Transitional Kindergarten in Berkeley School District

Questions & Responses:
Malcolm X Transitional Kindergarton - BUSD(1 response)
Berkeley Unified Transitional Kindergarton Waiver(3 responses)
Berkeley TK(0 responses)
Berkeley TK or one more year of preschool?(4 responses)
Archived Responses: 

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