Berkeley LEARNS After School Program
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Berkeley LEARNS programs provide afterschool activities from the time the school day ends until 6:00pm during the academic year. The programs are in operation at nine elementary school sites and at all three middle schools, and B-Tech. LEARNS also has morning programs before school at 3 schools. All BUSD students are eligible to participate at the school they attend.
I have my kid in Trackers aftercare. They pick up from Washington on Mondays and Wednesdays. It is wonderful! http://www.trackersbay.com/
I have him in a couple of days of LEARNS at Washington, too. Sadly, the LEARNS program at Washington is a real weak spot. He loves school, but the aftercare he has very mixed reports about. Sometimes he loves it, but by his own 8 year old description "nobody get's picked on in school because the teachers won't let you get picked on. But the teachers in aftercare will let kids pick on you."
We like Washington's Learns program a lot. It improved significantly this year with new leadership--the whole staff seems more organized and enthusiastic, the enrichment options are better, and there's been clearer communication about how the program is run. It doesn't have some of the bells and whistles that other places have, including the full array of PTA-sponsored, largely pay-as-you-go enrichment options that some other Learns programs offer. But the built-in enrichment provided within the Learns program is solid, including sports, art, games, engineering, and drama. There are also some on campus enrichment options you can add, such as Spanish and chess, which aren't part of Learns but can be coordinated so your kid does both. My kid also seems to get more physical activity on the yard with Learns (endless soccer, basketball, and kickball, among other things) than he did at most summer camps, plus there's a homework hour, which is reading time for the younger kids. No program is perfect, but our kid is often reluctant to leave at pickup.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
The after school programs in berkeley are, i think, run by contractors of the berkeley unified school district, and are not official city of berkeley programs. So you may have better luck searching on line on the BUSD web site. At King Middle school my kid likes the afterschool program and it costs $100 a month. A good deal for us. Anonymous
I'm a parent of a West Area BUSD first grader. My daughter participated in the afterschool program at her school last year - it was not a good fit for her (not enough time to run around outside, too much time parked in the cafeteria with board games that might or might not interest her on a given day, no real sense of enrichment activity, etc). That said, I understand that each school's afterschool program runs fairly independently, so your mileage may vary.
I'm a single mom with full-time job and a prospective kindergartener. I am looking carefully at Washington and Oxford, both of which are in our zone and look great, but where and how can I get a clear picture of the afterschool programming? Is Berkeley LEARNS the main site? When kids take the bus to different afterschool locations, how does that work? I read the most recent posting about Washington merging its programs, but where can I get a bead on how these programs work for a kindergartener who will be wiped out by 1:30? Is it possible that Private School could be cheaper than care for a school day ending at 1:30?
My kids are at Oxford. Yes, it's run under the Berkeley LEARNS program. The director at Oxford, Aaron Grayson, and his staff are wonderful, and the kindergartners are kept separate from the other grades all afternoon, at least for the first several weeks of school (all kids stay with their grades most of the afternoon all year). They have plenty of quiet time, and even nap if necessary. OASIS (the Oxford LEARNS program) staff understand that the transition from preschool to Kindergarten is exhausting for many of the kids, and run the program accordingly. No, I don't think private school could be cheaper than an afterschool program! Last I heard, the full price for full-time (5-days) OASIS was less than $350 a month. There is also a sliding scale based on family income, and siblings get a discount. happy Oxford parent
Missed the original question but the relevant info I have is that the full fee for 5-day-per-week after care,which you pay regardless of how many hours your child is in the program on a given day (whether you are in a late or early start school and no matter how long you leave your child), is $415 a month.
