Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lafayette Elementary

Reviewed by June

*I am already starting to tire of school tours (mainly all the parent questions – wow!), but do find them helpful as I seem to get a definite feeling by meeting the principal and looking around the school. Mathias and I have definitely got a yes or no feeling from each school. I have revised my list somewhat, dropping a few “trophy” schools (including my old school – Sherman) that may not be convenient for us and adding more less talked about schools including New Traditions and Francis Scott Key. I hope to have all tours done before Thanksgiving so it is going to be busy as my list is 11 schools long (4 down 7 to go!!). Anyways here is all about Lafayette:

The Facts

Location: 4545 Anza Street
School hours: 7:50-1:55
Tel: (415)750-8433
Principal: Ruby G. Brown
Web site: www.lafayettedolphins.net
School tours: Principal guided – Wed 8:30, call for Apt.
Grades: K-5
Kindergarten size: 4 classes of 22
Total student body: 513


You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with:

Large diverse school with strong principal, established and active PTA as well as many extras. Lower demand school with less than 70 first choice requests last year. Lafayette is also a magnet school for the deaf and has a full inclusion class.


Campus/Playground

Large building from 1927 with indoor hallways, large windows and high ceilings – no 1970s remodel like other Richmond dist schools. There is a beautiful auditorium with stage on first floor and separate cafeteria on the “basement” floor. The bathrooms were recently redone and the one we went into (just off cafeteria and yard) was HUGE!


Large yard on 36th Ave side of school building with play structure and garden.


After School programs

On Site – Richmond District After-School Cooperative 1st-5th grades. Richmond District YMCA program.


Busses to – JCCSF, Havurah Youth Center, Presidio CDC, and Alamo Elementary


Enrichment Programs – Mandarin afterschool class. Also various afterschool activities from science to art – visit website for full list.


PTA

Lafayette has a very active PTA that produces the school play, organizes volunteers and fundraisers and hosts school events. Look at the website for an idea of the many PTA organized events and programs.


Language program(s):

Mandarin after school program.


Library / Computer Lab

Large library staffed by Pro H funded librarian 3 days a week. Each class gets 45 minutes – one day a week in the library. The librarian has a piano in the library as well that he sometimes plays with the students. Computer lab has been recently re-located and is currently not fully operational – the school is currently looking to hire someone to run the lab. Classes also have a computer in the classroom


Arts

Annual school play produced by the PTA and includes all students. Lafayette parents teach art to grades K-3 through a program funded by the PTA called Art in Action. There are 12 lessons for the school year that use famous masterpieces as teaching tools. Artists in residence program.


Garden/Green Yard

Garden located at back of school yard, watered using rain water collected in large tank.


Homework

20-30 minutes a day for Kindergarten, gradually increasing to 1 hour 15 minutes or 1 hour 30 minutes for 5th graders to prepare them for middle school.


PE

Lafayette is currently hiring a new PE teacher (their beloved teacher just left them after a long tenure and they are currently trying to fill his very big shoes). The PE teacher works with students 35-40 minutes a week (2x a week) and the teachers work with the PE teacher to be able to supplement the other days.


Tour Impressions (I have tried to outline all the details above so I can focus here just on my impressions)

I had a good feeling the minute I walked into Lafayette. It was a purely aesthetic feeling -the older building is charming and large windows and high ceilings give a light and airy feeling to the inside. Art and photos were thoughtfully displayed on large bulletin boards in the halls, with each class displaying their work on their own board. There were also boards with class and teacher information, PTA events etc. It looked exactly like one would expect a school to look like. Mathias was a bit overwhelmed by the size, commenting that it felt more like a middle school, but it did not feel machine like in its size (unlike the feeling I got from Alamo). While we waited for the tour (snacking on the snacks and coffee provided! Thanks Lafayette!) we watched students in groups of two as they brought (presumably) attendance sheets to the office, and others went in class groups down the hall. I was pleased to see that Lafayette was a very diverse school; representing the rainbow of the city we live in.


Their principal of 12 years Ruby Brown charmed me instantly. She was a strong personality, definitely in strict control of the large school she heads. But at the same time she was cheerful and animated. She interacted happily with children, teachers and volunteer parents as we passed them in the halls. She seemed to expect a certain order and manner of behavior from the students, and they knew it. I had to laugh as two students came running around the corner in the hall and the minute they saw Ms. Brown an “oh oh” look flashed over their faces and they slowed to a orderly walk. Not a word said on her part - no voice raised. I know to some parents they may not like this, but for me I think it is necessary in such a large school. And it was not like she was mean, cold or unfriendly, quite the opposite, she felt warm and motherly, but at the same time in complete control. A parent asked her if she was able to get to know most students since it was such a large school, and she said she makes a point to try to get to know all the students, especially those who do not make themselves known to her. I also felt that she was the type of person who would make sure things got done if she wanted them done, whether dealing with her staff or the district.


Our first stop on the tour was the auditorium, and the minute I walked in the familiar smell hit me over the head and took me back to my school auditorium. It was beautiful, with wood on the walls and a big stage where the annual school play and Opera in the schools are held, as well as other events.


