JCC East Bay After School Program Berkeley
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- JCC afterschool serves a number of K-5 schools in Berkeley, Kensington, and Albany
- see also: JCC East Bay After School Programs for other locations.
JCC vs. BUSD After School Programs
My son will entering kindergarten in fall 2015, and we are trying to decide to which after-school program to send him. We're leaning toward the Berkeley JCC because of the Jewish element. (We're nonobservant but would like him to learn something about Judaism, and I don't see synagogue membership in our future). But the JCC is at least a couple of hundred dollars more per month than BUSD, so I'm wondering if there are other reasons that parents have chosen it over the after-school care available on campus. We don't yet know which school he'll be attending, but I doubt that makes a difference in the quality of the after-school program. Thanks! Anon
We chose the JCC over the BUSD program and have been very pleased with our decision. We had several reasons for doing so, but the main reason was the variety of enrichment classes (called chugim) offered by the JCC. There are so many activities to choose from such as dodgeball, cooking, circus skills and theater. There are also some chugim for an additional fee, such as kids carpentry and taekwondo, (averaging about $150 per quarter) but even if you don't want to spend that, your child can have a full and varied schedule every week attending the chugim included with the annual tuition.
The BUSD afterschool program, at least at our school, simply doesn't have that type of programming. At least at our school, the kids in the afterschool program can choose to play outside or hang out in the multi-purpose room playing board games and doing art projects. To me, that seemed to be pretty monotonous if your kid will be in afterschool for up to 4 hours. To be fair, our PTA underwrites some enrichment classes such as art and science, but you have to pay a fee for them, so any cost savings that you may see from attending the BUSD afterschool program instead of the JCC would be gone.
We had a few other reasons for choosing the JCC over BUSD. As I understand it, both the BEARS and LEARNS programs incorporate an academic hour into the day as required by the state funding program. I appreciate how having additional academic support is beneficial to many kids, but I was not interested in having my child (at least in the primary years) sit in a classroom for an extra hour after the school day.
Another important factor for us was that our child would have a different setting for part of her day and not be on the elementary school campus for up to 9 hours per day. She loves taking the bus (she takes the BUSD bus for free) to the JCC and she enjoys the change of scenery. A related factor is that she has friends at the JCC from other schools. It's been nice for her to broaden her circle of friends.
There are some other great aspects of the JCC that I have discovered since my daughter started. The staff there are mostly young (recent college grads and maybe some college students) and energetic. My daughter relates well to them, and I can see that the other kids do too. It's great to see the staff members out playing kickball with the kids, not just supervising them.
I also like that that JCC is structured but also allows kids to work off all of that energy they have. There are 2 chugim sessions on Monday through Thursday and one on Friday. You sign your child up for their 4:00 and 5:00 chugim each quarter but if your child elects to play outside or hang in the free room instead of attending their scheduled chugim, they can do so and will be supervised by the staff on duty in those locations.
The JCC also serves 2 snacks each day and they are made on-site and are substantial, e.b. pasta, fruit, veggies. At least when my daughter started school, she wasn't regularly eating her lunch at school, so I was reassured that she was getting two nutritious snacks after school.
Finally, another aspect of the JCC, that may resonate with you, is the exposure to Jewish traditions. We are not Jewish, but my daughter now has a working knowledge of Jewish holidays. She also really looks forward to welcoming Shabbat on Fridays. The entire group gathers to light candles and to have grape juice and challah. It's a calming way to end the week. I would recommend that you tour the JCC program so that you can see it in action for yourself. Happy JCC parent
Re: After School Options at John Muir: BEARS or Kids in Motion?
