid's age (6) it requires a lot of parental help. If your kids are older this will be less of an issue for you. And of course it won't be an issue once they're back in person.

    The school is trilingual, so normally a class will have three teachers (one English, one French, and one Spanish). Because of the "pod" limits they can only have two in-person teachers at a time right now. So they rotate every few weeks as allowed by the county guidelines. When, say, the French teacher is not with them in their pod, then they will do remote lessons with her. Then when she's back with them they will have remote lessons with the Spanish teacher, etc. Music and art have been all remote. PE is happening in person with the teacher very distanced outside. I'm actually surprised at how well my child has been engaged by the remote art and music lessons, since those are definitely key elements of the school normally that are just NOT the same via zoom. Amazingly they have been going well though.

    So, in a nutshell, you won't be getting the full TRIS experience right now. That said, it's going to be the same story at every school. I am satisfied with what the school is providing, even if it's very difficult for our family right now with all the supervision needed.

    Hope that gives you an idea of what to expect. I'm sorry to say the tuition is high, and it feels easier to pay it when all aspects of the school and school community are functioning. Given the astronomical cost of safely operating a school with the current requirements, though, I can't see that the school has any choice in regards to tuition. The head of school had been sharing what they've had to do in terms of infrastructure, testing, cleaning, and duplicate supplies -- it's nearly impossible. Seriously. This is why public schools arent open yet. That said, there's no excuse for how OUSD is handling remote school. I hope your kids can find a better situation.

    Hi there - My two kids are at Crestmont School on Arlington Blvd on the EC/Richmond border.  Our campus is open and it's been so so great being back.  Kindergarten has been on campus since early last month, and now 1st-3rd grades are on campus too.  Grades 4-7 will be rolled on in the next few weeks.  Crestmont set up tents and are conducting classes largely outside, which the kids love, along with outdoor handwashing stations.  The class sizes have been capped very low (ranging from 9-14 per class, mostly on the lower end), and three classes have a full-time dedicated aide in addition to a classroom teacher.  The school just had an onsite Covid-19 testing day today so students, staff, and families could get tested proactively, and of course everyone is wearing masks (which is going surprisingly well).  My kids are so thrilled to be back.  You don't say which grades your kids are in, but I think Crestmont has 2-3 openings left for the current year in the on-campus program.  (They have a fully distance learning program for grades 2-3, and that class has several openings, for families who want to do distance learning all year.)  Good luck with your search and hope you find a good fit for your family!

    We send our kids to private school (the academy). The zoom classes are high quality, and the school is now reopening. But, the space is smaller than that of other local private schools, so there is necessarily more crowding, and the covid precautions seem more limited. 

    Also, the kids stay at a high academic level in part through extensive homework; parental involvement requirements have been particularly high since March.

    Berkwood Hedge is another local school perhaps worth considering; their academics are not outstanding, but they are conducting all activities outdoors.

    Supplementing with "outschool" could also be cost-effective. We tried different classes this summer, and were quite pleased with paying $5-10 for a 6 person class with a high quality instructor. (Their website is well set up and allows you to easily search by time, age group, and instructor reviews).

    We switched my daughter to Berkwood Hedge this year for similar reasons.
    The school is now open for classes for all grades (K-5), fives days a week and they currently have some openings in some grades.
    We are happy with the steps they've taken to ensure that everyone is safe and we really enjoy the small, caring community.

  • My child's teachers told me that her Chromebook wasn't connecting well for online classes.  I tested the network connectivity in her room and it seemed to be fine.  She's been using my laptop since and that works well.   I need my laptop for work and so need to get a replacement for school.  Can anyone tell me what characteristics I should look for in a device to preclude this problem?

    Chromebooks are in the same price range as iPads.  I would check with the school and see if an iPad can be used and add a keyboard. There's a lot more functionality with an iPad and your daughter will be able to use it for other purposes other than school.

    I'd recommend getting a desktop computer from Best Buy and getting Geek Squad protection. We also got a Chromebook that zoom didn't work well on, then we tried a tablet. On the tablet zoom did work, but the tablet usability is not great for classroom purposes. You are limited to seeing only 4 people on your screen, which is especially difficult if there is more than one instructor or for back and forth dialogue. AND the camera shuts off when the chat function is used.

    A larger screen is helpful for attention and focus. Going from a tablet to a large computer screen has made a huge difference in my daughter's class engagement.

    Chromebooks definitely have trouble with video conferencing software, especially with Zoom.  Here's a website that has some tips: 


    And here's a thread that may have some ideas as well: https://support.google.com/chromebook/thread/38575787?hl=en

  • Hi, Our district (like many in California) is starting school year with distance learning which will likely continue for foreseeable future and then move to hybrid when possible.  I'm currently working from home (due to the pandemic) and planning to take some time during the day to help with distance learning and make up hours at night.  I figured my work will suffer due to work from home no matter what, so I might as well use the opportunity to invest in my kids' education.  My kids (elementary school aged) are pretty independent learners so I want to use my time with them to supplement distance learning (they can do the basic DL work themselves), cover more advanced topics, do hands on learning, and help them advance since our school is not very good at differentiating and my kids could really benefit from this.  Anyone knows of resources that will be good for this?  I signed up for Beast Academy for math as I heard great things.  Anything more for math, or any recommendations for science learning kids or curriculum I can use at home to supplement?  Anything good for working on improving reading comprehension besides just reading more books?  I'm good at teaching the old-style boring way, but am not very creative unfortunately so looking for resources/tools out there to make it fun and interesting for the kids while they learn.  I figured some others are in similar position and hopefully have some resources to recommend.  Thanks. 

    Hi there, I've been learning a lot about a philosophy called Unschooling that I think could supplement distance learning well. It gives kids time and space to develop interests, without a curriculum. You notice what they are showing an interest in and provide resources and experiences to help them explore that interest. Elementary aged kids learn so much through play and self directed exploration. This could be a great time to carve out some Unschooling time in their schedules and see how they blossom! :)

    Take a look at EduTube and YouTube channels.  There is a lot of excellent material out there that's for free.  And more is being added all of the time. 
    For more structured learning take a look at Kahn Academy.  They have daily scheduled learning for ages 2-18.  And it's also free.  Started by a Silicon Valley billionaire about a decade ago. 

  • Hi everyone- I hope this is the correct forum, the childcare forum seemed to be focused on preschools. I'm approaching completion of my clearance to be a foster parent. I had arranged my home for 2 school age siblings between the ages of 5-13 yrs. Now that schools will be distance learning, and because I'm single and an essential worker, I'm scrambling to figure out if I can still foster or if I will have to wait indefinitely until the schools re-open. What are people that work doing for childcare for these ages? and what does this cost monthly? 

    Many preschools are allowing 5 year olds to enroll for kindergarten--I've talked to at least three in Berkeley that are willing to support the district's distance learning. I suspect that at-home daycares (with a wider age range) are doing the same. You can contact BANANAS for referrals to places with openings. I wonder if any of your colleagues with kids might know about childcare options for essential workers, too.

    Hi, inspired to hear about your fostering plans! I don't have great news, in that there is no support for working parents, it's quite shocking really. People are scrambling to find pods to share childcare/social groups, in a coop fashion or through hiring someone. I'm a kindergarten parent who works and am scrambling to figure this out. It will take some time or a super organized parent. It seems for pods, parents pay in $8- $20 /hour depending on the model.....right now, I have nothing and paying a babysitter for my 5 year old, as I struggle to form a pod. Would be happy to chat more if it helps you. It's all just a bit crazy as everyone tries to sort solutions to fit their different needs while also staying safe. I'm not sure of childcare options for 13 yr olds, but I know there are some camps that are turning into school day type things.....like East Bay dance center. 

    I hear you! I'm an essential worker too and it is very hard. I've enrolled my child to a preschool that has K-1 pods.

    They are supporting DL and manage homework. They do many different activities and my child is happy with that. I've heard they a few spots for part time but also full time supporting attendance to school. I will try that in October.

  • Hi Parents, 

    I have a 5 year old who is supposed to be starting Kindergarten this year. I have decided to send him to another year in preschool instead because I feel he will get very little out of online learning AND both my partner and I work. My initial plan was to enroll him in Kindergarten with BUSD as well and just not really show up until (if!) in-person learning begins. But I was honest about my plan with the district and they said I need to un-enroll him and only re-enroll once he's ready to attend (ie if in-person learning starts up). So I'm planning to do that but wanted to know if any of you are in a similar boat. Does anyone know what the risks of un-enrolling could be? I fear that we won't get the school we want once in-person learning begins or there will be a different hurdle that I'm not even considering now. I do know that if he misses all of K, he'll have to start next year in 1st grade, which would not be ideal but I think I'm willing to go that route if the full year is online. Open to any thoughts, advice, or personal experiences. 


