Dear Parents,

Dear Parents,
Welcome to this community of people envisioning and building a new model for the care of
young children and families! BlueSkies for Children was founded as the Association of
Children’s Services in 1983 to provide quality education and homelike care for children of
working parents, and a variety of support services for families and the East Bay
community. BlueSkies is a nonprofit educational corporation that is multicultural and
inclusive of all families. Private donations support scholarships and adult classes for child
care staff at BlueSkies, while family counseling, parent education and services, special
activities for the children (such as music)—all of the diverse family support offered by
BlueSkies—are included in fees. BlueSkies is a dynamic agency which responds to
changing needs with new services for parents and the community as they are needed.
We want you to experience the joy and comfort of knowing that your children are having a
normal, happy childhood, enriched by learning opportunities and social experiences, as you
go to your jobs each day. The BlueSkies staff feels a great responsibility for the health,
safety, education, and nurturing of the children. They work hard to provide quality care so
you can put your energy into work without worry. Although underpaid, the teachers must
not be undervalued; they have studied and learned how to work with young children, most
have years of experience, and they are the heart of the quality in our programs.
We know that parents who value the child care they find at BlueSkies bring many special
qualities to our vibrant community. We look forward to getting to know you!
Claire Copenhagen Bainer
Claire Copenhagen Bainer, Co-Director
Liisa C. Hale
Liisa C. Hale, Co-Director
Ameena Muhammed
Ameena Muhammed
Director of Hedco Infant Toddler Center
Janice Haywood
Janice Haywood
Director of Ellen Sherwood Nursery School
See Page
What is the Transition process into the program?
How should breast milk be packaged?
When do the enrollment papers need to be turned in?
When are fees due, and how will I know?
How do I authorize another person to pick up my child?
Who signs my Flex Account forms?
How do I ask for extra hours?
When is my child too sick to come to school?
Can the teachers give medicine at school?
What will my child eat?
How do I register concern about something at BlueSkies?
When is BlueSkies closed?
How will I know how my child is progressing?
59, 62-64
Quick-Find Index
Section I
Section II
Introduction to BlueSkies for Children
BlueSkies in the Community
Administrative Policies
Enrollment and Attendance
Holidays and Other Days BlueSkies Is Closed
Paperwork and Contracts
Termination of Enrollment
Visiting after Enrollment
Board of Directors
Personnel Policies and Procedures
Licensing Agency
Health, Safety, and Nutrition
Health and Illness
Clothing Requirements
Toilet Learning
and Sign-out
Drop-off and Pick-up
Attendance and Absence
Late Arrival
Extra Hours
Late Pick-up
Dismissal and Authorized Pick-up
Fee Reduction
Charitable Giving & Fundraising Calendar
Section III
NAEYC Accreditation
Key Staff Members
Symptoms for Exclusion
Illness at School
Head Lice
Communicable Diseases
Smoke-Free Environment Policy
Infants and Breast Milk
Special Diets
Safety and Security
Staff Background Check
Disaster Plans
Emergency Closure
Children’s Programs
Philosophy in Practice
Placement in the Program
Transition Procedure
BlueSkies Teaching Staff
BlueSkies Teaching Tactics & Techniques
Security within BlueSkies for Children’s Property
Emergency Contact with Parents – “Parent Reach”
Safety in the Neighborhood
Section IV
Guide to Good Teaching, for Parents
Parents in the Classroom
Hedco Infant Toddler Center Programs
Infant Group (under 1)
Wobbly Walkers Group (1–2 years)
Todds Group (2–2½ years)
Preschoolers: Ellen Sherwood Nursery School
Family Counseling: The Link to Children (TLC)
Speech Therapy
Assessment of Children’s Progress
BlueSkies for Parents
Parents at BlueSkies
Conferences and Communication
Playroom Group
Homeroom and Schoolroom Groups (3–4’s)
Summer Program
Walks and Field Trips
Section V
Daily – Verbal and Written
Parent-Teacher Conferences
Needs and Service Plans
Developmental Assessments
Monthly Newsletter
E-mail Listserver
Parent and BlueSkies Community Events
Parent Services Committee
Room Parents
Parent Library
Parent Participation Requirement
Section I
Introduction to BlueSkies
Allow children to be
happy their own
way: for what better
way will they ever
– Samuel Johnson
We Believe children should expect the
world to be a beautiful and interesting
So We create yards full of natural
materials and growing things, and
classrooms that invite exploration
appropriate to the child’s level of
We Believe people want to be friendly
and kind
So We teach the teachers and the support
staff to speak to children in a kind and
respectful manner
We Believe all children want to please
the people they live and work with
So We help children know that when
something goes wrong it is a mistake, and
the teacher will help the child so it won’t
happen again
We Believe learning and growth occur in
calm, pleasant surroundings
So We arrange the day with consistent
routines and rules so that children know
what to expect and how to manage
themselves. The program is structured to
support the child’s growth from group to
group with the security and freedom that
predictability and continuity bring
We Believe all children deserve
thoughtful, respectful care
So We welcome all families reflecting the
world we live in, knowing that growing
up with a wide variety of people, families,
abilities, and life circumstance is the way
to build open, loving hearts and minds
We Believe development naturally
unfolds when given a nurturing,
supportive, interesting environment
So We accept each child as a being with
unique strengths and needs, and plan a
curriculum that supports growth in all
areas of development
We Believe it is an honor and a
responsibility to be part of the formation
of a young family
So We offer support and services to
parents and caregivers above and beyond
being available from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
all year for working families
We Believe healthy meals, peaceful naps,
vigorous play, and time for quiet
contribute to the wholeness in a child’s
So We prepare wholesome food on site,
appropriate to each age, help children get
the sleep they need and the choices in
their play that will meet their needs
BlueSkies for Children is accredited by the National Association for the Education
of Young Children (NAEYC). It is the only NAEYC-accredited program in Oakland.
Information from NAEYC Regarding Accreditation
More than 20 years ago, NAEYC created an accreditation system to
improve the quality of education and care provided in programs for
young children. NAEYC accreditation has become the mark of
quality, helping parents find the best possible early childhood
“I think one of the greatest advances to child care was the creation
of the NAEYC Accreditation system, which has helped so much to
raise the quality of programs.” – T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,
Children’s Hospital Boston
Early childhood programs accredited by the NAEYC Academy for
Early Childhood Program Accreditation have voluntarily undergone
a comprehensive process of internal self-study, invited external
professional review to verify compliance with the Criteria for HighQuality Early Childhood Programs, and been found to be in
substantial compliance with the criteria.
More information can be found on NAEYC’s Web site at
BlueSkies is multicultural and nondiscriminatory. Children are exposed to the
traditions and beliefs of many cultures during the normal course of the program.
Children at BlueSkies learn that although we are each unique, with different looks
and lives, we are more alike than different; we all thrive when we receive respect,
love, care, and happiness.
BlueSkies enrolls children and employs staff from many backgrounds:
Mom-and-dad families
Single-parent families
Gay and lesbian families
Kinship-care families
Families of varied religious and spiritual beliefs
Nonreligious families
Families including members with differing levels of ability
Families of various cultural or mixed-cultural backgrounds
Adoptive families
Foster families
The goal of BlueSkies is that each child will feel that his
or her unique background is wonderful and just right for
him or her. This means that books, discussions, and
classroom materials reflect children who look like and unlike your
child, families that are like and unlike your family, who hold a
variety of belief systems. In this way every child’s life is validated,
and every child knows there is more than one great way to live.
Sometimes families are caught off guard by questions their
children bring home when they are exposed to so many
possibilities at school. For example, adoptive parents give much
thought to explaining adoption to their child, but for parents with
biological children, their child’s questions about an adopted friend
may catch them unawares. The staff is available to work with
families when challenging questions arise and to
help facilitate discussions at school when misconceptions are
noted. Teachers and parents are an educational team, working
together whenever there are concerns.
In this setting we attempt to acknowledge various cultural
holidays at the children’s developmental level. Holidays of the dominant U.S.
culture such as Christmas and Easter are so omnipresent it is hard to keep them
completely out of school, yet we recognize that these days are irrelevant to a
significant group of BlueSkies families. Some children inevitably come to school
eager to share information about Christmas trees and Easter eggs, while others are
excited about lighting Hanukkah or Kwanzaa candles, or receiving lucky Lunar
New Year money. The concrete manifestations of holidays children
celebrate in their homes are invested with the family’s culture and
beliefs, and it is that culture that BlueSkies wants to support.
Teachers guide those discussions into conversations about different
celebrations and the fact that some families celebrate Christmas or
Easter while others celebrate Kwanzaa, Lunar New
Year, Passover, Cinco de Mayo, St. Nicholas Day, etc.
These conversations occur in the moment, responding
appropriately to what the children are thinking about
and gently expanding their picture of the world rather than randomly
inserting abstract concepts which have no context in the young child’s
We are always looking for good toddler and preschool books about different cultures
to share with the children. The best ones at this age are books that are about the
everyday lives of children who just happen to live in various cultural settings, use
adaptive equipment, live with a different family configuration, etc., rather than
books that preach with a focus on differences.
Parents are a great resource for teachers in helping them learn
about their family traditions when the children are too young to do
this themselves. During transition conferences, the teachers may
ask about family traditions as a way to be sure that they will be
inclusive and appropriately supportive in their classrooms. The
teachers want to avoid a superficial “holiday curriculum” where
children play at other people’s celebrations without any context, but they do want to
be sure to understand the significance of a child who talks about important and
mysterious events at home (young children who have only experienced an annual
event a few times will sense the family’s pleasure in the event long before they can
understand its cultural significance). If your family speaks a language at home
other than English the teachers will want to know, and may ask you to teach them
some important words so they can bring that language into the program for your
child. We want to be sure every child feels that their home language and traditions
are acknowledged and validated.
In this environment, children can build their own identities with confidence, while
also learning from their friends that there are many ways that life can be lived and
Claire Bainer (M.A., Mills College) and Liisa Hale (B.A., Mills College) are CoExecutive Directors of BlueSkies. While there is overlap in their roles, Claire
carries primary responsibility for facilities and programs, while Liisa oversees
administration and finance. Both Claire and Liisa have long experience in
classroom teaching, as well as parenting and teaching adults, and are happy to
share their insights with parents. Claire’s strength is in the preschool and
prekindergarten issues, and Liisa’s in those pertaining to infants and toddlers.
[email protected]
[email protected]
Program Directors:
Ameena Muhammed (M.Ed., University of Jos, Nigeria) is the Hedco Infant Toddler
Program Director, supervising the Infant, Wobbly Walker, and Toddler classrooms.
She has also studied with Resources for Infant Caregivers and teaches in our adult
education classes. Ameena has managed the Infant Toddler program since 1993
and has two grown children. [email protected]
Janice Haywood (B.A., Iowa State) is the Ellen Sherwood Nursery School Program
Director. Janice has more than 25 years experience teaching Nursery School and
has been the Program Director since 2000. She has two grown children and two
teens. [email protected]
Ma Leong is the Director of Support Services, overseeing housekeeping and food for
the entire school. She has three grown children.
Leisel Whitlock Petersen is the part-time Fund Development Manager at BlueSkies
and is happy to answer all questions about fundraising!
[email protected]
Administrative Staff:
Monaire Taylor is “information central” for BlueSkies. The Office Manager is
generally in the office from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is the primary
administrative contact for parents.
[email protected]
Phyllis Montgomery is the Bookkeeper, who handles billing and contracts. She
works 7:30 a.m.– 3:30 p.m. [email protected]
Classroom Staff:
Each classroom at BlueSkies is managed by a Head Teacher (the Infants and
Wobbly Walkers have both morning and afternoon Head Teachers). BlueSkies
prefers that Head Teachers hold a B.A. degree, but the range runs from 24 units of
Early Childhood course work to M.A. degrees among the Head Teachers. In
addition, a Teacher (minimum 12 units ECE) is in each classroom and the younger
groups with higher ratios have Assistant Teachers. A list of current classroom
teachers is provided as children transition into each new classroom.
BlueSkies for Children has built its reputation on the quality of its programs for
young children, and their parents and teachers. But the mission of BlueSkies
includes advocacy for the needs of young children, families, and teachers in the
broader community as well.
As you look through this handbook, you will learn about the ways that BlueSkies
supports your parenting as well as your children. Early in its evolution, the Board
of Directors of BlueSkies recognized that the school’s fortunes would rise and fall
with much larger social issues around the care of young children.
The 2008–2013 BlueSkies Strategic Plan states:
The activities of BlueSkies fall naturally into two major categories
• Internal: activities which maintain the core structures, programs, and
viability of the agency, and
• External: activities which enable the agency to extend its impact on the
community and the field of Early Child Care and Education.
It is important to note, however, that both sections of the plan interrelate.
The external work to improve teacher education and increase funding is meant to
improve the ability of the children’s programs to attract and pay qualified teachers. The
capacity of the children’s program to demonstrate its effectiveness in supporting children
from all backgrounds supports the credibility of the adult education program. Marketing
efforts intended to share information about BlueSkies as a model of high-quality care will
also draw prospective parents to the program. The Internal activities, however, focused
on the core children’s program and agency strengths, will always be the primary focus of
the Board and staff, for the children’s program is the heart of the agency.
Some of the external activities in which BlueSkies engages at present are:
 The Alameda Child Care Planning Council, on which Co-Director Claire
Bainer serves as Vice President.
 Acting in a consulting and/or mentoring capacity with other early care and
education programs to improve delivery of high-quality services to young
children and families (Co-Director Liisa Hale is a California Director
 Collaborations for training and modeling high-quality care with First 5,
Head Start, Child Development Centers.
 Providing training for community college students in the early care and
education classroom with a California Mentor teacher (Janice Haywood).
 Participation in the California Water Cooler, a cross-discipline collaboration
to promote high-quality early childhood services in the state.
The role of BlueSkies in these activities is always to promote the needs of young
children, particularly speaking for the majority of children who are not in publicly
funded programs in Californiabut in licensed centers meeting minimal licensing
standards. We strive to improve the quality of care offered to all children.