Hi, Just to add another option into the mix you might consider JCC Oakland. They would pick your child up at John Muir and drive him the 5 min to the JCC. We are in the same zone and have been sending our child there for three years. We looked into the school options but ended up wanting a less chaotic place for her to have fun but also unwind after school (kindergarten is exhausting!). It's been perfect. The classes and staff there are great and kids can be as active or relaxed as they want. One thing I was worried about was too much time on a bus but a teacher literally picks her up in a minivan and drives her right there (58th and Telegraph). Feel free to email me with any questions (am happy to have the moderator give you my email). The new director has been a teacher there for a long time and is a gem. Happy JCC Parent
Re: JCC at Oxford Elementary
I've had both of my kids at the JCC after school since K-- & it's been like a 2nd home to them (& us!) for the last 4 years. The program does a great job with the little ones-- with a separate space/teachers/classes just for K kids. My oldest needs a ton of structure, too-- & the JCC's enrichment class program does that really well. The kids choose 2 classes each day that give variety & an organization to their time. The variety is impressive-- including piano, drama, dance, cooking, sports, art, etc. For kids who just want to hang out, there's a great outdoor play space & plenty of homework support too. They pick the kids up after school & the program runs until 6 pm, if you need it. Happy to answer any questions-- Alissa
Re: Thousand Oaks - After School Options for Kinder
The JCC East Bay has a great afterschool program which offers pick up from Thousand Oaks. (My son has been attending for 3 years, and my daughter will start next year, also as a kindergartener from TO). You can choose as many days as you need. http://prod.jcceastbay.org/youth/afterschool.html Paula
We're looking into after school care options for our son who will be in first grade in the fall and I was hoping to hear of some recent experiences with the Berkeley JCC aftercare program. Is it a warm and nurturing place? If you used the van transportation did you feel good about it? Are there some structured activities or only free play? Is there time for outside play? Homework assistance? Is it crowded/manageable, well-staffed? Thanks so much for painting a picture of the experience, both pros and cons. anon
I had children in the JCC after-school program for many of the past 12 years. JCC has always had a commitment to excellence, no matter who is in charge. My daughter was there for 2.5 years, through last December. The program is somewhat structured. Playing on the yard is usually a choice. There are lots of other creative and interesting choices. My daughter took piano lessons, which only became available last fall. She spent several months doing aerial acrobatics at the Athletic Playground in Emeryville. They do offer homework help every day, although in our experience you had to sign up quickly to get the slots you wanted. (They switch classes 2 or 3 times/year.) They choose their van drivers as carefully as they choose their teachers/counselors. I never had any concerns about the van. In summary, it is an all-around quality experience with excellent staff who love kids caring for your child. Francesca
Hi, my daughter started at the JCC center stage program last year & will return this fall. As a kindergartner last year, we were concerned about it being a gentle start for her and it was. They designated a special counselor to help the kinders with their transition and she quickly found a group of friends. The day starts with free time and then moves to structured activities. It took a while for her to want to get involved in the activities, but that is more due to her personality than the program. I've found the counselors to be engaged and creative. They did improvements to the play structure outside last year and will be resurfacing the basketball court/play area soon. I'd be happy to answer any specific questions. Kim
Our son, now in 2nd grade, is having a terrific time at the JCC CenterStage afterschool program. We've found the level of organization and the activities offered to be really great, and the staff to be warm, fun people.
The new director of youth and family programs is an amazing person, and she's brought in a very good director for the Berkeley location, where our son is at. The staff really know how to make things fun for the kids, and are adept and the innevitable ''conflict resolution'' situations that come up. The program is fully licensed - which eliminates some potential concerns we'd have with other programs.
I have to say, the list of options for activities is really impressive - art, drama, drumming, capoeira, a newspaper, a radio station, and more - phew! Of course, there's also flexibility to give kids the downtime or free play they might want. We've found that a mix of formal activities and more relaxed time works best for our kid.
As far as I know, Berkeley school buses drop off from most schools in town, and there are vans provided by the program for kids from Albany. They also have ''camp'' days for almost every day that Berkeley (and Albany) schools are closed, which is very helpful.
Other than that, I can only add that our son comes home happy from CenterStage virtually every day, and has made some really great friends there. == Happy CenterStage Family
We visited the JCC East Bay recently to check out the after school program. I'd seen the space for the preschool before and it seems really nice, plus I've only ever seen positive feedback about it here. However, I was pretty surprised by the after school space, especially the kindergarten room. It looked messy, dirty, unorganized, nothing interesting to look at on the walls. I know the program gets high marks, right?, but what do people think of the space? Is it a reflection of how things are run? Thanks so much for your insight.
