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Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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Family Services

MSRI strives to maintain a diverse community of mathematicians in its programs, by actively assisting mathematicians with partners (spouses), and children. The Institute

  • Has a dedicated person – the Family Services Consultant, who assists mathematicians in finding schools and childcare in Berkeley.
  • Gives special consideration to applicants for the Complementary Program who are partners (spouses) of an invited member of a Core Program. The Institute’s Complementary Program is for mathematicians whose interests are not closely related to its Core Programs. Interested partners (spouses) should include their partner (spouse’s) name in their cover letter.
  • Organizes a potluck for mathematicians with children to meet each other.  

Information for families with school-going children

Children ages 5-18 years, Kindergarten-High School, respectively, can attend Berkeley public or private schools. A child entering kindergarten needs to be 5 years by September 1 to enroll for that academic year. Similarly, students entering grade 1 need to be 6 years by September 1, students entering grade 6 need to be 11 years, and student entering grade 9 need to be 14 years by September 1.

Overview of Berkeley’s public schools

All visiting mathematicians on account of their Berkeley housing rental lease can enroll their children in Berkeley’s public school. Public school is administered by the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) and is provided free of cost. Berkeley’s diversity, influenced by the presence of the University of Berkeley and its urban culture, is well represented in the schools’ student population. Schools are ethnically diverse: White (32%), African American (24%), Latino (21%), Multi-ethnic/Other (15%) and Asian (8%). Students speak more than 40 languages in the home. All this offers a different learning experience for children from other countries and other US cities.

Berkeley’s school district has over 9400 students attending eleven elementary schools (kindergarten to grade 5), three middle schools (grades 6-8), one comprehensive and one alternative high school (grades 9-12). Student-teacher ratio average is 20:1 (kindergarten to grade 3), 26:1 (grades 4 & 5), and 28:1 (grades 6-12 in academic classes).

 The Academic Performance Index (API) used by the state of California, assigns scores from 200-1000 based on a formula that includes student performance on standardized tests. The API score for the Berkeley Unified School District has been steadily increasing over the last decade, with a score of 821 for the academic year 2012-2013.

Elementary school  

Berkeley school district is unique from many US public schools. In 1968, Berkeley was one of the first school district in America to desegregate without a court order. In its continued effort to maintain balance amongst its diverse socio-economic residents, the city is divided into school zones. This means that your Berkeley residential address will determine the school zone, and not your neighborhood school. There are three school zones – North West, Central and South East. Each school zone has 4-5 elementary schools and one middle school.

Parents with elementary school children rank their schools within their school zone. Assignment to a particular school is strongly based on parental choice, but final selection in made by the school district in keeping with its diversity guidelines. Families with more than one elementary school child will be assigned to the same elementary school.  You can find your school zone on the school district’s website. Below are the names of elementary schools in each school zone. More information on each elementary school can be found the school district’s website.

  • North West Zone – Rosa Parks, Jefferson, Thousand Oaks, Berkeley Arts Magnet
  • Central Zone – Cragmont, Oxford, Berkeley Arts Magnet, Washington, Malcom X
  • South East Zone – Emerson, John Muir, Le Conte, Malcolm X

Curriculum, quality of teachers, and resource allocation is uniform across all schools. Differences occur in the physical infrastructure and the organic emphasis based on school leadership and parent involvement. For example – some schools emphasize more integration of the arts or on socio-emotional development or a language immersion program or a garden-to-table curriculum or a small school-learning environment.

Middle school

Middle school children, based on their residential address, will be assigned to Martin Luther King Junior or Willard, or parents can choose Berkeley’s third middle school – Longfellow. Longfellow offers a Spanish immersion program and more counseling services designed for students who flourish in an alternative learning environment. You can find your middle school  and information on each middle school on the school district’s website.

High school

There is one main high school - Berkeley High that brings together 3300 children under one roof.  Berkeley also has the Berkeley Technology Academy for children 16-18 years who require an alternative learning environment to complete high school.

Berkeley High School, offers six smaller learning communities. All learning communities are designed to prepare students for college, while allowing students to choose communities closely aligned with their interests and learning styles.  

Three learning communities are the smaller communities and have approximately 240 students each – Academy of Medicine and Public Service, Arts and Humanities Academy, and Communication Arts and Sciences. The bigger learning communities are Academic Choice and Berkeley International, which have approximately 1000-1300 students each. The International Baccalaureate Diploma is offered at junior level (11th grade) to students in the Berkeley International community.  The last community– Berkeley Independent Study is for students who prefer an off-campus intimate learning environment or have demanding artistic or athletic pursuits, or job responsibilities.