Section II
Administrative Policies
Quality is never an accident; it is always the
result of high intention, sincere effort,
intelligent direction and skillful execution; it
represents the wise choice of many alternatives.
William A. Foster
Minimum enrollment in the children’s programs is from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday
through Thursday.
 Earlier drop-off options are 7:30 or 8 a.m.
 Later pick-up options are 5 or 6 p.m.
We have three options for Friday enrollment:
1. Fridays the same as Monday–Thursday
2. Fridays off
3. Fridays with a shorter schedule than Monday–Thursday
Enrollment hours are established initially on the contract which is signed by
parents and the Co-Director at the time of enrollment. These hours may be
changed, effective at the beginning of a month, as long as sufficient staff and class
space are available to accommodate the request. To change enrollment hours the
parent completes the appropriate section on an Information Update form (see
sample in back pocket) and gives it to the Program Director for approval. If
approved, a request submitted by the 25th of the month will become effective the
following month. All required enrollment forms are in the front pocket
this folder; every form on the enclosed list must be submitted prior to
and Sign-out:
Community Care Licensing requires that parents (or another
designated adult) sign each child in and out each day with a full
signature and time. Sign-in books are located in the front office.
These books are the official record of a child’s presence in the
program in the event of an emergency.
Drop-off and Pick-up:
The parent or other adult who brings the child to BlueSkies must deliver the child
to his or her teacher and wait until the child is greeted by the teacher before
Children should not bring toys from home into the school. Items such as jewelry,
special toys, candy, and gum are very hard for children to take care of and can
create conflicts when they try to keep them from other children or use them to “play
favorites” with others. BlueSkies is not responsible for lost items. If toys cannot be
left at home or in the car, they may be left in the office until time to go home.
Exceptions are:
 books that can be read to all the children. The teacher will decide when this
is appropriate.
 a blanket and/or soft toy for nap time.
When siblings or older children accompany parents to pick up Infants or Wobblies,
BlueSkies asks that they wait in the observation room and watch through the oneway glass. Dropping off younger children last and picking them up first avoids the
need to bring older children along and allows maximum time for
communication between parent and teachers.
Parking: Parking can be difficult around BlueSkies at busy drop-off
and pick-up times. Parents need to allow sufficient time to park
legally and safely for the time it takes to bring their child into the
classroom. Important reminders:
 Short-term Parking: The green zone in front of the Brookdale building is
designated for 12 minutes; please come and go quickly if you park there.
Other short-term parking is available in the two off-street spots in front of
the stairs or next to the Copenhagen Community Classroom. If you and your
child will stop in the front yard to play for a while on your way out, or stroll
to the store before you leave, please do not use the short-term parking spots.
 Brookdale Avenue is a bus route; double-parking or parking in the red zone
at Brookdale and Coolidge makes it impossible for the bus to pass and locks
up traffic on the entire block.
 BlueSkies wants to have good relationships with its neighbors; their
driveways must be accessible at all times. Do not use driveways for “Y”
turns, etc., or otherwise inconvenience the people who live near BlueSkies.
Note that the driveway on Brookdale closest to the corner store does NOT
belong to BlueSkies.
 Pedestrians need a safe sidewalk; cars may not park across the sidewalk in
front of the BlueSkies driveways.
 Street sweeping takes place on the first and third Wednesday and Friday of
each month; pay attention to the signs to avoid tickets!
Attendance and Absence: Regular attendance helps children feel comfortable and
secure in their daily routine. Parents should notify the office (261-1076) when their
child is not coming to school or alert teachers to planned absences. If BlueSkies is
not contacted and a child is absent for ten days the enrollment contract is
terminated and the space is given to another child on the waiting list. Fee payment
is expected regardless of absence for any reason.
Late Arrival: When children arrive late the parent needs to be sure the child is in a
clean diaper or uses the toilet, has had breakfast or lunch, etc. before entering the
classroom. Except in the Infant Group, each classroom has a time period during
which drop-offs are not allowed (generally lunchtime through naptime) unless
special arrangements have been made in advance with the Head Teacher. It is
upsetting to children to enter the program when playtime is over and it is time to
eat lunch or go to bed, and most teachers are either in the nap rooms, on their lunch
break, or in parent conferences, unable to give one-on-one care. If a late drop-off is
anticipated, parents should discuss timing with the Head Teacher.
Extra Hours: Green Request For Extra Hours forms (sample in back pocket) in the
office are completed when parents need extra care hours, then put into the “Inbox”
in the front office. The Program Director will determine whether there is space for
the child during those hours and reply. Every effort is made to accommodate needs
for extra hours, but hours can only be approved if there is sufficient staff available.
If your request is made less than 48 hours ahead, it is best to hand your green slip
directly to the Program Director and/or call later in the day to see if the request can
be approved or not. Sometimes a certain block of time is fully booked and so very
few extra hour requests will be approved; if you keep asking and keep getting
turned down, don’t take it personally. In those cases where a group is already at
ratio you may only be approved if someone else is on vacation that week.
Non-contract hours cannot be substituted for contract hours. Pre-approved extra
hours are charged at the “Extra Hours” rate on the current fee schedule; charges for
any extra hours will be calculated and invoiced in the following month.
Late Pick-up: “On time” means the parent is in the classroom or yard, with the
child, within 5 minutes of the scheduled pick-up time. Staff hours
often “match” children’s hours (e.g., a teacher is scheduled to leave
at the same time that a group of children leave). When children are
picked up late it either stresses the remaining teachers, or a teacher
has to stay late to maintain ratios. For this reason there is an extra
charge for late pick-up; when overtime has not been approved in
advance the fee is 150% of the normal “Extra Hours” fee, pro-rated in
quarter-hour increments. As there is no staff scheduled after 6 p.m. the late fee is
250% of the Extra Hours fee for any part of an hour after 6:05 p.m.
Dismissal and Authorized Pick-up: Parents must notify the office in writing if
another adult is coming to pick up their child, and that person must provide
identification before the child can be released to him or her. In the absence of
parent authorization the child will be kept on the premises until the parent can be
reached for authorization. For special information about authorizing BlueSkies
staff members to pick up a child, see page 36.
BlueSkies must allow equal access to the school and child to both parents in the
absence of a court order specifying another arrangement. If a court order
authorizes shared custody, parents must provide their agreed-upon schedule for
drop-off and pick-up, and any changes to that schedule must be authorized by both
parents. If the court order specifies a single custodial parent, BlueSkies may only
release the child to the other parent with the custodial parent’s written consent.
BlueSkies is required by law to prevent any adult—even a parent—who appears
unable to properly supervise and care for a child from taking the child from the
premises. Another adult on the dismissal list will be called. Licensing also requires
BlueSkies to report any adult who is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
when picking up children to Child Protective Services.
BlueSkies is closed on the following days (ask in the office for the specific calendar
for the current year):
o New Year’s Day (January 1)
o Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday (observed holiday in
o President’s Day (observed holiday in February)
o Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
o Independence Day (observed holiday in July), plus
Monday or Friday if the 4th falls on a Tuesday or
o Labor Day (first Monday in September)
o Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday in November
o Winter Holiday (generally noon December 24 through January 1, however this
varies slightly depending on the day of the week for Christmas and New
Year’s Days)
o 2 Staff Professional Development Days, generally one in March/April and one
in September/October
Nursery School Groups only:
o Playroom, Homeroom, & Schoolroom:
One Afternoon, a week prior to Independence Day weekend, to set-up the
Summer Program, plus a full day a week prior to Labor Day weekend to set
up the Fall Program.
o Playroom & Homeroom
2 days (late October or early November) for Parent Conferences
Before enrollment parents/guardians provide BlueSkies with detailed information
for medical and emergency situations, as well as for daily care. After enrollment
the parent updates this information as needed, using the Information Update form
(sample in back pocket). BlueSkies must be able to reach a parent or other
designated adult at any time during every day the child is at BlueSkies, so it is
essential to have current phone numbers for work, home, cell phones, etc.
In July each parent receives a new contract for the coming year and a print-out of
the current emergency information in BlueSkies files, due August 1. This is
another opportunity to correct any information that is out-of-date.
The contract, along with the information in this handbook, spells out
the agreement BlueSkies makes with parents for the care of
their children. By signing the contract each year, parents
agree to cooperate with BlueSkies requirements. Parents’
inability to comply with those requirements may result in
termination of enrollment.
When a child leaves BlueSkies for any reason, written notice of intention to
terminate enrollment must be submitted to the Co-Director at least one month in
advance. If less than one month’s notice is given, one month’s fee payment is still
On rare occasions, a child’s unique needs are not well served by the program
available at BlueSkies. If the Program Director has concerns about this she will
request a conference with the parent. She will also seek the assistance of the TLC
(Family Counseling) staff, as well as any other appropriate specialists, to evaluate
the situation and work with the family and teachers to make accommodations to
better support the child. If after evaluation and accommodation the program is
unable to meet the child’s needs, the Program Director will give a 30-day
Termination Notice to the family. In cases where there is a concern for the safety of
other children in the group, this notice may be less than 30 days.
Enrollment may also be terminated by BlueSkies if the parent is unable to
meet financial or other obligations to the school, as detailed in this Handbook.
BlueSkies is truly a non-profit organization, founded as a service to the community,
yet still needing to pay its bills like any other business. Fees do not pay for the cost
of fee reductions, so fund-raising is essential to the yearly budget. This can be hard
to comprehend when parents pay such substantial fees to BlueSkies for infant care.
The high teacher ratios needed for quality care, the kitchen staff who cook the good
food and keep the rooms clean, and the educated leadership of the school all need to
be paid for; staff wages and benefits account for over 80% of BlueSkies expenses.
The budget each year is delicately balanced, keeping wages as high as possible
while also attempting to keep fees within some bounds. All parents are asked to
assist with fund-raising, to make charitable donations if possible, and to respect the
needs of the school for prompt payments and compliance with financial policies.
 Fee payments are due on the first of each month. No invoice will be issued, but
the Bookkeeper will put out a reminder if fees are not paid by the 7th. Requests
for any other arrangement must be made in writing and approved by the CoDirector.
 BlueSkies issues a receipt for each payment received. These receipts include the
Federal ID number for tax reporting purposes. Parents may request an annual
summary from the Bookkeeper, allowing one week for its production. The
Bookkeeper also signs Flexible Spending Account claim forms for parents.
 The “Over 3” fee rate begins in the month following the child’s 3rd birthday,
regardless of which classroom the child is in at the time.
 Fees are inclusive; there are no additional charges for supplies or program
enhancements such as diapers, food, or the weekly music teacher.
 Fees are not adjusted for days absent, vacations, or declared holidays; monthly
fees are based on the entire year’s enrollment cost divided into 12 equal
payments as specified on the Contract and any subsequent adjustments to it.
 If fees are not paid by the final day of a month, care will be suspended until the
overdue fees plus the next month’s fees are both paid in full.
 Fees over 45 days past due will result in loss of the child’s space at BlueSkies.
 Fee increases are generally implemented on September 1. The average increase
is about 5%, however the Board of Directors makes this
decision each year based on the growth of the economy and
the needs of the school. At least one month’s notice will be
given prior to any increase in fees; generally fee increases
are announced by the end of June.
Fee Reductions
BlueSkies embraces diversity of all types, including economic diversity. The agency
depends upon fee income to meet the high expenses of a quality program, but raises
funds to subsidize fees as much as possible for families who demonstrate financial
need. That is to say fundraising, not fees, funds fee reductions. Parents, valuing the
diversity that characterizes BlueSkies, actively raise funds through the Fall Mailer
and the Spring Auction/Raffle to finance fee subsidies. Currently 13% of BlueSkies
families receive some reduction of their fees.
Applications for Fee Reduction are accepted during the month of
June for the following academic year (September – August). The
form is available in the office, and is turned in with a copy of state
and federal tax returns. The process of determining eligibility is
similar to that used by colleges and independent schools which offer
need-based financial assistance, using objective criteria to evaluate
whether the family’s resources are adequate to cover the costs of care or whether
assistance is needed. If there is a demonstrated need for financial assistance, and
funds are available, a reduced fee rate will be offered to the family. In general, all
available funds are committed during the June application period. If there is more
demand than funds available, priority is given to those families who have
previously qualified for fee reduction.
Charitable Giving (Donations):
BlueSkies is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, qualified by the IRS to receive
charitable donations in the form of cash or securities, deductible to the extent
provided by law.
Fees at BlueSkies for Children covers the costs of enrollment for each child—the
costs of office and leadership staff, mortgages and utilities, food and supplies, and
wages and benefits for skilled and caring classroom teachers. Fundraising covers
the costs of subsidizing fees for children whose families demonstrate financial need,
or major purchases and renovations for the programs.
Parents are expected to participate in the fundraising efforts of the school, as the
strength of any fundraising effort lies in the participation of those who value and
believe in the organization. Some families can make significant financial
contributions, some will recruit friends and family to make donations (e.g.,
grandparents may want to support the place where their grandchildren thrive), or
some will volunteer to help with fundraising events. All types of support are
important and valued by the school and all such activities earn Parent Participation
hours (which can also be paid off through cash donations).
Gifts to honor Children
Birthday Books: In the month of their child’s birthday, parents may give a
“Birthday Book” to the school in honor of the event. The books needed by the school
are in the front office, along with book plates to complete upon purchase. The cost
of the book can be considered a donation to the school.
Class Gift: The “Class Gift” is collected in late spring/summer from families whose
children are going to kindergarten. The goal is for each family in the class to make
a tax-deductible donation of one month’s fees.
Annual fundraising
The Fall Mailer and Spring Raffle/Auction raise nearly $70,000 to cover need-based
fee subsidies, maintaining greater economic diversity in the school—one of the
important intangibles that contributes to the children’s growth.
Annual Requests to Parents For Donations
OR Fundraising Activities
Months flagged with a $$ symbol are those with cash outlays.
The Parent Fundraising Committee asks parents to supply the names
and addresses of relatives and friends who might donate to the BlueSkies
scholarship fund. This data is entered in the database for the annual
fund appeal mailer which will go out in November.
