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Pre-schools, and Elementary school choices

Original post made by Melinda on Apr 12, 2007

I grew up in the Palo Alto school District, and have been fortunate enough to make it back to Palo Alto to raise my son here. I now have the dilema of locating a good Pre school that is affordable and full time, as well as choosing which school I want to get my son into.

Does anyone have any preschool recommendations?

Also I have some information about Ohlone, Palo Verde, and Hoover. Are there any opinions about these schools? I know the most about Palo Verde, having gone there myself. But I'm sure a lot of things have changed over the years.

Comments (32)

Posted by PV Parent, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Apr 12, 2007 at 8:55 am

Speaking about Palo Verde, it is still a wonderful school, wonderful community and generally speaking wonderful staff. The principal is the best, knows everyone (children and parents) and takes the time to make everyone feel special. The office staff are great and all the teachers that I have had experience with fall into the category of very good to excellent. We have a great group of parents also with lots of people willing to take on all sorts of tasks. The academics are good, but you should be able to find scores somewhere. When my child was struggling, there was intervention for him and he soon got back on track.

The interesting thing about Palo Verde is the early late reading schedule in grades up to 3. K is a little different, but basically half the class starts at 8.15 and goes til 2.00 and the other half sart at 9.05 and go to 2.50 four days a week which gives the teachers an opportunity for just 10 kids in the class for reading which is great.

Posted by Mom of 2, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 12, 2007 at 9:12 am

Country Day Little School is the best if you want to focus on socialization and relationships. The environment is calm, nurturing, soothing, and there's rhythm and structure, but lots of room for individual preferences within structure. What I really appreciated was that it is community-focused. No free-for-alls. When it's lunch or snack-time, teachers & kids sit together and eat & chat quietly. When a child finishes eating, they don't just jump up and zoom away. They may stay engaged with the group, or if the staff notices they're getting antsy, they'll tell them, "You may pack up [your lunch things] and go play." When kids haven't learned the rules, or break them, they don't hear reprimands or see angry frowns or loud commands. The teachers say, "Susie, this is the way we do ____" or "Johnny, this toy needs to rest now. You may choose something else to play with."

Country Day doesn't do academics or "exciting" things (exciting to adults tends to be overstimulating to kids).

Country Day is expensive.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 12, 2007 at 10:09 am

Preschool - Both of my kids went to Crescent Park Community - they had a great experience. The teachers are kind and calm, they kids learn great social skills and manners, the teach in a developmentally appropriate way. I've heard good things about Friends, Parents Nursery School, the Learning Center and Footsteps (in Menlo Park.) The affordable factor is hard in Palo Alto.

Elementary - All the elementary schools in PAUSD are good, Ohlone and Hoover have different philosophies. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about Palo Verde, Duveneck seems to be a high-stress, not very welcoming, competive school, but they have a new principal who may changes things. Nixon has higher turnover of students due to the Stanford grad students/staff. All the schools have great staff and caring parents.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 12, 2007 at 11:02 am

Palo Alto Menlo Park Parents Club (PAMP) has a preschool fair every year in the spring. I don't think it's happened yet, but even if it has, if you join, the list has archives you can search for info about schools. Much has already been written by other moms.

Posted by DJ, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 12, 2007 at 11:46 am

Children's PreSchool Center - .. a wonderful preschool

Posted by FormerOhloneMom, a resident of Ventura
on Apr 12, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Please do visit Ohlone, it is a magical school with a beautiful farm, and a tight community that has chosen the whole-child education model. They include an emphasis on emotional and physical development, and don't have as much busy-work homework. The crowning glory are the week-long simulations in the 4/5 grades where they reenact Gold Rush or Colonial periods.

Friends preschool is just on the back fence of Ohlone, on Colorado Ave. and many go on to Ohlone. Also, Parents Nursery School (Co Op)on Louis Rd.

