Transitional Kindergarten in Berkeley School District

Parent Q&A

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  • Cragmont Elementary TK program

    (1 reply)

    Hello, Berkeley families! Our son was assigned to Cragmont Elementary for the TK program. Prior to COVID, he was attending a Montessori preschool and more recently, has been part of a preschool pod with two other children. We would love any thoughts on Cragmont in general and ideally, the TK program. I would love for him to be part of the public school system but also want to make sure the TK program is a good fit. 

    Thanks in advance!


    My son went to pre-COVID TK at Cragmont and finished during COVID. I was very happy with Mr C and the way he taught TK. Every week they would have a different theme: solar system, penguins, phases of the Moon and he reads them books on that topic and they do projects on that topic. There were some early elements of phonics, and letter awareness. Since Cragmont is fairly large school, there were many after-school enrichment classes. My son went to after-school soccer and drawing after his TK school day and I would just pick him up at the end of his after school class.

    In the public TK, there is always 1 assistant. They have their own bathroom inside the classroom. Cragmont TK and K have their own porch with their own small playground. Teachers utilize it and kids, even in pre-COVID times would often eat snacks and celebrate birthdays outside. During their recesses they can play on all the play structures. I am not sure how it will be in COVID or post-COVID times...

  • TK after-school care

    (2 replies)

    Hi, we just moved to the area from out of state and our son is starting TK at King CDC in the fall. Does anyone know what people there do for after-school care - is there a city or private program that most kids attend? We're having trouble actually reaching anyone at the school (probably because it's summer) - not even sure when the official school day ends! Thanks so much.

    Hi! Welcome to Berkeley schools!

    The Berkeley school district runs two afterschool programs, which King TK kids get bused to at a nearby elementary school (probably Malcolm X but not sure): LEARNS and BEARS. LEARNS likely has a wait list at this point, but you could try:

    BEARS is income-qualified, so you can contact them to see if you're in the right range:

    The City of Berkeley after school programs and the JCC seem like they start at kindergarten, so it may come down to finding a private preschool that has "afterschool" spots. I think TK usually ends at 1:30, but King might be different. And yes, the district offices are closed until some time in August, so you'll have a hard time reaching anyone until then.

    Good luck!

    Our daughter went to TK at King CDC two years ago. The on-site after school program is income eligible. If you don't qualify they will bus your child with other TK kids to the Learns after school program at another school - when we were there it was at Washington. But your child can also be bused to any private after school program of your choice. JCC is very popular. So is New School. We even made arrangements with the transportation dept to take our daughter to her pre-school (Mustard Seed) to spend afternoons there. If King CDC is not responding I would contact the BUSD transportation dept. I found them very helpful. We had a great experience at King! 

  • I'm really overwhelmed by the wall of information on the Berkeley's Website and this is the first child I've ever sent to school and it's just a lot.  None of my phone calls actually reach a live human being, so hoping I can just get some answers here. I know there are a bunch of questions so feel free to just answer what you know. 


    • My daughter will be 5 year old on December 6, 2018. (She was born in 2013)
    • She is extremely bright, is the top of her preschool class & well ahead of her peers in milestones and academics per her preschool teacher. 
    • I am a single mom and for sure cannot afford private school tuition but I will be able to manage the price of the BEARS program which will help me so much with before and after care. 
    1. TK seems to be for those born between Sept xx and December 2nd.   What does this mean for a child with a December 6 birthday? 
    2.  Residency requirements.    I share a house with a person who is the actual owner of the home.  Of course as the owner she has all the utility bills in her name, I just pay my portion.   This means I have NO documents from the "A" Group of required documents. (link below).   I do have oodles of  other documents from the other groups with my address, (Bank statement, rental documents, rental receipts, etc,) but no actual utility bills.  This must come up a lot but it says you have to have one document from each section.   What do they accept in this kind of instance?

    Thank you!

    My understanding is that BUSD is fairly strict about their age limits; I’m not sure they will even let you apply for TK with a later birthday.

    That being said, have you looked into the BUSD public preschools? I am a single mom, and the public preschools were a lifesaver. There are three of them, and if you qualify for BEARS you will most likely qualify for free full-day preschool. My kid went to King, and it made for a smooth transition into public kindergarten. Call or stop by one of the locations for an application.

    To answer your residency question, I also did not have a bill in my name, and they let me bring in an extra item from column B to make up for my lack of bills. Attend the district kindergarten fair, and you can ask an admission worker in person.

    You can do it!


  • We were notified that our daughter was accepted to transitional kindergarten program at Malcolm X next year.  We don't know much about the program or teachers, would love to hear any experiences people had or currently having.  Thank you.

