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St. John's Childcare Center (Berkeley, CA)

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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Preschools & Daycare > St. John's Childcare Center



Jan 2014

Re: Preschool for 2 yr old in Oakland/Alameda/Emeryville

We sent our daughter to St. John's Preschool in Oakland on College Ave. near Elmwood. They are a day care that moves into a preschool so it's great to not have to move your kid around too much. You pay for a full day but you can do from 2-5 days a week - great for working parents. Good luck. anya


Jan 2013

Re: Childcare for ages *0-6 YEARS* in/near Oakland?

Yes, there is a great childcare option for you on the Berkeley/Oakland border - St. John's Childcare on College. I looked on line and it appears they'll have an opening for an infant in February as well as an opening for a toddler in spring:

Infant Room (3 - 18 mths) 8-10 babies with 3.5 teachers

Infant Openings in the next six months
January - one Monday, Wednesday & Friday space for a 6-12 month old
February - one fulltime space for a 4 - 12 month old

Toddler Room (18-36 months) 14-16 toddlers with 4.5 teachers
One fulltime space for a 18 - 28 mth old

We had 2 girls there for three years - one started as a preschooler and went until kindergarten, the other as an infant through preschool. Great school, great teachers, very dedicated staff. I highly encourage you to contact them: Phone 510-549-9342 Email stjohnit@gmail.com

happy St. John's alumni parent


Nov 2012

Longtime St Johns parent (19 month old toddler, there since 5 months). Baby room hours are either 8:30-5:30 or 9-6. Breakfast, lunch, and snack are included and they are very flexible both with newbie parents and with special needs. Around 18 months the kids move into the Wobbly room, which has a slightly larger child-staff ratio. There is a third room for bigger kids called the Busy Bee room. Philosophically it's a mix of a lot of different child care methods - lots of child directed activity, redirection instead of saying ''no'', lots of play opportunities, lots of reading and painting. There are regular parent-staff conferences. Parents are also asked to volunteer a certain number of hours. They also provide occasional parents' nights out in which the center stays open later for date nights. It's in the basement of St Johns presbyterian church, but the center itself is not religious. There is a kitchen onsite, and there is a large private playground contained inside the center. There is good security in and out of the playground and the building. John W.


Oct 2012

We are looking for preschools in our neighborhood and St. John's Childcare Center (Berkeley, CA) is a candidate. We have an almost 3 yr old boy that we are seeking to place in preschool Fall 2013 (he currently attends day care full time so hopefully he will have an easy transition). We also have a 2nd on the way so we might pursue the infant care services too. There aren't many recent reviews that have much specific information. Our family is seeking current or recent-past parents (last 1-3 years only please) of students there to comment on their experience with the school. What do you think about the curriculum? The staff's ability to address age appropriate issues or positively resolve problems. Also, what is the quality of food (any details about organics, nutritional quality, any policies on sweets)? Finally, what were your experiences with the infant care? Did your infant have any special needs that were/were not attended to and if so how? HUGE thanks, in advance, for assisting us with your input! M.


Our older son has been at St. Johns for over two years (currently in the pre-school room) and our younger son just started in the baby room a few weeks ago. We have been VERY happy with St. Johns. The teachers in all three rooms are nuturing, attentive and clearly love working with kids. There has been very little staff turnover in the past two years, and the new teachers who have been hired are fantastic.

Our older son is eager to go to school every day and excitedly talks about his day when he gets home. The teachers in both the ''wobbly walkers'' and ''busy bee'' rooms have been wonderful. They have been very supportive of his potty training, have helped him learn to use his words to deal with conflicts with other kids, and in general have helped foster his interests and growth--from sharing with the class the books he often brings to school to making sure his time on the playground suits the time of day he is the most rambunctious. He has special relationships with several teachers and even talks about how he wants to invite them to his birthday party.

The teachers in the baby room are also fantastic. Our older son formed a real bond with one teacher in particular and often went back and ''visited'' her even after he moved on to the next room. They are always either holding our baby or sitting next to him and actively engaging with him when I come in to pick him up. They don't have swings, bouncers or other ''babysitters'' that I have seen at other childcare centers. I know that our baby is loved and nurtured in their care. In all of the rooms we often get comments on the daily cards that include special things that happened that day. I've saved many of my favorites.