Parents will be asked to address the annual fund appeal mailer and write
personal notes to the people on the mailing list, asking for donations.
Parents will also receive this mailer and be invited to make a year-end,
tax deductible contribution to the annual scholarship fund.
Annual goal: $30,000
Parents contribute to the annual “Holiday Staff Bonus” fund; this
collective gift is divided among the staff and results in a bonus of several
hundred dollars for each employee at BlueSkies. This is a wonderful way
for parents to express their appreciation for the staff without needing to
shop or identify an appropriate gift. Gifts to this fund are not considered
charitable donations (because they go to the employees, not the agency),
but they can be used to buy out Parent Participation hours. Annual Goal:
The Parent Fundraising Committee will ask for help soliciting donations
of goods and services from merchants and BlueSkies friends to sell in the
annual Auction, which takes place in April.
The Parent Fundraising Committee will distribute Raffle books to each
family to sell (goal of at least 7 books per family).
Annual goal: $12,000
April or May
The Annual Auction – parents are urged to attend and to bring family
and friends to shop at this event. Parents are also asked to fill various
volunteer roles at the event. All proceeds support the annual scholarship
Annual goal: $25,000
Capital fundraising
Income is used for long-term needs and special projects, such as improvements to
facilities, purchase of real property, or to increase the scholarship endowment. To
make such improvements to the stability and sustainability of the organization, the
Board may initiate a multi-year Capital Campaign. During the course of such a
campaign there will be additional requests to parents for direct cash donations as
well as increased participation in fundraising efforts, including adding potential
new donors to the solicitation database, soliciting prospective donors for gifts, and
organizing special events. During a Capital Campaign, the agency also must
continue its annual giving requests to sustain annual needs; generally parents will
be asked to pledge gifts for a Capital Campaign which are larger than their normal
annual giving, and which can be given over several years to reach the capital goals.
BlueSkies raised $1.6 million in its capital campaign concluded in 2009, which
rebuilt the Brookdale side of the campus and grew the endowment for scholarships.
BlueSkies parents are welcome to visit at any time. Parents can always stand
behind the one-way glass and watch a classroom. The Head Teacher is happy to
answer any questions about what is happening in the room if she has time
available. It is also possible to schedule a “narrated visit” with the Program
Director who will stand beside parents at the one-way glass and explain what is
happening in the classroom; make this request on a Parent Conference form.
Separation can be an issue for both parents and children. Once a
parent says good-bye and leaves, the child settles into the day.
Parents should know that if they are spotted during a visit it may be
upsetting for their child to see them leave again without him or her;
it is best to be prepared to take the child along if necessary after a
visit. With that in mind, parents should feel free to ask an office
staffer to walk ahead and make sure the parent will not be spotted on
the way into the observation room
Visitors to BlueSkies are generally impressed by the apparent ease with which
children move through their daily routines, and their capacity to initiate their own
play within the group for many hours at a time. This is because a well-educated,
thoughtful group of teachers skillfully arranges the long day so that it is
manageable for the children in their groups. Each day and hour has a rhythm that
gives the children security and confidence that all is right in their world. As much
as possible, children are given the opportunity to manage themselves and are not
required to participate in group activities. It is important to understand that
visitors, no matter how loved or interesting, can easily disrupt this rhythm and
make the day more difficult for teachers and children after the visitors leave. To
keep from interfering with the teacher’s plan, thoughtful parents who wish to visit
inside the classroom should begin by asking the Head Teacher if they will be in the
way, if there is a better place to sit, if they can read stories to children, etc. For
more on the topic of participating in the classroom, please see page 49.
Please remove shoes in the Infant or Wobbly Walker playrooms.
The Co-Directors report to the Board of Directors, which meets monthly and sets
policy for BlueSkies for Children under the laws governing California non-profit
corporations as well as licensing requirements. The Board of BlueSkies has always
attracted a remarkable level of committed, smart and helpful Board members,
offering tremendous leadership to the agency. Some of its standing committees are:
Facilities, Finance, Nominating, Development, Programs,
Technology, and Personnel.
The BlueSkies Board of Directors includes current parents,
alumni parents, and members of the community, seeking
always to include a diversity of background and skills. It
must include at least 2 parents with children in the program.
Any parent, or group of parents, can submit the name of a
candidate to the Nominating Committee of the Board. Parents
on the Board have full voting rights.
While BlueSkies pays well by child care standards, the wage scale is humble
compared to any other field. But BlueSkies prides itself on offering comprehensive
health coverage to its staff and offering many support systems to help the staff do
the best work of which they are capable. Parents with expertise in personnel law
and human resource development have, over the years, been generous in helping
the administration develop sound policies and best practices. Supervisors at
BlueSkies have learned to make expectations clear to staff members, then set goals
and coach them for success. Every employee has a job description and receives
regular feedback, evaluations, and support for professional growth.
As with all employment, a bad fit between job requirements and a staff member’s
abilities and interests, or even willful misbehavior, may result in BlueSkies
terminating employment. In such a situation BlueSkies is not able to divulge
confidential information about the employee or the circumstances of the dismissal
even though parents may feel like that staff member is an extended part of their
families. Parents are asked to trust that it is because BlueSkies administrators
take the responsibility of caring for the children so seriously that they will
terminate employment when it is necessary to preserve the quality and/or safety of
the program. Parents and children will be given advance notice of staff changes
whenever they are planned, however in cases of termination or resignation without
notice this may not be possible.
BlueSkies is licensed in two parts by the California Social Services Department,
Community Care Licensing. The license numbers are:
 Hedco Infant Toddler Center #010213219
 Ellen Sherwood Nursery School #010209844
Under the terms of these licenses, Community Care Licensing specifies that:
The Department or licensing agency (Community Care Licensing) shall
have the authority to interview children, or staff, and to inspect and audit
child or facility records without prior consent.
(1) The Licensee shall make provisions for private interviews
with any child(ren), or any staff member; and for the examination
of all records relating to the operation of the facility.
The Department or licensing agency (Community Care Licensing) shall
have the authority to observe the physical condition of the child(ren),
including conditions which could indicate abuse, neglect, or inappropriate
placement, and to have a licensed medical professional physically
examine the child(ren).
Section III
Health, Safety
What the best and wisest parent
wants for his own child – that must
be what the community wants for all
its children.
–John Dewey
Keeping BlueSkies a healthy center for everyone takes a conscious effort by
both staff and parents. Every parent must have a reliable back-up plan for shortnotice child care for the times when his or her child becomes ill. The nature of
children’s illness is such that no policy can be written to cover every possible
situation – the experienced BlueSkies staff members will exercise their professional
judgment as to the ability of the center to appropriately care for children who are
mildly ill. The following page provides a guideline for parents in determining
whether their child can attend BlueSkies while exhibiting symptoms of illness.
BlueSkies procedures are carefully considered, and teachers take every reasonable
precaution to keep illness from spreading from child to child. Teachers will not
admit sick children and children who become ill at school will be sent home.
Rigorous adherence to hygiene procedures minimize exposure to serious illness.
Each staff person is taught that thorough and frequent
washing of hands is the most effective step in halting the
spread of illness. Hands are washed immediately after
changing diapers or assisting toileting children. Staff
with younger children often clean noses, always using a
clean tissue, and wash hands as frequently as possible or
use hand sanitizer.
Hands are washed prior to
preparing or serving food. Teachers teach even the
youngest children that hand-washing always follows
toileting and precedes eating.
Prior to entering the program each child is required to have a doctor’s examination
to determine physical and emotional readiness to participate in the program. As
children reach the proper ages, they must receive immunizations to prevent
Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Tetanus (DT series), Polio, HiB, Measles, Mumps and
Rubella. Immunizations against Chicken Pox and Rotavirus are also recommended.
Children must also be screened for tuberculosis. A copy of the child’s immunization
records must be submitted to the office within 3 days of enrollment, and updated
each time the child receives subsequent vaccinations. Should a parent refuse to
follow the prescribed immunization schedule for any disease, the child may be
excluded from the program if that disease emerges in the community.
Children are considered sick and unable to attend BlueSkies with any of the
following symptoms, and for 24 hours after symptoms end:
unable to participate fully in the daily program
oral temperature of 101F or more
purulent discharge from the eyes (Conjunctivitis)
a contagious rash
difficult or wheezy breathing
coughing that interferes with function/sleep
any other sign of a communicable disease
When children are uncomfortable after immunizations, or when a cold or ear
infection has started, group care may not be able to provide the one-on-one care
they need. Sick children often don’t act sick even when they are unwell, or they
may seem ok when they are home but be unable to cope with the greater stresses of
being in group care. Parents need to be sensitive to this and help children rest and
learn to take care of themselves while their bodies heal. Children should stay home
for 24 hours after any of the above symptoms have disappeared (in the case of fever,
the child should be without a fever, without taking any fever-reducing medication
such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, for 24 hours before returning). If your child
has an ear infection, thrush or conjunctivitis, he or she may need a day at home to
give any medication time to start working or, in the case of ear infections under
“watch status,” time to see if the child’s energy level will be sufficient to manage a
return to group care. For strep infection, antibiotics should be given for 48 hours
before returning.
When a child at school seems unwell:
 If symptoms are mild or unclear, the parent receives an alert call; staff will
let the parent know of current symptoms and ask for permission to give
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) if appropriate (written permission must already be
on file, and parent must have given the school a bottle of Acetaminophen
with the child’s name and dosage on it, or no Acetaminophen can be given).
Sometimes, the parent can provide additional information, such as that the
child slept poorly and may just need an early nap. This call also gives the
parent time to arrange to leave work early if necessary, or for someone else to
pick the child up if the parents’ schedules do not permit pickups on short
notice, or to make a Doctor’s appointment for the same day.
 If the symptoms worsen the parents will be called a second time. This time
the child must be picked up promptly. Sometimes the symptoms are clear
enough that the parent is asked to pick the child up in a first call.
 If parents cannot be reached, other emergency numbers will be called.
If a child seems to be slightly out-of-sorts or is showing symptoms of illness at the
end of a day, a yellow Medical Alert form (sample in back pocket) may be clipped
to the sign-out sheet to tell parents of the teacher’s concerns and allow them to
make back-up plans for the next day.
BlueSkies only administers medications prescribed by a doctor (with the
exception of Acetaminophen, as described above).
1. The medications must be in the original prescription container,
labeled with the child’s first and last name and accompanied by
instructions from the physician stating the date(s) and times
medication is to be given. The medication must be prescribed for
the current condition (not old medicine from a prior diagnosis). If a
child has a prescription for a chronic condition, such as an inhaler for asthma
treatment, it is the parent’s responsibility to see that the medication is kept
current and the treatment plan is reviewed at least every 6 months with the
Head Teacher.
2. Instructions from the parent must be written on the Medication form kept
with the Parent Communication Charts for all medications given. This form
must be fully completed and signed. Staff is not allowed to give medication to
children unless the parent’s written instructions match the doctor’s orders.
The staff member who administers the medication will indicate when and
how much is given on the medication form.
3. If a child requires inhaled or injected medication for asthma or allergic
reactions, the parent must complete a SECOND special form and train each
teacher named on the form when and how to administer the medications,
along with the requirements in #1.
4. The center will check with parents, nurses, hospitals, etc., if clarification or
further instructions are necessary to carry out any program prescribed for a
child in the care of BlueSkies. Dr. Mary Jones is the pediatric consultant to
5. If, for any reason, the staff member is unable to administer medication as
directed by the parent, the parent will be called as soon as possible.
6. Medications must be given directly to a teacher. Medications may never be
left in a child’s cubby.
Topical medications such as antibiotic cream, diaper ointment, or sunscreen, can
only be applied to children whose parents have signed a permission slip. This is
included in the enrollment packet.
Head Lice is a common nuisance in groups of young children. Children with head
lice must remain home until treated and there are no eggs (nits) in the hair. The
Head Teacher or Program Director must be informed whenever a case of head lice is
detected, so that the classroom can be thoroughly cleaned and other families can be
alerted to watch for signs. Any other infestation (such as scabies) requires
exclusion for 24 hours after treatment.
Communicable Diseases (other than “colds”)
The parent should call as soon as a communicable illness such as strep or
coxsackie is diagnosed so that other parents may be alerted to watch for
symptoms. A child who has had a serious communicable disease, or has been
ill for more than 4 days, must bring a doctor’s note or phone call stating that the
child is well enough to return to group care when he returns to the program.
Children are carefully supervised at all times, playing with equipment that is
appropriate for their developmental level. In spite of appropriate supervision
and precautions, accidents sometimes occur. In the event of an injury
parents will be notified in writing on a pink Parent Report form
(sample in back pocket), and a copy goes into the child’s file in the
BlueSkies teachers are trained in appropriate First Aid
procedures for young children. There is always at least one person on
site in each program with current CPR and advanced First Aid techniques
as well. If the child requires professional medical attention the parent will be
called and emergency procedures will be followed.
Emergency Care
If a teacher perceives a life-threatening emergency 911 will be called; parents
are responsible for any charges related to this. Staff members may not transport
children in their own vehicles, but may accompany a child in an ambulance if he or
she must be taken to the hospital before a parent can be present. In case of a
medical emergency during which none of the parent’s designated emergency
contacts can be reached, the emergency instructions which the parent has written
on the emergency form will be followed. Unless otherwise specified, BlueSkies will
direct first responders to take children to Children’s Hospital in Oakland which is
the pediatric trauma center for Alameda County.
Smoke-Free Environment Policy
BlueSkies, recognizing the danger to children’s health from exposure to secondhand
smoke, prohibits smoking on its premises, on the premises of any BlueSkies events,
or within 50 feet of such premises. Financial contributions, sponsorships, gifts or
services are neither solicited nor accepted from any tobacco company or tobaccorelated function. BlueSkies does not invest in any companies deriving over 15% of
their revenues from tobacco products.