After the auditorium we entered one of the kindergarten classrooms via the yard. This had to have been my favorite of all the classrooms, though they were all very nice. It had high ceilings and big windows and a wonderful reading nook with pillows and tons of books. The teacher was young and lively, though she seemed a bit taken aback by the size of our group. The teacher was helping students as needed as they worked on worksheets and there was a class volunteer filling paint pots in the corner.


Besides parent volunteers some classrooms also had senior citizen volunteers through a school wide program. All the kindergarten classes had tons of artwork and academic work on display in their rooms. One had a pet snake (Maddie would LOVE that!) and all had book nooks, though all in different set ups. They all seemed warm and welcoming, full of life yet not over cluttered or full of distractions. The upper grade classrooms were also welcoming and displayed student work. All the teachers seemed friendly and enthusiastic, and the children happy and involved.


We got to see recess in action while we were there too. The lower grades go out together, and then the upper grades. It did seem a bit chaotic, but about what I remember of recess! Get the energy out there, and not in the classroom. I found the small garden tucked in the back of the yard charming, and loved the bench area next to it - no kids were there, but it was a nice quiet spot if a child wanted to sit on their own or in a small group.


Both Mathias and I left with a great feeling about Lafayette. It is a definite on our list, I loved the principal, the teachers I met, the community vibe and the school itself. The fact that it is a 5-minute drive from our place is a definite plus, especially with the early start time.


If you have toured Lafayette and feel I missed something please put it in the comments - I am sure what stands out to some does not to me and vice versa. Also if you have kids there let us all know what you like about your school.

10 comments:

  1. Sounds like the kids respect their principal. That's very important.

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  2. While the school is large, it has a small school feel and a very warm and welcoming community. Even kids that transfer here in the later grades immediately feel included. I can honestly say there is not a bad teacher in any grade and all the extras that are provided both in the classroom and by the PTA make it a well-rounded experience for any child. We are having our Autumn Carnival this Saturday, Oct. 24 from 11-3pm in our courtyard and welcome all to come and check us out!

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  3. My child transferred to Lafayette from a well-known SF private school this year, and we're glad we made the move. His teacher is wonderful and he's thriving and happy!

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  4. Hi 8:39,
    I'm interested to learn more about what prompted you to transfer your child to Lafayette-- was there something in particular about this school that you were drawn to, or the decision was based on wanting to leave private all together? I'm sincerely interested in hearing about your first hand experience with the school and NOT looking to launch another debate about private v. public. Thank you!

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  5. I have a second grader at Lafayette and I am thrilled with the school. We chose this school over private. The school may feel large, but the community feels like a smaller school. My daughter loves her school and is thriving with all of the enrichment offered. I can't say enough about the school and the community! Come check out our carnival on Saturday the 24th!

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  6. The teacher was young and lively but taken aback by our large group.

    Yeah, she was probably wondering how many of these people would be blogging about her later on.

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  7. This write-up expresses almost exactly how we felt last year after visiting Lafayette. We made it our first choice (as regular readers will recall) and our twins are now thriving there.

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  8. We started at Lafayette this year and couldn't be happier! Fabulous principal, hard-working teachers, and great families. The PTA is very active. We feel that our child will get a wonderful elementary education at Lafayette!

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  9. This is all very interesting....only because what works for one family, simply may not work for another. It's all about personal experience, as well as people's personal "lenses" or perspectives if you will; that should be remembered in this very difficult process.
    My comment about Lafayette would only be exactly that-- what works for one may not work for another. And in fact, I know of families who have left for some of the same reasons that some mention about other schools.
    I have heard that it may not be as good as it may seem-- at least to some. I have not heard great things about their special education, the yard, nor about the way that some of the staff speaks to people, but have heard decent things about other aspects about the school community (like active PTA and diverse families) and I hear that some teachers are pretty good (but certainly not all) and that they go on a lot of field trips....
    Sorry, don't mean to be a downer. Again, what works for some, simply may not work for another. Therefore, if your impression is that it would be a great fit for your child and family, then it very well may be.
    On a side note, I also have heard good things about Miraloma, West Portal, Alvarado, Sunset, Fairmount, and Key-- those may work for some.
    Good luck!!

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  10. Very few things are wonderful or amazing right out of the box, schools included, and most people will require a period of adjustment to get the right fit.

    With that in mind, Lafayette is all about access, access, access. If some aspect of school life is not working for your family, you have myriad ways to address it within the school community at Lafayette: teacher conference, principal conference, PTA meetings, online discussion groups, and direct networking with other parents.

    The school, and its *extraordinarily* active PTA, really do make every effort to ensure that each family is included in, and has the opportunity to contribute to, the general stream of communication that a diverse institution relies on to stay relevant and effective.

    Our child entered K there this year. When we had a pressing concern, we found that there actually were channels in place to address it. We never felt stymied by bureaucracy or a lack of support.

    Tip: Incoming parents should take full advantage of the unescorted tours available later in the school year. You have the opportunity to observe each of your child/ren's grade-level instructors in action, and then write a letter requesting placement in the class you think fits best.

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