    This doesn't answer your question about un-enrolling. But, if you want to consider keeping your kid enrolled, you could ask the preschool if they'll support BUSD's distance learning program. We're in a similar boat, and I've spoken to two preschools/in-home day cares that are willing to support the morning online learning (which I feel will be enough to meet BUSD's expectations). There seems to be a high demand for this right now, and while the district isn't too flexible, I think the preschools are eager to keep parents happy.

    I have a first grader, but know other kindergarten families in this situation. I think you can't have both, either keep him in preschool the full year or have him in distance education kindergarten. You can't be enrolled in K at the local school and not participate, it takes up a spot someone else could have, and makes it difficult for funding- the school gets money based on contact hours. If your kid does not participate, that's less money for the school.

    I've been impressed with the distance learning plan our neighborhood public school is doing, and my kid liked the zoom kindergarten last year, we made a lot of academic progress with the live lessons, home learning, and the teacher's office hours. But I understand not every kid wants to see their friends and teacher on the screen, and I know 3 families who are staying in their in-person preschool and will just enroll in first grade next year. Other friends of ours are doing the online route for K and TK. Best of luck to your family.

    Even in normal times, I've known families that kept their kids in preschool for K.  It had to with school quality although I imagine that would also allow folks to hold younger kids back.  Note that some preschools have been operating successfully through the summer and it may qualify as a childcare expense for tax purposes.

    You are right, if you give up your slot either now or just no-show in the first 5 days, you lose your "favorite" school. This being said, the whole district is in distance learning until at least mid October. After that MAYBE they will switch to a hybrid mode with 2 days of outdoor schooling. First grade is demanding and there are many kids for a teacher to manage. I saw and fell very sorry for the boy who missed out on KG. While all kids were reading and sharing exciting books about the mummies, and dragons, and magic adventures, that kids was stuck reading his books with simple and repetitive sentences...He was very mad about the situation.

  • With the state wide budget cut, we are reluctantly looking at private school options. How has MCCS has been with the pandemic response and remote learning? MCCS is attractive to us because I understand that they have a large outdoor space which can help with learning during the pandemic. 

    I just saw this.   I'm a MCCS parent in the early childhood program.  I'm feeling really calm and safe about the plan they have in place.  We have a big beautiful campus and they are capping classes at 12 students, staggering start times, cleaning schedules, etc.

    I really also appreciate that the administration has emphasizes that while they will be wanting the children to wear a face covering, they will not be punitive or discipline or shame. Staff will also be wearing face coverings.

  • Due to a variety of reasons I won't get into here, I have lost all faith in BUSD being able to provide any manageable school solution for my elementary school kids. There are some spectacular teachers doing a good job, but I've learned that when we don't get one of those, it's a total mess. As a result, I'm trying to find a sustainable solution for our family for the next academic year. I am willing to consider a range of options from private school to supplemental online instruction or tutoring to some sort of paid, in-person small group day camps that meet the COVID requirements to any other ideas out there.

    My primary goals are to keep my kids occupied and engaged in something - anything - during the school year so that my spouse and I can work during the day. We are not looking to fill 8 hrs per day -- our kids are pretty independent and can keep themselves occupied. Rather we are looking for 1-3 hrs per day to provide some sort of structure to the endless days at home. Right now we're either dealing with crying and giving up on school work because there is no instruction, or we are peppered with questions all day long because there is no teacher available to ask for help. I don't care if my kids "fall behind" in the traditional subjects as long as they're occupied with something interesting and somewhat educational that doesn't cause continuous strife in my house. 

    What is working is the project based "independent" experimentation type stuff. For example, my kids built a marble run out of cardboard & are expanding it into a very basic Rube Goldberg machine with dominos - this has consumed many many hours over a couple of weeks. My kids have also taken very engaging online lessons with outside organizations that they enjoy and where actual instruction happens and where they get feedback on their efforts. In an ideal world, we would find one organization / school / person / etc. who would put together these types of opportunities that are functional for working parents and provide regular daily engagement, teaching and feedback for our kids either in-person or on a videoconference. This could be a support for what BUSD sends out (and we would keep our kids enrolled), or it could be completely independent (and we would pull our kids out). Any recommendations?

    You might want to check out Berkwood Hedge School (www.berkwood.org) in downtown Berkeley. The school excels in project based learning and that seems like a good fit for what has been working for your kids. I have two kids there, an older child and and younger child who have enjoyed the abundant SIP distance learning that honestly pale in comparison to the rich curriculum offered in person. Right now my kids have a combination of 1 on 1 feedback meetings with their teachers, small group working meetings and live art, music, PE and dance class. The school already has a plan for what will happen in the fall. It is a small school that can be responsive to changing situations. Good luck!

    Hello fellow Parent,  Just today I was researching homeschool and independent study alternatives to placing my 10 yr old back in to public school.  Surprisingly, becoming a homeschool "teacher" to my child was not as difficult as I imagined. Rough at first but, once we got into a groove, it went well. Most importantly, I noticed that my ADHD child was actually was making greater progress with me at home than during her attendance at the school. A few of the reasons being, at home she had little to no physical distractions, no social emotional issues (academic level comparisons/ anxiety about who "likes" her..etc), and we had a schedule that was flexible. I decided to pursue the possibility of homeschooling my daughter through the next year (and beyond). However, I am uncertain how to continue without having to "work" nearly full time myself. I've been contemplating a variety of possibilities and one I would consider is to be a "Nanny" or "In-Home Parent's Helper". I've been a parent for 10 years. I have 4 years experience as a Personal Assistant which included Shopping, Cooking and Childcare, I have 5 years experience as Building Maintenance & Resident Manager, 20 yrs experience as a Bookkeeper. I have been a creative artist all my life and I have a plethora of other skills as well. I also have a college degree in Film Production. I have a lot more to offer a family than the average Nanny. Upon reading your post I thought that together we could figure out a way to support each other. I'm not seeking an income, only collaboration. Taking care of children is easier to do as a "tribe". If interested...please let me know. I live in North Berkeley on Josephine Street. 

    Please take a look at Aurora School, where we have a current 4th grader. Aurora is a progressive K-5 in Upper Rockridge, and although (pre-COVID) we had a little commute coming from Berkeley, it was always well worth it! The school is small and full of caring and thoughtful teachers, and they have a strong emphasis on socioemotional learning. In addition, they have adapted pretty brilliantly to all the changes wrought by the pandemic. Currently the teachers are offering academic classes via Zoom from 9am-noon, with specialist classes (art, music, Spanish, PE) in the afternoons. Families all differ, but my own child is pretty self-sufficient during school time, and my husband and I are both able to work without much interruption. Aurora is planning for on-site school in the fall, with many contingency plans in place (including the ability to switch to all-remote learning if need be). There are a few families asking for an all-remote experience in the fall, and the school is preparing to offer that as well.

    Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Good luck in your search!

     Hi there!  You mentioned that your kids have enjoyed doing "project based/experimentation" activities...I highly recommend looking into Crestmont School in the Richmond Hills.  It's a small private school and their program emphasizes the type of project-based learning that you mentioned. 

    My son currently attends Crestmont and the school is offering parents the option to have kids learn "in house" in small groups or participate in a distance learning program.  Best of luck to you.

    I can understand the desire to find the richest learning opportunities possible.  Although I am a stay-at-home mom, I considered evaluating private schools as well based on their covid-19 game plan.  However, unless a vaccine is out of reach for several years, switching the school environment now means at least one more transition in the very near future if private school is not part of the long term plan.  I think I'm going to bet on this being a 1 year disruption.  For working folks with solid careers, this may be the time to take a leave of absence.  For folks like me:  no more pet projects, no unrelated volunteering for a year so that I can focus on the needs of the children.  For the youngest lower elementary kids, homeschooling is actually fairly easy and fun.  I did it for 1 year for the 1st grade level and our child was at the equivalent of first grade completion by February.  We took weekday trips to the beach.  With dad's help, we built a duck run and incubated duck eggs.  This then 6 year old helped me rent a van and load 30+ pieces of 8 foot long PVC at Home Depot.  She took a weekly in-person homeschooling class in her favorite subject with a rock-star teacher.  I cannot overstate that new school transitions are hard for the kids and stressful for the parents.  Staying at home is not a curse if your work situation allows an LOA.  Some families just pack up for another country so that the adults can decompress while the kids get the experience of a lifetime.  As kids get older, their social circles get bigger and are also a bigger part of their lives... that's a whole different and possibly more explosive scenario.