If you would like help to stop smoking, please contact the Alameda County Public
Health Department, Kaiser Permanente’s Health Education Department, or the
American Lung Association. Your child’s health could depend on it; 6000 children
die in the United States each year from respiratory illness or fire-related injuries
caused by smokers.
BlueSkies teachers believe that mealtimes should be enjoyable
learning experiences. Children are encouraged to select their own
foods from a variety of wholesome choices, and helped to master the
skills of hand-washing and feeding themselves with as much
independence as possible. The social aspect of eating is also valued at
BlueSkies, as children eat their meals in a family-style.
BlueSkies serves two balanced meals daily (breakfast and lunch) and nutritious
snacks. The week’s menus are posted in the kitchen and classrooms; a copy is also
in each classroom Transition Packet. Snacks generally consist of fruits and
vegetables, cheese, bread or crackers, or food the children have cooked themselves.
Children may bring muffins or cupcakes (nut-free) to share on birthdays or other
special occasions; please label them so that the kitchen staff knows which child’s
group they are intended for.
Breakfast is served until 8:15 a.m. If the child arrives after 8:15 the
parent may sit with the child while he eats breakfast so that staff may
move on to other duties. Lunch is served from 10:30 (in the youngest
groups) to noon (in the Schoolroom). Children who arrive at the center
too late for a meal may be offered an early snack if needed. Snack
time generally depends on the needs of the children.
BlueSkies is committed to building healthy eating habits for children, and therefore
serves fresh-made foods that do not depend on sugar or salt for their flavor. Fresh
fruits and vegetables are hand-selected each week, with all choices particularly
suited to the various age groups of the children. Organic products are purchased as
much as possible, particularly for produce, meat, and dairy products.
Infants and Breast Milk: Breastfeeding is strongly supported at BlueSkies, and
staff will make every effort to help nursing mothers continue to feed their babies
breast milk. Iron-fortified formula (as specified by the parent) is provided for babies
up to the age of 12 months who do not have breast milk available. Any
parent-supplied formula or breast milk must be brought
from home in a ready-to-feed sanitary container labeled
with the baby’s name and date, and can be refrigerated
or frozen in the Infant Group refrigerator for use as
needed by the baby.
Teachers in the Infant group will make a feeding plan for each child in consultation
with the parents as the baby shows signs of readiness to begin solid foods. The
Infant Needs and Service Plan that is developed during transition into the program
will be updated at least every quarter, and more frequently if necessary. New foods
are introduced individually so that any adverse reactions can be detected, and notes
about eating are kept on the daily charts for parents’ information.
Food Allergies and Special Diets:
Parents are responsible for informing staff of any special dietary needs or allergies
of a child, so meals can be planned accordingly. Because so many children enroll as
young infants, allergies are often not identified on the intake form which makes it
particularly important for parents to share information about food allergies as the
child grows. Teachers will ask parents to update Infant and Toddler Needs and
Service Plans quarterly (annually in the Preschool), and parents may also initiate
updates as needed to reflect this important information. If a child cannot eat
certain foods, appropriate alternatives will be offered. A vegetarian diet can be
accommodated as long as dairy products may be included. If a child has a severely
restricted or unusual diet it may be necessary for the parents to provide food for the
child. BlueSkies does not serve peanut butter or use other nut-based products due
to potential danger to allergic children. Parents of a child with food allergies should
also inform staff of possible adverse reactions, and provide a Junior Epi-pen for
children who may be susceptible to anaphylactic shock reactions. Menus which
track food served in the program are available in every classroom; if a child requires
a special diet the Head Teacher will track that on the child’s chart.
All of the children at BlueSkies engage in active outdoor play every day (weather
permitting). For your child’s protection, we require that s/he dress appropriately for
the weather and for this type of play.
Clothing requirements for infants
at least one change of clothes and a clean diaper
(paper or cloth) to wear home each day.
a warm sweater or jacket for when the babies go out
on the porch
 shoes with protective soles when child is old enough
for sand yard play.
Clothing requirements for toddlers and preschoolers
sturdy shoes for outdoor play, especially in
bad weather
socks that fit, with child’s name marking
each one
play clothes - pants that can get dirty
(washable), T-shirt that covers the stomach
a warm jacket in cold weather
underpants and lots of spare clothes, including
shoes and socks, for toilet training children
change of clothes for emergencies:
 extra underpants or diapers
 extra socks
 extra play pants and shirt
 extra sweater
 extra shoes if at all possible
Your Child’s name should be in
all clothing – unmarked items
may disappear!! There are Lost
and Found bins in the classrooms if
you are looking for something.
The staff at BlueSkies works together with parents in helping children learn
to use the toilet when the child:
 shows signs of being aware that s/he is wet, dirty, or dry
 can verbalize his or her need or otherwise give the caretaker a signal when
s/he needs to use the toilet.
 can hold his/her urine and/or BM for at least one hour
 has experienced some success with using the toilet at home
As parents complete the Needs and Service Plan for Infants and Toddlers
with their child’s Head Teacher, and update it each quarter, diapering and toileting
plans will be part of the discussion so that parents and staff can work together to
support the child’s growth.
A detailed plan for toileting is available in the office on request. Before a
child is ready to learn to use the toilet at BlueSkies, he or she should be reasonably
successful in training pants for one weekend at home. On Monday the parent can
share information about intervals and strategies that help the child succeed with
toileting. Then the Head Teacher will be prepared to help the child get to the
bathroom as needed. On the morning this begins, the child should use the toilet
when s/he first wakes up and wear training pants to school. The child’s cubby
should have a half-dozen extra training pants plus changes of pants and socks, as
well as shoes if possible.
Toilet learning is a big step toward maturity and
independence for any child, and requires helpful support from
parents and teachers. As with any new skill, it is not learned
overnight. When accidents occur, staff accepts them as part of
the learning process. Teachers will never scold a child or
otherwise undermine his expanding feelings of self-worth.
Security within the BlueSkies for Children Property
Parents, guardians, or staff members who bring guests along with them onto
BlueSkies property are responsible for their conduct and must stay with them at all
times. If an unfamiliar adult has been authorized by parents to pick up their child,
that person’s identification is checked before the child is released. The
door code to enter the Children’s Program areas is given only to
parents, staff and others who have been identified and will have
regular business in the program. Please support this system by
never letting unknown people through the coded door; if there
is nobody in the front office, ask strangers to wait there for
assistance rather than allow them through the door.
Children should not be given the code either.
All visitors (observers or those here for a tour appointment)
come through the office and sign themselves in, or are checked off on the tour list.
Visitors here for the first time are escorted to the teacher they need to see; adult
students who are observing the children’s program wear tags that identify them
while they are on the premises. Observers are never alone with a child.
Occasionally BlueSkies is asked to serve as a research site, in which case parents
are given full information about the study being conducted and given the option of
allowing their child to participate; such participation is always optional, and
written permission will be obtained from the parent before a child is included in
such a study.
Staff members at BlueSkies for Children are trained to respond to many types of
emergencies, whether it be a natural disaster, fire, injury or a threat to the safety of
anyone in the school. While there is usually someone at the front desk to screen
visitors, the teaching and support staff also keeps a close eye on the adults coming
and going and watches for any sign of trouble. Each teacher knows that if a
situation feels unsafe (if a parent or staff member behaves erratically, an intruder
enters the school, there is an attempted kidnapping, or any other such
unanticipated event should occur) that he or she should immediately take the
children inside the nearest classroom, lock the door, and call for help. If the event is
occurring inside the classroom, staff will move children to the next closest
classroom, lock the door, and call for help. Staff is instructed to call 911 and then
broadcast an alert to the rest of the school in response to any perceived threat to
Emergency Contact with Parents – “Parent Reach”
In the event of any such emergency, all parents will be contacted via
the Parent Reach phone system as soon as staff has an opportunity to
do so (within 15 minutes if possible, but ensuring the safety of
children and staff will take first priority). Parent Reach is an autodial system which will call hundreds of numbers within minutes to share
information. (If the phone has Caller ID the number that displays will be
“411411411”.) The system will only be used in an emergency, not to share routine
information such as that which goes out over our email list-serve. At the time of
enrollment, BlueSkies enters the cell phone and home phone number for each
parent into the Parent Reach system as a default. Parents who want to have the
school use other numbers should inform the Front Office staff of the 3 preferred
During after-hours or weekend functions at BlueSkies, the person who is
responsible for opening and closing the buildings is also responsible for knowing
how to deal with any emergency situation that might arise. While phones in
outlying buildings do not ring for incoming calls, they can all be used to dial out to
Safety in the Neighborhood
Parents and staff should practice standard urban precautions,
paying attention to their surroundings as they come and go from
the school, leaving no valuables in sight in the car, etc. If a
person feels threatened, he or she should not hesitate to call 911
(or 510-777-3211 from a cell phone). Then, if the school is open
come into the office, or call the office, to report the threat. Parents
and staff help keep the neighborhood safe by promptly reporting any illegal or
threatening activity to the Oakland Police; the non-emergency number is 510-7773333. If drug transactions are witnessed, they should be reported to the anonymous
Drug Hotline at 510-238-3784; though these calls receive no response, they are
essential in helping the police to prioritize areas that see an upsurge in drug
activity. Parents and staff are urged to program the Drug Hotline, Oakland Police
non-emergency, and Cell Phone Oakland Police Emergency numbers into their cell
phones so they will always be available.
 Emergency: 911 from a landline
 Emergency: 510-777-3211 reaches Oakland 911 from a cell phone
 Oakland Police non-emergency 510-777-3333
 Anonymous Drug Hotline 510-238-3784
Cards are also available in the office with these numbers printed on them; just ask
anytime you need a new one for your purse or car.
BlueSkies staff and Board of Directors advocate for improved safety and police
support for the neighborhood by keeping in touch with both the Problem Solving
Officer, Beat 21Y Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council, the City Councilman for
District 5, and the property owners on the block. Parents who add their voices to
these efforts make them far more effective; the Co-Directors will gladly share
current contact information for any of these groups or individuals on request.
If there is a disturbance in the neighborhood the police are informed that this is a
child care center with 85 children present, and asked if the center should take any
Office staff finds out what is happening and teachers or
administrators in charge use their best judgment, along with the advice of the
police, in deciding what steps to take. BlueSkies has many buildings and spaces,
fronting on two different streets; this provides many options if it is ever necessary to
move children away from one street or another due to an emergency.
If there is police action in the area, whether or not it seems to involve BlueSkies,
information will be shared with parents through the Parent Reach phone system as
soon as possible.
All staff members employed at BlueSkies must be fingerprinted at the
time of employment; after the initial clearance Community Care
Licensing continues to track all employees in licensed facilities so that
the facility can be contacted if an employee is involved in any criminal
activity. In addition, references are checked before new staff is hired.
For more information about staff policies, see page 23.
The degree of teamwork and supervision in each group at BlueSkies creates clear
accountability for the behavior of each staff person with the children. BlueSkies,
however, cannot be responsible for the conduct of any employee outside of their
employment hours on site. Parents who choose to arrange with BlueSkies staff for
transportation or babysitting of their children outside of BlueSkies must recognize
that this is a private agreement for which BlueSkies bears no responsibility. If
arrangements are made for an employee to pick up an enrolled child at the end of
the day, a special release form must be completed by the parent along with adding
the staff person’s name to the dismissal permissions list.
Firearms, fireworks, or any other dangerous materials or weapons are never
allowed in the BlueSkies facility or at off-site events.
At BlueSkies most teachers are trained in CPR and First Aid. Each building has at
least one person with current certification present at all times. A
portion of each In-service day is spent reviewing responsibilities of staff
in the case of injury, fire, earthquake or security breach emergency.
Each teaching group periodically meets and plans for the worst. Each
group has designated first aid people who will set up a triage space in the
Nursery School Breakfast Room. Major First Aid supplies are collected
and stored in the red First Aid locker located in the dumbwaiter room.
Some teachers will stay with the children, making a safe place to stay
and play until parents arrive; support staff and teachers who can be
spared will attend to the environment: firefighting if necessary, cleaning up glass,
checking for gas leaks or downed power lines.
The housekeeping staff will bring out supplies for a “camp out” if that becomes
necessary. BlueSkies stores plenty of food, water, blankets, diapers and formula to
last for several days. Administrative staff will set up a dismissal point using each
child’s current disaster release list (parents must keep this information up to date!),
with no expectation that phone contact will be available. In the case of a regional
disaster we will dismiss children to the first person who arrives and is named on the
disaster release form. The person taking the child will sign the form and write
where he or she is taking the child. Every family should create a plan with its
support group (family or friends) about how to find each other and help each other,
even if there are no phones working. In the unlikely event that no BlueSkies
buildings are habitable (nearly all BlueSkies buildings now meet the most recent
seismic code) our designated evacuation site is Fruitvale School, at Boston and
School Streets.
BlueSkies serves working families, and maintains a
strong commitment to staying open 51 weeks per year.
However, there may be emergency situations beyond the control
of the school which force temporary closure (for example a
power outage, plumbing disaster, pandemic, fire, or
earthquake damage to facilities.). In such an event each
family will be contacted by telephone through the Parent
Reach phone system, informed of the problem, and asked to
make alternate care plans or come to pick up their child. If the closure lasts two
weeks or more, fees will be pro-rated.
Section IV
The Children’s Programs
“When children enter the world of child
care, they may well spend up to 12,000
hours in care before they reach the age
parents decide it is no longer necessary -12,000 hours, more time than they will log
in elementary and secondary education.
Almost from birth, eight to ten hour days,
five days a week, 50 weeks a year. In
contrast, children in nursery school, Head
Start, or preschool usually spend no more
than 15 hours a week, five days a week, 30
or so weeks a year, for two years of their
lives -- a total of less than 1,000 hours.
Similar educational situations, vastly
different experiences for children.”
Jim Greenman, Places for Childhood,
Exchange Press, 1998
The “We Believe… and So We Do” statement on page 6 of this Handbook was
written to declare that, at BlueSkies, philosophy always ties directly to action. This
is why the Children’s Program stands apart from most other care settings. A strong
foundation in Child Development is required of every Head Teacher and Program
Director and from that grows the subtle teaching and guidance that embeds each
child with the distinctive BlueSkies skills set. Children who grow up at BlueSkies
know who they are and how to manage themselves in the world. They know how to
be friends and how to be their own best friend as well.
