Berkeley LEARNS After School Program

Berkeley, CA

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

Afterschool Care
DSS Facility License #
Berkeley Unified School District
BUSD elementary schools
Language(s) Spoken:
3:00pm - 6:00pm
School district-run
About the Program:

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.

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • LEARNS at Malcolm X

    Aug 7, 2023

    My son is entering TK at Malcolm X this year. Because of an unexpected family issue, I've suddenly become a single parent with a full-time job. I signed him up for LEARNS program last week, but am not sure whether he will get in. I am stressed out and do not know what to do. Are there other afterschool programs in Berkeley (or Rockridge)? What other options are there? Any advice is much appreciated. 

    Did you hear about anything else? It doesn’t seem like anybody has spots. MX PTA did put up a poster at the welcome event for TK/K for people to find carpool buddies (parents taking turns watching kids I guess). But I didn’t see anything about after school childcare resources. Unless I missed something but I don’t think so.

  • Our kiddo (4.5yo, TK) did not get into the after school program at Emerson. We are waitlisted, and have since gamely joined other waitlists (city of berkeley @Willard and @San Pablo Park, BUSD @Malcolm X and @John Muir, JCC, and soon to include John Muir's Kids in motion), which may or may not pan out.

    We can't bet on a place opening up, so I think we have to plan for alternative care.

    General setup: I'm thinking it's 3-4 kids in the same situation, looked after by 1-2 college students (maybe grad student(s), or someone pursuing a teaching credential), from 1:30p-4:30p on school days.

    Transportation: Our house could host, but we're not walkable from the school. We could outfit a car with 3 low profile booster seats and have the person watching them pick them up in that, but I would also be interested in the possibility of the kiddos bussing on existing busses that serve the after school programs from Emerson to a closer location (John Muir for us, or maybe Willard for another family). But maybe they wouldn't let kids not enrolled in the formal after school programs go on those busses?

    Location: the kiddos and their minder(s) could go regularly to smaller parks (e.g., bateman) or to parks where there is a formal program, but I assume they'd need a regular home base at one of the children's homes, particularly during the winter/rainy season. I suppose this would be a situation where we'd have to put some boundaries in place to give the kids enough room and space to do their thing while allowing any WFH parents to actually work from home.

    I assume if/when one of the families gets a place in a formal after school program they would drop from the 'aftershare'.

    Lots of the related guidance I can find here on BPN pertains to which programs to apply to, and where to waitlist, but I'm looking to learn from parents who have experienced this (ridiculous) situation before and coordinated an alternative.


    My daughter is an incoming kindergarten student at Emerson and we're in a similar boat.  If there is still space, I recommend checking out kids in motion which is at John Muir.  The kids get bussed from Emerson to John Muir.  I haven't been able to get numbers from the people running LEARNS but it seems like a lot of parents are in the same boat.  We just found out at the end of July that we didn't get in off the waitlist and I expressed my disappointment at finding out basically 2.5 weeks before school starts.

    With regards to the buses thing you mentioned, I highly doubt BUSD would go for that.  I imagine there is too much liability in play for them to keep track of kids not part of the program that were being picked up by a non parent. Keep in mind, registration for after school programs is done on a month to month basis so you may get a spot in a subsequent month. Feel free to message me here if I can be of help.


    We're in a different but similar situation - we just moved from Oakland (another land of terrible waitlists) to Berkeley in July and am shocked to hear how long the waitlists are (and that they roll over year after year after we're f**cked). We also need a back-up, I was thinking this same idea but I think location is key - we're in SW Berkeley, about 4 blocks South of San Pablo Park, but our kid is headed to Washington (5.5yrs, incoming Kindergarten). We both WFH, I go in 1-2x month and we have a pretty small house, but my hope is to set up it for kids - we're still moving tho.

    Anyway - please share any info you get! I'm also scrambling and will be looking for alternative ideas/aftercare.


    We are in the same boat and falsely assumed once you were in LEARNS you got rolled over year over year.  So here we are with no afterschool care.  Your idea would work if kid is already on the bus and on the same route. Then one person could pick them all up from the bus stop. Wish we lived in the same region (we are at Washington) and would join up in a heartbeat.  I am thinking to try ask parents at the bus stop to gauge interest on an afternoon nanny share. 