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 12, 2007 at 7:40 pm

I'l second Childrens Preschool Center. My kids all went there a few years back- a truly incredible place

Posted by mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Friends nurseryschool -wonderful.
Palo Verde -the best.

Posted by Preschool Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2007 at 3:11 am

Preschool Family (on Middlefield Road) is a play-based preschool with parent participation. There are classes for parents and babies to attend together. For the preschool age, kids go to school a few mornings per week. Parents always attend class with their child once a week. And a few times per month there is a parent education class, led by the teacher of the morning class. It is a great community of families trying to make the preschool experience wonderful for their kids.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 13, 2007 at 12:33 pm

We have been very happy with the Wonder Years Preschool, in Palo Alto near the intersection of San Antonio Rd. and East Charlston.

Posted by Briones Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 13, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Your son may not get into the school you choose (or your neighborhood school). My kids were overflowed to Briones and it has been a wonderful place for them both. We chose not to accept spots at our neighborhood school because we were so happy at Briones. I wouldn't have it any other way. I think most of the elementary schools are great.

Parents Nursery School is fabulous!

Posted by Former Friends Parent, a resident of Nixon School
on Apr 13, 2007 at 5:01 pm

My son went to Friends nursery school and I loved it. It was the best program of the many I looked at. My kids are now at Bing - closer to home and bigger program, which I love, and they have financial aid, but it is tough to get into.

Posted by parent of three, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2007 at 9:48 pm

I appreciate the constructive conversation about good preschools. I am a full time working mom, I'm looking for one that doesn't require too much parent participation. If folks that have commented already, or that might add comments can also comment on the level of parent participation requirement, that would also be useful info.

Thank you

Posted by DJ, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 13, 2007 at 10:15 pm

Children's pre-school center - I find the level of parent participation absolutely perfect for working parent(s).

There are family events once every quarter or once in two quarters .. parent participation in these events is encouraged but not mandatory (There have been times when I showed up just for the party ..and there were other times when I went in to help with the setup).

Parents are encouraged to come in and share any celebrations (like Chinese New Year) - but again, it is upto you how much you want to do. The school steps in and does the rest - the children do not loose out on any fun and/or learning either way.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 14, 2007 at 11:29 am

For preschools (and more!) you should consider Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC). PACCC has provided very high quality, childcare for more than 30 years ( in Palo Alto. There are 3 Infant-Toddler centers, 5 preschools and 11 Kids Clubs at the PAUSD elementary schools (all but Nixon). PACCC provides a very safe, stimulating and loving environment for children of all ages at all the centers, with dedicated, qualified staff.

Good Luck!

Posted by Phil, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 15, 2007 at 7:17 am

Regarding The Wonder Years Preschool: both my wife and I work full time, and we are happy with the level of parental participation expected of us.

Posted by Mom of a preschooler, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 16, 2007 at 12:41 am

Full time preschools are harder to come by, and they are all quite expensive. Children's Preschool Center has many working parents and many full time kids (I have friends whose kids attend their program - all of them are very happy). Both Crescent Park and Learning Center offer full time care (morning and afternoon) but their tuitions are quite expensive. Learning Center also provides meals, however. Other full time options I know of are CCLC (near downtown Palo Alto), Covenant Children's Center (next to Mitchell Park), Apple Bee Preschool (Menlo Park, in the Willows). Many PACCC programs have full time schedule as well (downtown Children's Center, Ellen Thatcher). I'd suggest getting on their wait lists early as full time spots are difficult to come by.

Posted by Hoovermom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 16, 2007 at 10:12 am

Our child is in Hoover 1st grade. We are very pleased with the school, the academics as well as the social aspects. The principal and the teachers are amazing. I visit/volunteer during the day and always come back happy that my child goes to Hoover. The parent community is active, volunteers and are friendly. There is HW but it is very mangeable and reinforces the concepts. We love the school.

