Last week we re-posted a moving advice entry written last year by MC/MPA student Alyson Gounden Rock. Alyson writes mostly on those moving with families and this entry focuses on an overview of the day care, child care, and preschool options available in and around Cambridge. The information in these posts does not represent Harvard’s official position, but rather is based on Alyson’s personal experience/views.
MA Definitions of Child Care Terms
Day cares cater to infants starting at about six weeks of age, usually in several infant classes divided by age and stage. Toddler classes are generally for two- to three-year-old children. Preschool classes are for children who are 2.9 years old by September 1st in the year of entry. Pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) classes enroll children who are 3.9 years old by September 1st. Most local preschools include preschool and pre-K classes. Some include toddler classes as well. In Massachusetts, to register for Kindergarten, which is the first mandatory public school grade, a child must turn five by a set cut off date that varies from town to town. Schools that include Kindergarten to fifth or sixth grade are called elementary or grade schools.
Day care centers take applications on a rolling basis. While some centers have current openings, it is normal to end up on a wait list. The timing of HKS acceptances does not fit well with the local preschool application cycle, which has a February application deadline with an April decision schedule. It’s a good idea to apply to several day care centers and preschools as soon as you can. Spots do open up, and applying now will increase your likelihood of getting the most convenient option.
Massachusetts has the most stringent regulations regarding childcare and offers the highest quality childcare in the United States. If you are moving into the area, be prepared for serious sticker shock. As Bostonians would say, childcare here is wicked expensive. This article published two years ago on Boston.com has a wealth of information on the costs and challenges of childcare in the Boston area.
Day Care Overview
I found a huge amount of information in my research on day care options.To make it a little more manageable, I have listed a general overview, and then links to some of the most useful websites and to resources that I personally know. The Childcare@Harvard website is a good place to start.
Harvard Day Care Centers
There are 6 Harvard Day Care Centers, conveniently located on Harvard’s campus. They care for children from three months to five years old. From the Childcare@Harvard website:
“There are six nonprofit, independent child-care centers located in University space. Five are on the Cambridge campus and one is in the Allston section of Boston, near the Harvard Business School Campus. While these centers give preference to Harvard affiliates, each center is an independent nonprofit organization with its own board of directors. Each center makes its own curricular and enrollment decisions; they are not managed by the University.”
The main thing to note is that Harvard’s Day Care Centers are not exclusively reserved for those affiliated with Harvard. Parents are advised to apply up to a year in advance, and many other Harvard Day Care Center parents are in multi-year programs, or are local families not affiliated with Harvard, who may have been on waiting lists for many months or years. However, spaces do come up at the last minute. Once you have accepted your offer of admission to HKS and enrolled, it is worth filling out the application form for Harvard’s Day Care Centers as soon as possible. Other parents in HKS programs have been offered places off the wait list in past years.
· List of Harvard Day Care Centers
· Map of Harvard Day Care Centers
· Rates for 2012/13
· Frequently Asked Questions
Application for a Harvard Day Care Center
Harvard Day Care Centers offer a single application in which you list your preferences for many or all Harvard Day Care Centers. This application is used for all centers at once.
Private Day Care Centers
For a list of all private day care centers registered by the state, see the MA Executive Office of Education website. Below I list some local private day care centers that I know, which are close to HKS and accessible via public transport. It’s not an exhaustive list, but these day care centers are convenient if you plan on living in Cambridge, Somerville, Belmont, or Arlington.
Open 7am to 6pm daily. Infant through Pre-K (4-5 year olds)
The closest centers to HKS are the Davis Square location (15 mins on the #96 bus or two stops on the red line T) or the new center on Mass Ave in Cambridge (10-15 mins on the #77 bus, has parking). There is also a location in Central Square (10 mins on the #1 bus or one stop on the red line T). There is another location in Watertown, 10 minutes by car from HKS.
Open 7am to 6pm daily. Infant through K (6 year olds)
There is a location in Somerville in Davis Square (15 mins on the #96 bus or two stops on the red line T). There is a location at the Red Line Alewife T stop (three stops from HKS).
Open 8am to 6pm daily. Infant through Pre-K (4-5 year olds)
This center is not part of a larger network or organization, and when I wrote this, they still had some full- and part-time open spaces. I know this center because my children had a great experience there. The staff is excellent, and the atmosphere is warm and loving. Included in tuition are all meals, snacks, diapers, formula, and bedding for all children, including infants. It is on the #74 bus line, about 15 minutes from HKS, and it is possible to walk to it from the Alewife T stop. It has easy parking and is less than 10 minutes from HKS by car.
Arlington Family Connection lists most of the day care centers and preschools in Arlington.
From the Childcare@Harvard website: “For lists of licensed family day care providers and group child care centers in your community, visit the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. In the top left-hand corner, click on ‘Find Early Education & Care Programs’ and then on the third link, ‘Search for Licensed Family, School Age or Center-based Child Care Programs’. For Boston, Chelsea, Brookline, Revere, and Winthrop, visit Child Care Choices of Boston. Services are available in five languages.