    Hi Valerie my son just started at Washington as well new to the district. I am a nurse and my husband works out of state right now. We are waitlisted for before/afterschool as well. It has been a hassel getting him to school and finding places for him after till i am off. I want him to be with kids after and not alone. But literally working off steam and a prayer at this point. Would love to tag team and brainstorm to see if we could come up with something. Taking all suggestions and recommendations. 

  • LEARNS at Cragmont

    Aug 3, 2023

    Hi All, 

    My kindergartener did not get into LEARNS at Cragmont an we are scrambling to figure out a solution as we work full time. She has a spot at the JCC but there is no transportation from Cragmont to JCC. If anyone is in the same boat or lives down the hill from Cragmont and is able to walk her, please get in touch. 415.606.3690

    I'd be happy to pay or provide mutual support in some way. 


    No responses received.

  • I saw an older post basically saying that LEARNS waitlists people uncomfortably close to the start of school and then starts admitting more kids. I’m wondering . . . How uncomfortably close are we talking?

    I signed up as soon as possible in the spring and just received a waitlist email on Saturday. Any insight about whether their waitlist actually has movement this close to the first day of school?

    We're in the same boat, currently pursuing other opportunities because with both parents working, we can't afford to be without childcare. So far I haven't gotten a notice of how far down the waitlist we are(I've asked).

    I've been in touch with my kids' school's LEARNS coordinator and the school board. They are having trouble hiring for LEARNS this year and spots are more limited than usual. I'm desperately looking for other options for my kindergartener. What school are you at? We're at Cragmont and my 3rd grader got into LEARNS but my kindergartener did not. I have a spot for her at the JCC but cannot get her there bc they don't bus Ks to that program, unfortunately, so I'm totally stuck as I work full time. If anyone is in the same boat and wants to brainstorm or support one another, please contact me.



    Last summer we found out 1 week before school started that we did not get a spot off of the waitlist. It was stressful. We had also added our kiddo to the waitlist for the City of Berkeley aftercare programs and got a spot a few days after school started. There tends to be a fair amount of movement on the various waitlists within the first couple of weeks of school, though I'm sorry to say that we never got off of the LEARNS waitlist for the entire school year. We're at Malcolm X. 

    I think I was in the same boat as you last year. It was our first time trying to get into Learns and we got accepted just about 1 week before school started -- In retrospect they had probably made offers to kids who had been previously enrolled in Learns just prior, a few of those kids didn't accept, and then we got an aftercare spot. We were waitlisted for morning care until about 2 weeks after school started. 

    This year, as a returning student, we got before and aftercare spots offered to us a few days ago. So I would think a few more spots will open up as some 'returning' students may have moved or found other options.

    Amanda-- speaking to your situation. I was looking at JCC for my Cragmont daughter as I was scrambling over the summer. It looks to be an amazing program, and there are a few kids each year that go to Cragmont from JCC. I don't have any names to offer for this year, but you might find a nice carpool situation with a parent that has a more flexible schedule and also uses JCC. It might be worth asking Sheyla Flores, the school administrator, if she has any leads to offer on that specific situation, or even repost here specifically looking for a rideshare from Cragmont.

    We’re also at Malcolm X. I got on various waitlists, including JCC and the city parks, and my fingers are crossed. I can see how there would be movement during the first few weeks. Hopefully that will be the case this year!

    This article about last year is not confidence-inspiring and it sounds like they need to pay people more, bottom line:…

  • LEARNS at BAM?

    Jul 28, 2023

    Anyone have experience with the LEARNS before / after care at BAM? We've been offered a space, but don't know what to think about it. Existing reviews on BPN are at least a year old and mixed. Would appreciate more recent info, particularly post-pandemic. Thanks!

    No responses received.

  • We're parents of an elementary student entering BUSD, and wondering if anyone can offer insight into the BUSD afterschool programs.  I know options and availability vary based on school site, and we are aware of BEARS and LEARNS.  Specifically, wondering what students do in LEARNS in the afternoon? Are there enrichment programs to sign up for? Is it pretty unstructured and how do younger students handle that? Overall, have you been happy with your afterschool program? We both work full time and are a little apprehensive of having our child in afterschool program for 3 or 4 hours each afternoon, so we're considering reducing our work hours or considering finding a nanny for afterschool (though both options of course come with tradeoffs).  Any insights into how other families have navigated this for young elementary school students would be great. 