    I have have two kids at Malcolm X and we love it! The youngest is in Kindergarten this year. Last year he was in the TK program. We were very pleased with it. The program is very established now.  The teachers are really good. The whole experience Malcolm X is really enriched by the school's arts programs which the TK kids get to partake in too. They have music, dance and drama classes and performances. They also get to watch the drama performances of the other grades. It really did help 'transition' him to K -- academically and in learning how to function is the elementary school setting. They do a great job integrating them, but also giving them their own space (lunch, recess, etc.). The TK rooms are on a hallway with the kindergarten classes, so they aren't right in the mix with the bigger kids.  

  • Our daughter misses the 2017 kindergarten birthday cut-off by 35 days.  She will already have completed 3 years of pre-school by next fall and we are trying to petition BUSD for a waiver from mandatory T-K.  She is already ahead of age in terms of reading, writing, math, and maturity (thanks to older sisters).  We are seeking advice from parents who have tried successfully/unsuccessfully to petition BUSD?  Otherwise, do people have other options to have our daughter start kindergarten early?

    Why do you need to waive out of TK before even trying it? My daughter also had had 3 years of preschool before doing TK last year. I thought she was so advanced that we would be petitioning the district midway to move her up to K. Well, turns out my daughter wasn't so sure about "real school" and basically didn't start making an effort until February; we did not feel justified in discussing acceleration with her teacher until the May parent conference. They do STAR Early Literary Assessments with the kids, so you will see those scores and can decide from there when and where to start pushing for acceleration. Long story short, we got her promoted to skip K and she is doing great in 1st now at our home school. So for her, TK served the role of K, and you might want to give some thought to if that will work for you too. TK was at a different school site and it wasn't incredibly convenient with the schedule for our older child already enrolled at our home school, but we sucked it up for that year. Now, even if you know your daughter to be super smart, but she isn't testing above kindergarten level, you may not be successful in advancing her, and perhaps rightfully so as we saw with both kids, you really have to be a competent early reader to start off first grade on the right foot. They do word problems in math, for example, if you can't read well, you start suffering with math too.

    yes, I agree with the previous poster. I was so annoyed that my daughter "had" to go to TK and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. Though she was pretty advanced academically, it took her a while to acclimate socially. And again, I thought the "second year of kindergarten," aka her actual kindergarten year, would be boring for her (and it was, a bit, academically, but her teacher made up for it with more challenging work for her) -- more importantly, she again needed the time to catch up socially. I keenly remember, with embarrassment, how I was nagging her teacher to move her up to first grade, and she said, "Look, follow us around a bit, ask your friend who volunteers in the classroom. Kinder kids are very different from first graders; they look around when walking thru the hall, their attention is very different." I did as she asked and sure enough she just fit socially into her kinder cohort. By this year (2nd grade) she was completely both socially and academically in the right place and is doing great. All this to say: Don't knock TK. It's very valuable. We had a wonderful experience with it. 

    Is your daughter socially mature? How is her attention span? Those are the questions I would ask myself before trying to advance her to K. When I was a first grade teacher I had a child in my class who skipped K because she was reading and doing math beyond her years, but the mother completely left out telling our school that her child was incapable of dealing with difficult social situations. For instance, if a child cut in front of her in line, or if she was unable to do art projects as well as her peers (lots of cutting and following directions), or it didn't go her way, she would pout or cover her ears or get angry. Her peers eventually noticed that she was immature, and she had difficulty making close friends, which exacerbated the social problem. Do not underestimate the gift of time as far as building your child's social competence. Being able to hang with your peers socially at school is huge. Teachers can always tell who is the young one in their class, even if parents can't.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

June 2016

RE: Experience w/ TK Classroom @ Emerson Elementary Oakland?

My daughter was in TK at Jefferson and I am a BUSD teacher. I can tell you from experience and knowledge of the District that they would NEVER make a TK 24 students. My daughters class was 16. Because there is a smaller ''pool'' of kids eligible (Just fall babies), the classes tend to be very small. Even Kinder classes will not go above 21-22 TOPS (even with the new BSEP). There was a teacher and an aide in her class making the ratio 8:1. Furthermore, a number of parents volunteered in the room daily. There was no homework, a ton of project based learning, lots of movement and my daughter just LOVED it. Today she is a happy and very well adjusted Kindergartener at BAM. No reason to fear TK. BUSD mama and teacher 

After school care for TK kid (MX Berkeley)

Aug 2015

I really need some help on this one! Do any of you have advice on an after school program or provider for my TK student (who is starting at Malcolm X in September)? I don't believe we have a spot in the in-school program and my older son's program is only for 1st grade and up. I only really need Tuesday thru Thursday, but am open to Monday thru Thursday. There needs to be pick-up (1:30pm) and care till at least 4:30 or 5pm. Would prefer the location to be in either South or Central Berkeley. Thank you very much for your help. Marci

So this is in North Berkeley, but the JCC East Bay has an amazing (amazing!!!) afterschool program for public TK kids. They are bused through BUSD buses to the JCC and pick up is by 6pm.