I also really like the outdoor space at St. Johns. It's safe, often shady, and big eoungh for the pre-schoolers to run around, ride bikes etc. Even the babies spend a lot of time outside in their own outdoor area. We plan to keep both kids at St Johns through pre-school. Happy St. Johns Parent


My now 3 year old daughter has been attending St. Johns for two years now. I have been very satisfied with the program. The school is very child-centered (for example, they do not choose exact dates for classroom transition to be completed as they know that different children have different needs and that some children will need additional time and others will never look back.) I have found the lead teachers to be exceptional and the staff of high quality. I appreciate the opportunity to check in with staff in the morning and afternoon about how my daughter has been doing. When she has some separation challenges, there are always arms for her to be in when I need to go out the door.

The teachers receive on-going training through the center. Parents are encouraged to participate on the center's advisory board. Curriculum is created by the teachers and changed every two weeks which ensures an active exploration of different activities/concepts for the children. The head teachers have not changed in the past 2 years, but other positions have. The new teachers have added diversity and energy and my daughter loves them. It's nice to have multiple male teachers in the program. My daughter had solid support with potty training and staff would frequently check in about what she was doing at home to try and coordinate the support.

The food is cooked on-site with good portions of fresh fruit and vegetables included. It is not all organic. I prefer my daughter not to eat sweets and the center treats it like a food allergy. I provide low-sugar crackers and ask that she not be served sweet cereals, treats, etc. It's important to sit down with the staff to clarify your needs and be specific for the teachers. The center has a small garden and I use my volunteer hours to teach the children about growing vegetables. We're currently harvesting the last of the beans and the carrots.

Teaching and administrative staff have always been very supportive of my daughter's needs and easy to talk with. St. John's parent of 3 year old


Our daughter was at St. Johns for over a year (in the wobbly room) and we wish we could say we liked it. But we were very disappointed with the lack of structure. We left several months ago and wish we left sooner. In the time we were there, the program really degenerated. The head teacher had a baby and left, the structure/curriculum became inconsistent, the administration--for various reasons, some not their fault--was unresponsive and disorganized... In sum, we felt increasingly uncomfortable about both the curriculum (or perceived lack of) and the overall condition of the program. That said, most of the teachers in the wobbly room were lovely. We visited many schools before deciding on St Johns and thought we made a good choice until the problems started. Maybe the issues were temporary--many families left around the same time as we did.

St Johns might be better now (or someday) but I would look at the program and the administration more carefully before deciding on them. Ask around, and look around--there might be better (and cheaper) options in the area, and close to UC. Please note this review is mainly for the Wobbly room--we hear the baby room is pretty good. But of course all the rooms share the same administration. Previous St Johns parent


June 2012

Re: Any preschool openings or short wait lists?
Try St. John's on College and Garber. They offer part time and might have an opening. 510-549-9342. Our daughter goes there and we love it. Anon


Oct 2011

Re: Preschool for 18-month old
Our daughter (19 months) is at St. Johns Daycare on College Ave at Garber. We LOVE it there! They start with teeny tinies, then move to the ''Wobbly'' room at around 18 months. And then there is a bigger room for the 3-5 year olds. There are tons of activities (from art, to books, to outdoor play, to songs and music, etc.) and the whole atmosphere is very relaxed, loving and fun. She has also been learning things that I never would have thought to teach her at home. Their website is: http://sites.google.com/site/stjohnit/home a parent


March 2010

Are there any current parents from St John's Childcare in Berkeley out there? The BPN page has old reviews from 2004. We're interested in information about all three classrooms, but particularly the baby and wobbly rooms. Pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, curriculum (play based?), and quality of teachers would be extremely helpful. We are considering this program among others for future enrollment for our baby. looking for quality daycare


Hi there I'm a St. John's parent, with a child in the baby room and one in the Busy Bees. We're very happy with the experience our children are having. It is a play-based curriculum.

