Friday, March 13, 2009

SFUSD announces the opening of a new Cantonese dual immersion school

This just in from SFUSD:

Due to the high demand for the Chinese immersion programs presently offered, SFUSD is opening a Cantonese dual language immersion program to be located at 1351 Haight Street, site of the former DeAvila Elementary School.

The school will open in August 2009 with three Kindergarten and two 1st grade classes and will increase by one grade each year until it has a full K-5 program.

The goal of this dual immersion program is to provide students the opportunity to become fully bilingual and biliterate in Cantonese and English. In upper grades, students will begin the
study of Mandarin. The program is designed for students who are English speakers, Cantonese speakers or bilingual.

Informational meeting about the new school: Monday, March 23, 6:30 p.m. at Grattan Elementary School, 165 Grattan Street. This meeting is open to all families who have been offered an assignment and to families who may be interested in more information. The meeting will include options for the post-Round 1 process, including wait pool information and appeals.


  1. i do not understand why they offer families an assignment. this is similar to how they added a new jbbp kinder class at clarendon last year and offered it to those who didn't get in.

    many, many of us choose our school list based on what we think is feasible by looking at the numbers. we are worried about not being offered a school at all. so, now, those who were brave enough to list over-subscribed Alice Fong Yu and West Portal CN will get "offered" placement. others of us may have wanted CN but were worrried about listing such over-subscribed schools (and may have gone for Mandarin programs of other GE programs instead).

    i think they should have a NEW and SEPARATE lottery when a new school or new class is open after Round 1. any one interested should have equal chance.

    i listed Clarendon JBBP last year in Round 1 but didn't it. I went "safe" for my Round 2 waitlist choice based on the numbers and didn't WL Clarendon JBBP. Then, they opened a new class. Of course, we weren't considered.

  2. Too bad it isn't Mandarin.

    We totally would have signed up for Mandarin if it didn't mean trekking across the city (we're in the Haight!)

  3. All good points, and I can see why stuff this doesn't seem fair. Still, it's great that SFUSD is expanding their options, and with a popular language program. They are doing pretty well, by my lights, given that they are trying to place 14,000 students and without adequate resources in the central office (truly). Sometimes you catch a break.

    I would think it would be worthwhile to attend the info session if you are interested in this, and waitlist and/or round 2.

  4. true. i think that many people choose AFY and WP CN because they like the entire school - not just cantonese. a brand new program at de avila might be a harder sell - esp on haight street (though that is the back of the school).

    i think ccsf is still having classes there while the john adams campus is being renovated. so my guess is that there would be adult students onsite too for a semester or a year?

    the site seems to need some repairs too. hum... we are at daniel webster and that school needs a lot of work. let me tell you, it happens s-l-o-w-l-y.

  5. First off my bias is absolutely toward Mandarin, that is my dream for my children. So I was extremely disappointed to hear the district has chosen to expand the capacity of Cantonese in the district rather than growing the fledgling Mandarin program.

    I was at the meeting today and there was some fuzzy explanation from the district: "1000 families wanted Chinese". However I do think that the rationale for adding a Cantonese program over Mandarin, or even another language, is pretty poor. Of course there is excessive demand for well established, mature programs like AFY and West Portal, plus the Cantonese bilingual programs. In comparison, the Mandarin programs are 2 and 3 years old, and I imagine there are families who would like Mandarin but did not list either one for a few reasons:

    - distance from the northern reaches of the city
    - limited program size (1 class/cohort per year) at JOES
    - placement of these programs at turnaround schools with declining enrollment

    I totally understand why the district places programs like Mandarin at schools with excess capacity i.e. the JOES and SKs. However then to look at the demand for programs that are in remote turnaround schools compared to demand for mature programs is just so shortsighted.

    And of course, Mandarin is not only growing in SF and the US, it is the language of China, Taiwan, Singapore etc.