Posted by PA Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2007 at 10:55 am

There is a good list of area preschools to be found at this web page from Palo Alto Online:
Web Link

As a previous poster recommended, "The Parents' Club of Palo Alto and Menlo Park", known by it's abbreviation PAMP, is also a good resource. That web page is:
Web Link

There are many good schools in the area offering many different philosophies and levels of parent participation. The downside is that waiting lists at good schools are very long.

I do have to offer some caution regarding Crescent Park Child Development Center in the form of some simple statistics. I took the phone list of the 2005/2006 school year and counted how many families removed their child(ren) from Crescent Park because they were unhappy with some aspect of their experience. Out of 55 families, 13 of them had left the school before the start of the next school year. I am not including in that count any families who left because they were moving away or their child was graduating out to Kindergarten [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 16, 2007 at 12:22 pm

A better resource, I think, then the moms club would be the NAEYC-- an organization that provides accreditation of preschools. VERY rigorous standards

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2007 at 2:36 pm

What have the problems been at Crescent Park?

Posted by Workingmom, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 1:57 am


Both our children went to Covenant Children's Center from the time they were babies until they moved to elementary school. We loved the place. Initially, we were attracted by the fact that the baby room ratio is 1:2. Also, several of the staff members have been around for a very long time and their turnover is very low. They are not geared towards academics but provide a solid, secure environment for children, based upon their motto, "Love makes a difference".

Posted by A Mom, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 18, 2007 at 1:28 pm

I personally wouldn't read too much into the Crescent Park statistics without more context... people leave preschools for lots of reasons. Since Crescent Park is one of the few preschools with a true 2 year old program (vs. 2.5 or 2.75 like most), it stands to reason that people might enroll their child there and stay on other waitlist for 3 year old programs or whatever. This may be especially true given that Crescent Park is a bit more expensive than other preschools. Anyway, not to discount the stats entirely, but I have a feeling it could be more complex than that. We visited CP and got a great vibe. For what that's worth.

Posted by anotherWorkingMom, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 20, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Anyone who has recent experience with the Covenant Children's Center, Children's Preschool Center, or T'enna preschool, all in the Mitchill Park area? And also Bing at Stanford? What is the difference in their teaching philosophy? They all seems to be play-based to me.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 21, 2009 at 12:55 am

Ohlone's a wonderful school, but you do want to be comfortable with the whole-child/constructivist philosophy. It allows prospective parents to come into the classrooms and observe--and I strongly recommend doing that. There's a really beautiful way that the kids learn to work with one another, which I really like--but if you're looking for a competitive, highly structure environment, Ohlone's not the place.

Hoover, I'm told, is quiet, well-behaved. Parental involvment in the classrooms is minimal (it's part of the Ohlone package, though not required). Very top-down instruction, structured, very high test scores.Not my thing, but a Hoover mom I know told me that she wanted to give her child the best possible--and she considered that to be Hoover.

Palo Verde seems to have changed a bit over the last few years, becoming a bit more demanding. The PV parents I know love the school and have a lot of loyalty to it. They and the Juana Briones families share a kind of similar protective affection for their schools. PV is crowded, so that's the one downside.

And it doesn't sound like it's an issue, but I've also heard seriously unhappy things about Duveneck. Addison's the mellowest of the north cluster schools.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 21, 2009 at 10:02 pm

We love Duveneck. Most of the children are great and most of the parents are very involved. We had a principal in 2006 who stayed only a year, which was a good thing. I was told to stay away from the PTA due to too many strong personalities, gossiping, back-stabbing. There is a new PTA president this year so hopefully things will change and maybe I will volunteer.

I have heard bad things about Palo Verde (too many uninvolved, working parents, too much student turnover) and Barron Park (administration, high student turnover). I have heard that Addison has great parents and Walter Hays has a lot of parent cliques.