If you need before school care (a decided possibility if the school doesn't start until 9 or later), it's an additional $200 EACH MONTH. Even if you pay less on the sliding scale due to having a lower income, you will pay extra if you need both before and after school care. [You can also opt for the 2 or 3 day per week schedule, which brings the cost down]
Our Berkeley public school after-school program underwent an upheaval last year. We had to pay twice what we paid before and initially didn't see much change. The start was rough: not only was it financially difficult, but a beloved staff member was fired, we had to enroll twice, etc. We were told that the higher fees were to pay for kids whose parents could afford nothing (not sure what those kids did before). We were told part way through that we'd have everything from photography to cooking to a sports program that would actually try to encourage girls. Some of the staff were highly professional and creative, and some were so-so; others: parents wondered how they got the job or they saw such unprofessional behavior, they decided not to put their kids in the program. Well, this summer I learned that one employee of the new program is the girlfriend of the principal's son and that another one is the roommate of the principal's son. Nice enough people, I guess. However, this info shed a new light on certain aspects of the program (lack of info, professionalism, leadership, financial transparency, and communication). I thought these problems were due to an inability to hire the best professionals. Now it looks like the incompetency you get with nepotistic hires.
My questions to BPNers: 1.Who is the head of your afterschool program? Is it the principal? 2.Are your afterschool coordinators/employees dating, related to, or living with anyone related to the head of the program? Would it make you question the qualifications of the employees, if they were? What would you do if you found out that they were? What would you do, if the principal of the school was also the head of the after-school program and hired his/her friends and relations? 3. An RFP put out this year to look for an "employer of record" stated that the program must retain the existing non-unionized staff -- including the girlfriend and roommate(s) of the principal's son. The only respondent to this RFP was the current "employer of record:" B.A.C.R., which is accused of inappropriately siphoning money to SFUSD employees. The NY Times article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/us/28bcschool.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1&ref=sanfranciscobayarea.
We have been told that we must keep BACR this year, as well as the current staff, or else we will have no program. (The typical way our principal operates: fear mongering) Why does our school have to make such a choice when other Berkeley schools, presumably, do not? Or is your program in the same situation?
-I would be ashamed if I engaged in such hiring practices
I am not sure which elementary school in Berkeley you are speaking of, but perhaps it is the one which is not run by Berkely LEARNS. The BUSD school that my child is at (which is not yours) has a well-run after school program. Here is some language from the BUSD web site about Berkeley LEARNS, ''The programs are in operation at ten elementary school sites (Berkeley Arts Magnet, Cragmont, Emerson, John Muir, Le Conte, Malcolm X, Oxford, Rosa Parks, Thousand Oaks and Washington), at all three middle schools, and B-Tech.'' The director of the after-school program at my kids'school is not the principal. The director is on site and is an employee of Berkeley LEARNS. I believe the principal does have some input when a new director is hired, but not for the staff. The after-school staff are not district employees and are not credentialed teachers, generally.
If you have concerns about problems at your kid's school's after-school program; and you have already discussed them with the program director, and you are still concerned; then you could write a letter describing your concerns about the program's effectiveness, and about every other specific concern you have, and send it to elected and appointed folks at your school and at the district and you can even send a copy to the press, if you'd like. You can put on the letter all the names of people you are sending it to. It is important to get you concerns down in writing and sent to folks who make decisions in the district. In that way your specific concerns will be known by people in charge, and everyone will know that others have the same information. I don't know what regulatory authority would deal with such issues, but you can find out and copy them on the letter if you would like to. anonymous
I think it's inappropriate hiring and of even greater concern is that the principal has hired a company that has used its funds improperly. I would notify BUSD (Superintendent's office). If you don't get a good response write to the School Board members. If you don't get a good response from them, contact local media.