    I can't speak to BUSD's afterschool program since my kiddo didn't go to it, but just want to mention there are alternative programs -- JCC, New School, etc.  (BUSD busses do drop offs at those locations so you would not need to pick up from the elementary school.)  They are more expensive but perhaps look into those as well if you find you don't like LEARNS/BEARS. 

    I can speak to this year’s experience at Oxford Elementary. We have a kindergartener who does LEARNS 4-5 times per week and they love it. It has allowed our child to bond deeply with classmates across the two kinder classes as well as with students in different grades, creating a really solid foundation and sense of belonging for them as they have navigated the transition from preschool to elementary school. LEARNS offers daily art projects, snacks, and lots of outside time. I am not sure if enrichment classes are offered in non-pandemic times, but we’ll be returning next year for sure. A huge shout out to the staff at Oxford LEARNS!

    Our sons did Learns at two different school - Sylvia Mendez and Malcolm X, both when they were in TK. We're very disappointed Learns doesn't operate at their current school, John Muir (and I truly don't understand why). Learns is affordable, they meet kids from same/adjacent grades, and flexible. Our kids do snack, worksheets, play games, get free time outside, and occasionally do crafts or watch movies (especially on rainy days). Pre-Covid, at Sylvia Mendez they offered Soccer Shots on campus once or twice a week for a couple months, as well as a few other programs that we were always too late to sign up for. That isn't happening at Malcolm X this year, so it seems to vary by school (and/or be impact by Covid). We're thrilled it's one location, teachers seem happy and energetic, and snack is provided. Kids come home tired but in a happy way, and again, get more time with their friends and in their school community. I like the relative flexibility/lack of structure combined with good safety and oversight (compared to programs at public parks). It's a huge benefit in comparison to having no after school care, where we're juggling after school activities, various family members picking up, etc.

    My first grader attends LEARNS at BAM and loves it. During the short period that school was in person last year (her kindergarten year), she attended LEARNS one day per week. The first two days felt "too long," but after that, she loved it and asked to be picked up "as late as possible." There is structured time for the kids to read (all grades are expected to read every day) and to do homework, and then the kids have unstructured play time. Sometimes there are organized games, but my kid likes just playing with her friends. Pre-pandemic, there were enrichment classes, and I expect they will start back up again in the 22-23 school year. Some kids really like the unstructured play time while others like the structure of the enrichment classes.

    Hi! Our school (Ruth Acty) put after school enrichment programs on hold during covid and focus seems to be getting RAZ (after school care) back up to pre covid staffing and enrollment. With Crowden right next door and Girls on the Run down the street at Ohlone Park, we have good options for extra curricular. For my kids, they just want to play at the end of the day! The after school team runs a homework club and then has games and art activities going on which is great. After a long day in school, I appreciate the unstructured time. Even when we had after school programming (cooking class, yoga), my kids sometimes asked to skip it so the could simply play and be with their friends. 

  • Aftercare at Sylvia Mendez

    Jul 24, 2021

    Does anyone know what is happening with aftercare at Sylvia Mendez? I have a kindergartener starting there in three weeks. I'd applied for the LEARNS program, but received a notice a few weeks ago that they did not have staff to run the program, so wasn't enrolling anyone. I asked for an update recently and got nothing, so I applied for BEARS a couple of weeks ago, and haven't heard anything back about that either.

    Is the LEARNS staff shortage just at Sylvia Mendez, or more widespread at BUSD? It's getting a bit late to try to sort other aftercare, and I don't know whether LEARNS will come back on-line or what. I have tried calling the BUSD aftercare staff and just got voicemail.

    Yes there is a huge problem across BUSD to staff the before and after school programs. I have been trying to help recruit for Rosa Parks as well :(…

    Hi, I too have a kindergartner starting at Emerson. There is a shortage throughout BUSD and it looks like parents will have to fend for themselves unless you can mobilize with other parents to rotate childcare. Not ideal, but that's what I heard other parents doing at other schools. Best of luck. 