This style of teaching is complex and deeply rooted in relationships. The first
foundation babies build for their own growth is through their relationships with
their parents, and next the Infant teachers. As the children enter the Nursery
School the relationships with peers become ever more important, but the
relationships between teachers and children continue to be the incentive that
makes children want to keep trying and growing in their social relationships. It is
only through building relationships with peers, however, that the children truly
learn how to be friends with peers. They must learn through trial and error,
augmented by good coaching, how to take the perspective of another person. They
must learn through some unhappy times when play falls apart that playing with
others requires compromise to keep it moving forward. They must learn how to say
what they need in a reasonable and friendly way, even when they are seething with
frustration or anger or feeling teary and forsaken. These things can only be learned
through playing with other children for hours on end, and at BlueSkies they are
lucky enough to have that opportunity every day.
Because these relationships are key to all the important learning at BlueSkies, the
classrooms do not have televisions, computers, or other electronic gadgetry. Such
entertaining items can divert hours of the children’s attention away from this key
nursery school task of learning how to build and maintain relationships. Other than
forcing children to figure out how to take turns, machines cannot teach children
how to be sophisticated human beings. Children have only a precious few years to
learn these interpersonal skills, and at BlueSkies the teachers want to make the
most of them. (Innocuous videos may be shown during child care for evening
meetings at BlueSkies… after a 10 hour day of hard work and play, a little passive
TV time seems okay).
Teachers model all the qualities in which they coach the children, both in their
relationships with each other, with parents, and with children. They speak in
friendly voices in a moderate tone. They look for mutually agreeable solutions to
problems that come up. They shun physical punishment or discipline, or emotional
abuse or shaming, knowing that honest relationships cannot be based on power and
fear. They say what they need and listen to others when they say what they need.
At BlueSkies, children are given a childhood that prepares them for life.
The Children’s Program is developmental; each child’s placement depends on his or
her individual development. We speak of age ranges in each classroom as a base
indicator of the class group, and the teachers gear their classrooms to the typical
development of children in that age range, but there is always room for exceptions
when they are appropriate to a child’s needs. All children come with their own
timetables for development, and BlueSkies also enrolls children with special needs.
It is common for children to be average in some areas of development, and
precocious or delayed in others. Because most children enroll as Infants, the
teachers make decisions about transition as the child develops. When an older child
enters the program, a preliminary visit determines appropriate placement.
Although the child’s overall development is considered, at each age there is one area
of development that is a stronger indicator of readiness for each classroom.
A child’s transition from the Infant group to the Wobbly Walkers typically begins at
around 12 months with very brief visits; most children make the final move around
13 – 14 months. Physical development—walking or active crawling, and a maturing
level of self-regulation—is usually a key indicator of readiness.
Transition from the Wobbly Walkers to the Todds is common at about 24 months,
when the child is entering an exploration of autonomy, and is shifting some of his or
her interest to peers from the adults. This transition usually takes place over a few
Around the age of 2½, children achieve an understanding of autonomy and begin
exploring the social milieu. That indicates readiness for the Nursery School
program, so most Todds transition to the Playroom around 2½. However, children
only enter the Playroom between September and February, so children who turn 2½
between February and August will spend longer with the Todds. The Todds
program accommodates their needs for new challenges by separating them out for
part of the day with new activities, and in the summer creates an “in-between”
group known as the “Summer Playroom” to keep life interesting for them.
After entering the Playroom, the children accumulate into a class year group that
will stay together until they go to Kindergarten. BlueSkies Class Years are based
on birthdays from September 1 of one year through August 31 of the following year,
which coordinates with the independent school admission requirement that children
be 5 years old before September kindergarten. They move together to the
Homeroom and Schoolroom in successive Septembers.
A Transition Packet of information specific to the coming classroom is given to
parents as each transition approaches. The Head Teacher or Program Director can
also always answer questions about a specific child’s anticipated transition
BlueSkies is committed to the policy of equal opportunity for admission to
the Center without regard to race, creed, national origin, ability or family
status. BlueSkies receives no state or federal subsidy, but there is
limited funding available to offer reduced fees to qualified families
based on demonstrated financial need. Application for admission is
made through written application. Admissions are dependent on
space availability in each age group.
Transition Procedures
1. Orientation Visit: A month prior to enrollment in the program,
BlueSkies sets up an orientation visit. During this visit parents receive this
Handbook and registration forms, including the contract which specifies hours of
enrollment and monthly fees, and receive detailed information about BlueSkies
policies and procedures as well as Parent Participation requirements.. The
Program Director will show the parents around the child’s classroom, introduce the
family to key staff members, and provide the Transition Packet.
2. Health Requirements :A visit to the doctor may be necessary to fill out
forms and bring immunizations up to date; if the child has been seen recently the
doctor may complete forms off of records. All the parents’ responsibilities for health
and safety are listed in Section III of the Handbook.
3. Forms and Entrance: During the first transition visit, parent and the
Head Teacher will complete the Needs and Services Plan (detailing preferences for
the child’s care) together. All other BlueSkies forms in the enrollment packet must
be turned in on the first day of Transition.
4. Transition Visits: When the child begins the program, parents stay for
short periods of time during the first few days, and take the child home when tired.
The activities of the other children can be over-stimulating at first. Parent presence
at this time helps the child get used to a new environment, learn to trust the
teachers, and feel secure when parent leaves. When the child is ready to stay alone,
(perhaps the second or third day) the Head Teacher will ask the parent to tell the
child goodbye. Leaving a scarf, book, etc. may be comforting in early separations.
No fees are charged during the first week of Infant and Toddler transitions; for
older children, fees are charged as soon as they are here for a full scheduled day.
5. The First Drop-off after Transition:
Teachers are prepared to help
children who are reluctant to part from parents. It is important that
express their confidence that the child will be in good hands, and
best way to do that is to follow a quick and simple good-bye
 Place child’s coat and extra clothes in the cubby.
 Take child to playroom and make contact with the teacher
 Tell child goodbye and leave. Parents are always welcome to
watch through the one way window to see what happens after
they leave the room.
BlueSkies is an inclusive environment welcoming children of all abilities.
Enrollment of children with special needs is based on the program’s capacity to
effectively meet the needs of all of the children in the classroom.
If a child has an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individual Education
Plan (IEP), the teachers work in partnership with the parents and other
professionals to best address individual goals for the child. Upon enrollment,
teachers and parents will meet to discuss any special accommodations required,
review the IFSP or IEP and make a plan for supporting the child in the program.
Teachers will have regular communication with the parents and other professionals
to monitor progress and continually assess the child’s fit in the program.
Because most children are admitted to BlueSkies prior to birth, special needs may
not have been identified prior to attendance. This is one reason that BlueSkies uses
a formal assessment process at various ages (see page 56) to augment the trained
observations of experienced teachers; BlueSkies sees its role as one of partnership
with parents to ensure that each child receives any specialized support needed for
optimal growth and development. When teachers see a child’s development falling
outside of the typical spectrum, they will request a conference to describe their
concerns and support the parents in locating additional resources for more
sophisticated evaluation and assessment from outside specialists.
Children may enroll at BlueSkies and simultaneously attend a special day class in
the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) for part of the day, arriving on the
OUSD-contracted school bus at mid-day. BlueSkies will work with parents to be
sure that the schedule of arrival will allow the child to eat and sleep on schedule
with his or her group, and will establish a procedure with front office staff to receive
the child and safely escort him into BlueSkies each day. The child’s teacher will
contact the OUSD teacher to attempt to coordinate services and support the child’s
learning goals.
The BlueSkies teaching staff comes from all over the world and has entered the
field of early childhood from many directions. Each program is managed by a
Program Director who holds a B.A. or M.A. degree in Early Childhood, and it is her
job to ensure that all the other staff in the program understands the philosophy and
daily practices that will provide high quality care to the children in every group.
Each classroom also has a Head Teacher; while our goal is for Head Teachers to
have a B.A. degree, not all of them do. At a minimum, Head Teachers have
completed 24 college units in Early Childhood or an A.A. degree. Teachers must
have at least 12 units of Early Childhood, and Assistant Teachers must have 6 units
and be working on earning an additional 6 units. Occasionally BlueSkies will also
have Teacher Aides, Student Teachers, or Student Interns working in the
classrooms, always under the direct supervision of a fully qualified Teacher.
Throughout the school, and particularly in the Infant Toddler Program, BlueSkies
teaching is based on strong relationships between the children and teachers, and
the teachers and parents. Therefore the administration makes every effort to
maintain continuity in the staffing in each classroom. As much as possible,
teachers remain with the same group of children. However, there are inevitable
absences due to illness or vacation, and teachers do occasionally leave BlueSkies.
Every staffing decision is made carefully so that all the classrooms are staffed with
the best team available and the children will continue to find the anchors they need
even when there is a change in staffing. The Program Director and Head Teacher
will let parents know as soon as possible when staffing changes are imminent so
that both parents and children can prepare for the change. See page 23 for more
information about personnel policies.
BlueSkies uses the word “discipline” in its true sense as
learning. The main and most effective strategy teachers use is
careful observation and prevention of problems.
at BlueSkies has five parts, all of which factor in at all ages.
However, teachers of the youngest children rely the most on
prevention and re-direction, as there is no expectation that the
children can actually internalize self-control until they are older.
Yet ultimately, BlueSkies gives each child the support he or she needs
to be fully accountable for his or her behavior and able to manage most social
challenges. As children move into each new classroom, the Head Teacher will
provide insight into the most common discipline situations and how they are
I. Prevention
When children are involved in constructive play at their own level of ability, they
seldom “misbehave.” By helping children who become bored, frustrated, or overstimulated in their play, many behavior problems are avoided. This requires
careful observation by adults and timely, strategic guidance. This is what the
teachers are doing when they appear to “just stand there watching.”
For example: Children who are moving from one activity to another, such as
from story groups to lunch, are sent a few at a time to wash hands and sit at the
table. This careful planning on the teacher’s part prevents the problems that come
when a line of children is pushing to get to the sink, or trying to reach the table
before the others. Play areas are always plentiful; children know that there will
always be room for them to find a place to play, that they will never be asked to
wait beyond their developmental capacity, and that when they choose an activity
they will be given as much time as they want to complete it. In these many ways
the teachers plan a low-stress setting in which the children can feel good about their
ability to manage.
II. Positive Redirection
BlueSkies staff is trained to avoid using the words “no, stop, or don’t.” Instead,
alternate activities are suggested to replace negative behaviors.
For example:
 If a child throws a block, “Here is a ball to throw” or “Let’s see if that block
can stack on top of this one.”
 If a child climbs on the table, “You can climb on the climber” or “Feet need
to stay on the floor.”
 If a child pushes or hits to communicate with another child, “Use your
words to say ‘I’m doing this puzzle by myself;’ it hurts when you hit and I
want the other children to be safe.”
III. Setting Limits
Although prevention and positive redirection are the preferred means of discipline,
there are times when it is necessary to set definite limits for behavior. A teacher
will firmly tell a child “I can’t let you do that”, or if necessary, physically restrain or
remove the child from the area. The goal for the children is always that they learn
self control, so as soon as a child has regained control over his or her own impulses,
s/he may return to the group in a positive way.
For example: A toddler is throwing sand; the teacher first re-directs—she
provides a cup and suggests that the sand go in the cup, then provides a dump truck
and suggests filling the truck with sand. If the child persists in throwing the sand,
creating a dangerous situation, the teacher will say “I’m going to help you find
another place to play now. It’s not safe to throw sand; it can hurt people’s eyes.
Should we find a ball to throw or do you want to climb the stairs?” Gently but
firmly, the child will be removed from the sandbox. Thus the child receives a clear
message that throwing sand will not be allowed, but has not been made to feel
inadequate for being unable to comply with the rule.
In rare situations when an incidence of biting, hitting, scratching, or any threat to a
child’s safety does occur, the rule is immediate adult intervention. The child who is
unable to stop himself is removed quietly from the area. Appropriate first aid is
applied. A child who cannot play successfully near other children will be helped to
play alone, and be coached to develop better social skills. Parents will always be
notified by written report when there has been any injury at the Center, and a copy
of that report will also be put in the child’s permanent record file. Corporal
punishment or shaming are never permitted at BlueSkies.
For example: A four year old walks through a classroom, poking a child at the
art table, pushing over a carefully-constructed block tower, then runs out the door.
The teacher can see that this child is upset and needs help, but the child also needs
to know that bothering people is not a constructive way to express his distress. The
teacher follows the child and brings her back to the classroom, saying “It sure looks
like you’re mad about something today. I saw you poking and pushing and acting
mad, but I can’t let you bother other people like that. Let’s think of something you
can do until you’re ready to be friendly with the other children.” Then the teacher
will choose a solo activity for the child, based on his knowledge of her interests; he
will make sure that the activity fully engages her, for by going deep into play she
will inevitably re-center. As she completes that activity and shows signs of moving
on, the teacher will check in: “Do you feel like you’re ready to play with other
children now or should I help you find another place to play by yourself?” The child
is given this opportunity to accept responsibility for her actions, but also to start
fresh when she is ready. This lesson in caring for oneself is a life lesson; every
person needs to know how to be angry without hurting others, and how to process
and move past anger and re-connect with the world.
Each staff member is required to sign a pledge to report any incidence of observed
or suspected child abuse on the part of other staff or parents. Reporting suspected
child abuse to the proper authorities is required of us by state law.
IV. Working towards Self-Control
The goal for every child is to develop internal self-discipline, able to stop
one’s immature impulses and direct one’s behavior into positive action.