The babies really self-direct based on their interest - but there are many manipulatives, books, playground etc to keep them busy. While the older babies are on a schedule, the younger ones (my baby started at 3 months) are all individualized based on the needs of the baby. The teachers are wonderful and the program just received a grant for the teachers to receive training and mentoring from early-childhood educators over the next year. We receive detailed written feedback about what our baby does every day - what she eats, diaper changes, naps, what she played with as well as her general mood(s).

The older kids have a more structured day, but there are not lessons - kids have choices from different centers - some play with legos, others read books, etc. My older child comes home with art projects every day, and while she isn't being taught letters and numbers, at 3 years old her lettering and drawing is becoming more sophisticated each week.

All the meals are cooked on site (breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack) and served family-style to encourage cooperation and social skills. When our baby moved to solid foods, they provided home-made baby food based on what the older kids were eating each day. (You can also bring in food if you'd prefer.)

My kids are always happy to attend and even with the baby you can see the positive connections she's forming with her teachers and the other kids in her class. I also wanted to say even with 9 babies in the class she's had no major illnesses (a few colds - that's all!).

The facilty itself isn't fancy and new. If you haven't already done a tour, they work out of a church basement. But they have just done a major playground remodel (many thousands of dollars) and what they lack in impressive structures they make up for in heart and dedication.

If you haven't taken a tour I'd encourage you A happy St. John's parent


We've been at St. John's for 2.5 years now and we are very happy with the care. If you have specific questions, don't hesitate to contact me directly. cheryl
I have mixed things to say about St. Johns. I want to say good things because some of the teachers are decent people and hard working (like Hung in the Wobbly room who was always welcoming and warm), but we needed more flexibility out of the administration, so our experience at St Johns wasn't as satisfying as we'd hoped for. The two teachers that my child bonded with both left, which left my child pretty miserable. I think that frequent turnover in any place of business is not a good sign but when children are involved it is essential to have consistent staff. Due to our child's unhappiness and our own general discomfort, we eventually left for another school. As soon as my child started at the new school there was excitement to get to school and personal achievement (like potty training- St, Johns will not help at all with potty training- they tell you straight out that they will not help with this) The professionalism that the new school has is so wonderful that I wish that we had made the move much sooner. -anonymous

September 2004

I'm looking for more recent reviews of St. John's, in particular the Wobbly room. I'm considering sending my child to St.John. Thanks! anon
I cannot make a specific recommendation about the Wobbly Class at St. John's but do have this one comment to make. When I was expecting my daughter, I called St. John's and submitted an application after being told that it should not be difficult to get her a spot with so much advance notice. After several calls, I finally asked (when my daughter was 1 year) whether there was any chance at all of getting a spot. I was told that I was more than 100 families down on the waiting list. When I asked the director why they would take the application fee from me knowing that there would be little chance of securing a space, she had no good response and I did not receive a refund. You may wish to get a really good sense of how many families are on the list before remitting an application fee. Good luck! Anon
Our youngest has been in the Wobbly Walker room for about two months (previously in the infant room). We love everything about St. John's. The staff is attentive and caring. The meals are cooked on location, including great breakfasts everyday. The yard is big and full of diverse opportunities to explore - trees, sandbox, and structures. Our son had the same exact teachers as our older son did six years ago in the infant room. Most of the teachers in the Wobbly Walker room are the same as well, including the head teacher. The director is both a competent administrator and experientially knowledgeable in all aspects of child development. If a space opens up, I'd recommend taking it. Robert
I can offer a resoundingly positive recommendation for St. John's Childcare.....this is a special and wonderful place! My son started in the Babies Room and is currently in the Wobbly Walker room; my 4-year-old daughter also began in the Babies Room and stayed at St. John's until she ''graduated'' to preschool.