  6. Don't we have enough language schools with Asian languages (mandarin, cantonese, Korean, Japanese). What about trying another corner of the world. What about one of the European languages? What about Arabic, Hebrew or Russian? If we really want to educate a globally well rounded population of San Franciscans, shouldn't we give our children a little more variety?

  7. The district has a lot, say that again, a lot of Cantonese bilingual programs.

    It makes sense to offer slots to the kids who may be going into this program, and in effect, get the 50/50 ratio that is considered effective for an immersion program.

    The District is not seeing that demand at all from the Mandarin native speakers.

    The District gets ELL money I believe, which is extra, if you have ELL students in the program, so that would probably help offset some of the start up costs for the program.

  8. there are mandarin native speakers, just fewer. there are also many mandarin-speaking chinese professionals here with children in GE programs. they tend to stay only a few years and want to have their children focus on english.

    I know many younger southern chinese who speak both mandarin and cantonese (i believe they are young enough to have been schooled in mandarin). i think the demand is several years out for them.

    my guess is that many of the chinese children at SK and JO are adopted or have asian-american parents who don't speak chinese fluently. the newcoming mandarin speaking families will be hesitant to try a school like SK - just my guess.

  9. btw - i work with cantonese speaking chinese who hands down tell me to have my kids learn mandarin and not cantonese. mandarin immersion in the western part of the city would be packed with cantonese-speaking families.

  10. Yes, but those Cantonese speaking families would still probably not mind sending their kids to learn both Cantonese and Mandarin. If you do not speak Cantonese at all, I'm sure they would tell you to just go for the Mandarin.

    That being said, looking at the demand sheet and seeing how many Cantonese Bilingual programs are listed with how few first choice and overall requests for these programs, it makes one wonder... why is the district even keeping open so many of these programs? Hopefully, the seats get filled by reshuffling the high demand from Ulloa (seems that there are several CB programs that are oversubscribed). Couldn't the District work on converting more of these programs to immersion instead of opening a school for Can. immersion?

    Another interesting school -- not sure what is going on with Bessie Carmichael -- the Spanish Bilingual and Filipino Bilingual --the Sp Bi has 9 first choice/22 total for a class of 22, and the Fil Bi has 6 first choice/13 total for class of 22.

    Is anyone on the Board looking at the open seats vs actual demand for these programs?

    Thought we had a shortage of space and money and resources. The school can't seriously be having K teacher for a half size class for another year in a row? (Similar low demand for prior years). Bessie Carmichael is housed in a beautiful new building (around 5 years old) and sure hope they do not have half filled classrooms when other schools are busting at the seams.

    Presumably, the open spaces in the Sp bi must go to other Sp bi kids from elsewhere but what about the Fil. Bi.?

  11. Well, it will be interesting to see if DeAvila fills up and what it attracts next year in terms of apps. If it is popular, then the decision will be justified, regardless of how people here feel about it. I can imagine lots of families wanting the heritage language from Hong Kong plus a transition to Mandarin, which the district says will be a part of it. Chinese American families are the largest group in the district, after all, and most of those families still do have that Cantonese tradition even if things are changing. There's a lot more of Cantonese spoken around here than French, that's for sure. Though a French program would be nice--not arguing against it--it would be harder to implement immediately, esp as a dual immersion program.

    I believe the John Adams folks are heading back to John Adams over the summer, so there shouldn't be adults working at DeAvila. The playground does need work though.

  12. Starr King and Jose Ortega have trouble attracting Mandarin speakers for reasons that have nothing to do with the relative merits of Mandarin vs. CAntonese:
    They are start-up programs in under-performing schools, and the more established of the two is clear across town from any Mandarin-speaking enclaves.

    You cannot look at the lack of native speakers in those programs and assume there would be the same lack at DeAvila. Plus, its central location would probably attract more English-speaking families, too, who are not up to the trek to JO or SK.

