Thursday, October 4, 2007

Lakeshore Alternative Elementary

Reviewed by Kate

You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with:
a loving, nurturing environment; a beautiful location (lake views from the campus); an active PTA; a strong reading program that's viewed as one of the district's best; solid test scores; fabulous library (it's nicer than many of the city branches); true diversity; enriching before- and after-school program; late start time; and a motivated, accessible, smart principal.

The Facts
Web site:
School tours: Wednesdays at 10 a.m., no appointment necessary
Location: 220 Middlefield Dr., Outer Sunset, across from Lake Merced, next to Lowell High School
Grades: K–5
Start time: 9:30 a.m.
Kindergarten size: 80 students, four classes of 20 children
Library: Yes! Big and well-stocked with a full-time librarian
Computer lab: Yes, but not staffed
Playground: Separate intimate playground for kindergarteners
Before- and after-school program: Everyday Magic,
Language: Cantonese and Mandarin classes offered before and after school for a fee
Highlights: Weekly motor perception class for K–3 students, P.E. program with nearby Stonestown YMCA for 4–5, resident poet, pen pal program with nearby Commodore Sloat, competitive kick ball and cheerleading squad, students from SFSU and Lowell High School helping in classrooms, PG&E solar energy program

Kate's impressions
Parents and children walking hand-in-hand to school—sound like something you'd expect see in San Francisco? This is what I observed on my tour of Lakeshore Elementary, when I happened to visit on walk-to-school day. The tour started at 10 a.m. and I got there a half-hour early so I watched the kids arrive for the start of school at 9:30 a.m. (I recommend doing this.) The children—and many parents—gathered on the expansive schoolyard and lined up by class. Then the principle came out with a megaphone and greeted everyone. She thanked the children for walking to school, touched on a few upcoming activities, and talked about some naughty kids who were stomping on cartons of milk earlier in the week. I was impressed. It was charming and folksy.

Our tour of the classrooms started in some portables that looked dingy from the outside. But once inside, the rooms were spacious and the walls were covered in children's artwork. The kids were engaged—experimenting with magnets at one table and writing letters at another, sitting in a small reading group or gathered around a teacher who was helping them measure one another. Lots of activity! While the school says the ratio is 20 to one in the kindergarten to third-grade classes, I noticed more than one adult in nearly every classroom—sometimes three. SFSU students and Lowell High School students help out in the classrooms and there were many parents running around as well.

The main playground for the older grades consists of a massive stretch of blacktop with one play structure and a small garden. A special area for kindergarteners is cozy and cheerful with its own little play set and sweet garden area with raised beds overflowing with vegetables (cared for by the children) and flowers. As the kids get older, the teachers bring them across the street for outdoor adventures around Lake Merced.

I loved this school and I definitely think it's a must-visit. For me, the only things keeping it from the top of my list is the lack of an immersion program. But it's also my first public school tour so my priorities could change.


  1. SIGH...We live just blocks away from AFY. Our child's maternal grandmother and great grandmother are both Chinese and speak mostly/only Cantonese. We too would be thrilled beyond words to have our child attend AFY. We really don't care about test scores, etc. It really boils down to the Cantonese immersion program, proximity to home, and whether or not the school looks clean and comfortable. Clearly not a problem for AFY. Maitaining communication between the different generations of our family, not to mention a logistically simplified drop off/pick-up and commmute to a school just down the block, would be fantastic!
    Unfortunately, given that AFY is horribly over-subscribed, we're finding it really hard to get excited. It seems like a pipe dream. How do YOU keep that kind of thinking from wearing you down? We're struggling...

  2. Just a clarification: Lakeshore does not have a full-time librarian. It has a part-time librarian and a dedicated parent--in addition to parent volunteers--who keep it running. My kids, now in middle and high school, had a wonderful experience at Lakeshore. Good luck with the kindergarten search. I think there are many more excellent elementary school choices now than when I was looking (and I looked at 15 schools!).