The key thing is the teachers, and they are exceptional. There is remarkably low turnover among the teachers at St. John's, an indication of the quality of the working conditions, their ability to work together, and their dedication to the program and the kids in it. You can see the love they shower on the children, and the respect with which they teach them, play with them, and care for them. The facility is well suited for a daycare center: easy access from all of the rooms to the well- equipped outside play area. One nice bonus: a good hot lunch and several snacks are served everyday. The new-ish director of the center has made some positive changes since she arrived, while maintaining the qualities that have made St. John's the gem that it is.

I could go on and on about this remarkably nurturing and fun place, but I think you get the picture! Katie


June 2004

My son has been at St. John's for six months, and I can't say enough about the quality of care that he receives from the teachers there. We were on the wait list for over a year, but it was well worth the wait.

Feb. 2004

Our son has been on the St John waiting list for a year now; has there been any changes to the program and quality of care since the new director started last summer? anoymous
Hi, It seems to me that since the new director started, St. John's is just as good as it ever was. My son graduated a couple of months after the new director started, and we visit fairly regularly. We see the same faces among the staff, and among the kids there doesn't seem to have been much turnover, except among those who graduated due to their age, as did my son. Parents seem just as happy as they ever were, as do the teachers and kids. Sara

August 2003

Re: Best Daycare Centers for Infants
St. John's in Berkeley (Elmwood?) is very good but probably has a long wait list. I've also heard Cornerstone is very good--their staff have been there many years. Don't worry about using a daycare ''center'' as opposed to a home daycare. Both can be good or bad. What you want to look for is high-quality care and staff in either case. And a place you feel good about leaving your kids. Veteran daycare mom

June 2003

I am looking for updated information about St. John's Childcare Center. I have seen the posts but they are all a little old. I am considering sending my 20 mo. old son there in September. I would like to know what the Busy Bee room is like for 2 year olds. I am also curious to know what impact the director's departure is expected to have. Thanks.
Our daughter has been at St. John's since she was 5 months old. She's now in the Busy Bee room and we cannot say enough good things about St. John's. The teachers are professional, well qualified, and nurturing. The center's administration is very well established, such that the transition to the new director is going smoothly. Kristin
Our child attends St. Johns and is a little older than yours. We have experience with both the Wobbly Walker classroom and the Busy Bees. There are some great things about St. John's: the teachers, in particular in the Wobbly room, are extremely kind and loving and very much love the children. For us, the love the teachers show the children over-ride some of the negatives.

The negatives seem to apply only to the Busy Bee room, where our child is now. Those are that the teachers are very clearly not a cohesive group and on some occasions will have conversations/discussions about how things are to be done that IMNSHO should be had where the children can't hear.

In the Busy Bees in particular, the teachers seem overwhelmed and some days the room feels chaotic and as though the only things going on is ''crowd control.'' Our child has come home ''filthy.'' I don't mind dirt, kids are supposed to get dirty, but so covered in filth that we've had to throw clothes away.

These negative changes have all happened in the last two months. Since the director announced that she was leaving. We're hoping that the incoming director will help change the atmosphere in the Busy Bee room... back to the fun, clean and relaxed atmosphere that the busy bee room at st. john's used to have. anon


My daughter went to St. Johns for a year and I was very happy with her care there. She loved the warm meals served at lunch and was quite fond of all her teachers in the Busy Bee room. We still keep in touch with them even though she has moved on to preschool. I can't predict how Cathryn's departure will affect things, but my guess is that it'll be fine. When the previous director left, the teachers kept everything running smoothly. Patty
I am the parent of a 19 month-old in the wobbly walker room and a member of the Board of St. John's Childcare. My daughter has been in the program since she was 3 months old and I have nothing but good things to say about the program. The staff are warm and loving and have been there forever. It's very unusual to have such stability in a childcare program..but most of the teachers have been there for more than 10 years. It is a wonderfully diverse group of kids and staff. As a mom who works full time, I can tell you that it is a great relief to me to have such a great place to leave my child....and you get the added bonus of having a nutrionist on staff who prepares breakfast, lunch and snacks for the kids - so you don't have to worry about packing a lunch each day.