  • I know most (especially public) elementary schools aren't able to say what the school year will look like this upcoming year, but I was wondering if some of the private schools in the oakland/berkeley area have started to finalize plans?  The public schools are likely going to be hybrid this upcoming year, but didn't know if some of the private schools were going to be able to offer more on-site learning because of the inherent reduced teacher-student ratio.  If anyone has any insight, please let me know?  (and, if able, what school?).  Thank-you!!  

    We are planning to start at Shu Ren, a small immersion IB school in Berkeley. They are small enough to be able to do in person every day and we are hopeful it will stay that way. I know people are concerned about transmission in schools but the data hasn’t really shown that to be the case and we are worried about our child being away for too long, distance learning is way too hard on kindergarteners. It doesn’t seem to me that public schools will be opening in the fall for anything in person but i know it’s a moving target.

    This is a question on everyone's mind.  My kids are at Aurora School (independent/private in Oakland).  They organized a task force of various experts from the school and families to work on planning with the Head of School.  They have also been surveying families on needs/desires for the return to school.  They have also been doing a lot of innovative remote learning in the interim (which will likely be helpful later in the Fall/Winter if more shelter-in-place orders are issued).  You can learn more about that here: https://auroraschool.org/remote-learning

    While they are still waiting for some more data from public health experts, and feedback from community, I predict a blended model (see Option C on the link below).  Fortunately, preliminary data shows that transmission amongst kids is very rare, so it is more about adults as vectors, which is somewhat easier to try and mitigate.


    We shall see and plans will be firmed up soon.  One nice thing about Aurora is it is relatively small school and can be nimble and coordinated in plans.  Fingers crossed.
    Curious to see what other plans schools come up with.  Best of luck to all.

    My daughter goes to Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley. Right now they are planning to open next year. They are applying for permits to increase the number of classrooms (mobile classrooms etc) as well as breaking up the gyms and multi-purpose rooms into multiple classrooms in order to maintain the social distancing requirements. If those fall through they are planning to prioritize the preschool thru 2nd grade to on campus 100% of the time with 3rd thru 8th doing a hybrid in-class/distance learning. From what I understand from friends in the public school system they've been told that the distance learning will likely go into the fall and as late as January 2021.

  • My child will be heading to Emerson in the Fall, and there is so much uncertainty going on right now, and I am planning for the many eventualities. One of the most trying would be to do several months of remote Kinder. And, my heart goes out to those of you that just had to do that, have a job while helping your child extensively with the new distance learning. My question is, how was distance learning for Kinder at Emerson? How many hours a day of work did you and your child have? My friends in other districts report 3 to 5 hours a day spent in Kinder education, including navigating the computer. That seems like a lot. Also, answers from other schools in BUSD for Kindergarten would be helpful too, to get an idea of how many hours to expect. 

    My son is in kindergarten at MX and has an amazing teacher. This year there is really no requirement on the amount of work you do or turn in. It is up to your family. Not sure if that will change. She provides enough work that you could theoretically spend 3-5 hours a day if you wanted to, but she recommends about 2 hours a day. She gives you a matrix for each week with lots of options to choose from: individual Zoom, small group Zoom, class-wide Zoom, videos she made, videos made by other MX teachers, videos made by other sources, worksheets and paper based activities, reading, Flipgrid, and some apps (RAZ kids and Freckle etc.). It is up to you how much you and your family want to engage in. 

    We are in K at John Muir. We haven’t had anywhere near 3-5 hours a day of Kindergarten work. That sounds like too much, for both kid and parents. Our child has three times a week Zoom class for about thirty minutes, plus daily activities and journal entries. The activities and journal entries maybe add up to an hour per day (we spread them out over the day rather than do them all at once). We could never do 3-5 hours of work with our kindergartener since we both work full time and are also caring for a younger, preschool age child. I wouldn’t stress about this. One advantage of having a younger child in this pandemic is less academic pressure. (The disadvantage is that they’re not yet very independent.) You don’t have to be a full substitute for school and probably couldn’t even if you wanted to try. 

    No way do I spend 3-5 hours a day on Kinder education. I have a 2-yo to entertain and we both have full time jobs.
    But even if I had the time, in our case (Kinder at Rosa Parks) this is absolutely not the expectation.
    There is a 30-minute morning meeting with all kids Mon-Thu, and once a week a 10-min checkin with the teacher.
    Then every day, try to do some form of reading, writing, math and arts. There are learning plans and tons of apps, but we try to limit screen time and just go with what the day brings. Seriously, it's Kindergarten. No stress.

    I also have a kindergarten student at MX and I have been terribly disappointed with the teacher and the school's approach completely inadequate to distance learning. The teacher has offered no direct instruction beyond three full-class zoom calls per week. No individual or small group instruction whatsoever. No videos from the teacher -- nothing that fosters connection. My child has been absolutely miserable and has gone from loving school to hating it and thinking it is worthless. This has all been heartbreaking to witness, so much so that I am now submitting applications to private schools because I can't bear to watch my child's love of learning extinguished.

  • Before the pandemic hit us, we had already planned on switching our first grade son from a private school to BUSD. He was assigned to Rosa Parks and he's on the waitlist at Jefferson.  I have heard not great reports about the distance learning at Thousand Oaks, so I started to wonder if Rosa Parks and Jefferson are doing a better job (in case this continues next fall).  Can people let me know their experiences at either of those schools (in particular, second grade)? 

    Thanks in advance.

    The quality of distance learning differs even from teacher to teacher. I have two boys at Cragmont. Our TK teacher rocks, our 3rd grade teacher not so much. Actually for TK it works out even better than face to face. The virtual class has 5 children and is 30 minutes per day. They cover "reading" and math. For the 3rd grader, we get 17 pages of assignments per week and two hours of virtual classroom. Half of that time they talk about their feelings and the other half about the assignments they failed to complete. Not a word on fractions yet-this is obviously parents' responsibility not teacher's.

    Greetings, and I I understand your concern...but it is nearly impossible to measure one school to another. Since this is BUSD first time ever to do Distsnce learning, much of it has been to teacher discretion with general guidance from district. This means that every teacher teaching will be different; classwork and load will vary quite a bit too. Currently there is not a definitive plan as to what hybrid learning program will be in place. Both Rosa Park and Jefferson are great schools, but the overall district curriculum and number of websites district approved telling teachers to use have significantly overloaded both teachers and parents.(too many login and passwords/classcode). There is not way to objective measure anything at the moment...everything is a russian roulette when it comes to school choice right now. Personally, I would reccomend determine your interaction with other parents and how well the principal communicates. Best of luck!!!

    I have a second grader (and Kindergartner) at Rosa Parks.  The Second grade teachers are a really strong group of teachers who are creative and fun. Distance learning is never going to capture the magic of great teachers, but the three 2nd grade teachers have worked together to  adapt the curriculum and use google class room quickly and well.  They cover the basics and I would say its a manageable amount of work for a working parent with two kids who are not ready to work totally independently.  Also, our teacher does a morning meeting with the class and also meets once a week individually with each student. she seems to be particularly interested in supporting them emotionally which I know is a huge benefit to the kids.   Both my kids and I miss our community, our after care program and the Rhythm of school, but I have been impressed with the teachers' inventiveness, adaptability, receptiveness and all out effort in a really uncertain an new situation. 

    We have a 2nd Grader at Rosa Parks and the teachers for that grade have come together to develop an online curriculum so there are assignments daily with instruction. The team approach the teachers are taking means that every child in the grade is getting the same content and the teachers aren’t trying to all develop individual content, so they have more time to engage with the kids. My child meets with the class daily online for about half an hour (including 1 day with the science teacher) and has private office hours with the teacher once per week. During the office hours, it is evident that the teacher is reading the submitted work and providing feedback even though the work is not graded. I think it’s excellent given the circumstances and am very satisfied with my child’s education and engagement. All that said, it’s still not as good as “real” school.

    On the other hand, our other child is at the same school in a different grade and the experience has been more aligned with what I’m hearing from others. Basically we get a list of assignments and a once a week meeting with the teacher some weeks. I’d like to say that it’s better than nothing, but I’m not sure it is.

  • We are in OUSD, and understand that both our district and BUSD are really struggling with the online transition. Some (but not all) private schools are doing a lot better, it seems. Are any public school districts managing the transition to online learning well? Piedmont? Albany? Orinda? Or specific schools or teachers within OUSD/BUSD?

    It looks like we'll be in a different world, at least for one more academic year, and perhaps for longer, so any and all information would be very useful.

