Childcare & Schooling
This section offers information on childcare and schooling. Children under age 5 are not eligible for public schools. The various childcare options for children under age 5 are described and resources for locating childcare are provided. For school-age children, there is information regarding registering children for school and links to area school systems. For specific information about schooling refer to the links to the left.
For Younger Children
Office of Work/Life Resources
Affiliates Family Resource Handbook published by the Office of Work/Life Resources is available to all faculty, staff, and students upon request. Call 617-495-4100 in the mornings form 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. The Office of Work/Life connects scholars and students with Harvard and community resources, and provides general information about choosing the type of child-care and educational options for children. The Graduate Student Assistance Program offers resources for doctoral level students only.
The Harvard Medical Center Office of Work and Family in the Longwood medical area provides information and referrals on childcare and parenting resources (including public school issues and elder care), as well as lunch time presentations geared to the concerns of parents. The office is located at 164 Longwood Avenue, Room 308, Boston, (617) 432-1615. It is open Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. by appointment only.
For School Aged Children
Each city or town has its own public schools for children aged 4 or 5 to 18. By law, these schools are free for those who live in the community. As long as you live in a community, that city or town is obliged to enroll your child in its school system, regardless of your nationality, the timing of your arrival, or the length of your stay. The school year normally begins in early September (sometime during the week after Labor Day) and continues through the third week in June. You must contact your local school department to inquire about its enrollment procedure. In general, to register a child in school, parents should bring proof of the child's age (either a birth certificate or passport), current immunization records, and proof of local residency.
In Cambridge, new families should contact the Family Resource Center located at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, Two Felton Street, Cambridge MA 02138, (617) 349-6550. Cambridge public schools require completion of a Certificate of Address form with a parent signature authorized by a notary public. The HIO has copies of this form and can direct you to a notary public. Click here for detailed information on enrollment in Cambridge elementary schools.
If your child lacks the immunizations required for school enrollment and you are a Cambridge resident, you may make an appointment at one of the Cambridge Neighborhood Health Clinics. The HIO has a list of these clinics and a map showing their locations. In other cities and towns school officials will usually direct you to local health facilities to get the required immunizations.
Private and Parochial Schools
There are many private primary and secondary schools in the Boston/Cambridge area. Applications are usually submitted in the winter preceding fall enrollment, but spaces may be available at any given time. Tuition may range from $5,000 to $15,000 per year. Parents must arrange for transportation to and from school. Parochial schools are private schools with a religious affiliation. There are several within a reasonable distance of the Harvard community. Please consult the HIO flyer entitled Private Schools; Private Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Boston Area for a list of some area private and parochial schools.
Community and After-School Programs
These programs are available in many public school districts at reasonable costs. They allow children to remain at their schools for an extended period of time after the regular school closing time. Various planned and supervised activities are offered along with snacks. Parents must usually provide transportation from the after-school program to their homes. Inquire at the School Department of your community about these programs.
Nursery schools are generally for children ages two years and nine months to five years old and the programs take place in the mornings for three hours. However, many variations exist among individual schools. Some offer programs for younger children; some offer two, three, or five-day enrollment options; some offer extended afternoon schedules. Fees vary accordingly. Some co-operative nursery schools involve parents in their day-to-day operations and therefore are somewhat less expensive. All schools are licensed by the State and must meet building and health codes in the area where they are located.
Part-time or occasional child care is usually found through referrals. Some suggestions for finding baby sitters are: join a cooperative baby sitting pool in your housing area; check bulletin boards at the HIO and other campus locations or post your notice on these boards; inquire about referrals from colleagues and department staff; call the Harvard Student Employment Office (617-495-2585), which maintains a list of students willing to baby sit and accept your notice for a baby sitter or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) the Career Resources Office (617-349-8550) at Lesley University in Cambridge to post a baby sitting job. If you are not successful with these sources, you may try a private agency such as Parents in a Pinch. Agencies are listed in the Yellow Pages local phone book or online at Yellow Pages. Agencies will generally charge much higher fees. In all cases, be sure to ask the baby sitter for references and previous experience with children.
Boston Area School Information
After you have found housing in the Boston area, you may wish to have your children attend a nearby public school. Each community has several elementary schools and one or more high schools. You should call the general information number listed here for your town and ask for information. Generally, to register your children for school go directly to the individual school. If you live in Cambridge go to the Parent Information Center at 459 Broadway. If you live in Boston, go to the Parent Information Center in that district.
Registration procedures differ slightly from public school to public school, but in general you should take the following items with you to registration. For more information call your individual school.
- Identification: a birth certificate or passport
- Health records: These should include a record of all immunizations. Here is the link to the state of Massachusetts' immunization requirements for students: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/cdc/immunization/guidelines-ma-school-requirements.pdf
- Address verification: This may come in the form of a bill or bank statement addressed to you at your current address.
- Previous school records: Any records you have from your child's previous school will help in placing your child correctly. If your child will be in kindergarten, he or she will be placed by age. Most schools require that kindergarten students be 5 years old either by August 31 or December 31 of the school year. Contact your individual school for details.
Please note that some daycare programs for before and after school are privately run. All public school systems offer English Language learner's program (a.k.a. English as a second language) which may help your child adjust to a new language. Ask if an English Language learners' program is available in the specific school where your child is assigned.
Cambridge Public Schools
The Cambridge public elementary school enrollment policy is not based on the geographic location of where you live in Cambridge. It is designed to achieve a diversity of children in each school balancing economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Families must therefore indicate at least three choices of elementary schools when registering their children. Children will be accepted at a chosen school provided that space is available. Elementary schools serve children from kindergarten through grade 5, the Upper Schools serve children from grade 6 through grade 8. There is only one high school serving children from grade 9 through grade 12. As soon as possible after locating housing in Cambridge, we suggest that families obtain a school information packet from the Family Resource Center (FRC) at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, First Floor, FRC Entrance, 459 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138. Office hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. (except for holidays) Tel: 617-349-6551, Fax: 617-349-6552, Email the FRC. You can now pre-register on line but you will still need to come in to the FRC with the required documents to complete the registration process. There is also information for families relocating from outside the U.S.
It is important to note that before most families arrive at Harvard several Cambridge school registration periods have already passed. Therefore, spaces in some grade levels of some schools may already be filled. Specific information about various programs, school assignments should be directed to the FRC.