Students rank their preferred learning community. Assignment is strongly based on student’s preference, but final selection in made by the school district in keeping with its diversity guidelines and enrollment capacity. Most visiting children enroll in Academic Choice as it follows the US high school curricula. 

Berkeley Unified School District’s (BUSD) admission process

The admission process can be initiated only after your child is in Berkeley for the purposes of residency. This means that no representative can apply on your behalf, nor can the process be started via email or fax prior to your arrival. On arrival, visit BUSD’s Admission Office on 2020 Bonar Street, Suite 108, in person to submit the following documents required by the school district for visiting scholars

1)   Parent school preference Form

Berkeley High also requires you to submit the BHS Registration Packet

2)   Declaration of residency

3)   Official or certified copy of student’s birth certificate. If not in English, please provide a certified (notarized) translated copy.

4)   Parent's current Government identification – either passport or driver’s license.

5)   Student’s recent report or progress card, or transcript. If not in English, please provide a translated copy that is verified by your child’s current school.

6)   Proof of Berkeley residency – all four documents require an original copy. 

  1. MSRI's letter of invitation to the program 
  2. Rental or Lease agreement, with payment receipt dated within 45 days
  3. MSRI's letter confirming your Berkeley address. Once you have secured your housing rental — please send MSRI’s Family Services Consultant a copy of the signed leased agreement. On receipt - MSRI will send you this letter.
  4. Any one from the following documents
  • Current bank statement (checking or savings account) with your Berkeley rental address. Some members open a bank account in Berkeley solely for this purpose. The process is quick and hasel-free, requiring a cash deposit of $20. Other members have changed their residential address at their permanent bank, again, solely for this purpose. 
  • CA Drivers License
  • Valid automobile registration with valid auto insurance
  • All pages of a utility bill. This can be PG&E (gas & electricity), EBMUD (water), Landline phone, Internet or cable. This is not easy for most members as landlords retain bills under their names. 

The Admission Office takes 3-5 business days to process your application. They notify you of being accepted via a US telephone number. If you do not have a local telephone number that has a voice message service or a local cell number, please contact MSRI's Family Services Consultant. If you do not hear back from the admission office within the time frame mentioned to you during admissions – please follow up directly with them.

On being admitted into the school district, they assign a school. You then register your child at the assigned school, by visiting the school in person and with your child. Only after registration can your child begin to attend school. Please bring these additional documents as they are required for registration. 

  • Child’s immunization record (officially translated to English). Shots for school has information about immunizations required for school entry in California. 
  • Your child’s recent report card, progress report or transcript (translated in English). 
  • Medical and dental (www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/documents/oralhlthassess.doc) forms for elementary and middle school. Berkeley High requires you to fill in the Health Center form in ENGLISH. These forms are also handed out at the school. 

Miscellaneous public school information

  • If your child requires any medication to be kept at the school - please fill in the Medication Authorization Form and have it signed by your child's current doctor. 
  • The first day of school for the 2017-18 academic year is 29 August 2017. Details on school and district office holidays can be found on BUSD's website

Overview of Berkeley's private schools 

Berkeley has a number of religious and independent private schools that offer a wide range of education pedagogy – from alternative to mainstream, from whole-child pedagogy to area-specific, viz. a higher emphasis on the arts or music or language or academic acceleration.

There are only a few private schools that have the ability to enroll children mid-year and for durations shorter than an entire academic year. There is a wide range in cost of tuitions, with independent schools have higher tuitions compared to religious schools. The average annual tuition for independent schools that accept short duration applications are – Elementary school (K-Grade 5): $24,000, Middle school (Grades 6-8): $26,000 and High school (Grades 9-12): $33,000
This is a list of private schools that MSRI members have enrolled their children.
  • The Berkeley School in Central Berkeley offers a blend of teaching pedagogies – rooted in Montessori while embracing the progressive practices of Reggio Emilia and Project Zero. The school has a preschool and K-8 school program.
  • The Crowden School in North Berkeley offers a 4th-8th grade school with chamber music at its heart.
  • Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley in Southwest Berkeley provides a bilingual international environment from preschool to grade 8.
  • Maybeck High School in Elmwood, Berkeley, offers an academically challenging curriculum in a collaborative learning environment.
  • Tehiyah Day School in the neighboring city of El Cerrito offers a Bridge-8 education filled with diverse Jewish experience and tradition. 