    We are at OUSD and it has been thoroughly chaotic, insufficient, ineffective and disappointing. 

    At the beginning, there was a message that the district will provide kids with a chrome book which turned out to be an empty promise as the demand surpassed supplies. They quickly changed the message and asked if parents who had access to any device could give up the device. (We have devices for our work. We needed a device for the kid which we ended up buying on our own.)

    For over a month, there was nothing from the teacher other than a “how are you doing?” Email. At about 5 week mark, we received a few links to YouTube videos for kids to watch and a few projects that require active adult participation (ie adults end up finishing it).

    1 hour zoom calls per week with a class of 24 kids are excruciating. What kids really need is small group online instruction which is not happening much at our award winning OUSD school. I am so saddened when I hear about my friends whose kids are at private schools whose teachers got their act together so quickly and are doing much more engaged and involved online instruction and interaction and providing a sense of community and structure. Small group work. Short community gathering. Break out sessions and reasonable assignments with recognition that none is mandatory but encouraged. Daily touch points even if it’s brief and enrichment opportunities that are not at lunch time. Our school is attempting to provide enrichment at noon or 12:30 (that’s lunch time.) Some may say that for the price they pay, Private school folks should get stellar education. But what about the rest of us? We pay close to a private tuition on property tax. Seriously considering moving or alternate schooling... 

    A silver lining is that we are discovering our inadequate OUSD has been for our kids. We were busy and the teacher never really raised an issue so we didn’t realize how our kids were held back by OUSD. With us being more actively involved, our kids flew through their grade level proficiency and are now working on  next grade materials. (It’s heck of a lot of work and we are exhausted beyond belief, but when we saw what the teachers were sending as instructional plan, we could not ignore how terribly unfit they were for our kids.)

    We are in Belmont-Redwood Shores school district and the transition to online learning at least for my kids has been seamless.  They have done an amazing job.  I also heard very good things from my friends in Palo Alto.  We have several required zoom meetings plus several more small group and office hour type zoom meetings for kids who want it - as some kids love zoom while others don't.  We get assignments online through google classroom and it is a good mix of videos posted of the teachers teaching, access to online school programs. worksheets that get emailed to parents for printing weekly, and assignments in the kids' workbooks which were sent home when all this started.  My elementary aged kids spend about 4 hours a day on school work and there are always more optional assignments available if the kids (or their parents) want them to do more.  I'm very with my district and my kids' teachers. 

    My son is at North Oakland Community Charter School (NOCCS) and the teachers are doing an amazing job. Our school did provide chrome books and has daily activities for the kids, small groups and one on ones. I think this is all a big stress test for teachers and schools and some are going to succeed and some are going to fail.  

    We are happy with how El Cerrito High (WCCUSD) handled the transition. But the situation might be different for younger children who need more interaction than a high schooler. The kids have a school issued tablet anyways. And the school made a big effort to ensure that after spring break, when remote learning became mandatory, everyone had internet access at home. Most teachers had used Google classroom even before the shelter in place, so the students are used to that. Teachers are more lenient with things submitted late (still get full credit). My child's teachers seem to do two one hour Zoom meetings per week and are available by email for questions. So if you have a child that does well with (fairly) independent learning, this all works well.

    I have to disagree with the post about OUSD sucking. Our kids are at Oakland Tech and Claremont Middle School. Tech is a bit more all over the map but our older kid has a LOT to do in many classes, regular zoom meetings with small groups, regular teacher check in from some teachers. There is also a lot of communication about AP testing. Our middle school child is having a very structured and reasonably rigorous experience and we are very impressed. Every teacher is giving regular assignments, posting to google classroom, and I believe most are having zoom meetings. Both schools are also doing a lot of communicating about what's happening. I'm sure it all depends on the school, but I dispute that OUSD in general is awful, that has not been our experience at all.

    We have one child at Joaquin Miller and one child at Beach Elementary in Piedmont. If anything, I would say the transition to online learning was quicker for our OUSD student. I've been very impressed with how the teachers in our child's grade (second) have got things up and running. They give an appropriate amount of work, and I have time to supervise my kid to the extent needed while still doing my full-time job from home. So, I think the OUSD experience is probably varying quite a bit from school to school, but I'm happy with Joaquin Miller on this. While Piedmont took a little longer to start online learning, I'm also happy with their transition. My child at Beach is older and doesn't need as much supervision, so I'm not as familiar with what's being assigned, but it also seems reasonable (and if anything, on the "more" side of things). Long story short, I think the two schools handled this comparably, which is impressive for JM given that it has significantly fewer resources.

    My daughter is at Malcolm X with Ms. Carver (kindergarten) and I have been floored by how wonderful she has been. It’s hard to say what the other teachers at our school are or are not doing but we are very pleased with our experience. I hope the other teachers at the school prove to be at least half as great as she has been as a teacher both in person and online, as we move up in the grades. 

    I have a sophomore at Albany High School and their experience has been awful. There is no school or even department level standards. Each teacher can individually decide if they want to do remote instruction or just send an email each week with reading and problem assignments. Some students in Albany are lucky in that most of their teachers are actually teaching. We have not been so lucky. It's pretty difficult to learn Math and Chemistry with absolutely no instruction, but that is what my kid is dealing with, and the administration throws up it's hands and offers zero help. We are looking at Tilden Prep for Fall.

    My boys are in BUSD and I think it is doing a good job. Teachers are working extremely hard. There are weekly online meetings and when my kids get behind the teachers email me and check in personally. Many teachers had to learn something brand new, setting up meeting links and switching to google classroom. This took time and troubleshooting. Berkeley had a drive through to pick up chrome books and the teachers reached out several times to remind families they could pick one up. It was also made clear that breakfast and lunch is available for pick up, as well as a twice monthly food bank. I realize it might be chaotic for some people but there are so many logistics and I don't think it is fair to compare private schools to public with such demographic differences in many cases. This is such an unexpected and unusual situation, most people are going above and beyond and doing the best they can.

  • Hi,

    I am very unhappy with my son's response to "distance learning" and do not feel it is age appropriate. I am thinking of withdrawing him from school, and homeschooling him for the rest of the year. Does anyone know what the law is regarding withdrawing a child at this point in the school year?  My son attends a private school.  Any advice is appreciated!

    You can certainly withdraw him and go through the steps of setting up homeschooling (in some areas, you can set up independent study through your local district, which is likely to be the simplest; there are also charter schools set up to facilitate this). However, you will almost certainly need to pay tuition to your child's current school for the balance of the year anyway--your contract will specify this, but almost all become binding at the start of the school year. Given that there is only a month left of school, I'm not sure there's a huge amount to gain here. I would focus on working with his current teacher to get through to the end of the school year, and then withdraw him for next year and look for other options for the fall.

    You should review the contract you signed. My daughter goes to a private school and the contract we signed basically says we're responsible for the full tuition if we withdraw her. If you have the tuition refund insurance you might be able to use that but I think you would still be on the hook for a portion of the remaining tuition.

    We were considering doing the same, although to help support teachers, we are paying for the rest of the year and using supplemental material for each of our kids (grades 2, 4 and 7). It has worked out very well for us. Our kid’s school froze their grades and all work is just for learning. I will say, for us, this model has worked very well. 

    Also, we are talking to the school to see if they’d do a hybrid model next year. We do not plan on allowing our kids to attend school (frontline workers so we have a “unique” lens). It would make sense to charge students less in tuition for this model but it still ensures that tuition money is coming in.

    If you have a month to go before your private school year ends, I would talk with your child's teacher and see what can be changed to make what's left of the school year better for your son. There is a myth that homeschooling is easy. Home learning done well takes much intentionality and flexibility about what best suits the child and family in terms of how to support learning. Many families who homeschooled before the pandemic hit the Bay Area had larger learning environments because our communities are learning labs where we enrich our curriculum to real-world experiences. Sheltering in place has caused interruptions in routines for all children. However, the silver lining of massive disruption is clear insight into what is the best course of action going forward. What are your thoughts on education? How does your child learn academically and social-emotionally? Those of us who homeschool either through a Private School Affidavit or charter school spend a lot of time manifesting what the purpose of education should be in harmony with our child's learning style. It is not easy but so worth it. If homeschooling is the direction you would like to pursue for your family contact homeschooling groups and organizations in your area.        

    It might be useful to start with the terms of your contract. One that is relevant is the force majeure clause. This likely specifies that you are on the hook for tuition BUT implicit in any force majeure contract is that the school must continue to provide as much as possible in terms of services under the circumstances. To the extent your school is doing a lot less than this, its behavior may not be excused by the force majeure clause. The other clause that is relevant is the dispute resolution provision. Does it point to arbitration or to litigation? Litigation is very cumbersome and costly, for you and for the school; threat of litigation is an extreme option, but if you are so upset as to be wanting to withdraw your student right now, then maybe it would motivate administrators to pay attention to the issues.