Our kids will be in the busy bee room together and I can tell you that it's a great group of kids that age that get along well. My daughter already spends a little time each morning in the Busy Bee room when the classes are joined and she LOVES that room. The play areas are very captivating for their imaginations and the teachers are wonderful!

I can also tell you that I was involved in the hiring of the new director (who starts next week), and her credentials and recommendations were absolutely impecable. She has a master's in early childhood ed, and we feel VERY lucky to have gotten her. While we certainly miss our beloved Cathryn, who moved to Georgia, we feel very blessed to have Celeste stepping in.

Feel free to write me if you have any questions or concerns and we look forward to having you and your child in the fall. I encourage you to get involved, join the board and be an active part of the daycare center! Esther


August 2002

I have seen the posted recommendations for St. John's daycare on College Ave. in Berkeley, but most of them are rather old and date from a time before the current director. Has anyone had good (or bad) experiences there since Catherine took over? I am thinking about sending my infant daughter there in the fall. Thanks! betsy
Our 8 month-old daughter started going to St. John's in February. We have been VERY pleased with the center and the quality of care that she gets. The providers in the infant room (Mary, Jeanette and Rose) are absolutely amazing and full of love for each of those babies. All three have been with the center for many, many years. I'm not certain, but I think Mary and Jeanette have both been there for 15+ years. I've learned a great deal about parenting from them. They give each child a great deal of one-on-one attention and the children absolutely adore all three of them. I am particularly aware of it now that my daughter is in a ''only mommy will do'' phase. It is the one place I can put her down and walk away where she won't start crying.

The ratio of caregivers to children is 1:3 in the infant room. That was one of the main reasons we chose it. They also provide all the meals - including home made baby food and formula. They are also very accomodating for moms like me that breastfeed. They have a refrigerator/freezer in the baby room for you to drop off your milk, and a sink to get warm water to warm the milk (they never microwave it)...they also have a rocker in a private area of the nursery for you to nurse your baby, which you are welcome to do at any time of day. Another thing that we really liked is that because the sink is in the baby rom and the changing area is connected to the baby room - caregivers are not constantly leaving the room to attend to other business like warming bottles, changing babies, etc. like they are at other centers.

Catherine Kelly is the director and is also a new mother. She does an amazing job of running the center and we parents feel very lucky to have her in that position!

If you are interested in sending your child there, be sure to get on the waiting list as soon as possible as it is quite lengthy and give catherine a call and arrange a tour. She'll be more than happy to show you around. mogulli


Sorry for the delay in responding to your question - my computer has been on the fritz. Anyway, my 2 1/2 year old daughter has been at St. Johns since she was 1 1/2. I can't say enough good things about St. Johns - the director, the teachers, or the facilities. All are superb.

My little one started when she was a bit older because we relocated from the East Coast, so she skipped the ''Infant Room''. However, she now has experience in the other 2 rooms in the center (the ''Wobbly Walkers'' and the Busy Bees''). So I wanted to tell you that as great as I hear the infant room is (and the other parents at St Johns that I've gotten to know say they were very pleased with the infant room) - when she transitions out of that room into the bigger kids rooms, you will be equally as pleased.

The teachers are what make St Johns so special - most have been there a long time. My daughter clearly loves them -- she talks about them on the weekends, even those that no longer take care of her because she's moved to the older room. She'll run to give many of them hugs in the morning and she is always enthusiastic about her day when I come to take her home. Also, for me personally, I've learned a lot from the teachers about child development - both how to recognize potential physical/sickness issues, and how to try to cope with those bad personal behaviors that kids may exhibit as they grow older (biting, pushing, tantrums etc).

You also asked about the director, Catherine. She is just great too. She deals with the inevitable issues that come up with a great deal of class. She treats the teachers with respect (which I think is so important for maintaining a good environment), and the parents with a gentle kindness that seems very natural for her.

Finally, you might also want to check out the facilities - they seem to have very good learning toys in each room, they do a lot of reading and art projects - and their outdoor space is wonderful for the kids.

So all in all, I am a big believer in St. Johns, and would recommend it very highly. Maryanne M.


