Reviewed by Kate
You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with: an established Chinese language immersion program; a K–8 program; rigorous academics; high test scores (some of the best in the district); enriching before- and after-school program; late start time; and a smart, motivated principal.
Web site: www.afypa.org
School tours: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m., no appointment necessary
Location: 1541 12th Ave. at Lawton, Inner Sunset
Start time: 9:30 a.m.
Kindergarten size: 60 students, three classes of 20 children
Playground: Expansive blacktop area surrounded by school buildings so it feels safe and secure. It's courtyard-like.
Before- and after-school program: Growth & Learning Opportunities (GLO)
Language: Chinese immersion (instruction primarily in Cantonese K–3 with an increase in English 4–5. By 5th grade children are fluent. Mandarin is introduced in junior high)
Highlights: Ceramics, music, gardening, Chinese cultural events and festivals, 8th graders have opportunity to travel to China, competitive basketball in junior high, energetic P.E. instructor
My first impression: This school is clean, tidy, and organized. The school grounds are immaculate, the classrooms are uncluttered, the organic garden is manicured, the parent tours run seamlessly, the teachers are focused, even the kids seem to walk in straight lines. I was instantly impressed and loved everything about this systematic school. Why? I'm still trying to sort that out but I think it's because everything in my own life is a complete mess. You should see the mounds of paper on my desk at work or open one of the closets in my house (Careful! A bunch of junk will probably fall out on you). My calendar is cluttered with too many appointments, meetings, and activities, and my things to do list is an overwhelming 10 pages long. While walking around this school I felt calm and at ease—I never feel this way. And I think my daughter would do well in this neat environment. She's strangely tidy herself. She folds her clothes, makes her bed, picks up her toys—and gets mad at me when our house is in disarray. She likes structure and routine. She likes to eat the same thing for breakfast and for lunch and for dinner and to go to the same parks and museums. She would feel comfortable here.
The Chinese immersion component to this school is an even more important factor to consider. The entire student body is in the immersion program. Ninety percent of the kindergarten instruction is in Cantonese—with only 10 percent in English. The amount of English increases each year and then Mandarin is introduced in middle school. By fifth grade, most students are fluent in Cantonese and English. What an opportunity? You definitely can't get this experience in Walnut Creek!
I love the immersion aspect and I'm comfortable sending my child to a Chinese school even though my husband I don't speak the language (we're both Caucasian with English as our first language; I also speak French and he speaks Spanish). The kindergarten class was fascinating. The teachers were speaking loudly to their groups of 20 kids, using lots of facial expressions and moving their hands all over the place. They were working hard to keep the kids engaged. The kids were sitting attentively. The children seem to understand a lot of what their teachers were saying but they weren't speaking Chinese. They would respond to their teachers in English. Apparently, most kids don't actually start speaking Chinese until first grade.
I will definitely consider this as a top pick. My only concern is the lack of emphasis on the arts—because my daughter loves to paint and draw and dance and sing. She always tells me she wants to be a ballerina who paints when she grows up—not a businesswoman making serious deals with companies in China. Hmmm...