Location: 500 Clarendon Avenue, Twin Peaks, map
School hours: 9:25am - 3:25pm
Principal: Mark Barmore
Web site: http://www.clarendonJBBP.org, http://www.secondcommunity.org
School tours: Wednesday at 9:45am, call tour hotline 759-2782 to check specific dates
Kindergarten size: 80 total, mix of GE and JBBP programs varies by year
Total student body: 534
To truly understand Clarendon Alternative Elementary, you have to understand that it is organized as essentially two small schools within one campus. The tour guides and principal all said that it is separate programs, with separate teaching staffs, and separate parent communities with separate fundraising programs (and priorities).
Second Community Program (SCP) AKA General Education is a rich and enriched program with high academic focus, and a number of enrichments including Italian language, art, and science. The program also focuses on attention to the childs social and emotional relationships to their community.
Japanese Bilingual/Bicultural Program (JBBP) is a multicultural education program taught in English but with a strong theme of Japanese language and culture throughout the program.
You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with:a late school start time; a heavily involved parent community (both programs); a program with many enrichment additions (SCP) or a program with a strong language and culture component (JBBP) that includes a strong art strand; a central location.
Campus/PlaygroundClarendon's campus and facilities were nice, not overwhelming, perhaps because the outdoor space is cut up by the shape of the buildings, and also because we did not venture out to the upper yard. There is a separate blacktop area for the younger students (K-1?) that features a nice big play structure. The older kids play in a lower yard that is wrapped around a few buildings and bungalows, and the third upper yard appears to be a spacious blacktop though again, we did not see it.
Before/After School programsThere is an onsite childcare program called Second Community Childcare. Presumably kids from both programs can attend the childcare, which offers before school care (critical for a school with a 9:25 start!) as well as after school care. The fee ranges from $175/month for morning care only to $300 for full coverage on both ends of the school day, with a variety of drop in combinations available. The parents had positive things to say about the childcare, but few specifics about the program.
PTA/PTOThere are two separate parent communities, but both are clearly very active. The SCP program is philosophically based on parent participation at all levels, from classroom help to assistance in planning, and in administration.
Language program(s):Italian language enrichment is taught in all grade levels (to SCP only, not JBBP students) for 90 minutes per week.
Japanese language and culture enrichment (NOT immersion) in JBBP.
Tour impressions This is a very popular school! The parents interested in seeing what a cream of the crop school in SFUSD looks like clearly all showed up for the first tour of the season. There were probably 100 parents crowded into the auditorium. Principal Mark Barmore greeted the tour group. He noted that the origins of Clarendon were based on a co-op model, with its inherent desire and access for heavy parent participation. And we did see parents volunteering in many capacities throughout the school, from creating communications (Wednesday envelopes?) for the students to take home, to helping in the classrooms, to selling homebaked pastries and coffee to grateful, overwhelmed touring parents. Principal Barmore said that the educational philosophy is to educate the whole child, and also that he really feels that though there are two small schools in the one campus, at the same time it feels like a whole school community as well. That being said, the rest of the presentation definitely felt like we were hearing about two very different school experiences.
Second Community Program
One of the parent docents introduced Second Community - meant to signify the relationship to the child's first community, their family. The program has heavy fundraising to the tune of $230,000 per year (SCP only!), to fund a variety of consultants in art, PE, computer skills, Italian language, and music using an Orff method. They also fund field trips and a handful of paraprofessionals, and class size reduction in the 4/5 grades.
The parents touted the diversity of the school population though frankly it didn't strike me as especially diverse (and the school profile showed a relatively low % of free/reduced lunch students). Very few of the tour guides spoke of it but the flyer indicates a project-based learning philosophy as well. (Could have been the madness of 100 touring parents that made it impossible to get as much information about these programs.)
The classrooms we observed had interesting lessons happening. The K students were coloring and their classroom seemed to be a grand pre-school room with a lot of play options and a cooking station (!). The 2nd graders were discussing a story and learning to use and interpret the action, in what seemed to be a very meaningful way.
The art bungalow was impressive in the creativity of the art. The art teacher (whose name I did not catch) has been with Clarendon for 13 years and tries to tie the art she teaches in with exhibits and events happening locally, for example tying a program of self portraits to the Frida Kahlo retrospective. She seemed passionate and enthusiastic about the school. The children in both programs take art classes but the frequency varies (reportedly every week for the SCP and every other week for JBBP, with the explanation that JBBP weaves art into much everyday teaching).
Music is taught twice a week starting with an Orff percussive based music program in the lower grades, leading to the instrumental music classes in the 4th and 5th grades.
The library was another highlight of the school, with a librarian who has been with the school for 25 years. The space was not the most luxe library space we've seen on tours, but the librarian clearly put a lot of thought into innovating on ways to challenge and interest eager and not-so-eager young readers. She raised $20k with an annual book sale last year, and has a reading pajama day, and a birthday book program (the birthday child donates a book and gets their name on a name plate).
The computer lab next door to the library is full of iMacs was in use during our tour with a 1st or 2nd grade class doing KidPix. I didn't get a lot of detail on the computer instruction at Clarendon.
Japanese Bicultural Bilingual Program
The JBBP program is base on a model called FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary School). All of the teachers have Japanese language and cultural backgrounds and teach Japanese to the students 30-45 minutes per day. However, it is not immersive in that the general curriculum is taught in English. Nonetheless, a visit to a 4th grade JBBP class showed students writing and reading sentences in kanji.
The program emphases cultural awareness and teachers weave in Japanese themes in the curriculum where opportunity arises. The JBBP also includes a strong parent participation theme. The parent group for JBBP raises approximately $180,000 per year (goal for this year) which brings the total fundraising for both programs to over $400k. The JBBP funds support Japanese culture and curriculum enrichments, art consultant, PE, music, computer consultant, and class size reduction in the upper grades.
Walking out of Clarendon, I felt the school's high popularity and reputation were well deserved. With a hard working parent community, heavily funded enrichment programs, and a dedicated and loyal staff, this school really feels like a place that will nurture and grow strong, creative children.