My son has been attending St. John's for about a year. I can't say enough good things!! He has thrived there. He is currently in the Wobbly Walkers (toddler room). All of the teachers through out the center are caring, loving, nuturing. I can't say enough! You can tell that everyone that works there loves kids. Not to mention all of them have been working there for on average 8 years- and that is usually unheard of for daycare professionals. The director Cathryn is also fantastic. She is involved and has lots of energy. She does a great job of looking out for the children's needs as well as the teachers. I never worry about my son during the day. I know he is having lots of fun, in a loving and nuturing environment. I feel lucky to have him there. Lisa

2001

hi. I needed some inputs on St John's Center. I am looking for day care options for my 14 month old son. I checked on quite a few places discussed on the UCB parents website and am in the process of visiting the places I shortlisted. There are some remarks on this particular center on the webpage but they seem a bit dated. If someone has had any experience with St John's in the recent past or has a child going there, I would really like to hear from you thanks rubina
I sent my older son to St. John's from 96-98, and now my younger son just started. We are very comfortable there. Many of the same staff members are there. They provide meals for the children and the children are divided by age so that the smaller ones don't get run over by the larger ones. The staff is loving and friendly and the kids seem to enjoy being there. Liz

1998

I've just started my daughter in day care at St. John's infant Center. Cara is four months old, but St. John's takes babies as young as 3 months. Cara loves it there. She likes watching the "older" babies (e.g. the 6 and 7 month olds who can roll over and crawl) and gets lots of extra hugging from the staff. She usually comes home tired but happy, full of smiles. Her older sister went through the same baby room, onwards to the "big kids" area (for one and two year olds) and now, at almost 3, is about to graduate to preschool. I didn't want the girls in a big preschool with a few babies thrown in, because I was afraid they'd get kind of lost in the shuffle and demands of a herd of excited four-year-olds.

There are not many infant-only programs in CA because it is very expensive. (St. Johns is largely subsidized by the church in which the program is housed, which helps a lot.) The emphasis in CA for the past 20 years or so has been "family-day-care" ... small programs in homes with a mix of ages, including a couple babies. Many babies like that kind of setting too. The quality of family daycare depends a great deal upon the individual running that particular place. But in a good setting, I think babies enjoy being social and being around other children and adults. After all, in many times and cultures, they would have been around mom, grandma, auntie and a herd of siblings and cousins all day long. Mary Carol


1996

We ended up choosing St. John's Child Care on College-still very close to campus. They have three classrooms- nursery, wobbly walkers and twos. The staff is very stable- no one has left in the almost a year that Reiner has been there- most of the staff has been there for 5-10 years. They do lots of creative activities and I know that the care being provided is excellent. They do have all the same holidays as UC (+ two more and four staff development days per year). It is on the pricier side of those available- $725 per month (food included). We have been really happy with the care provided.
My daughter goes to St. John's Childcare Center in Berkeley. The staff is experienced, attentive, creative and loving. The staff to child ratio is 3 to 1 -- excellent. My daughter's been going there since she was 7 months old; she loves it. (She is almost a year now.) They are a bit expensive, but do have a sliding scale. The phone number is 549-9342.
When our daughter was about 9 mos., my husband and I started visiting daycare centers around the Berkeley area and here's our observation:

St. John's (off of College) - the teachers seem very genuine and caring; the facility is large with adjacent play area outside for both the infants and toddlers. I was a little concerned about the toddler play area not having enough shade and the rubber matting was quite warm both times we visited. The ratio of children to teachers for all daycares we visited were similar, 3-1 for infants and 4-1 for toddlers. The rooms for the infants, toddlers and older children are all within one building with doors leading to each room. I don't recall how many total children were at St. Johns, but I do remember how noisy it was and how some of the older children were left unsupervised. I actually observed a child hitting another child with a plastic bat and no one seemed to notice. (We decided against St. John's simply because of the size, the noise level and no one providing general observation at the time of my visit. Grace


With regards to the inquiry about infant care, here is the number for St. John's. It is 549-9342. The Director is Kate Nichols. My son goes there and I can't say enough about the great care and activities he gets there. Janette
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