I am disheartened to see that BPN is being used to spread false rumors, by what is a very small minority, about the after-school program and the principal at our school. As a member of this school community for many years, I am impressed with the changes that are taking place after school. Enrollment is way up, the students enjoy themselves, they have a great homework program, & they LOVE the employees that were pretty much trashed in that post. The truth is this: The principal didnt hire those employees; the former director of the former PRIVATE program hired them. One was hired to run the business side of the program, so it was natural that she would move into a leadership role with the new program. We are nothing but pleased with the work she is doing. While the cost did go up a bit, it is in line with what other schools pay, and pays for a sliding scale program so lower socio-econiomc students can take part. The principal has facilitated wonderful things for our school. So many great changes and so many successes around equality of education. To call her a ''fear mongerer'' is anything but true. It puts a wedge in our close-knit community - one that works hard for each other & supports the positive change we see on a daily basis. If you are upset that a ''beloved'' (to you) after school teacher was not rehired, why not just hire her to nanny your student after school? Or quit the after school program as a whole? There are many others out there. --Jazzed About After School Program
This is not so much a request for advice as a hope for clarification/peace on a somewhat annoying issue. Our daughter was placed at BAM as an entering kindergarten student. BAM has a late start--9:10--and since she's a kindergartener she'll be done at 2:25. Like many others, we are unable to fit our work hours around such a schedule. She will be in the before and after school programs, and we will pay the full amount for both as we have the income necessary. After adjusting my expectations a bit (I had hoped the transition from preschool would leave us a with a bit more pocket change), I was getting my mind around the cost, until it struck me that children at early start schools do not have the same amount of expense for child care as those at late start schools do.
Basically, as I understand it, all the after school care through LEARNS costs $415 a month at most, no matter when it starts. But the students at early start schools can arrive at school at 8 (more of a possibility for most working parents) and thus skip the additional $200 a month for before-school care.
Is there anyone in the community who can correct me? Am I missing something? I'm not really asking for advice so much as seeking to understand and calm myself around this issue--it seems like a striking inequity which is hard to accept in the middle of BUSD's otherwise very thoughtful and progressive system. Semi-disgruntled BUSD parent
I think you give an accurate assessment of the disparity of care costs between early start schools and late start schools in Berkeley. And I agree -- it's not fair.
It will get a little worse for you next year when your kid is in first grade and you realize you are paying $415 a month for just 3 hours of care afterschool while early start kids get 4 hours of care for the same price (and you still get to pay $200 a month extra to drop your kid at 7:30AM and it's free to early start parents). Also, since it's only 3 hours afterschool late start schools don't get all the same activities. Some early start schools go swimming on Wednesdays, but there isn't enough time to do that with the late start kids.
I sent an email about this to my school principal a few years ago and she promised to ask the district aftercare folks about it. I never heard back.
Since it looks like only four of the eleven elementary schools are late start -- why not just switch all the schools to 8:00? Or allow us to drop our kids off at 8:00 for free since we pay more for a shorter afternoon care? It seems like there should be some solution that would make it a little easier for parents. Guess it's time to write to the district again. Sarah
I don't know about your daughter's preschool, but my daughter's preschool ran 9:00-3:00. The rest of what we paid was for before-school and after-school care. You will have to expect to pay that as long as your daughter needs full day coverage but you may not have to pay as much because as kids get older, they need less supervision. That's based on logic--in reality the per-hour fee varies based on how the after-care facility is financed, what employees are paid, how fancy the program is, etc. You might want to look around for less expensive programs. BAM's regular afterschool program is called BAM All Stars.
That said, BUSD school assignment is not a passive procedure. People who participate in the lottery can use a school's start time as a criterion for ranking schools. We did. (In the Central Zone, Washington is the big school with an early start time.) BUSD has a second lottery and a waiting list for more chances at getting the school of your choice. It still may not be too late to switch schools by getting on a waiting list--our son got into Cragmont 2 days before school started.
Our daughter is going into 4th grade at BAM. It's a wonderful school and I hope your family enjoys its time there if you stay. Francesca
I wanted to clarify and add to my original question about the extended day programs at BUSD schools. Two of the posts in response included statements that I had already understood. What I was seeking to find out was if I had misunderstood the situation. It seems clear now that I have not.
My question was: am I correct in understanding that parents at different Berkeley schools pay a different amount of money for child care because of the arbitrary start and end time differential?
One person responded that it might ''seem unfair to pay a bit more per hour at late start schools'' but that this was balanced by the fact that kids at early start schools have to stay longer hours after school.
In fact, the difference between people needing full time care at early and late start schools is $615 a month rather than $415 a month. That is not ''a bit more.'' That's a LOT more!