  13. They should have given that site to Creative Arts Charter School.

  14. I showed the flyer for the new school to my DH, who is Chinese American and Cantonese-speaking and who also works with the Chinese community here in town a fair bit. I explained about the comments here and he laughed and asked if it's mostly white people. I told him I don't know but probably. He says it will be a very popular school in the Chinese community. It will fill right up. Then people will see how great the test scores are and the popularity will extend beyond those who want the heritage language, i.e., to include white folks. You know, like AFY. So it's a good strategy.

    The Chinese American community is the largest and most loyal group of "customers" in SFUSD, so this is really not surprising nor is it a wrong move.

  15. I could not agree with 11:59am more. The chinese community has been SFUSD's biggest customer - and the school as a Cantonese school will fill up fast and will probably have very good test scores... I am white by the way - with a chinese husband.... not sure if they should go mandarin, as that seems possibly a riskier proposition... i think they could introduce both languages....

  16. The DeAvila site is huge. I can easily see two small schools co-using the site happily. I hope this is what the SFUSD has in mind. Knowing the SFUSD however they most likely have no real long range plan in place for the site.
    As someone mentioned the playgrounds do need work. The facility however is quite gorgeous with tons of potential.

  17. I've been posting about De Avila on the "Round 1" post above, but felt I should mention here as well my experiences with De Avila four years ago when my son started K there. It was horrible! The school could not keep the hallways safe -- and parents started pulling their kids out in droves. We were just newbie parents of a kindergartener, but we were horrified about what was happening. Eventually, SFUSD closed the school and transferred the remaining students out. I'm guessing that the Cantonese immersion aspect of this new school will prevent a repeat, but I think new parents should go to SFUSD armed with what really happened four years ago and make sure that SFUSD is really committed to preventing a repeat of that disaster.

  18. WHy can't De Avila just be a regular school. Grattan and McKinley turn away neighborhood children, we are bursting at the seems in the Haight and now we get an immersion school. Well ain't that just grand. Where was the community input???

  19. Another little known fact about DeAvila is that it was a former home of the JBBP (which is now at Rosa Parks). There were two very distinct and different communities of kids then; the JBBP program and the GE. Unfortunately it was the GE program that was out of control.

    The commitment required to attend an immersion program for six years attracts different families than those in a GE strand. Those families willing to commit will tend to be more interested and involved, which ultimately helps drive the success of the school.
    Seems like a positive that the school could get a fresh start with a whole new community, without pre-existing influences and prejudices.

  20. I'm with you, 9:25 AM.

    -a sad and frustrated CACS parent

  21. The GE stand at De Avila included children with learning differences, as I recall. I don't think you can compare the past to the present. It is a shame though that they are not making it a general ed school. Will the middle schools be able to accommodate all these immersion educated children with continued immersion programs in middle school. It seems doubtful. I do wonder what kind of community process there was? Does anyone know??????

  22. I think there was no community input whatsoever.

  23. So the SFUSD is just going about business as usual then, lots of thinking in advance, consulting with parents, the community etc.... And what about the new enrollment process that is supposed to be unveiled at some point soon. How will that work with immersion schools. I roll my eyes.

  24. 8:20pm -

    i heard that clarendon jbbp was moving to de avila. that is what those parents were hoping too. i am sure they are disappointed as well.

    lots of things happen without warning with sfusd.

  25. 8:53-

    Yes, I know this from experience and I am sure Clarendon folks are disappointed, too. Our school's location has been shuffled around many many times in the past few years without much warning.

    (from 8:20 anon)

  26. I remember the big deal when they closed De Avila a few years back, at the same time they closed John Swett. Did the unified close down De Avila as a way to "deal" with the apparent problems that have been mentioned. So the school has had immersion for awhile, and also general education too? Why couldn't they do that at De Avila too. Immersion does seem popular, but also general ed. It won't make much of a difference to all those families that are hurting right now, but why not make it a dual program. It has worked at Clarendon and Rosa Parks - right?