  • As online instruction is new to most of us, I wonder what your school is offering. Our daughter goes to a private K-8 school, Ecole Bilingue, and is in K. She gets 2 30-minute zoom sessions with her whole K class daily, plus another 2 20-minute zoom sessions with fewer kids weekly, for a total of just under 6 hours of zoom time per week. She also gets a lot of assignments. Our local Oakland public school offers 1 30-minute zoom session daily, for a total of 2.5 hours of zoom per week.

    For us, more zoom time and fewer assignments would be very valuable. Assignments take up parent time; zoom frees it up. And we're very short on parent time. The assignments are pedagogically useful, to some extent, but there's also some value to zoom time, I think. This is especially because we're paying Ecole Bilingue tuition so that our daughter learns a foreign language that we don't speak at home. 

    What have your experiences been? Is your school offering too much or too little? (I have heard through the grapevine that some schools have tried zoom all day and found it exhausting for the students, but don't know if this is true). Any and all advice welcome as we navigate this new world

    Our bilingual preschool, Colibri, is providing one 30ish minute Zoom call per day. They had been doing it all the classes together, but as of today switched to having the 2 year olds, 3 year olds and 4s seperated by class so that they could have smaller groups and interact more with their maestras. Today also they for the first time provided materials we could pick up for each child from the school parking lot during a particular window of time for the whole week. Before that they were just sending out lesson plans and activity suggestions via email. The parents also created a shared spreadsheet of educational resources, including bilingual and Spanish-language ones, that we're sharing to support our kids in their language learning.

    Our children are younger than yours, but our experience is that Zoom doesn't actually free up parent time, as we have to sit with our kids and encourage them to participate and pay attention. I think this is mostly their age and our kids being on the more high-energy end of the spectrum and not the maestras being uninteresting. I'd be interested in hear what others experience is of young kids and Zoom.

    Hi there! Our kids are in elementary and middle school at the East Bay German International School (EBGIS) in Emeryville. When the schools all started closing EBGIS moved right away to a really impressive online learning program. It’s been amazing for our kids and I hope other schools follow their example!

    For my middle schooler, the daily class schedule hasn’t changed since they went online. Pretty much every class session starts with a video meeting (they don’t use zoom, but another platform called Microsoft Teams which is integrated with their school calendar and has all their assignments and teacher feedback on it). At the video meetings the teachers give instruction and an assignment and answer questions and sometimes also have group discussion. Then usually after maybe 20-30 minutes the whole-group session will end and the kids will do video calls with small groups of their classmates or will work on their individual assignments for the rest of the class time. Then the next class starts with that class’s teacher doing a video call with all the students, and so on.

    That format has worked great for my kid and the couple others whose parents I’ve talked to. Having video classes like clockwork at the usual class times keeps the kids in the rhythm of the school day and keeps them from feeling isolated. And then having some interspersed offline time keeps the kids from being glued to the screen the whole day.

    For the elementary school students, the faculty decided that it’s healthier to have less online time. So they have about three out of six class periods per day plus a one-on-one meeting with their homeroom teacher, plus their teacher is on call for an hour or two every day so kids can do a video call if they have questions. Every morning each kid receives a “daily plan,” which is a chart showing exactly what assignments they need to do in every subject by the end of the day. The kids submit all their assignments to their teacher -- they usually send a photo or use a scanner if they have one. The teacher gives feedback on the work at the one-on-one video call the same day or the next day.

    That approach has worked really well for my elementary school kid, it’s enough video class time so he feels connected to his teacher and classmates and can stay pretty well on task. I’ve been super impressed with how the teachers have adapted to teaching online. The P.E. teacher is especially amazing, I keep finding my kid doing sprints up and down the stairs or ball games using rolled up socks or moving in other creative ways under the constraints we’re all under. My kid is making the usual progress in all his school subjects and is just as excited about school as he was before shelter in place.

    I don’t know how much can be replicated in other schools because the teachers at EBGIS are pretty extraordinary plus the class sizes are really small, probably around ten kids per class on average. But it goes to show that school online can work! I hope some of these methods are helpful! Best of luck to you!

    Great post/question! We have two very different experiences at home because of the age difference of our kids. My daughter is in 1st gr and my son in 6th grade at the East Bay German International School. My son's school day is basically the same with all his classes online and he is able to work independently and keep up with all of the 6th grade curriculum and the language (which is so important because we don't speak much German at home). So we have been thrilled with that. It is much more challenging with my daughter, just because of her age and strong will. I feel like the school has done an amazing job....they have a regular homeroom meeting every morning (I can get some work done!) and after that have a mix of online classes and independent work time (meaning assignments she can do with us at home) and then at the end of the school day they have another group meeting to reconnect, read a story etc. One thing I appreciate is that they have divided her class into small groups so that the kids who need to work more on their German can get small group help with that, and for the kids who are here from Germany and need more help with their English, they can get that. I also appreciate that they offer daily one on one help for any kids who need it and we have been doing that and it's been a big help (because I don't know any German and my husband, who knows German, is even more busy than I am with his work). All in all the teachers have put so much into it and really done an amazing job. I've learned when I can get my work done while she is doing her various online classes. The challenging part is that I think it's hard for her to be on the computer so much. Mostly she does fine with it but we are on spring break this week and they offered a  free online camp  for elementary students which I really wanted her to do, mostly to keep up with her German and because it looks fun, but she is super resistant and I can tell just needs a break from all the online teaching time......one more thing I'll add is that I appreciate that the teachers give us alot of structure and offer a decent amount of online classes, but sometimes I just have to let go of "school" and take breaks from it because it can be too much for my daughter (not just the school but everything!).  So I really appreciate that it's all there for when we need it but fine if we don't do it all.  take care, Melissa

    I agree with you, it seems like since your daughter is in a language school, it would be beneficial for her to be in Zoom classes more than 6 hours each week!

    My child attends a private elementary school and has about 8-9 hours of zoom time each week and then about an hour or two of independent work. Usually all work is done by noon and then there is nothing to do in the afternoons.  I have been disappointed with the education since they have gone to the on-line learning. I would prefer they offer more time on zoom with the teacher.

    Our son is in kindergarten at East Bay German International School (EBGIS) and we have been using Microsoft Teams.  There is a daily 20-30 minute online session with a teacher and 3 kids focused on academics (for us right now it's about syllables and sounds in words).

    There are also optional online sessions with different preschool and kindergarten teachers each day from 8:30am-2pm that all preschool and kindergarten students can join.  The optional sessions are for movement, art, story time, and project time.  We've only been attending an hour each day of the optional sessions since even those at first required parental oversight to stay on track - though he's getting better now about learning when to mute and un-mute himself.

    EBGIS has also been sending a daily newsletter to preschool and kindergarten parents with links to stories/songs, arts and crafts projects, and learning objectives (e.g. it's spring and time to look for flowers) that match with the optional sessions.  The kindergartners have also discovered how to call each other on Teams so we've had a few mid-day play dates that way.

    The assignments are pretty minimal (~10 minutes or less per day for us) and come from the smaller Teams sessions.  I can't imagine our son sitting still for a full day of online interaction at his age, so I like the offering.  We also speak German at home already though, so he hears it outside of school.

    Our preschooler attends the East Bay Waldorf School. The older children are getting some in-person Zoom instruction from their teachers, but the early childhood teachers have basically transitioned to being parenting coaches -- they provide rhymes, recipes, articles, etc., as well as what has so far been a very responsive presence via text/email, regular evening conferences with parents, and an occasional brief one-on-one video call with students. This works OK for us as I'm home full-time with our younger child, and the preschool/kindergarten routine at EBWS isn't something that would transition very well to a virtual setting.

    I think your point about assignments is definitely worth considering -- even setting the wackiness of my own kid's school aside (no academics in Waldorf until 1st grade, which I acknowledge is unorthodox by mainstream standards), I've seen dozens and dozens of educational professionals from all corners of the field talking about how these are not normal times, and homeschool is different from group instruction even under normal circumstances. The most important thing for your kid right now is to feel supported, loved, and like she's in a safe, predictable environment; the most important thing for you her parents right now is to do what you have to do to protect your own mental and emotional health so that you can be there for her through this challenging time. If that means your daughter doesn't do some, or most, or all of her EB assignments for a little while, I don't think that's crazy. I've also seen the point made many times that you shouldn't worry about your kid falling "behind" right now; everyone's school year is disrupted, everyone will be a little off when they start school again in the fall. They will figure it out together.