    This is a district-wide problem and everyone is in the same place as you. There are a few private options, and a recent email from the superintendent said that BUSD would offer busing to these private options, but as far as I know they are all full. The city usually runs an afterschool program but it hasn't been announced yet for this year. So you are not alone, all the working families in Berkeley are as stuck in uncertainty as you. My backup plan is to swap care with some other families at the same school and maybe hire a babysitter together, but I'm hoping that either LEARNS or the city program will come through.

    Hi. I'm a BUSD parent with a child in the BEARS elementary program. In previous years, when I attempted to contact BEARS during summer months, I have found that they are off generally until about two weeks before school starts. If you haven't already, I would recommend contacting every single person (via phone and email) listed on the BUSD elementary afterschool web page (including Aaron, the program head), and leave messages on every voice mail you reach.

    That's alarming that they aren't enrolling any LEARNS at all-- I guess if anyone is looking for a job, the school district apparently has lots of openings?

    Yes. I followed up and received an email response from LEARNS telling me they will be finalizing placements this week and informing families next week. 

    As an addendum, it seems that the City of Berkeley after school care registration is opening August 5, and it looks like busing from schools is provided.

    Finally received an e-mail late in the afternoon on Friday, offering us a place! I'm so glad they got things up and running. The e-mail didn't say whether they were full or putting others on waitlist or what, though. 

  • We are preparing to enroll our first in kindergarten in Berkeley public schools. We are two full-time working parents and will be dependent on afterschool programs for care. We’ve been assigned to a school with a LEARNS program and I’m wondering how likely it is will be able to get a spot.

    Has anyone who was applying for a full-time spot not gotten one?  Has anyone gotten a spot one year, but not the next?

    Thank you!

    I’ve heard these programs are just play based  - we were recommended to sign up for the JCC Berkeley has great enrichment classes

    My experience is about 6 years old so take it with a grain of salt - hopefully someone will add some updated information. When I went to sign my kid up for Learns, it was very difficult to even find out any information about the Learns program at the school we were assigned to.  I found generic information on BUSD's website, but each school seems to be its own little kingdom in terms of policies and procedures. When I did find a contact email address, I would send email but not receive a reply. Eventually I figured out to go to the school in person and ask an adult who was on the playground after school interacting with the kids. They gave me a form to fill out but no one could tell me whether there would be room for my child, so that was a little hair-raising for a working mom. My child did eventually get in. I found this out by going to the cafeteria after school where the group met and it turned out he was on the roster. We used Learns for about 3 months until we figured out an alternative.  Learns was not terrible -- there are adults handing out snacks and supervising on the playground. But it was basically babysitting. It was also very disorganized - they continued to bill us for months after we had left the program. Learns did not seem to be accountable to the school or to the district in any meaningful way. For example neither the principal nor the district could tell me very much about the program beyond the name of the person in charge at the school (who did not answer email or phone calls). I think BUSD does not have much of an interest in after-school care beyond making sure low-income kids are covered, and those kids get the bare minimum. So if you have an alternative, I'd use that.

    Our son attended LEARNS for K–5 (he is now in middle school) and it was a very good experience for our family. It was our experience that everyone who applied got admitted to LEARNS in K, and then you automatically get a spot each subsequent year (perhaps other schools are different -- ask the school). There is a lot of unstructured time, which turned out to be great -- that is when he could run around on the yard, be a kid, make friends (the kids who didn't go seemed a bit left out, socially). He got tons of exercise that he didn't get during the short recesses during the school day. The program offered many enrichment programs, from hip-hop dancing to chess to soccer, and they had a homework hour. The LEARNS teachers were trained in Common Core so they could help kids with their math homework. In six years of elementary school, we never had to supervise homework since it was all done during the afterschool program! They also provided healthy snacks (boxes of apples, bags of carrots, etc.). Find the LEARNS coordinator at your school and ask questions. 

    My daughter did LEARNS all the years of elementary school (she's in 7th now) at Washington. It was disorganized, difficult to get info from them, etc. BUT it was the place where she made the most friends and had the best time. She really just wanted to hang out with her friends and play, so that's mostly what they did. When given a choice for a "afterschool class" she often chose "no class." So that's another perspective for you. Don't sweat this. Just pick one that's cheap and easy for you and your family to get to.