In-Home Care/ Nannies/Au Pairs
Companies that match care providers with families for a fee include American Nanny Company, Nanny.us, Cultural Care Au Pair, and Sitter City.
The Childcare@Harvard website also has a page to guide you in the search for a nanny. Websites like Craigslist often have sections for childcare, but be vigilant as many of those sites are unmonitored.
For babysitting, Harvard has a new service WATCH that links students looking for babysitters with those looking for babysitting jobs.
Backup and occasional care
For childcare to contact for one-time events or at the last minute, look at sites including Childcare@Harvard’s backup care page, Parents in a Pinch, Care.com, and Sitter City.
Four Types of Preschools
Preschools at Day Care Centers: These centers are a one stop solution for families with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. They usually offer the longest hours of all childcare centers.
Private Preschools: These are usually based around a core morning program, with the option to add until 3pm and after-school care available from 3pm to 5pm or 6pm. There is no requirement for parents to assist in the classroom. At this point, these preschools are most likely to be oversubscribed because the application process has already closed for next school year (Sept 2013-June 2014).
Parent Co-operative Preschools (Co-ops)/ Nursery Schools: These are usually based on a core morning program, and some have options to add until 3pm. Only a few have after-school care available until 5pm or 6pm. There is a requirement to assist in the class, usually about once every few weeks, which defrays the cost of tuition. Co-ops can be a great option for students whose partners will be mainly taking care of children but are looking for a way to make connections and get to know other families. Many co-ops in the Cambridge area include other short-term graduate student families. Though the application process is already closed for next school year, many will have spots open now or before school starts in September.
Public School Preschools: Some public school systems have preschool classes affiliated with their grade schools (K-6 or K-8). They are not free of cost, as public school education does not begin until K (in most cases).
Preschools at Day Care Centers
For infant through Pre-K (for more details on each center, see previous section)
Harvard Day Care Centers
Pine Village Preschool
Open 8am-5pm. A Spanish/English bilingual day care program for children aged 15 months to five years with two Cambridge locations: Porter Square and Kendall Square (both on the Red Line, within two stops of HKS)
Children’s Connection (Belmont/Waltham line)
Open 8am-5pm. A small private day care and preschool for children ages two to school age. Hot meals are included in tuition, and it is run by an extremely competent and loving woman. On the #73 bus to HKS (20-25 minutes).
Cambridge Ellis School
Open 8.30am to 6pm. 2 years to 5 years old.
Located in Cambridge, next to the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. It has some parking and a five-day schedule. Language programs (French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and English for non-native speakers) run from 3pm to 6pm. Children can attend the after-school program without being in the morning program. It’s worth expressing interest in the after-school language program; they sometimes have spaces. The school is in walking distance, about 10 minutes from HKS.
Cambridge Montessori School
Open 7:30am to 6pm. 21 months to 12 years old.
Located in Cambridge near Fresh Pond. It is on the #74 bus line, about 15 minutes from HKS.
Spring Hill Montessori School
Morning Program. 2.8 years to 5 years old. Follows the Montessori Method.
Located in Cambridge in Huron Village. It is on the #72 bus line, about 10 minutes from HKS.
Evergreen Day School
Open 8.30am to 4pm. 20 months to 5 years old.
Located at the Cambridge/Belmont town line. It has easy parking and it is possible to choose anywhere from a two- to five-day schedule. It is on the #74 bus line, about 20 minutes from HKS.
Lesley Ellis School
A great place if you have older children in grade school (kindergarten-eighth grade) as well as little ones in preschool or pre-K. There are generally openings in the older grades (second grade and above). Lesley Ellis is adding seventh and eighth grade in 2014 and 2015. It has parking and is on the #77 and 77A bus line, about 25 minutes from HKS.
International School of Boston
French Bilingual School, preschool-twelfth grade. The preschool classes follow the French National Education system’s “Maternelle” program, taught in immersion French. Bursaries from the French government are available for French nationals. It is a 5-10 minute walk to the #77 and 77A bus line, and a total of about 30-40 minutes from HKS or 20 minutes by car.
The Kendall School
Offers programs for children from ages 2.9 through five years on a five-day basis for all children and on a three-day or two-day basis for 3-year-old children. It is on the #73 bus line, about 25 minutes from HKS.
Cooperative Preschools/Nursery Schools
Cambridge Nursery School
Garden Nursery School
Parents’ Nursery School
Plymouth Nursery School
Belmont Cooperative Nursery School
Public School Preschools
Cambridge, Arlington, and Belmont all offer preschool programs within their public school systems.
I hope this information will prove useful in your search for the right care center for your children. In my next post, I will cover private elementary and grade schools, summer camps, and local family resources.