Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Buena Vista Alternative Elementary
Reviewed by Kate
You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with: an established Spanish immersion program; an emphasis on arts (the 5th graders put on an opera with members of the San Francisco Opera); an intimate, loving environment (I observed a teacher giving a hug to a child who was feeling sad); a playground with grass; enriching before- and after-school program; late start time; and a smart, motivated, welcoming principal (on my tour, Larry Alegre actually gave his email and phone number to all the parents).
Web site: www.bvpta.org
School tours: Wednesdays at 10 a.m.
Location: 2641 25th St., at Potrero, Potrero Hill
Start time: 9:30 a.m.
Kindergarten size: 60 students, three classes of 20 children
Playground: There's grass! Adjacent to a city park with a stage, soccer field, skate park, and play structure, which the school frequently uses for activities and assemblies
Library: Yes, with a wonderful new librarian who is bringing in computers and lots of new books. Children visit on a weekly basis.
Technology: Computers in some classrooms, no computer lab, principal is working to improve technology
Before- and after-school program: Yes
Language: Spanish immersion (instruction primarily in Spanish K–1 with a gradual increase in English instruction 2–5. By 5th grade children can read, write, and speak both Spanish and English.)
Highlights: Extraordinary arts program with a full-time arts coordinator; program for parents to teach art in classrooms; ceramics kiln; organized games at recess such as four-square, dodgeball, and basketball; acrosports for K-3; dance program for K–3; classes with SF ballet for 3rd graders; ballroom dancing for 4–5; instrumental music instruction, recorder for 3rd graders and clarinet, flute, violin, trumpet for 4–5; 3rd graders take field trips to the SF Ballet and go on a camping trip in Point Reyes; 5th graders put on opera with members from the SF Opera and attend a week-long camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains
Spanish and art—these are the things this school seems to focus on. The entire student body is in the immersion program. I was impressed by the kindergartners who were already speaking Spanish to their teachers and the first graders who were writing in Spanish in their journals. In kindergarten and first grade, 90 percent of the curriculum is in Spanish and 10 percent in English. In second and third grade, the amount of English increases and in fourth and fifth, it's 50/50. By fifth grade, the children are fluent in both Spanish and English. They can write, read, and speak in both languages.
The school's other emphasis is on the arts. The hallways are pasted with self-portraits, collages, watercolors—and the children were involved in creating the ceramic mosaic on the front of the school (pictured above). There's actually a kiln on site, which all classes can use to fire ceramics projects. The full-time arts coordinator Bob Armstrong spoke to our tour group and he's an artsy, groovy guy who sent both of his children through Buena Vista. He's got the SF Ballet coming in to work with the third graders on a weekly basis, the SF Opera putting on an actual opera with the fifth graders, lots of field trips to arts events, weekly classes with a Mexican folklorico dancer for early grades, ballroom dancing for the fourth and fifth graders ("They're hesitant at first by they get into it," Bob says), and the list goes on and on. Parents even have the opportunity to pull out their paintbrushes and teach art in the classrooms.
This tour confirmed that I want to send my kids to an immersion program. Now, the big question is Spanish or Chinese?