Very young children are simply unable to stop their impulses, so the teacher takes
it upon him or herself to provide external controls and limits for the child. As the
children mature, their years of experience with the teachers’ compassionate support
in providing limits begins to internalize. The infant or young toddler first needs the
teacher’s physical intervention to help stop and re-direct inappropriate behavior. By
the time the child reaches the Nursery School, he or she is beginning to be able to
stop himself if a trusted teacher is nearby to lend him strength. He is also learning
about the consequences of social mistakes; as the child is increasingly interested in
playing successfully with other children, he learns that his behavior will influence
their interest in playing with him. By the time the child enters the cooperative
stage of play that indicates readiness for kindergarten, he is generally able to rely
on his own self-discipline to manage and take responsibility for his own behavior.
This achievement is the foundation for all future success, and thus a key goal for
each child’s development.
V. Intervention and Support
The process of growing and living inevitably includes some stressors. Commonly,
children and families experience the growing pains of a new sibling, death and
illness among loved ones, moving, or times of high stress in parents’ careers. When
parents share information about such events with their children’s teachers, the
teachers are prepared to lend targeted support to the children. Perhaps the four
year old in Section III has a 6 month old sibling who is just starting to really get
into her things; if the parent told the teacher that her daughter had suggested
“sending the baby back” this morning, the teacher might have been able to help the
child explore her feelings about the baby. “I hear that baby is crawling all over now;
is he getting into your stuff? I wonder if you like having a baby playing with your
toys?” Sometimes the teacher can play the role of “understanding friend” and really
help the child feel school is a safe place to express unhappy feelings. Once those
feelings are out, the child can relax and play. Parents should always feel free to
share such information with staff, and know that the staff will use the information
in confidence.
Sometimes a child or family dealing with stress can also benefit from the
intervention of The Link to Children (TLC) program at BlueSkies. Teachers who
feel that a child needs more help than they can provide in the classroom setting
may suggest this option to parents. Parents may also contact TLC directly. For
more information on this program, see page 55 of this handbook.
Parents often express a wish to learn to talk to their children the way that the
teachers at BlueSkies do. Speaking “teacher-ese” is an acquired skill that is based
on a good understanding of appropriate expectations for different levels of
development, as well as some key philosophical perspectives. The following is a
parent primer to share some of the principles of BlueSkies teaching. Parents are
always welcome to observe their child’s classroom and listen to the teachers in
action as well.
Guide to Good Teaching, for Parents
(Adapted from K. R. Baker, The Nursery School, A Human Relationships Laboratory)
The Adult carries the Attitude that:
1. Children do the best they can in any given situation
2. Mistakes are mistakes, and provide an opportunity to learn to do better
3. Compassion and clear information help children overcome mistakes
4. Shaming, bullying, or dismissing the concerns of a child never help the child
grow and do better
In Speech, the Adult:
1. States suggestions or directions in a positive rather than a negative form, saying
what to do rather than what not to do.
2. Gives a choice only when either choice is acceptable.
3. Uses the voice as a teaching tool, expressing reassurance and
4. Never shames or labels behavior in a way which undermines a
child’s self-respect.
5. Avoids encouraging competition or comparing one child to
6. Redirects the child in ways that involve his own interests and
motivate positive play.
7. Makes eye contact and moves close to the child being addressed, being careful to
speak at the right time to tie the speech with the child’s action.
Some examples of positive language and redirection
Instead of these words
Use these words
(and follow through with actions)
Don’t throw the sand
Here’s a truck for the sand
Stop running ahead of me
I’ll hold your hand to keep you safe
Don’t throw your jacket on the floor Where’s the hook to put your jacket on?
Come to dinner now (followed by Wash your hands and then we’ll have dinner.
Did you wash your hands?)
In Actions, the Adult:
1. Avoids making models in art media for children to copy.
2. Gives the child the minimum help needed, in order that he may have a
maximum chance to grow in independence, but is sure to give the help he does
3. Learns to foresee and prevent damage, injuries, and upsets, knowing prevention
is far easier than cleaning up.
4. Clearly defines and consistently maintains limits when they are needed.
In Interactions,
Adults Should:
1. Respect the child.
2. Remember that the children do not understand “hurry”.
3. Squat on the children’s level to talk or listen.
4. Be genuine and friendly; children know when they are being
patronized or an adult is masking true feelings.
Adults Should Not:
1. Discuss a child in front of that child or other children.
2. Make fun of a child or require the child to “perform.”
3. Withhold or threaten to withhold food as a form of discipline.
4. Ask a child to apologize for mistakes. Instead, help the child see
what went wrong and how to manage better the next time.
Remember, teachers are successful because they:
 Are consistent each time in handling children
 Use positive suggestions, keeping “Don’t” and “No” to a minimum.
 Are generous and sincere in giving praise.
 Walk close to a child and get his attention, rather than yelling from
a distance.
 Do not interrupt a child’s activity unnecessarily.
 Avoid laughing at a child’s efforts, or comparing one to another.
 Give the child a choice only when it really is his/her choice.
Children Are:
 Allowed as much freedom as possible.
 Encouraged to do “something else” when attention is wandering.
 Removed from the group, in a positive way, if they are unable to participate.
 Told what to do only when necessary. Young children may need to be shown
how to use the toys and equipment, but then let them play with it.
With this belief structure based on trust in child development, and through these
sensitive and sensible techniques, children at BlueSkies build the most important
foundations they will need for life.
BlueSkies for Children was founded to serve full-time working parents, and this
continues to be its primary population. Therefore the classrooms have been
designed to operate with a professional teaching staff, with no expectation for
parent volunteer hours.
Occasionally a parent does have the time and an area of expertise that is
interesting and appropriate to share with the age groups we serve. Some examples:
 a parent who ran the science program in an elementary school would bring
various animals to visit and discuss what they needed to stay healthy, etc.
 a physician parent brought in a variety of pediatric medical equipment for
the children to handle and discuss.
 an uncle who was a firefighter drove by now and then to show the children
his fire engine.
Generally these enrichment activities are most appropriate for the children in the
Nursery School groups.
Parents who are interested in spending time in their child’s classroom should
discuss ideas with the Head Teacher. Perhaps the parent has a hobby the children
would be interested in – sprouting and potting plants, fixing bicycles, building
birdhouses, or throwing clay pots. The teacher can decide if the subject matter will
be appropriate and how best to share it with the children – often smaller groups
work best, so each child is able to touch and be engaged in concrete ways with the
subject. As with all activities in the school geared to preschool development, the
teachers will want the children to have the choice of engaging or not, approaching
on their own terms, rather than sitting for a “lecture.” Sometimes parents may like
to sit and read a story as they drop off or pick up their child, but they should be
sensitive to the teacher’s plans for the group—though it may look to the casual
observer like the children are “just playing” all the time, the teachers often
orchestrate a subtle flow to the day which can be easily disrupted if the children
spend half an hour sitting hearing stories instead of playing. The important thing
is to check in with the teacher and keep communication open so both the teacher
and parent feel respected.
My mother had a great deal of
trouble with me but I think she
enjoyed it.” - Mark Twain
(The Hedco Center was named for the Hedco Foundation,
which funded most of its construction)
Infants, Wobbly Walkers and Todds
Infant Group—6 weeks to 1 year
Growth will be guided towards these Goals for Infants:
 Ability to trust people
 Regulation of internal schedule--napping, eating, and elimination
 Ability to communicate needs through eye contact and verbalizations
 Development of gross motor (large muscle) control
 Sense of competence and control over environment, to feel that the world
is a good place to live in
 Sense of response to their actions, understanding of “cause and effect”
An infant’s time at BlueSkies is spent in individualized
activities, in a homelike, age-appropriate environment. Beyond
their nurturing needs, sleeping, eating, diapering etc., which is
done on each baby’s own schedule, there are toys, areas to
move in, interesting things to hold and look at, and laps to
sit on.
Following the philosophy of Magda Gerber of Resources for
Infant Educarers (, the baby is given maximum opportunities to move
and learn about his or her own body without being confined to swings, walkers, etc.
When infants are awake and content, they are placed on the rug or mattress where
they can develop their muscles and, as they begin moving, explore their world.
Teachers provide a variety of small toys to explore as well as large equipment which
facilitates efforts to stand, cruise, climb, and walk.
Ratio and Highlights of Development
There is one adult for every 3 babies, which allows highly responsive care for
each infant. For babies to develop trust in their world, they must know that the
adults will be there when they are needed, whether it is to feed them, rock them to
sleep, or share their pleasure when their efforts to accomplish something new are
successful. But it is also important that babies realize they are full of interesting
ideas, so the adults ensure that there are times when the infants are allowed to
follow their own interests within the bounds of safety. The teachers avoid becoming
“entertainers” who keep the babies from developing their own ideas. The young
infants are self-scheduled, but as they grow the teachers help them regulate their
bodies and slowly develop the capacity to wait just a bit for a meal or a nap.
More detailed information is provided in the Infant Transition Packet.
Wobbly Walkers Group—13 to 24 months
Growth will be guided towards these Goals for Wobbly Walkers
 Continue to form trusting, reciprocal relationships with teachers
 Strengthen regulation of internal schedule (napping, eating, elimination)
 Enjoy and exercise newfound muscle control and experience the sensory
 Trust in a responsive environment, feeling that the world is a good place to
 Begin to develop a sense of self as separate from the adult
Younger “Wobblies” begin to shift from their totally
individualized Infant program to more of a group routine,
but with room for variations as needed. Most Wobblies
take only one nap but cribs are available in case a second
nap is needed late in the day. The environment supports
physical ability, with more advanced toys, more space to move in, challenging places
to explore or from which to watch other children. Wobblies begin to sit together for
meals, with snacks or meals offered about every 90 minutes.
Older Wobblies begin to enjoy some activities needing more focus, such as sensory
play, puzzles, etc. With increased physical skill, longer attention span and interest
in problem solving, a new world has opened up, as they experience their budding
autonomy. Wobblies are also learning to trust new adults, master their school
routines, and to listen and remember.
Ratios and Highlights of Development
There are 3 Wobblies to 1 adult. The drive to manage the movement of their bodies
is paramount for one-year-olds, so the environment offers many opportunities for
walking and climbing in the playroom, on the porches, or in the play yard. Most of
the toys for the Wobblies are things to push, pull, drop, or carry around, as the
child’s ability to manage his or her body provides the child with his greatest
satisfactions at this age. “Clinging and following” is a recognized developmental
need, with the children continuing to depend on caring relationships with the adults
in their day. Modeling adult behavior is an important learning tool. As the
children approach the age of two, they will begin exploring the concept of autonomy.
More detailed information is provided in the Wobbly Walker Transition Packet.
Todds Group—24 to 30 Months
Growth will be guided towards these Goals for the Todds
 Autonomy; Trust in self
 Sense of capability and independence
 Trust that it is safe to assert one’s own will
 Extend and deepen engagement in self-directed play
 Learn that language will support developing social interest
Daily schedules include choices of enrichment activities and opportunities to
develop self-help skills all day. The Todds have a chance to re-connect with the
Wobbly Walkers in the early morning and late afternoon. Snacks, lunch, and nap
time are geared to the individual needs of children in this group, gradually shifting
away from pacifiers and bottles towards greater independence and readiness for
toileting and the social play of the nursery school. Play activities which promote
development in these older toddlers are:
 Manipulative toys, (puzzles, sorting/categorizing, sensory materials, painting,
gluing) to help them learn motor control and make things happen;
 Stories and music, which are very special at this age, when there is a rapid
development of vocabulary and abstract thinking;
Ratios and Highlights of Development
There is 1 adult to 4 toddlers. The Todds group is a distinct stage of
development, no longer infants, but not yet pre-schoolers. Around 22 months
toddlers begin to grasp autonomy which brings them into conflict. This coupled
with immature language skills brings many frustrations as they learn about
feelings and work on impulse control. Oppositional behavior is a useful tool for the
child as he seeks to understand his own autonomy, so the teachers set up a program
that keeps the day predictable with very clear rules to guide interaction. Play
situations are structured so they can play near (rather than with) each other as
their interest in peers grows, but their verbal and social skills are still limited.
Dramatic play emerges, and much time is spent acting out the behavior they
observe in their bigger world of school, home and family.
Toddlers are still “physically driven” and need an environment that encourages the
use of their bodies. They learn best by doing. Important concepts are:
 Routines which give some control over their lives and build security.
 Ownership which needs to be firmly established before they are ready to “take
turns” or “share,” and develops understanding of autonomy.
 Self-Help Skills such as washing hands, using eating utensils, hanging up
jackets, etc. Routines are designed so each child can “do it myself!”
 Language which allows the children to express their needs to others
(emphasizing effectiveness over courteous phrasing).
More detailed information is provided in the Todds Transition Packet.
(Named for Ellen Sherwood, mother of Anne Sherwood Copenhagen,
whose legacy funded much of the original Nursery School Building)
Two-and-a-half to Five-Year-Olds
Growth will be guided towards these Goals for all
Nursery School Groups:
 Positive self-concept
 Independence and self-confidence at the
appropriate level of ability
 Ability to understand others and communicate
needs through language
 Good social skills with adults and other children
 Habits of eating, sleeping and hygiene which help
maintain good health
 Normal physical skills and coordination--both large motor and manipulative
 Intellectual growth through play and mental exploration
 Readiness for kindergarten through appropriate cognitive learning experiences
in a regular nursery school program
 Appreciation and enjoyment of music, art, dance, and other forms of creative
Playroom Group—30 to 45 Months
The Playroom daily schedule gives special attention to eating, napping, toileting,
and dressing as the children become more and more capable of independent selfcare. The Playroom classroom is a learning environment which includes dramatic
play, manipulative toys, art, music, blocks, stories, and other enriching materials.
The children’s day includes plenty of outdoor play with their peer group; gross
motor skills continue to be a very important area of growth. The outside spaces—
the covered porch and upper yard, and the lower sand yard—are designed to be an
extension of the classroom with a full variety of quiet and active learning materials
available. Lunch and nap, quiet nurturing times, follow the morning nursery
school. In the Playroom the children begin to serve themselves at meals, learning to
ask for and pass dishes to each other, take one serving at a time, etc. The afternoon
includes time in the bigger central play yard, followed by time in the Playroom with
toys the teachers have selected for quieter and easier play as the energy levels drop
in the late afternoon.