    As far as the other part of your question, which I read as (at least in part) "am I still getting my money's worth out of my school?" -- I think the real answer is no, none of us are getting what we're paying for right now. I see it as much the same kind of thing as buying gift certificates from your favorite restaurant and continuing to pay your babysitter even if they can't watch your kids -- if you want your school to be there when this is all over, paying tuition, even for less-than-ideal offerings, is a hugely important piece of making it more likely that that happens.

    Our K-8 is not a language immersion school, but only has one 30-minute Zoom a day for K (though more for older grades). Frankly even that is a challenge because our internet is so overwhelmed, so sometimes we can hear everyone and sometimes we can't. Sometimes it just won't connect at all. I would not want more than an hour a day on Zoom, max. So just a different perspective--those on different technology and internet speeds experience Zoom quite differently. Our school is primarily doing brief academic lessons (pre-recorded video intro from teacher and then 15-minute paper-based activity), no more than a couple of hours a day max, which is consistent with what they do in "real" school since so much of kindergarten is play-based and social-emotional learning. I do think it's interesting that you say that the assignments take up parent time while Zoom frees it up; our experience has been the reverse. I wonder if part of the challenge you're having is that the assignments aren't structured in a way that the kids can do them independently. That is something our teachers have had to tweak, but now that we're a few weeks in, most activities are pretty self-directed and while we have to help with transitions between activities, our child generally does the activities themselves independently. You might reach out to your teacher to share that concern and see if they can structure the assignments to have less parental involvement. Our school also encourages connections between individual kids, which can be (but don't have to be) on Zoom or FaceTime; I wonder if that might be helpful for your situation to have more Zoom time and also have the kids practice the language a bit more?

    Our kindergartener goes to EBGIS, East Bay German International School in Emeryville (K-8). Instruction is bilingual, and no German language skills are necessary to join the school, especially in the younger grades. Just like in-person instruction, the curriculum is bilingual German/English, and inclusive of non-German speaking families to help their kids navigate the program (e.g. instructions in English even though the assignment might be in German). 

    The school has created an amazing program within a crazy short amount of time! The full online curriculum was created and available within a few days of school closure. 

    The program is divided into Early childhood (Preschool & K), Elementary, and Middle School.

    Our kindergartener has a school readiness check-in with his teacher every weekday for 20 minutes in a group of 3 students. We receive both printed and downloadable materials for the kids to work on. In addition, the early childhood program offers a variety of sessions including morning movement, morning circle, arts & crafts, and storytime for every weekday from 8:30am-2pm. All sessions except for the school readiness sessions are recorded and made available to enable families to use them whenever it works with their individual schedules. All communication, including videoconferencing, is done in Microsoft Teams. 

    The Early Childhood program also sends out a daily newsletter (anyone can sign up for it at ebgis.org), which includes a preview of the daily program as well as additional suggestions for family activities. 

    I think this depends on your kindergartener but I can't imagine them having the patience and attention span for the kind of online instruction you're envisioning. My kindergartener at an Oakland public school certainly does not. His zoom time now is amounting to 2 hours per week and that's enough. He also does assignments, goes through online lessons via Google classroom (watching his teacher's pre-recorded videos and completing assignments), and also gets time on ST Math, Lexia, and Freckle. And we offer him ABC Mouse too. He also has GoNoodle for some PE as well as what we do for him. Most of the stuff I referenced above, he can do on his own without too much intervention from us. Maybe you should look into supplementing your kids' instruction in other ways because that amount of Zoom time is just not realistic for that age level. 

    Our child at Berkeley High School, classes fell off a cliff.  Only two of his classes assigned any significant work.

    Our child at a private school they lost three days, and are up and running.  They keep the regular schedule with the entire class on video chat (not zoom), and then break into kid to kid video sessions for assignments.  They "turn in" assignments by holding them up to the camera.  Working pretty well.

    The Wall Street Journal op-ed "Every child left behind in Berkeley" mirrors our experience, except without the learning disability angle.

    Hello! We have two kids, a first grader and a fourth grader, at The Academy in Berkeley and we couldn't be more impressed with their online curriculum. 

    The Academy transitioned seamlessly to online learning the Monday after SIP went into effect. Their preparedness allowed our kids to maintain the standard educational M-F schedule and made the transition much smoother since they didn't have a period of downtime in which to lose their routine.  

    Each Sunday, the following week's schedule is distributed, along with a day-by-day list of the lesson plans and homework.  We print out the calendars and post them in the Family Command Center (a repurposed easel that sits prominently in the family room...don't judge! with three kids and two working parents, our grip on sanity is tenuous at best), and we put the lesson plans into their binders.  My first-grader starts at 9am with independent work that is assigned the night before.  He then starts direct instruction (Zoom) with his class at 10am.  My fourth-grader starts with her class via Zoom at 9am.  Following their morning classes, the kids have various sessions with their primary and specialty teachers that last for the rest of the day (until 3pm, or 2pm on Wednesday).  They get breaks for snack and lunch. Twice a week the teachers have breakout sessions with small groups to allow for more active discussions. 

    One great advantage of The Academy's system in the online format is the specialty teachers (French, Science, Music, Art, and PE).  Because these subjects are not taught by their primary teacher, the kids get to see a variety of faces and teaching styles each day.  This variety keeps my kids engaged, which is an impressive feat to achieve with a 9-year-old, and positively amazing with a 6-year-old.  Another advantage is that class size is capped at 12.  The small classes allow the teachers to keep visual contact with all the kids via "gallery view" on Zoom; they can thus raise their hands as they would in class, and group discussions are manageable.    

    Following the school day, they typically take an hour of down-time, have a snack, do some exercise (the PE teacher has put together an optional running/training schedule for a future 5k) and then get their homework/music/art projects/reading/etc done.  My first-grader has about 30 minutes of homework a night, while my fourth-grader gets about an hour.  The assignments are manageable without parental input, which we both appreciate.

    The communication between parents and teachers has been excellent--just the right amount of information, and only a couple emails per week.  The overall tone has been ideal: positive, encouraging, and empowering.  They have struck a nice balance between maintaining standards/expectations and allowing families the latitude to acclimate to this new process.  The Head of School, John Lynch, has continued to be a beacon for both teachers and parents. His weekly newsletter and essay are a high-point of my Fridays.

    I hope this description is helpful. Overall, our take-home has been that maintaining a strict M-F schedule and encouraging (nay, forcing) the kids to work independently whenever possible frees us up to get some work done ourselves. Failing that, there's always Dragon Prince on Netflix!

    I feel so sad about the educational disparity that is again apparent here. We are at OUSD with K and 1st graders. No online learning system was implemented until after April 20 or so and it's been a lot of trial and error. Disorganized and unrealistic. Frantic information sharing. The teacher just started online class meeting for an hour for a class of 25 kids which was a disaster. They're now doing 30 min. sessions twice a week for the whole class and once a week small group class. Teacher emails assignments and learning plans that are expected but not mandatory. I have felt completely abandoned by the school until now. 

    With young kids, these classes mean parents must take time off and be with the kid to help with tech, help stay engaged, etc. 

    We are allowing our kids to stand up if needed and have a small sized snacks and fidget toys to make it through the larger group calls. 

    Our daughter attends The Academy School and is in the third grade.  We have been live with remote learning since March 18, and she has been live with her teachers daily on Zoom. The school has maintained the same block schedule that the students are accustomed to on campus, and all classes have been a combination of Zoom live lessons and projects, plus daily assigned work, some due during the day and some assigned as homework.  I feel that the balance is good between the live Zoom classes (on-screen time) and off screen time for assignment and projects.  I’d say that she’s on Zoom with her homeroom teacher between 8-9 hours/week, plus another 5-6 hours/week with her subject teachers.  The teachers have all really adapted to the remote learning and are doing a great job of trying to balance the amount of live/screen time with assignments that foster learning off screen, and will adapt assignments and Zoom time weekly based on how the students are doing.  I’ve really been impressed by The Academy’s swiftness and efficiency in getting the school on line, working with the parents to help create as much of a balance as possible, being tuned in to the students not just academically but emotionally, and keeping us informed and up to date without overwhelming us with emails or unnecessary information.  We couldn’t ask for a better school to be in during this new way of life.

    My children go to The Academy in the Elmwood district. It is also a K-8 private school, which happens to also include French classes for all ages. They do a mix of Zoom and non-screen activities. My first grader needs a bit of guidance, but my third grader can do her whole school day entirely independently (with some alarms set for her to remind her when her classes are).  Too much Zoom is not a good thing, the screen really wears on both the students and teachers, and you don't quite get the same group atmosphere of discussion- too many distractions and technical issues.