Another person wrote to say that we have choice in Berkeley schools and therefore should not mind if we pay extra for child care at one school or another. I have two feelings about that: 1) since Berkeley has a lottery system, our 'choice' is actually very limited. BAM was our third choice in the zone. 2) I can't believe, with all the thought that has gone into the BUSD system and the attempts to make all the schools excellent, that administrators would want parents to choose their schools based on start time (it's not as if the schools choose the different start times for pedagogical reasons).
So, my next question is: given that the system is inequitable (as I now believe I was right in understanding initially, based on the responses here and from other BUSD parents to whom I've spoken), how should I address it? To whom should such concerns be directed? New BAM parent
The reason BUSD has varied start times is to accommodate a limited fleet of school buses that take kids to various schools. It would be impossible to get kids to school all at 8 in the entire district. While you might think it is unfair to pay a bit more per hour breakdown, parents at early start schools who use aftercare struggle with having to leave their child at school for 3.5 - 4.5 hours AFTER school has ended. There is always short end!
What after-school program do you recommend in the Berkeley area? Looking for comprehensive programs (2pm-5:30p or 6pm), not short classes. Our child will start in the BUSD this fall. We are most interesting in programs with a blend of homework support, free play, and enrichment activities led by quality staff in an organized way. new elementary school parent
My 5th grader loves the after school program at her Berkeley Public School. It is easy for her to get to, affordable, provides interesting sessions by excellent teachers in art, engineering and music; and she is able to spend down time with her buddies. I encourage you to check out the after school program at your child's assigned elementary school. Happy Mom
wow, BUSD sure takes a lot of time off! My spouse & I have used up a lot of our vacation time covering in-service days and holidays that the workplace doesn't recognize (eg, MLK day, Veteran's day and the day before veteran's day, the Wed before thanksgiving, the Fri before President's and Memorial days, Malcolm X day etc. Are there any mini-camps in Berkeley for those sorts of single days off? This is becoming a true hardship for us. Thank you, --our employers are getting annoyed
Check out the Downtown Berkeley YMCA. http://www.baymca.org/dt/dt_program_list.aspx?categoryId=85&parentId=1786
Kids in Motion might meet your needs. They are an after school progam located on the John Muir school campus, but they are not affiliated with the school, and anyone can attend. They are open most of the days that BUSD is closed, including winter and spring break, and all the days you describe. On BUSD holidays, hours are 7:30-6:30 pm. My son attends, and he's very happy there. The ratio of kids to adults is good and the staff is experienced and been there long-term. The emphasis is on fun. It's not a fancy program, but it is a place to build legos, play checkers, ride bikes, jump around in the creek, read a book, etc. It's a program with respect for children, and joy in facilitating old fashion fun. Jenna
The JCC used to have all day camps for the BUSD holiday days. THey likely still do. Also, Karen Kagen may offer the camps at the City's Thousand Oaks park site (near Rose Street).
We often willshare a full or half day with one or two families and the kids have a great play date day, and we take off less time. It is very workable, with a bit of planning. And is nice to schedule a 3 day weekend get away when no one else does. Anon
You should check out A World of Peace at Live Oak Park/Community Center in North Berkeley, assuming that's a convenient enough location for you. World of Peace runs after school programming which friends think highly of, but we have used them only for this exact purpose -- on an as-needed basis to cover some of the holidays/breaks that BUSD takes that don't coincide with working holidays. I don't think they had camp during this most recent teacher workday, but we've used them for Veteran's Day, day before Thanksgiving, etc. The kids take field trips (e.g., Albany Bowl) on these days, and my kids have had fun the few times they have been. You can call the program director (Karen) at 510-292-0263 for more information -- info on the internet is a bit spotty. Alissa M.
The downtown Berkeley YMCA offers fairly low-cost camps for those annoying days off. The city of Berkeley Parks and Recreation department also runs some sports camps for those single days and for breaks.
This was a problem for us, too, but now that the kids are older sometimes we just bring them to work with a book. been there