The program is a dedicated after school TK program (~ 16 kids??). My daughter did it last year and it wildly exceeded my expectations. The team running it is led by a highly skilled educator and master in play-based/experiential/kid-centered learning. She really took the kids' lead and their ideas became amazing projects, themes, plays, art projects, songs, etc. I was so, so happy knowing that she was in this incredibly creative place in the afternoons. There was also a ton of physical play too - going to Live Oak regularly for explorations and climbing and just really cool stuff. And JCC does a great job with healthy snacks and all that. Very happy JCC TK After school parent

BUSD TK program updates?

March 2015

Can anyone with a child in the with the BUSD TK program in the past year or so give us a sense what your child's experience has been like? I have read all the old posts from when TK was just getting established but I feel like things have shifted in the last couple of years as TK enrollment has gone up and the program has changed. We have a daughter who meets TK age criteria for next year and who has been assessed as 'ready for kindergarten' by some private schools (in our efforts to at least explore options...). We are trying to get a realistic picture of what the BUSD TK year might look like for her next year. Philosophically and financially, we would prefer to go the public school route but we have been told by some that the public TK programs are geared for kids who are NOT ready for kindergarten and need basic support/structure to get them ready for the new academic and social rigors of kindergarten. We went to some public kindergarten information sessions and TK was such an afterthought in the discussion that we really got the sense it felt like a throwaway year to a lot of the administrators. We also are not excited about uprooting her for TK and then having to change to a different elementary school for kindergarten. Does anyone have a child that they thought about putting in a private kindergarten and decided to do public TK instead? Or any one in a similar situation? Thanks! 4 years of preschool….

Our kid is in T-K this year at Washington and loves it. I think it is what it is - not quite as rigorous as Kindergarten, with an emphasis on play-based learning, and some introduction to academic concepts. It's not all that different from the daycare we were at (much cheaper, obvs!), but in school they learn about sticking to schedules, being part of a larger school community, having different teachers for different subjects, etc. They have more independence & more responsibility in a public school. I've heard the Kindergarten teachers like having T-K grads because they are more accustomed to being in school & can show the new kids the ropes. They're also, surprise, much better prepared for Kindergarten. As for the issue of uprooting - you will have to re-enroll for Kindergarten & there is no guarantee that your T-Ker will be placed in the same school for K, in case that influences your decision. T-K parent

Feb 2015

RE:  T-Kindergarten vs Extra Year of Preschool

Just FYI- BUSD is changing where their T-K programs will be next year. The current proposal is 2 T-K classes at Malcolm X, 4 at King CDC (which is currently just preschool), 1 at Washington, and 1 at Jefferson. These are the projected T-K locations from a chart I found on the BUSD website. Not sure if this influences your decision or not, but thought I would give you the info. Future T-K Parent too

Reviews of Berkeley's Transitional Kindergarten?

Jan 2014

Hi, I was hoping to get some feedback on Berkeley's Transitional Kindergarten Program. I have a fall birthday kid and would very much appreciate any information from parents whose kids are currently in Berkeley's TK program. Thanks in advance! anonymous

My son is in TK at berkeley arts magnet and is an excellent program. He is very happy and learning soooo much besides having a lot of fun. Miss Harris is an amazing, great teacher and everything is great there. I will highly recommend it. A happy mom at BAM TK program


Applying for transitional K and confused!

May 2013

I just applied for both Berkeley transitional kindergarten (TK) and kindergarten and have lots of questions:

Questions about Applying for Kindergarten

1) The application for kindergarten was included in the TK application. Do I have a greater chance of getting my first choice kindergarten placement since I'm part of a smaller pool of parents (just TK parents) applying a year in advance of everyone else?

2) How does the kindergarten school selection algorithm work? Is my zone (south) broken down into subzones, with the demographic information for my subzone ''representing'' me? If there are subzones, how big are they, and can I figure out the characteristics of the area in which I live? What demographic profile for the area in which I live would help/hurt our chances? Is information about the algorithm public, and if so, where is it?