Posted by JSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 22, 2009 at 1:41 pm

With regard to the "rumors" regarding PTAs, I encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved in her/his school's PTA (or Site Council or any other volunteer opportunity) to do so. Often such rumors are untrue (though perhaps reflective of perception) or exaggerated. If true, the only way to change the status quo is to get involved.

Also, with many volunteer organizations I've witnessed, the view from the outside is "it's always the same people, so it's only for that clique" whereas the view from the inside is "no one else is volunteering".

Posted by Mom, a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 22, 2009 at 2:46 pm


A very general statement on your part. I know people who volunteered and were railroaded, unappreciated, witnessed the PTA members talking poorly about volunteers (just because they didn't like their personalities). I heard the PTA president even yelled at people when things weren't done as she liked. Rumors oftentimes begin from truth. I'd rather volunteer elsewhere or not volunteer at all rather than put myself into such a situation. Again, there is a new PTA president this autumn, so perhaps things will improve.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2009 at 7:26 pm


I know a couple of years ago, bullying was an issue at Duveneck. Has that settled down now?

Posted by Mom, a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 22, 2009 at 10:56 pm


You must be talking about the "no touching rule". I think that got blown out of proportion and was completely mishandled by the principal who stayed only a year at Duveneck. He didn't consult with anyone before creating the rule and parents were outraged. All he needed to do was create some rules for games or ban certain playground games instead.

Duveneck has some bullies but no more than any other elementary. For the most part, students are good children at Duveneck. But I don't know all the students. In the grade levels of my children, I haven't seen much of an issue but when there are problems, teachers are very concerned and address the issue immediately.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2009 at 12:56 am


I do know some Duveneck families, but my knowledge is definitely second-hand. The "no-touching" rule was discussed here as was the bullying. Glad to hear that it's all calmed down.

Posted by depends who you ask, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2009 at 5:29 am

The problem with answering this very reasonable question is that it all depends who you ask.

I know parents at Addison who think it is wonderful and many others who think it is a complete snakepit.

Walter Hays used to have a reputation for being a baby prep school with a principal who announced to come parents that theyir child was not "Hays material" but I think the principal has left and I haven't kept up on what is going on over there.

I haven't really heard anyone complain about Escondido, aside from the fact that Spanish Immersion takes up a lot of neighborhood space.

Ohlone parents seem to love the school, though my own observations of kids who have come from there is that they have spent a little too much time owrking it out themselves and not enough time being taught the lessons of compassion and caring. I was also shocked to have aconversation with some Ohlone sixth graders in which they had no idea who the Puritans were because they studied some form of US history that didn't bother to teach that.

Barron Park is sort of notorious -- low test scores, ongoing bullying issues and what have you.

I have heard mixed things about Duveneck -- some think it is nice, others think the parents are cliquey and ther is bullying.

Briones parents seem very happy and the school seems to take very seriously the need for ongoing playground management and good academics.

Nixon is solid academically, and parents seem to be reasonably happy with it though not with the principal.

I have met a lot of kids from El Carmelo and they were interesting, nice, and well-prepared. Because there are several of them, and all have that quality, I surmise they were socialized at least partly by the school. That school was blighted with endless construction for years but I think that is finished now.

Fairmeadow parents seem happy with their school, involved and so on. Mix of kids, some nice, some queen bees, but the school seems to be a pretty good place to learn.

I have been in a few different PTAs and my experience in the elementary PTA was that the people who were already in there didn't really want input from the "newbies" but they sure wanted us to do the work and not get pareticular thanks for it. I know others in other PTAs who have had the same experience, though some of those people liked the school, just not hte PTA. Many parents solve that problem by just jumping in and helping in the classroom or in other ways besides PTA.

One problem with the unpleasant PTAs seems to be thay they are run by women who had responsibile management level positions before they decided to stay home with their kids (or think that PTA is a management level position), and they can't understand that consistent and vocal appreciation of effort, rather than a critique of the job performance, is the appropriate way to handle *volunteers.*

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