    My third grader gets on average about maybe 3 hours of zoom a day - including subject classes like music and science, and 3 non-screen hours. It's a pretty good balance, and she can do her assignments independently. There is a good pacing. My first grader gets maybe closer to 2 hours, with more down time in between activities. That's good for her because she gets tired more easily. Her assignments are still largely independent but of course she needs a bit more guidance from me to keep her on schedule- this is to be expected in a situation like this.

    Zoom all day is NOT something you want for your kids. It's exhausting. I think as parents we have to accept that we are going to have to be more hands-on with our kids during this time. That being said, the Academy really pulled together to get a digital curriculum in place. Everyone worked as a team, so there is coherence. I'm actually very impressed at how quickly they got everything together and how hard they worked. Is it as good being in person? Well, no. None of us can have that right now. Even homeschoolers have outside activities. But from my understanding, the Academy handled it much better and much more professionally than most, especially in the public sector. It seems like your school is doing fine as well. Since your daughter is in K, less screen time makes sense, and ramping it up per grade level seems to be the norm.

  • I am curious if any of the bay area private schools currently shuttered due to the Covid-19 Shelter in Place order will be making any attempts to lower tuition now that the closure will definitely go into May -- and possibly longer. Or, if they are trying to make up some lost time in the summer. Would you be willing to share (anonymously) for the sake of other private school parents trying to navigate this? I'll start. My child is enrolled in The Renaissance International School. Thus far we've received some letters from the administration about an attempt to "lower costs," but the latest seems to be that tuition will remain the same so the teachers will be retained and the school will be able to reopen. They are willing to do different payment schedules on a case by case basis. Nothing has been said about making up time in the summer, though that would be complicated for our school anyway since it already has a summer program that not all students opt into. Anyway, I'd love to hear what other people's experiences have been at their schools, just to share information. I certainly don't have an opinion on what *should* be done -- it's a terrible situation all around! None of this was the fault of private schools, and of course they want to retain their staff. However so many parents are dealing with sudden job loss/income reduction, also through no fault of their own, while having their kids home all day and being in charge of their education. My child isn't really at an age where distance learning is possible without all day participation by a parent, even if the staff are doing their best to provide lessons. What else can I say? I'm sure fellow parents reading this are all having the same issues! Hope we can discuss.

    The private schools I'm aware of all keep their tuition the same and do online classes.  The teachers for the most part are still working the days to prepare the online program and provide it and are getting paid, so payment is still due as usual.  My childcare program went to 50% payment, though I get zero value for it now except retaining my spot for when school goes back in session, which I'm a little upset about since they used to have activities and lessons and are offering nothing virtually.  I'm still paying but I'm much happier to keep paying when the programs are at least attempting to provide replacement instruction/enrichment virtually, esp since my kids really like it and enjoy school and all of their activities that moved online.

    Most of the K-12 independent schools, including our K-8, are providing daily lessons and content from what I hear, so therefore no, not reducing tuition (since staff are still being paid). That said, I know our school is absolutely working with families who have lost jobs to help them through incredibly tough times. The impact of the crisis varies widely by family, though--within our school community, I know of a family where both parents are now out of work, and of multiple families (including our own) where both parents are still being paid full salaries and able to work from home or in essential fields out of the home. Many families are somewhere in between. My expectation is that families like ours that have not yet suffered an income loss will pay as usual for as long as the school continues to pay employees as usual, and those who have lost jobs will be helped as much as the school is able through the tuition assistance program. (Fortunately at our school, most families have already finished paying tuition for the current year given the payment schedule for that, so it's largely about next year.) It also sounds like your child is preschool-aged, and that is another story entirely as far as how well the school can provide instruction and content--I think the more relevant reference there is other preschools vs. other independent schools. The remote learning isn't ideal for early elementary, but it's working decently for our kids. Our kindergartener does need adult help transitioning between activities, but our school has done a great job providing supports for this (including lots of videos from teachers demonstrating each lesson or activity). If/when the school does need to start laying off staff, I would expect that there might be some reduction in costs passed onto families, but I very much hope we won't get to that point, and that "real" school will be able to resume in the fall. Fingers crossed!

    I think school by school the situation is a bit different, but here goes how I see it.  If you are making the same income, just working from home and taking care of your kid, you absolutely positively should continue paying full tuition.  It is essential for the survival of the school, and the economy of our community and the nation.  All of us have to give something.  We are in this together.  Now, if you are making less income because you are on unemployment or lost a job or whatever, that is a different situation.  Hopefully your school has a strong financial aid program.  If your tuition is paid for the year I wouldn't bring it up but for next year hopefully they can accommodate your situation.  But keep in mind they are accommodating everyone else's situation as well.  You didn't mention whether your school is continuing to provide learning in some form to your child.  My kid goes to Oakland Hebrew Day School.  They have put in enormous effort to create an online forum in a very short period of time.  My kids even have art and P.E.  Yes of course it is not the same as in the classroom.  But it requires more, not less for the teachers, administrators and staff to put together and they need to get paid.  I think any of us who are still being paid, or are financially able to should continue to pay all the same schools, camps, nannies, housecleaners, tutors, gardeners, etc etc as long as we are able to.  It's not their fault they can't work the way they used to.  But again, if your income has taken a hit, that also needs to be taken into account as you can't pay what you don't have.

    No word from Bentley re tuition or longer semester.  Their current online learning environment is as good as it can be, I think.  

    To help with your info gathering, I'll share my experience as a K-8 teacher at a private school in SF.

    As far as I know, our school has no intention of extending the school year into the summer. Instead, we have cancelled events for the rest of the year (like trips and field day) so that we have more instructional time--even if it is during this period of distance learning. Extending into the summer would be very complicated--you list some reasons, another to consider is that teacher contracts are often 9 months. So, a school might not have the staff to offer instruction (I would have to pay for childcare in the summer so that I could teach, for example--like you, right now I'm juggling home schooling a 5 year old while working, aka teaching online to 10 year olds).

    For families (both those of students and those of faculty) experiencing financial hardship, our school has a separate fund to help support them during this time. I assume the school is also offering different payment schedules, such as what you described.

    I hope that helps.

    We have a kindergartner at a private school. Your concerns are broadly shared. It's hard to care for and teach a child and work at the same time (if one is lucky enough to be able to work from home) and private school tuition is a giant voluntary expense that suddenly seems wasteful. 

    Our thought is that we don't mind continuing to pay tuition because we want the school to stay open and everyone there to stay employed, and also when this is all over and schools open again, we want our child to keep attending there. We love it. This closure is a few months (I hope) out of many years of schooling. Of course we could lose our jobs tomorrow and the situation would be very different, but unless or until we lose income we are paying for all our regular commitments as usual. 

    I too wondered why we couldn't pick up the school year in summer assuming that SIP is over by then. The obvious answer is that educators are still working now so having them teach over the summer would be additional work for which there would need to be additional finds allocated. I personally would prefer that all the schools treated this time like summer break with the assumption of picking up in May or June or whenever it's possible. I think it is very hard to move mammoth bureaucracies (one of the reasons we opted for private in the first place) to make those kinds of changes and it seems that whatever happens all the schools, public and private, in the state will act together. 


    My 4 yr old is attending a pre K - 8 grade private school in Oakland. The school is amazing in that they fully transitioned to online instruction in just a matter of a few days after shelter in place was announced. This includes her preschool which has children ages 3-5. Her classmates have two 30 minute online zoom sessions M-F and her teachers also host office hours daily if parents have questions. While online Children are working collaboratively on activities (that have been emailed to us that we print. The school also sent home a packet of two weeks worth of prepared packets). During the zoom session children are also in conversation with one another to keep up their communication skills. It certainly doesn’t make up for a complete day of instruction but it’s enough to keep my LO engaged and on some type of routeein. It’s definitely a lot of work on us as parents to get her set up on the computer with all of her materials and of course we have to monitor to make sure she’s following instruction. But it’s only 1 hr total.  I fully expect to pay full tuition this month because her teachers are doing what they can to keep the children learning. I wonder whether your child’s school might consider some type of modified online instruction even for just 30 mins daily? The school should figure out a way to be creative, use their resources and adjust as much as possible to ensure the kids are continuing to learn. Otherwise it would be difficult to justify paying full tuition. Is it possible for you to make this suggestion to your child’s school?  No judgment of course; just sharing my experience. Good luck this has been a tough time for us all!!! 