3) In general, what are our chances of getting into Malcolm X? Is this information public, and if so, where is it?

Questions about Aftercare for Transitional Kindergarten

1) What are our after care options? I know about B.E.A.R.S. (we probably don't meet the income test) and Berkeley LEARNS. I don't see how I can apply to Berkeley LEARNS since the deadline is May 31 and you have to specify the campus, but I won't know the TK assignment until June.

2) What are my chances of getting into Berkeley LEARNS?

3) If TK is in one place and aftercare another, how are kids transported?

4) Are there any aftercare options where there is flexibility to occasionally pick up after 6?

5) How much do the public programs cost? Private programs? I need care from the end of the transitional kindergarten day (I don't even know what time school lets out) until 5 or 6.

6) Is choosing aftercare basically the same as choosing daycare/preschool: there are a million private options and you just have to do a lot of research?

Thanks for your patience reading through all these questions! I suspect that many other parents who are new to BUSD system have many of the same questions, so whoever takes the time to basically write a FAQ will be doing a great service. Paul

I asked Interim Co-Superintendent Neil Smith to refer your question to the appropriate District staff and received the response below.

1) What are our after care options? I know about B.E.A.R.S. (we probably don't meet the income test) and Berkeley LEARNS. I don't see how I can apply to Berkeley LEARNS since the deadline is May 31 and you have to specify the campus, but I won't know the TK assignment until June.

Applying to Berkeley LEARNS is open year round. Families can only apply for the program at their assigned school site. The May 31st deadline was only indicated on materials distributed during the first round of BUSD registration. The revised letter indicates that applying for the program is on-going.

2) What are my chances of getting into Berkeley LEARNS?

Re-enrollment for current participants is still open, so I can't really say at this time. Priority is given to students currently enrolled and their siblings. Students are then enrolled in the program on a space availability basis in the order applications are received. Priority will then be given to students planning to participate full-time, followed by part-time.

3) If TK is in one place and aftercare another, how are kids transported?

Per funding requirement, we can only offer the Berkeley LEARNS After School program to students attending that school site. Fortunately, in BUSD there is an on-site after school option on all elementary and middle campuses.

4) Are there any aftercare options where there is flexibility to occasionally pick up after6?

Berkeley LEARNS operates as soon as school is dismissed until 6pm. The program does not offer services after 6pm.

5) How much do the public programs cost? Private programs? I need care from the end of the transitional kindergarten day (I don't even know what time school lets out) until 5 or 6.

Berkeley LEARNS Fee Scale is on our web page at The rates for this year will carry over for the 2013-14 school year.

6) Is choosing aftercare basically the same as choosing daycare/preschool: there are a million private options and you just have to do a lot of research?

Yes. Berkeley LEARNS and BEARS though are implemented by BUSD employees. The programs support and complement the regular school day and intentional design enrichment activities that focus on youth's academic development.

School Board President Karen Hemphill

How does TK compare to regular K?

Nov 2012

My son has a September birthday and will be right on the cusp for the transitional kindergarten ''High Fives'' program, or ''TK'', next year. His birthday will be three days before the deadline, but his preschool teachers are telling me that he may do better in TK. I am not even sure if I will have the choice to send him to TK since he's old enough to attend regular K. I've been trying to reach the BUSD admissions office for awhile, but they are hard to get.

I really want to know more about how BUSD runs TK, who is eligible, and how it compares to regular K. For instance, I've heard that TK is a shorter day than regular K, and that TK-ers may not be eligible for the BUSD aftercare (which would be logistically really a pain for us). I'm just wondering, since I can't get ahold of the district, can anyone fill me on on what the experience was like for your kid in TK? And are these rumors true? Thanks for any help! -- mom of two

The rumors are not true. Same day as K as yes you can use the aftercare. The school really treats it like another K class. that said it is nothing like K in terms of cirriculum . Mostly play based with some learning in there too - they learn letters and numbers. Do circle time etc. Our son loved it. That said i don't know if you are eligible - the rulesay be changing as the dates change. I highly recommend the program.