Ratios and Highlights of Development
There is 1 adult to 5 children in the fall and winter of the year, and 1 to 6 as the
children move out of diapers and become more socially adept in late spring and
summer. Children in the Playroom are ready for their first real preschool
experience, entering a social phase of development which only becomes possible
following the achievement of autonomy. The children now begin to understand that
other people have a different perspective, which means that the other children
might want to play following their own ideas. The teachers act as facilitators,
coaching the children as they begin to develop social skills. While the Toddlers were
learning to verbally express their needs, the Playroom children begin learning to
listen to others’ needs as well, and to try to moderate their own behavior in
response. As with the Toddlers, self-help skills are still a major focus for the under
three’s. Toilet training, eating, dressing themselves, etc. are all part of their daily
program; the Playroom is the last classroom with a changing table, and most
children learn to use the toilet while they are in this classroom. This group is
learning language, number concepts, dexterity, socialization, conflict management,
and body coordination.
More detailed information is provided in the
Playroom Transition Packet.
Homeroom And Schoolroom Groups—Three, Four, and Five-Year-Olds
Play is the most appropriate learning medium for children in the
preschool years. The teachers facilitate the children’s play,
guiding it into constructive avenues of problem solving and
divergent thinking. Special attention is given to each child’s
acquired skills, special interests, and learning style in this childcentered program. By allowing children to choose their own
activities, yet challenging them to extend and expand their play,
teachers promote the child’s self-reliance and self-esteem.
“The greatest sign
of success for a
teacher... is to be
able to say, “The
children are now
working as if I did
not exist.”
-Maria Montessori
BlueSkies provides two types of experiences for three, four, and five-year-olds. One
is the Homeroom, designed to have a home-like feeling with dollhouse play and
digging in the garden along with some teacher-directed activities. The other is the
Schoolroom, a classic Nursery School experience in a selfinitiated play room. Children are with their peer groups
from 9 to 3:30 each day. The Four/Five-year-olds are
known as the Schoolroom class, beginning in the
Schoolroom in the morning and the Homeroom in
the afternoon. The Three/Four-year-olds are known
as the Homeroom class, and have the opposite
schedule, spending the morning in the Homeroom
and the afternoon in the Schoolroom. In the early
morning and late afternoon, children are in mixedage groups with younger and older children from the
Nursery School groups together. Children who still need a nap have that
opportunity after lunch, while those who have outgrown naps have a quiet rest on a
mat and then go outside to play.
Activities include block-building, many types of art materials, dancing, cooking,
play with a variety of manipulatives, games, singing, and pretend and
outdoor play. The yards continue to be extended classrooms, with many
types of play available in the fresh air on both the porches and open
Nursery School children have two story times a day. These
group times last for 15 to 25 minutes depending on the age
and attention of the group.
Ratios and Highlights of Development
The Homeroom and Schoolroom generally have 2 teachers for 16-18 children; there
may be a 3rd teacher available in the Fall to help the younger group as needed.
The following skills are emphasized in preschool:
 Physical Development - Large motor skills, through climbing, ball play,
movement exploration, large blocks; and small motor skills, through
manipulative toys, dramatic play, unit blocks.
 Language Development - Socialization and vocabulary building through
dramatic play, stories, and art activities, and timely coaching from
 Intellectual Development - Cognitive and problem solving activities
through puzzles, small blocks, and science projects. Preparation for
kindergarten is an integral part of this program, which also
includes number concepts, and listening and memory
 Social and Emotional Development - The beginning of
cooperation and respect for the feelings of others through
small group play and peaceful conflict resolution.
Opportunities to learn to appreciate differences and to
enjoy the beauty all around us.
More detailed information is provided in the Homeroom Transition
Packet and the Schoolroom Transition Packet.
When children leave BlueSkies for Kindergarten, they will:
1. Be comfortable with and respect themselves.
2. Be comfortable with and respectful of others.
3. Know that the world is full of possibilities.
4. Trust adults to be kind, compassionate and interested in helping them.
5. Care about their world, and the growing things that are part of it.
6. Have a context for learning literacy, math and other cognitive tasks.
The Summer Program
While the Infants and Toddlers thrive in small and cozy program space, with as few
adults involved as possible, the children in the Nursery School are ready for a more
complex world. Indeed, the teachers are committed to being sure that children who
spend 10 hours per day at BlueSkies experience abundant and varied opportunities
for growth so that life will feel rich and interesting every day. One way that
BlueSkies addresses this need is by “creating” summer for children who will
continue to be enrolled all year round.
In addition to making the summer feel different than the rest of the year, the
Summer Program allows children from the Playroom group to take their time
becoming familiar with the Homeroom classroom, gives the Homeroom group a
chance to be the “big kids” helping the Playroom children learn the ropes, and
prepares the Schoolroom group to move on to elementary school. Here is how it
Playroom and Homeroom children form a combined group. Gates are opened so the
children can move freely from space to space using the Playroom and Homeroom
classrooms, porches, and yards. One classroom is set up for extensive dramatic play
with a large playhouse and a rotation of grocery store, laundromat, beauty salon,
shoe store, hospital, restaurant, etc. to provide variety. Cognitive activities, duplos,
puzzles, tinkertoys, stacking and sorting take place on tables outside. The yards
are ready for trikes, digging in mud and relaxing on the garden swing. The
Homeroom porch is the science porch with animal visitors, play tables, magnets,
bubble blowing, etc. One classroom is the art room with easels, play dough and new
projects for added fun. All these changes in the environment require that the
Nursery School classrooms close for a half-day at the beginning of summer, and a
full day at the end, usually the Fridays a week prior to July 4 and Labor Day
The Playroom and Homeroom teachers staff the combined group, so the children
have their “anchors” available while they get to know the other teachers. Gradually,
as the children going to kindergarten leave the program, the Playroom children
move in groups of 3 or 4 to their new lunch and napping areas in the Homeroom.
By the end of summer when the fall programs begin, all the children are settled in
their new spaces and ready to begin a new year in a new classroom. Then the oldest
children in the Todds group move up to form the nucleus of the new Playroom
Children going to kindergarten in the fall form a “Pre-K” group in the Schoolroom.
These spaces are re-formatted to challenge the children to more cooperative play,
and the teachers introduce the concept of working as a classroom group on a single
project. Instead of nap time, the teacher reads chapter books while the children rest
quietly. Thus any pre-kindergarten children who still nap will have a gentle nudge
out of that pattern before entering the busy world of kindergarten and after-care.
Walks And Field Trips
Occasionally, teachers take the children for walks in the gardens around the school
to pick flowers or to collect snails. If there is something exciting happening on the
street near BlueSkies, such as a cement truck delivering concrete, the children may
walk in small groups to observe that from a safe distance. With parents’
permission, the oldest group of children may walk to a nearby park during the
summer before they leave for kindergarten.
BlueSkies does not sponsor any field trips involving car travel or provide any
transportation services for children.
BlueSkies is pleased to host The Link to Children (TLC), a Family Counseling and
Early Intervention program, upstairs in the Hedco Building. TLC counselors are
trained to address the unique issues that come up in families with young children.
The TLC program practices early intervention, identifying challenges in parenting
or a child’s development at an early stage where a short-term intervention can have
a dramatic, positive impact. Parents may refer themselves or their child for
consultation and/or assessment, or teachers may suggest that a parent request
assistance from TLC to shift a child’s unsuccessful behavior in the classroom.
Although the therapist may do some classroom observation of a child at the
teacher’s request, parental permission must be granted before TLC therapists have
any individual contact with a child.
Some areas where TLC commonly assists parents are sibling relationships, divorce,
separation or loss, reconciling conflicting styles of parenting, positive discipline and
limit-setting. Children may engage in play therapy to learn to manage aggressive,
anxious, or fearful behavior, and replace those behaviors with positive social skills.
BlueSkies staff and the TLC therapist meet regularly so that staff concerns can be
included in the therapist’s understanding of the child’s needs, and so the therapist
can suggest classroom strategies to help the child. These discussions are held in
strict confidence, with staff and therapist committed to ensuring the family’s
privacy while also working together on behalf of the
child (see last page of this Handbook for policy on
Confidentiality). Parents interested in contacting TLC
may call 247-2411 or leave a message in the TLC box
in the BlueSkies office. TLC services are provided on
a sliding scale according to parents’ ability to pay.
A licensed Speech Language Pathologist and Early Intervention Specialist is
available to work on-site with children enrolled at BlueSkies. Parents pay the
therapist directly for the service, unless funding is provided through a third party
such as the Regional Center. When children will benefit from intervention to
improve their communication skills, it is extremely convenient for working parents
to have this service available in the normal course of their child’s day at BlueSkies.
With the parent’s permission, the therapist is able to share information with the
teachers about strategies that will help the child in the classroom, and the teachers
can also help the therapist know what the child struggles with in the classroom
setting. Contact information is available in the front office. The speech therapist is
self-employed, and paid directly by parents using her services.
The programs at BlueSkies are built around individualized curricula. The teachers
are constantly monitoring, assessing, and setting goals for individual children and
for the group. When BlueSkies teachers stand back and watch children at play,
they are studying the children’s play for clues to their developmental progress and
challenges which will inform the teacher’s future practice with the children. In
addition, the teachers use some more concrete tools to hone their vision and
enhance their daily practice. We know that all children develop a little differently
and at their own pace, so these tools are interpreted and shared within the context
of a developmental trajectory.
Developmental Checklists
Teachers complete a checklist for each child twice a year. Checklists examine all
domains of development: fine motor, gross motor, language, cognition, self-help,
and social/emotional skills. They are one tool that teachers use to look individually
at each child, get to know the children in their group, set individual goals, and plan
classroom curricula.
In the younger groups checklists are performed at established age markers: 6
months, 9 months, 15 months, 21 months, and 27 months. In the older groups,
checklists are performed in October and in April. In addition to assessing
developmental progress, checklists have a narrative section where teachers record
information about the child’s daily life at school. There is also a place for teachers
to record goals that they are working on with the child.
The developmental checklists are handed out to parents by the teacher who
completed the form. Parents are encouraged to look through the checklist and come
to the teacher with any questions or concerns (either by requesting a conference or a
phone call). If a child’s development falls outside of a typical range for her age, or if
the teacher has some concerns about the child, the checklist is given to parents and
discussed during a parent conference. In the older groups, the Fall checklist is
always accompanied by a parent conference.
The checklists are reviewed at staff meetings so all teachers can be consistent and
support the children’s goals. Copies of completed checklists are kept in the child’s
observation binder. All classroom teachers and directors have access to these
binders with the understanding that their contents are confidential.
Observation Binder
Teachers write informal notes and observations in the observation binder once a
month for each child. These books are kept in the classrooms and are accessible to
all classroom teachers and directors. The binders follow children from time of entry
into the program. Teachers use the observation binder to record anecdotal
information about each child, including information about a child’s transition into
the program and into a new classroom; temperament and personality; major life
events; information about parents as it pertains to the child’s development;
developmental milestones; and any comments, concerns, or observations that might
help future classroom teachers working with this child.
Binders are kept
confidential and are used only by the teaching staff.
Kindergarten Progress Report
During a child’s last year at BlueSkies, the Nursery School teachers write a formal
This report conforms to independent school kindergarten entrance
standards and addresses all of the domains of development as well as how the child
gets along in the group. These reports are shared with parents and, if applicable,
with designated independent schools. Copies of the report are kept in the
observation binder.
Formal, Standardized Assessments
If, based on all of the above information, the teaching team and the parents wish to
have the child formally assessed, the family is referred to the appropriate outside
agency, such as a pediatrician, the Regional Center, the public school district, or
other qualified specialists. BlueSkies maintains a list of therapists and experts in
various domains of child development to help parents locate appropriate outside
resources when they are needed. BlueSkies staff is always available to talk to such
specialists, or to document the teachers’ concerns about the child’s development,
upon written request and consent of the parent.
See also pages 62-64.
Section V
BlueSkies for Parents
The child supplies the power
but the parents have to do the steering.
—Benjamin Spock
BlueSkies readily acknowledges that parents are the child’s primary teachers, and must
be engaged in all programs arranged for the child. Parents should always feel free to
request reports on their child’s progress and consultations with teachers if they wish for
more information than they are receiving.
Families with special needs will receive information about related services or
receive direct help from the staff to connect with appropriate therapeutic programs
(see additional information on pages 38, 40, 55 and 56).
Families who are English Language Learners are welcome to request translated
program materials, and BlueSkies will try to have a translator present at
conferences if families request it.
The Administration plays a supporting role to the Parent Services Committee,
helping to set up parent education classes, support groups, or other services for
parents as needs arise. Parents are often the best support for other parents at
BlueSkies; getting involved in the community creates those connections.
Parents and teachers who work together as a strong, caring team build the highest
quality of support for the child as he or she grows. To do this, both teachers and
parents take care to build good communication habits so the adults who are so
important in the child’s life can be as thoughtful, sensitive, and helpful as possible.
When children begin in the program, it is important for the parents to clearly
understand the program’s goals and what their child’s daily life will be like. It is
just as important for the teachers to know how the child is accustomed to being
cared for and responded to at home. Throughout the years of enrollment, parents
and teachers continue to share information that has bearing on the child’s
experiences, whether the teacher shares that the child is working hard at mastering
a new activity, or trying to include a friend in play, or the parent shares that
grandma has moved into the household, or that an uncle is very ill – all of these
things will affect the child’s moods and behavior, and sharing back and forth
between home and school creates a circle of caring, supportive adults around him.