    I don't think there's much you can do. My daughter goes to kindergarten at a private school and the contract we signed has a "force majeure" clause which makes us still responsible for tuition in this situation. I'm sure you signed something similar. With that said my daughter's teachers are still working hard to provide an education remotely and school administration has been providing a lot of support remotely so it makes sense to continue paying. A lot falls on the parents for teaching but the teachers are putting together the materials and holding multiple zoom sessions a day so they are by no means enjoying this time off. This has definitely been hard on them as well. My daughter's school has announced that for people facing financial hardship because of the virus they could contact them to work something out. Also if you had purchased the tuition refund insurance then you could withdraw your child and receive 50% of the remaining tuition back although you would miss out on all the educational support. Going that route wouldn't guarantee their readmission for next year though.

    Our child is in preschool at a small independent school that's already been going through some precarious financial times. The head of school sent out a very candid email a few days ago saying that they will do everything they can to keep the doors open, but that in order to do that they need parents to continue paying whatever they can. They are offering to work with anyone who's been affected financially, and they're also applying for small business loans and doing some calculated layoffs that they say they're hoping to be able to make short-term (I don't have more info on that part yet). They're also offering online learning but it's not really applicable for the preschool kids, that's mainly resources for parents to work w/kids at home and some availability by teachers to basically become remote parenting coaches (which I appreciate). We are continuing to pay tuition because we are able to do so and want our school to be open in the fall. I understand that for many committed families this may just not be an option, and I'm worried about the future of our little school. There's no "right way" to do this -- everyone's just trying to figure it out the best they can.

    Our small private school, Sunnyside MicroSchool, discounted the tuition during Shelter in Place. Now they are offering a very reasonable sliding scale for the remaining monthly payments, which I thought was incredibly generous.  They are offering 1:1 tutoring sessions with teachers multiple times a week, class sharing time, and group special topic classes that are 1 hr long (poetry, yoga, Spanish, engineering).  Because of the population of kids it serves (gifted, sensitive, quirky, 2e/asynchronous learners), all day online video calls don't work at all, so they don't do any class for more than an hour at a time.  So we feel really happy with what they are offering and the price they are offering it at.

    I'm like you:  I don't know that there is a good answer to this problem.  But I can share my current situation.  My 3-year-old son is enrolled at AIM (American International Montessori) in Berkeley, which has Japanese and Chinese immersion classes.  They have an infant program, a program for children ages 3-5 (which includes the Kindergarten year), and an elementary school program for grades 1-5.  The most recent plan is that AIM is gonna try to provide useful distance learning for the kids, through online classes.  Not classes that will last as many hours as a regular school day, but at least something on every day.  What they have offered us is that you can sign up your infant for this for 50% of the regular tuition, or your 3-to-5-year-old for 70% of the regular tuition.  (So that's a 30% price reduction, not a 70% reduction.)  I'm not sure what they're offering for the elementary program.  

    Obviously distance learning works better for older kids.  The fact that the infant classes are gonna be 50% of regular price comes from their acknowledgement that what you're normally getting for your infant is child care that can't be replaced with distance learning.  But for my 3-year-old, it's pretty clear that he's not gonna be able to sit in front of a computer all day and do online classes while I'm freed up to work.  Maybe it will be better than having to teach him all by myself, but he's gonna require constant attention.  So clearly what we're gonna get from distance learning isn't really worth 70% of what we were getting before.  But on the other hand, there might still be SOME value from what he can get, especially the value of hearing native Japanese speakers to assist his language learning.  And my wife feels like we have a moral obligation to continue to support teachers and schools.  So we're gonna try out the distance learning thing for a month and see how it goes.  The school is trying to be flexible and give us some options, like the option of trying out the online stuff and then canceling after a month.  Or the option of just not paying anything at all.  So I can't fault the school, which seems like they're trying to come up with the best options for a near-impossible situation.  And it sounds like AIM is being more proactive and practicing better communication with the parents than RIS is.

    I'm curious to hear from other folks about how they're dealing with this situation.  I'm sure a lot depends on your particular situation, like what your job is, how old your kids are, etc.  At this time, my wife is still trying to work full-time from home, while I'm self-employed and working occasionally from home, while we try to split child-care duties for a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old.  What we're finding is that it's impossible for parents to work full time from home and also home-school their children at the same time.  Which should be obvious to everyone, but now we have the proof.  Good luck to everybody else out there in the same boat!

    I'd love to chat more with you on this. We are planning to send our son to a private school in the fall. But frankly, I'm not thrilled about paying more than $20K for virtual kindergarten, if next year ends up being remote. I'm so curious how parents at existing private schools are managing this. 

    My son’s independent HS recently offered families a partial refund on year and semester long lunch and transportation plans. They are still paying the kitchen and transportation staff, so the refund covered the non-labor portion of the costs (if that’s how you say it). They also offered the option to forgo the refund to help the school navigate the unexpected costs that have popped up due to SIP. No break on tuition, but the students are still getting plenty of instruction virtually and the administration is providing lots of support. 

    I'm a TRIS parent too and have been frustrated with the lack of communication beyond "There will be no reimbursement of tuition fees offered." Managing four 30-minute Zoom classes each day is hard for everyone. We've missed a few classes, we've been 15-minutes late, the schedule was wrong, the log-in didn't work, we've had the video freeze. We had to buy the 4-year old an iPad. Sometimes Circle Time leaves my child feeling worse afterwards. If I had a 2-year old, it would really not be worth it at all. Some thoughts/solutions I wish schools could consider:

    1) The unemployment figures are staggering and schools should acknowledge this and be transparent about tuition reduction policies. I really like what I'm hearing about AIM's approach - there is a nod towards this being a shared burden, parents of younger children get a larger refund, and parents who are comfortable can choose to contribute their discount back to the school/teachers.

    2) Everyone is facing huge uncertainty over the next year or two. Schools cannot keep their contracts and tuition the same and assume business as usual. We've already prepaid through August 2020, so it makes me nervous about how to approach the 20-21 school year when it comes time to sign up (and pay) next month with a 3% tuition increase. Pre-paying again is hardly an option, but parents are penalized with paying 7% more if we don't - AND we're still on the hook for the full years' tuition and the insurance would only refund 60% for financial hardship. What I want: Consider pre-paying quarterly (not for the full upcoming year) and have a 60-day notice clause so that the school has ample notice to fill an upcoming vacancy and parents who experience financial hardship aren't out up to $11k for the year AFTER insurance.

  • BPN community - can you tell me a little bit about the distance learning that your child’s school is offering for kindergarteners? What does it look like? Am thinking about our child’s school and am trying to get a sense of what’s normal/best practices in this area. Would also be helpful to know if your child’s school is independent or public. Thank you!! 

    Honestly, we are in such uncharted waters that I don't think there is a "normal" in this scenario--schools are adapting as best they can. Here's what ours (at an independent school) looks like, though: a daily virtual class meeting (live); some pre-recorded videos of teachers demonstrating lessons, reading books, and otherwise preserving parts of the pre-pandemic school routine; pencil-and-paper lessons and activities off-screen, some self-directed and some with parent support needed; some on-screen leveled reading time; and connection time for parents to talk with teachers and ask questions about learning. Most of the lessons are 15 minutes long, which is challenging if you're also trying to work from home, but age-appropriate for kindergarteners. School's suggested schedule is flexible and includes a lot of free play and outdoor exploration (also age-appropriate). During "normal" school, the kids also go to a range of specialists (music, art, PE, etc.) so there are activities and lessons from each of those as well. It isn't perfect--what could be in these crazy times!--but it is more than enough to fill the day. Our major challenge is just being available/present enough to facilitate it as we also attempt to work full-time remotely. Each day we appreciate how much amazing teachers everywhere do even more!

    My daughter is in kindergarten and her school is using zoom to have two circle times in the morning (plus ‘office hours’). For schoolwork the teachers are posting activities on seesaw where the students have to post pictures/videos/audio of their work.

  • Hi BPN,

    Does anyone know of a school that offers a blended learning model? I'm looking for a program  that offers a combination of independent study or online/distance learning classes along with on-site classes for elementary age children?

    I found a great program in Southern California that's offered by the Tustin School District (https://www.tustinconnect.org/k-8.html) where children go to school on-site once or twice a week and study from home the rest of the week. However, it's too far away. I'm not finding any similar program or schools here in the Bay Area. If you have any leads or resources, I'd appreciate it.  I'm open to similar schools in the East Bay and San Mateo County or Santa Clara County.


    We're trying out Zearn for our 3rd grader for math: https://www.zearn.org/  IXL also seems good: https://www.ixl.com/  They can watch stories being read out loud to them on Storyline Online / YouTube. ST Math is great as well. Good luck!