My kids loved the JCC afterschool kindergarten program. During the first semester, the kindergarteners spend some time in the kindergarten room and apart from the other kids. In our experience, this has helped them get to know each other, and to give them a bit and their 2 staff, and to give them a bit of buffer from the lively JCC program. There may not be much on the walls there, because they spend so much time focusing on what they are creating right in front of them. And a lot of time on the play ground or in the back room playing games (the ''hall''). Most kids get there after their school ends at 1 pm or 2 pm, so they don't spend a lot of time in the room. Also, it is not like an instructional classroom where letters, words and numbers are all around the room. My kids didn't really care what was on the walls at the ''J'' in kindergarten, and they don't care how sparse the decor is elsewhere in the building. The playground is fabulous, the staff and the director are great. The classes (cooking, drumming, drama) and the spirit of caring, respect and fun are fabulous. And my kids take the school bus there afterschool. Kids from a variety of regligous and ethnic backgrounds and family structures attend. We love the ''J''! Anon JCC Mom
You are right--the walls of the kindergarten room aren't very inspiring. But the kids don't spend a lot of time doing art and usually take home any art they've made as soon as it's dry enough. The art room, for first grade on, looks better and those projects stay there longer. The looks are deceiving.
My son went through Center Stage and now my daughter is there as a kindergartener. The staff is dedicated to the kids and really know how to keep them engaged. My daughter loves it and takes full advantage of it.
Karen Cagan has been the JCC Youth Director for many years and it is to her credit that it is such a strong and solid program with great role models for the kids. Francesca
Re: Afterschool programs at Kensington Hilltop
The Berkeley JCC has an afterschool program that runs until six. They hav a van that picks kids up at Kensington schools and take them to the JCC. The JCC is on the corner of Walnut and Rose, in North Berkeley. There is some jewish content in the program (celebrate shabbat on Friday afternoons) but lots of non-jewish kids attend and it's a great program. Call 848-0237. Karen
Re: Jefferson After School Programs
There are a variety of afterschool programs your child can take the school bus to (assuming the buses survive the budget cuts). My daughter goes to the JCC, which she's loved. The kindergartners have their own classroom, and until winter break are mostly separate from the bigger kids, when they start joining in the classes and choices the older kids have. What we like is that the teachers present different classes, like cooking, gardening, storybook making, sports, drama, taking things apart etc. There is Jewish holiday content, and about half the kids are Jewish. happy with the JCC and Jefferson
My daughter goes to the JCC aftercare program and loves it. The first part of the year the kindergartners spend the time until 4:30 with the kindergarten teacher, then as the year goes on they get to take specialty classes with the older kids. The director does a good job of hiring people who enjoy being with kids -- there will be turnover because a lot of them are college students, but there are also longer term staff. The other thing I like are the hours -- most days that the Berkeley schools are off it meets, and it goes to 6:00. It is closed for the first day of many of the Jewish holidays, but luckily next year almost all of them fall on the weekend. You should call and visit now, so you can see if it's the program for you. Carol
The JCC has been great for us. The staff this year seems particularly great--always engaing childern, not letting things get out-of-hand, but not interfering when kids are playing on their own. My daughter was a kindergartener this year--they have special program for kindergarteners for the first 2/3 of the year, then they integrate them in a bit more. Kindergartners still have their seperate snack time, and other special times. A friend who started with her daughter the year before was happy not to send her child back--I think it was not a good match for her daughter's temperment. Sally
We have used the JCC afterschool program, Center Stage, for three days a week for my kindergartener. We have been very happy with it. The children can sign up for a variety of ''mini activities'' such as the Harry Potter Club, basketball, gardening, drama, Storybook - Oven (a winning combo. of stories and baking!), etc. A number of friends we knew at Berkeley Montessori also have their kids at the JCC. kl
My friend's child will be in kindergarten in the Berkeley public schools and is signed up for transportation and after-school care with JCC (the one in Berkeley on Shattuck and Rose). We have heard good things about the program, but wonder what people's impressions are of the administrative/staffing aspect. Although the child got enrolled as hoped, they didn't answer the phone in person, nor return repeated phone calls or notify the parent in writing or by email as requested. Thanks in advance.