Information for families with infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers

Childcare and Early Education Program, for infants to children 5 years of age, is serviced by the private sector, except for families with high financial needs. Berkeley has family childcare homes – where care is provided at the home of the licensed provider, childcare centers – where care is provided at a licensed facility, and in-home caregivers – commonly referred to as nannies or babysitters.Childcare homes and centers Childcare homes and centers offer a wide range of education pedagogy – play based to Montessori to Waldorf to language immersion programs. A full-day program is usually from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM, and a morning-program is usually from 8:30 AM- 1:00 PM. Some centers offer extended morning or afternoon care. Some centers offer a flexible schedule arrangement. This can be varied – choose between 2 to 5 days a week, or a morning-only program or an afternoon-only program or a combination of these options.  There are only a handful of centers located within close proximity to MSRI, that enroll children for semester-long durations. Options are even fewer for any duration less that a semester and rare for an one-month duration. Berkeley is known for its long wait lists at centers, particularly for infant and toddler care. Although centers know of their openings only a few months in advance, please contact MSRI’s Family Services Consultant early in your decision making process. The average monthly cost for a full day program is around $2300 for infants (less than 18 months of age), $1800 for toddlers (18 to 35 months of age), and $1500 for preschool (3-5 years of age). 

The list below are centers that accept semester-long or shorter-stay applications 

In North Berkeley neighborhood 
  • Sprouts offers a home-based program for 14 children, ages 3 to 5 years. The main program is from 8:30-1 PM with an after care option until 3 PM. You can enroll between 2-5 days/week.
  • New House Day School offers a home-based Spanish bi-lingual program for 14 children, 18 months to 5 years. The main program is from 8:30-3:30 PM, with after care until 5:30 PM. You can enroll between 2-5 days/week. 
  • Keiki’s Corner offers a home-based program for 12 children, ages 18 months to 3 years.  The main program is from 8:30-1:30 PM, with after care until 5:30 PM. You can enroll between 2-5 days/week.
  • Orange House offers a year-round full-time home-based program for 14 children, ages 24 to 50 months. The program is open from 9-5:30 PM, with optional early care from 8:00 AM.
  • Greenhouse Childcare is a home-based program for 10 children, 16 months to 4 years. The program is open from 8:30-5 PM, except Friday it closes at 3PM. They offer a wide range of schedule options. 
  • Mi Escuelita Day Care offers a home-based Spanish bi-lingual program for children, ages 18 to 42 months. The main program is from 8:30-3:30 PM, with after care until 5:30 PM. You can enroll between 2-5 days/week.
  • Mustard Seed offers a center-based Christian program for children, ages 18 months to 5 years. The main program is from 9:00-1 PM, with early care starting at 7:30 AM and after care until 6 PM. You can enroll between 2-5 days/week.

In other Berkeley neighborhoods
  • St Johns in Elmwood Berkeley offers a full-day year-round program for children 3 months to 5 years. The center is from 7:30-6:00 PM, with a minimum enrollment of 7½ hours per day. You can enroll between 2-5 days/week. 
  • Berkeley Hills is in the Berkeley Hills neighborhood and offers a program for children 2.9 to 5 years. The main program is from 9-1 PM, with an after care option until 3 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can enroll between 3-5 days a week.  They have a minimum enrollment of 4 months. 
  • Bahia in Northwest Berkeley offers Spanish and English bilingual program. Centro Vida offers a full-day year-round program for children, 2 to 5 years and is open from 7:30-5:30 PM. La Academia de Bahia offers a morning-only program from 9 to 12 PM, for children 3 to 5 years old. You can enroll in the programs for 4 or 5 days/week.
  • Dwight Way Child Care is in South Berkeley neighborhood and offers a home-based program for 6 children, infant to preschool. The program is open from 8:30-5:30 PM. 
  • Cornerstone Children’s Center near UCB campus offers a Christian program for children between the ages of 6 weeks to 5 years. They offer a year-round flexible scheduling and open from 7:30-5:30 PM. They have a minimum enrollment of 3 months.

In the neighboring city of Albany
  • Bright Star offers a Montessori program for children 2 to 5 years old. The center is open from 7-6 PM, and offers a morning and a full day program. You can enroll for 4 or 5 days a week.

Nanny care 

Nanny care averages $15-$22 per child, with $2-$5 per hour for an additional child.  Rates depend on experience, education qualification, linguistic skills, and ability to do additional tasks like driving, household chores and co-sharing arrangements. Most nannies know of their availability only a month or so in advance of the start date.

The best resource to find a nanny is on Berkeley Parents Network. It is an iconic website used by local parents, and has a forum where nannies offer their services and parents seek co-share arrangements. To review or make posts – you will need to subscribe to Berkeley Parents Network, which is free for parents.

If you need a nanny occasionally or for month-long visits– Swiss Cheese Childcare offers an on-line access to a group of local and experienced nannies vetted through references, interviews and who are Trustline certified.


Local resources

Bananas offers free referrals to licensed childcare providers and provides information and resources to families with young children

Berkeley Parents Network is an iconic website where parents can look for and recommend childcare, schools, classes, and camps, buy and sell household items, and find out about local activities and community events.