My son was in the first high-5 class (2010-11)with Tom Fairchild. Kids have to meet the birthday requirement, no exceptions and have a compelling, documented reason to need this class. There are usually more boys than girls, so it can be easier for a girl to get in. My son's experience was amazing - Tom is a hard act to follow. He incorporates lots of play, movement, multi-sensory learning and my kid really got to master his environment. Tom is great to work with parent-wise, he's very busy - but warm, intuitive, communicative and really saw, and responded to my boy's needs. K was much easier with High-5, we still struggle, but my son, thanks to Tom, really became a fully, enthusiastic, successful learner, leader and proud class member. the class is not for every kid - there are kids with difficult behaviors at times, and it Tom's high energy and multitasking abilities can seem somewhat overwhelming to some kids - but my son loved all the well-directed, meaningful activity, - I can see why he was the K teacher that everyone wanted. Regular afterschool care is available and the day was the same length as regular kindergarten. You can apply for regular K and high-5 usually on the same application, in fact you should have to apply for both, since high-five is a small program. It's definitely not a program for kids who are perhaps a bit ''young'' for K, but for kids who really, truly need it. Also check the birthday deadlines bcs I think the dates are changing for K this coming school year, and in that case your kid may not qualify. High 5 parent

High Fives at Washington Elementary

Sept 2011

I've been looking for information about the transitional kindergarten program for children born from September through December run by Berkeley Unified at Washington Elementary School. Is this the first year of the program? Was there a class last year? Does anyone have any experience with their child having gone to Washington for the High Fives program and then now transitioning to kindergarten at a different Berkeley elementary school? Or any current parents who can comment on the program and staff? Thanks for any information you can provide! Checking out options

My child wasn't in the high fives program at Washington, but he's in second grade there now and they've had the high five program for the younger kindergartners since we started there in 2009, so I think it's been there for years now. The official statewide transitional kindergarten program--I believe--doesn't start until next year (Fall 2012) when the cut off date for entry to kindergarten changes to Nov 1. I can comment that in general, we've been really happy at Washington. Not every teacher is perfect, but most are great and the principal is fabulous. My daughter has a fall birthday and will probably be in the high fives program in a couple of years, and I won't hesitate to enroll her at Washington because they've been doing this for so long. I'm sorry my post is vague, but I wanted you to at least know that they've been doing this for at least several years and the school in general is great. Andi

This is the second year of the High 5 program at Washington. Being brand new, it got off to a bit of a bumpy start at the beginning of last year, also because the district didn't thoroughly think through all the variables they had put together. They have made some adjustments that should be much better this year. The teacher, Tom Fairchild, couldn't be more experienced. He brought in support and ultimately designed a model program. My understanding is the kids really progressed and were beyond K-ready by the end. And once the program got into the groove, they had a fun year to boot. My daughter had him for kindergarten, so I can't speak on the High 5 class directly, but he's one of the strongest, most experienced, and dedicated teachers in the district. And very approachable. I'd go talk to him. Good luck. Washington Parent

The BUSD high 5s program is in its second year. My child just started the program and so far it seems great. The teacher is wonderful and highly respected. The goal I believe is to take the curriculum that the normal K class would cover through Nov and take all year to cover it so there is a lot more time for play. That said they have already started learning letters but are clearly getting lots of play time. This year has a super-engaged set of parents and a great bunch of kids. Feel free to reach out to the school for more information, the teacher is very welcoming of visitors who want to check out the program. It is definitely a down side of the program that most kids will move on to new schools next year but for me the benefits of doing it outweighed the disadvantages. happy high 5's parent.

We just joined the High 5's Program after being wait-listed so our experience is limited but very positive thus far. I understand that the pilot program started last year. I don't know anyone from that class so I cannot comment on how that experience was. I can tell you that I am impressed by what we are seeing so far in this class. The lead teacher, Tom Fairchild, is very organized, very approachable and sensitive to the kids varied needs. Ms. Roar, the teacher assistant, is there the majority of the days so the teacher student ratio is nice (13 kids at the moment). She also adds a nice balance to the class. We came from a traditional play-based pre-school and we are welcoming the more structured setting here. It's nice to have a teacher who has so many years of experience combined with teacher certification that is required in BUSD. I must say that we are seeing amazing developments in our son in just the few days that he's been in the program. He is doing character identification, excited about sounding out letters, singing songs and is more interested in art projects than he's ever been before. Our son looks forward to going to school each day. Washington is not in our particular BUSD zone and we have an older child at Thousand Oaks so our plan and hope is to have our ''High 5'er'' join his brother next year at T.O. It is early in the year but we are very happy with what we are experiencing now. I am thrilled that BUSD started this program. Happy High 5 Parent

June 2011

Re: Bridge K/Transitional K Programs?
Contact Berkeley Unified School District and ask about their new (in its second year) Pre-k Bridge program called ''High Fives'' offered at Washington Elementary school. Birthdays between Sept and Dec are invited to go to this transitional program with the same hours as Kindergarten, free of charge. Your other alternatives are private pre-schools. Berkeley Parent