My son has gone there for 3 years now. The director is very responsive and always returns my messages the same day. I'm not sure if she's there regularly in the summer, though--I think the summer camp director is someone else. The best way to find out who is there and when they might return your call is to speak to the main office during regular business hours (9-5, I think) and ask. Fran
Our son went to the JCC afterschool program starting in kindergarten. BUSD will bus students there if they attend a school in the Central or Northwest(?) zone. (JCC will also pick up from some Albany schools.) I think it has scholarships. JCC is the Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center, at Walnut and Rose. My guess is that about half the kids in the afterschool program are Jewish and there is some Jewish culture in the program, but it's not overwhelming. There has been some staff turnover in the two years my son was there, but they always seem to hire really excellent staff. Fran
I sympathize with your childcare dilemma; we'll be going through the same thing with our 5-year-old. You may be interested to know that there is a fourth childcare option for Albany schoolchildren. The Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center (Rose & Oxford in Berkeley) has vans that pick up children from Albany elementary schools. That's where our daughter went last year, and she really enjoyed it. In my opinion, the JCC is the best afterschool option for Albany students. Since Berkeley schools start a week earlier than Albany's, the JCC afterschool program actually begins August 31; so if you decided to send your daughter there for the school year you would only have one week to worry about! Greg
This year we switched Steffi to the JCC (Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center) for after-school care and she's doing much better. Most nights, all of her homework is done before she comes home because they give good support there if the child wants to do homework. This give us time to relax together and maybe work on a special project or read.
I would second the recommendation of the Berkeley Richmond JCC for Albany afterschool care. For Albany parents, particularly those in the afternoon kindergartens, the JCC is great because it has a Bridge K program in the morning that the Albany kindergartners can participate in; they are then driven to their schools. (If you work at the University, drop-offs and pick-ups are right on your way.) Although the J has a lot of kids and can seem chaotic in the afternoon, the morning kindergarten class is small, quiet, and intimate-the J is practically empty in the mornings and the kindergartners have the run of the place. (Even in the afternoons, the kindergartners are kept separate from the older kids, sharing a few activities with the 1st graders.) My son, who was one of those not-quite-ready-even-though-he's-five boys, went to the Bridge K before attending kindergarten in the Berkeley public schools and it was a very good year for him. In case you're wondering about the religion piece: our family is firmly Episcopalian, but we've sent both kids there from the moment they left preschool, a total of 5 years for my daughter and 3 for my son. Originally I chose it because it was close and some of their friends were going there. But it's worked out very well and I really like what my children have learned about religion and other cultures from their involvment. Also, the J is committed to running full programs for all school holidays and vacation in all districts and they have extra programs in the afternoons (drama, karate, etc.) that you can pay extra for. There are quite a lot of Albany kids at the J and it's likely your kids would find others from their own schools.
We had two experiences with after-school programs in Berkeley. My daughter went to Oxford school, and from K - 3 she went to the after-school program at The New School on Bonita near Cedar. The school bus stopped at the Arts Magnet school on Virginia just below Shattuck, and a New School teacher would pick up all the after-school kids and walk the two blocks to New School. I would then pick up my daughter by 6. I believe there are many Berkeley elementary schools that have buses that stop at the Arts Magnet (Whittier) school and you could take advantage of this program. This was a nice continuation for my daughter because she had gone to New School as a preschool. We quit the New School program after 3rd grade because at the time there wasn't much homework support and as my daughter got along in school she needed more of that. (They may be doing more homework support now, I don't know.) We then switched to the Jewish Community Center after school program. Because Oxford is just up the street, the kids simply walk down to the JCC. We liked the JCC program & the homework support. JCC also has vans that do pick up from Berkeley and Albany public schools. By the way, we are not Jewish, just in case you are curious. Both programs, as I recall, were in the $200/month range for after school care up to 6 pm, certainly cheaper than full time preschool care.
You should also check out the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, which is not a religious center. Buses bring kids directly there from their school and the cost for kindergarten times is about $330 (1-6pm) a month. They keep kindergarteners separate from the bigger kids, but they do get to run around, there are art projects, dance, cooking, outdoor games, and some specialty classes (like gymnastics, chess) that you do pay extra for. It has its ups and downs in terms of organization, but my kids have been going there for years and have liked it.
My son (kindergarten) attends the program at the Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center at Rose and Walnut. It is $240/month for 5 days a week to 4:30. BUSD school buses in the general area drop kids off, and JCC has its own van that picks up kids in Albany. Our son loves it a lot and we're very happy with it. JCC also has a breakfast program for kids who need daycare before the school day starts. Buses or the JCC van take the kids to school from there. One really great thing about JCC's program: it is open the entire day on most of the days that the schools are closed. Not major holidays, but minor holidays, teacher training days, conference days, spring and winter vacations. There are a few Jewish holidays when JCC is closed, but these are days that the school is open, so it only means you don't have after-school care those days. Your family does have to join the JCC to participate; I think it's about $300/year (this includes one of the annual fees for the after-school program). Fran