Teachers at BlueSkies do not expect parents to control their child’s behavior while
they are at work. If a child is making social mistakes, the teachers consider it their
responsibility to work with the child’s behavior in the context of the child’s school
experiences. This may not come up in conversation with parents, unless the teacher
feels the parent can be of assistance in some way. For example, if a toddler is
hitting other children—a totally normal toddler behavior—the teachers will first try
to identify patterns or triggers which lead to the behavior as they also work to
prevent the hitting. The teachers will not feel they need to worry the parent by
mentioning this normal phase in toddler behavior when it is most likely connected
to being in a group of toddlers, and it is not something the parent sees at home or
has any control over. Most of the time, the teachers’ tried and true techniques,
along with normal child development, will help the child channel the behavior in
positive directions. On the other hand, if the behavior persists despite all their best
efforts at identifying the usual causes, and redirecting the child, the teachers may
ask for a parent conference to explore other issues that may be in play. Perhaps in
the conference the parent will mention that an older sibling thinks it’s funny when
the baby hits him—and encourages it!—leading the toddler to make inappropriate
social overtures at school. In that situation, the parent certainly can help create a
family dynamic that gives better feedback to the toddler about acceptable behavior.
The goal of BlueSkies teachers is to build strong, healthy, loving connections
between every parent and child. For the child care center to create undue worry
and stress for parents is unconstructive and counter-productive. Parents should
rest assured that teachers will be open and honest, and share any real concerns
that they have, in a thoughtful and timely manner with parents.
There are a number of ways in which BlueSkies staff communicates with parents
about their children’s needs and progress, including:
Daily – Verbal Interactions and Written Charts
Pick up and drop off can be hectic, but staff are always happy to answer brief
questions about a child’s day or progress on a specific goal. In addition, each
classroom has a chart or communication book in which teachers and parents can
both record and read new information about each child.
Parent-Teacher Conferences
Whenever a child is ready to move to an older group, a conference
will be requested so parents and teachers can share information
about the child’s developmental progress. In the Playroom and Homeroom these
conferences are all held over the course of two days, during which those two
classrooms are closed (see annual calendar). Most other conferences take place
between 12 noon and 2 pm, as these are the best hours for Head Teachers to be
away from their classrooms, but occasionally a conference can be arranged in the
early morning or late afternoon. In addition to the annual conferences, parents may
request a parent-teacher conference or a developmental report on their child at any
other time. The Parent Conference Request form (sample in back pocket) is in the
office. Teachers will also request a conference at any time that they have particular
concerns about a child’s development or needs.
Needs and Service Plans
The Needs and Service Plan is a form where parents may report their insights to
the child’s development and needs, and document their preferences for care while
the child is at BlueSkies. This form is initially completed upon enrollment by the
parent and Head Teacher together; it is updated at least quarterly in the infant and
toddler groups to reflect changes in eating, allergies, toileting, etc., and annually in
the Nursery School groups. The parents may ask the Head Teacher to record
changes to this document at any time; the Head Teacher will be sure that it is
reviewed at the appropriate minimum intervals.
Developmental Assessments
At certain ages, or twice a year in the older groups, the Head Teacher will give
parents a developmental report (see page 56 for more). In each group, the Head
Teacher can tell parents when to expect these reports. The purpose of the report is
to give a brief assessment of the child’s development, from the perspective of
standard expectations for the age and the teacher’s observations of the child in the
context of the group at school. The parent is always free to request a conference to
discuss the assessment even if the teacher does not see a need to do so.
Monthly Newsletter
The BlueSkies Banner is published each month; the deadline for submissions is
around the 28th of the month and it generally appears in the first week of the
following month. As much as possible, news of interest to parents is collected
together in that publication. Look for it in the office each month to stay informed
about what is happening at BlueSkies; an e-link is always sent out to the listserv as
well. Parent submissions to the Banner are always welcome, though they may be
edited for space or legal reasons.
Constant Contact Listserv
When parents complete their enrollment paperwork, any
email addresses provided will be signed up to receive email
from BlueSkies via Constant Contact. If after several weeks
you have not received email from BlueSkies, check your spam
filter to see if it is coming through. If there is nothing in the
filter, check with the Office Manager.
If you do not wish to subscribe, please be sure to tell the Office
Manager so she will provide paper reminders of important
news. BlueSkies uses Constant Contact in lieu of most paper communication, to
alert parents to information about the school calendar and dates closed, parent
committee meetings and events, and all other school-wide communication.
Class Lists
In addition to the school-wide email communication, the Room Parent for each class
may use email to plan gatherings for the class. Any parent may request a copy of
the class email list from the Office Manager as well.
Annual Parent Survey
In May or June of each year the Board of Directors urges parents to complete the
annual Parent Survey, providing valuable input about the family’s experiences at
BlueSkies. The quest for continuous improvement in the programs and services of
BlueSkies are highly dependent on receiving such information.
Following are descriptions of some of the annual events that take place at
 House Meetings: The Hedco Infant Toddler Program and the Ellen Sherwood
Nursery School each hold a House Meeting in the fall to discuss the
philosophy and practices of the program. The agenda for the meeting may
vary from year to year, but generally consists of 3 parts: 1) a social
component, allowing parents to meet each other, 2) a lecture component,
when the Program Director speaks about the goals of the program for the
children, and 3) a classroom component, when the meeting breaks into
classroom groups and each Head Teacher discusses the particular goals and
practices of his/her classroom and answers specific parent questions. Free
child care can be reserved for about 20 children, and a light dinner is
provided to children (who can eat pizza) and parents.
 Staff Appreciation Dinner: This is a very crowded and wonderful annual
tribute to the staff of BlueSkies, usually held from 6 - 8 pm at BlueSkies on
the first Friday of June. It is organized by the Parent Services Committee.
All staff and their families are invited to attend as guests, so the Committee
asks the parents to contribute to a potluck dinner and also buys
supplementary food. The Committee organizes a short program and small
tokens for the staff. Children, parents, and staff attend and congregate in
the yards as they eat and socialize.
 Parent Education Evenings: The Parent Services Committee generally
organizes 3-5 evening seminars per year, reflecting the interests of the
parents with topics ranging from “getting babies to sleep” to “media
influences on children” to “setting up guardianship for your child.” Speakers
may be from outside or inside BlueSkies. The meetings are held at BlueSkies
from 6-8 pm. Child care and a light dinner are available for a small charge.
 Parent Committee Meetings: Parent Services, Parent Fundraising, and the
Parent Building Committees generally hold meetings right after the school
closes at 6 pm to organize their activities and events. Watch for signs on the
doors announcing upcoming meetings; child care and a light dinner are
provided without charge. If you usually pick up your child at 6 pm and are
coming to a parent meeting, you may feel that it is easier on your child not to
see you for the 5 minutes between pickup time and meeting - please be sure
your child’s teacher knows that your child should just be transferred to the
evening child care room and that can be managed. However, if your child
normally is picked up at 3:30 or 5 pm you must still pick him up and then
bring him back for the meeting unless you have had extra hours approved in
advance. Most evening meetings include pizza for the children to eat and the
option of watching an innocuous video; if your child does not eat pizza please
provide an alternative dinner for her.
 Parent Workdays: Several Saturdays per year, primarily in the non-rainy
months, the Parent Building Committee holds a workday. All parents are
invited to attend, and free child care may be reserved.
Auction: Every spring (generally late April-early May) brings the major
fundraising event of the Parent Fundraising Committee—but the BlueSkies
Auction is unlike any other. While the typical fundraising auction is a fancy
evening event for adults, the BlueSkies Auction is a family affair. It is held
at nearby Redwood Day School, where there is a large play space for the older
children to play while their parents bid. The first hour or so is a silent
auction, and the last hour is a live auction featuring a one-of-a-kind craft
item created by each class group.
The Parent Services Committee (PSC) was formed by the parents to foster
communication and to make a constructive contribution to the parent support
systems of BlueSkies. Its meetings are open to all parents, and new ideas are
always welcome! Meeting times and dates are announced in the office, as well as
announcements and sign-up sheets for any events planned.
Parent Services plays three major roles – Parent Education, Social
Events, and Staff Appreciation. The committee plans evening
seminars for parents on various topics of interest – child
development, setting limits, building eating and sleeping
routines, legal issues of parenting, etc. – three to five times
each year. The committee organizes Friday evening summer
potlucks (the June one being the annual Teacher Appreciation
dinner), a summer potluck in the park, and other social events. The committee
organizes small staff appreciation events throughout the year and also works on
supporting other needs of parents, such as through Room Parents, improving
parking, and communication.
Each classroom has a Room Parent who contacts new parents, answers their
questions and helps orient them to the ins and outs of the program. Room Parents
are also a valuable resource for the staff, when they wish to get information to
parents quickly, organize meetings, or need help with special projects. Room
parents also organize social events for the class group, such as a Saturday morning
play date in a park. The Room Parents are organized by the Parent Services
BlueSkies maintains a library of books on various topics of
interest to parents in the front office. There are the usual
books about developmental stages, how children learn,
parenting tips for communication, setting limits and handling
sibling issues, as well as books addressing specific situations
such as single parenting, gay and lesbian families, adoption,
divorce, raising boys, girls, or children in a particular ethnic group, etc. These
books may be checked out for as long as they are needed, though it is considerate to
bring them back before they embed into the home library!
Since its inception, BlueSkies has been shaped by the parents who needed its
services and had ideas about how their needs could best be served. Through the
parents BlueSkies organizes fund-raising events to enable reduced fees for many
families, maintains a beautiful and functional environment for the children and
staff, and provides various educational and support services for families. Parents
find their time investment richly repaid in satisfaction and the pleasures of
friendship with other BlueSkies families.
For over 20 years, BlueSkies parents have sustained a formal participation
requirement of 12 hours per year per parent (24 hours for a 2-parent family). The
requirement is the same regardless of the number of children. The Parent
Participation year follows the Contract Year from September 1 – August 31; the
hours requirement is pro-rated for parents who enroll or leave BlueSkies mid-year.
Parents record hours as they earn them in the binder by the sign-in books. The
Parent Participation Coordinator periodically checks hours noted and reminds
anyone who is falling behind. Parent hours are valued at $20 per hour. Thus a
parent who chooses to “buy out” of the participation requirement is responsible for
$240 ($480 for 2 parents) each year. Gifts to the annual staff bonus, scholarships,
etc. can all be credited to buyout.
Childcare is provided during most evening or weekend meetings and workshops, to
facilitate participation by as many families as possible. [NOTE: “Event” child care
at BlueSkies outside of the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday, is not
licensed by Community Care Licensing. Parents must be present on site when
BlueSkies provides such care.] Dinner may also be provided for parents and
children (check ahead to be sure; while adults can wait to eat if they need to, the
children can’t!). Depending on the event, child care is free or there is a nominal
cost. Sign-up sheets for child care will be in the front office whenever an event is
imminent; if there is a fee the office staff will manage the sign-ups and fee
Parents may serve on committees, either joining them on a regular basis or
“dropping in” to help with specific events or projects. Parents who would like a role
in the guidance and leadership of BlueSkies may contact the Board Development
Committee of the Board of Directors about serving on the Board. The Parent
committees are:
 Building and Grounds Committee: planning and organizing Saturday
maintenance workdays, or coming to the workday and painting, pulling
weeds, moving sand, etc.
 Development/Fundraising Committee: hand-address envelopes, stuff and
stamp mailing, develop new fundraisers, collect funds for staff bonus. For the
Spring Auction, this committee organizes the database, prints up mailings,
follows up donation requests, plans events, sets up/cleans up events.
 Parent Services Committee. Plan parent education events (identify speaker,
organize food, advertise), plan and advertise social gatherings such as
potlucks, organize Staff Appreciation events, serve as Room Parent (welcome
new families and organize social events for one class)
Parents may invent their own jobs when they have a professional expertise of value
to BlueSkies. BlueSkies involves a lot of management: general business,
personnel, facilities all take enormous resources. Parent contributions of expertise
enrich our offerings, contribute to our organizational strength, and stretch our
resources. We encourage parents to suggest new contributions they might make.
Examples include:
 Pediatric physical therapist who evaluates children’s physical development
 Adult physical therapist who works with staff on healthy body mechanics in
their work
 Attorney who advises on contracts and employment issues
 Organization Development specialist who works with the Board of Directors
 Development professional who edits and advises on grant-writing
Sometimes parents help out with one-time events:
 coordinate a t-shirt sale
 greet and manage sign-ins at an event
 coordinate a book sale
 assist with class photos
 take photos at BlueSkies events
 write for the Banner about good places to go with young children, staff
profiles, events at BlueSkies
By its very nature, sharing the care of young children requires sharing a large
amount of confidential information. Especially the very youngest children are
acutely attuned to their parents’ moods and anxieties, and the teacher is best able
to support the children when s/he knows about what may be distressing to them.
Teachers may need to know about upcoming siblings, or marital discord, family
illness, or substance abuse issues in a home, because all such information influences
the child’s daily life experience. The professional staff members at BlueSkies are all
charged with holding such information confidential, as well as assessment and
other developmental information, or the fact that a family accesses TLC services. It
may be discussed at a staff meeting in the context of how to support a child. Upon
the parent’s request, teachers will share their observations and insights with
outside professionals who may be engaged to evaluate a child’s development, but
such information will otherwise be held in confidence. It is also important to
remember, however, that the BlueSkies community is tight-knit, and the children
share information liberally. A parent may know another child sees the TLC
therapist because their child complains “I never get to play upstairs with [the
therapist] like Jimmy!”
Professional and Administrative staff members may all access the child’s
enrollment file which contains his or her health history, emergency information,
and information about Special Needs (IEP, IFSP, specialist’s reports). All of these
staff members are instructed to keep such information confidential. Unless parents
request that their information be excluded from class lists and directories, family
contact information (primarily names and email addresses) will be shared with
other families enrolled in the school.
The Program Directors and Co-Directors are interested in hearing from you
regarding any concerns you may have about the program or your child. They would
like to plan with you to make the program work for you and your child, so
constructive criticism is always welcome. All staff at BlueSkies work hard to create
and maintain a quality program, and expect to be respected and addressed in a
courteous manner no matter what the concern may be. Concerns about the
Children’s Program should be discussed with the Teacher, Program Director or CoDirector at a time when no children are present.
Revised June 2011
©BlueSkies for Children, 2008-11
3021 Brookdale Avenue, Oakland, CA 94602
(510) 261-1076