    I realized I didn't answer your question. When we were there, some families didn't get in due to lack of space. Luckily there were many other fine options.

    Our first grader is in it now, since K. I think there's a date you have to watch for to make sure you get in.  Thereafter, it seems not too difficult to continue- continuing parents get first dibs to continue.  It's fine and we're happy with it.  We're a pair of over-educated parents; we like play.   And they have enrichment programs- dance, drumming, extra PE/games, cooking.  They also have an academic hour too- for homework, etc. I think.  Not sure.  I believe every parent in the district is mailed or emailed with more details in the Spring to enroll. We made sure we were on top of it as we need the childcare.  We had thought of having him go somewhere else, but at least logistically it didn't make sense.  DM me if you have any questions.

Parent Reviews

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I don't know how it is for BAM but for Emerson where our daughter goes, it was a lottery for LEARNS and a bunch of kids didn't get in.  We're doing an aftercare program called Kids in Motion because it was like the only option left for us. I think we had to submit all our paperwork in late march.  If you wait till july you're going to be at the mercy of whatever schools in your zone have spots and mostly likely a waitlist for BAM and LEARNS.  The nice thing about Berkeley is all the elementary school are pretty great so it's not like there are bad options, just different ones.

If I were you I'd stay in St. Paul! (I used to live there too.) Kidding aside, I suspect you will hear the same story from all who reply to your post: It is hard to get a spot in a BUSD LEARNS program. For reference, for two consecutive years (TK and K) we submitted enrollment materials to the district at the earliest possible date, registered for the LEARNS waitlist at the earliest possible date, and then registered for our assigned school at the earliest possible date (which you need to do before your are considered for a spot in LEARNS). We didn't get a spot either time. There are multiple factors that determine your eligibility, BUSD gives weight to things like household income, returning students, children of BUSD staff, sibling status. So those factors, should they apply to your situation, do improve your chances. But the bottom line is that demand for LEARNS far exceeds capacity. And applying for a spot so late in the game means that unless you meet the income-qualified criterion, I'd guess the probability of getting a spot approaches zero. I would recommend that you try and register for one of the City of Berkeley after school programs as soon as you can document residency in Berkeley. There are three of them, and depending on which one your child attends and where your child goes to school, BUSD will provide after school bus transportation to the site. Or, try and register for the program at the Berkeley JCC, or the New School. Both have relationships with BUSD and lots of families send their kids there. I wish you good luck. 

Hi -- I totally hear you, and was in your exact position last year. Here's what I learned: MX waitlists everyone for LEARNS initially, and then (uncomfortably) close to the school year, lets people in off the waitlist. If you signed up right when registration opens, you will likely get a spot at LEARNS. Feel free to reach out if you have questions. I have a rising first grader at MX who will also be in LEARNS. 

All families are waitlisted for LEARNS when they first sign up. Last year nobody found out about LEARNS until August, but I hear it used to be in June - everything is chaos because of staffing shortages. We just finished K at MX and our son went to one of the city programs and rode the bus across town to Live Oak by himself. He was the only kindergartener who went from MX to Live Oak, but there were kids from his class who took the bus to other stops on the same route. It was seamless and he did fine - someone walked him to the bus and then someone from the afterschool program met him on the other end. We really liked the program at Live Oak, it's smaller than LEARNS so I think the kids get to form a nice little community there. The problem with the city programs is that not all programs get buses from all schools, so last year our choices were Live Oak or Willard. There was no bus to San Pablo but we had friends who went there and a few families took turns walking the kids over in the middle of the day. And sign-ups are really late, like a week or two before school starts, which felt very stressful. Good luck!


I have my kid in Trackers aftercare. They pick up from Washington on Mondays and Wednesdays. It is wonderful!

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


April 2012

RE: City of Berkeley After-School Programs at Willard?

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

Nov 2012

RE: After-School Care: BUSD school programs v. JCC

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.


How can I get clear information about after school programs?

Dec 2011

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]

Nepotism in our after-school program

Sept 2011

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:

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

Why does extended day care cost more at late-start schools?

August 2011

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!


Afterschool program for beginning student

May 2011

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

Coverage for BUSD days off

Feb 2011

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.

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