Reviewed by Wendy
Rosa Parks Elementary School / Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program (JBBP)
You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with: a friendly, centrally-located and diverse public school; small class sizes with lots of adults in the classroom; fully credentialed teachers (no emergency credentials); a full-time librarian; a stunning facility, with light-filled classrooms, ADA accessible school building; a good special education program; exposure to Japanese culture and language; government-supported after-school programs (for low-income families); extra funding and resources through federal and state programs; and an early 7:50 a.m. start time.
The JBBP is a separate program that was established more than 35 years ago, and they recently relocated to this building. You should consider this if you are looking for Japanese language instruction and cultural education on a daily basis, and you are able to volunteer in the classroom.
Web site (for JBBP): http://www.jbbpsf.org/
School tours: Tours are Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. and can be scheduled by calling the school.
Location: 1501 O’Farrell Street, near Webster & Geary, Western Addition / Japantown
Start time: 7:50 a.m.
Dismissal time: 1:50 p.m.
Kindergarten size: General Education, 40 kids (2 classes of 20 students); JPPB, 40 kids (2 classes of 20 students); and Special Education, 20 kids (1 class of 20 students)
Buses: Several routes through the Western Addition, the Mission and Bayshore.
Playground: One for the kindergarteners, one for the older kids. It is blacktop, and there is a climbing structure. There is also a spectacular roof yard, with planters just waiting to receive plants.
Library: The library is spacious, newly remodeled and houses a large collection of books. Natural light pours in from tall windows along one wall. When the JBBP moved in, the two schools merged their collections, creating one huge collection. There is a librarian there 5 days per week. Every class spends at least 1/2 hour in the library every week. They do two book fairs each year, with Scholastic and independent booksellers.
Before- and after-school program: After-school care on site is available through two programs, both for low-income families. Buses run to other programs in the city.
Language: In the JBBP, all children, even the kindergarteners, receive one hour of instruction in Japanese every day. Native speaking sensei teach during this hour. The program is also infused with Japanese culture, with field trips into Japantown, participation in the Cherry Blossom Festival and Japanese holidays and events celebrated by the school. One annual event is a Japanese athletic event called Undokai. Another annual event is Osho Gatsu, the Japanese New Year. The General Education program also benefits from inclusion in these cultural events and field trips.
Highlights: This school may be the next Miraloma. There are many great things about it – a spectacular facility, great teachers, the Japanese exposure, many extra resources and services due to the high percentage (67%) of kids who are on school lunch program.
School community: This is a diverse public school. It is 8% white, 39% black, 15% Latino, and 22% Asian. There are two separate school programs. The old Rosa Parks Elementary school and the JBBP (newly assigned to this location) are trying to grow together and create community.
Facility: The building is old and beautiful, with architectural details rarely seen nowadays. It is spacious and well cared for. The classrooms are large and sunny, and each has a cloakroom area where the kids can hang their coats and put their backpacks in cubbies. There is a roof yard that will be just amazing once the school begins planting its container garden up there.
Academics: The school uses the standard SFUSD curriculum and expects kindergarteners to be reading by the end of the year. In addition, in the JBBP program, the kids are expected to read and write in Japanese by the 4th grade. The JBBP curriculum is enriched with Japanese instruction and culture. The General Education curriculum is enriched by these influences as well, but does not receive language instruction.
Teaching: The teachers seemed competent, and fully engaged with the kids. By and large, the classes were under control and focused on the subject at hand. In the JBBP program, the sensei had the full attention of the children. The children seemed intensely interested in learning Japanese.
The tour began in the office, where an administrator was giving tardy children passes to get into class. She had a casual demeanor and teased the kids gently as they came in. In the classrooms the teachers were cheerful and seemed genuinely happy to be teaching. In one general education kindergarten, the class was working together to identify patterns. In another the teacher was working with the children to identify rhyming words.
All of the classrooms were well cared for, and the teachers have obviously put a lot of time, energy and thought into decorating them. I saw number lines, illustrated alphabets, children’s art and educational posters (some professionally printed and some handmade by the teachers) in each classroom.
The JBBP classrooms, as you would expect, were decorated with Japanese posters and cultural items. In one of the JBBP kindergarten classrooms, I noticed a music area with a piano, a kitchen play area, a book reading area, and a few other centers.
We saw a handful of JBBP classes doing Japanese time. In the kindergartens, there were four adults in each class, if I counted correctly. They have the regular teacher, the Japanese teacher (“sensei”), and two native-speaking parent helpers. The tour leader emphasized that volunteering is very important in the JBBP program, especially during the kindergarten year.
The library is described above. It is newly renovated and the collection of books is large, comprising both English and Japanese books. The librarian also runs the computer program, and there is a separate room used as a computer lab, full of PCs. The kids get computer time in the lab on an as-needed basis. The computer lab is used as a way of differentiating the kids, providing some with additional challenges and support. The school has also gotten a grant that will allow each classroom to have 2 PCs. The JBBP program has developed a computer program to assist the kids in learning Japanese.
The cafeteria is on the first floor, but it is still a sunny and pleasant space. The school has the district hot lunch program; the same one that all the schools in the district have. They are beginning a compost program. They have also gotten a grant to do a school greening program, including a landscape architect who will plan gardens for the school. The school will use the gardens as a basis for developing math and science curriculum.
All of the kindergartens, JBBP, General Education and Special Education, intermingle at recess. However, the kindergarteners play in an area separate from the older kids. The kindergarteners have a play structure, and there were balls and hula hoops available for the kids. This year, a program called Sports for Kids will teach and coach the kids through structured games during recess. In addition, this program will provide P.E. instruction during dedicated P.E. time during class.
One of the nice things about this school is that they have a lot of extra adults on campus. There is a school psychologist two days per week, a learning specialist full time, a resource specialist four days a week and a full-time librarian. There is also a Parent Liaison, who provides parenting and educational resources to parents. This school receives a lot of extra services because the population they serve is traditionally underserved. There are some special art programs, including an art, music and movement program for the K-3 grades. The two after school programs, Excel and Jump Prep, are geared towards kids who need extra support. If your family doesn’t qualify for that, there are busses going to the Boys & Girls Club, the JCC, Little Friends and other programs. There are also other after-school programs, including Academic Chess and Ballet. The ballet program is in cooperation with the San Francisco Ballet, and is in its third year.
The tour guide emphasized that this school had the largest jump in API scores last year of any school in the district--the scores went up 48 points last year!