  27. Believe it or not, a few years ago enrollment in SFUSD was declining so rapidly that there were too many schools and the district was losing money. Several were closed after an acrimonious decision-making process by the School Board. Most of those closed had serious systemic problems. As I recall, over 50% of the classes at DeAvila were special day classes for children with learning differences. That's not a great situation and it wasn't serving those children well either.

  28. I saw that they are planning to open this school with two first grade classes as well as the kindergarten ones. Does anybody know where the first grade kids will come from? - do they have to be in a CI program now or be Cantonese speakers?

  29. We are 0/7 on our list & have been given a spot at De Avila. I'm curious & cautiously optimistic. Truthfully I had somewhat ruled out the CI programs as potentially being too difficult (Sat school to keep up) if a child doesn't have aptitude. Comments from parents of English-only children who started CI would be welcome.

    We will be attending the March 23rd info session & are eager to meet other parents who are considering this as well. If this is the vision for this thread, that would be great. Hearing from parents who started at a school from the ground up would also be helpful - esp strategies to avoid repeating pitfalls.

    To 7:38pm "The school could not keep the hallways safe -- and parents started pulling their kids out in droves." Do you know why? Was it a specific neighborhood/ facility issue, the GE aspect,..? If we decide to go this route, what should be asking the SFUSD for to ensure safety?

  30. 1:30, English speakers are allowed into immersion programs in the first grade as well as kinder. Guessing they will draw from CB programs and offer spots to English speakers who applied to AFY and WP last year? Might be a good option to ask about for families that sought immersion last year without success and are still interested for first grade.

  31. Safety at this site in the past--it was ALL about the population. Lots of emotional/special needs kids. It will be entirely different with a CI program populated by families that are committed to being there. Totally, totally, just entirely different. It's always good to have historical information, but I really would not worry about this one.

  32. we got de avila, but how do you find out which schools have empty spaces for round two and waitlist?

  33. H - you need to go to EPC.

    3:09 - i listed WP and SK last year and was not offered a place at de avila. this year, for first grade, i listed only mandarin programs because i knew i had no hopes of WP or AFY. also not offered a spot.

    i believe only those offered spots for kinder or first grade were people who listed WP or AFY (not mandarin programs) this round 1. let me know if i am wrong anyone.

  34. So Jennifer, you can waitlist for the 1st grade at De Avila right?

    That would give you both the Cantonese and Mandarin (later years).

  35. "Similar to the Alice Fong Yu model, we are also considering introducing Mandarin in the mid-elementary years,” Pon said.

    What does this mean? I thought AFY introduced Mandarin in MS. Is De Avila going to be K-8? Or are they going to introduce Mandarin in 4th grade... 5th grade? And how will that work? (When will they squeeze in in?) Cantonese uses traditional characters, right? (Is that correct?) So... the reading and writing would be the same as traditional Mandarin (what my kids have been learning at CAIS... although my older child is also learning simplified now), but at SK and Ortega (and China), they are using simplified. (Is simplified taught at AFY when they start Mandarin?) If this is not K-8, will the De Avila immersion students have the opportunity for classes offering the appropriate levels of both Cantonese and Mandarin in MS? (I would assume they wouldn't be as advanced in Mandarin as SK and Ortega kids entering MS.)

  36. My husband and I are very excited by the opportunity to be a part of a new Chinese Immersion school. We have applied to SFUSD for K for two years and have gone 0 for 7 both times. But this time, there is a silver lining, an opportunity to provide our children with an education that includes immersion. We'd prefer Mandarin, but are also open to Cantonese, since AFY was on our list two years in a row. There is a meeting for other de Avila assigned families who are interested in making this work, prior to the 3/23 district meeting. To find more information check out the blog.

  37. 10:54 -

    yeah, i can waitlist. i will go to the meeting and see what they say.

    i always wanted my kids to learn chinese but they are in spanish immersion right now and love it. big decision. (argh.)

  38. ok, good luck with whatever you decide then.

    if they learn Spanish first, they can always learn Chinese will be easier for them.