Live Oak School
Reviewed by Claire
Web site: http://www.liveoaksf.org
School tours: by appointment – 861-8840x220 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: 1555 Mariposa Street
Grades: K - 8
Total Enrollment: 254
Start time: 8:30
Kindergarten size: One class of 22 kids
Library: Small but bright with lots of art on the walls
Tuition: Grades K-5: $21,150; Grades 6-8: $21,600
You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with: Small class sizes, relationships across grade levels, a strong academic foundation with a commitment to supporting different learning styles, teachers who know children across the grades and support them in developing self identity and advocacy, bus service throughout SF, and an involved parent body.
Playground: The have a small play-yard and a small gym with a climbing wall. 1st through 8th graders use Jackson park directly across the street.
After-school program: Extended Care until 6:00pm – contracted rate of $7.00 per hr or drop in at $9.00 per hr. They also offer ”Roots and Branches” a fee based program providing interest-specific classes after school.
Language: Spanish only - French is offered as part of the after school program.
Financial Aid: Tuition Assistance is awarded based on need (calculated through SSS). Families with moderate or high need are encouraged to apply. 25% of families receive aid ranging from 10 to 75%.
We started in the Library – the Admissions Director welcomed us and then the Acting Head spoke for about 10 minutes to give an overarching view of Live Oaks philosophy. We were then split into small groups and parent guides took us around. I appreciated getting a context from the Head before going into the classes.
The guide took us to the Art Room – a big space, full of light and, this being just before Halloween, full of kids carving pumpkins. We then we down the exterior stair case and got a quick peek at the play/lunch space and the gym. Both the space and the gym (which has a climbing wall) are tiny. The guide explained that grades 1-8 go across the street to Jackson Park for recess and PE. We were shown the multipurpose-room which is used for meetings, assemblies, performances, etc.
Then we saw the kindergarten room. It was sweet – a little loft play area, a guinea pig, lots of colors and inviting things to do around the room. It looked cheery and organized. The teacher was sporting a giant “NO” on his forehead and the guide explained that today was “N” day – the kids had done a guided writing project making sentences with lots of words beginning with N. Kids were in small groups around the room working on different tasks. There was a parent volunteer at one table, the assistant teacher at another and the teacher was floating between two other groups. The room was busy and happy.
We peeked in at 1st grade during a transition time, the teacher explained that some kids were doing independent exploration. We were shown the individual reading boxes – the teacher helps each child choose 3 books for the box – 1 that is easy, 1 that is just right and 1 that will be a challenge to read independently.
We looked in on an empty 2nd grade class and the guide mentioned that homework starts in this grade. The room was equipped with a smart board.
We moved on to the middle floor and found looked at the 5th grade room. The 5th graders are the “leaders of the lower school” and have the privilege of the first overnight trip w/out parents (to the Marin Headlands.) Their room had a more academic feel – lots of writing, not as much art.
There are 2 learning specialists, they are divided between upper and lower school. Upper school utilizes the specialists less for individual attending and more as a way of assisting the teacher by taking small groups.
4th grade takes the first overnight trip to Ft. Ross. They participate in a historical recreation, going so far as to make costumes and being assigned roles.
3rd grader curriculum focuses on the theme of personal responsibility – the kids had done a graph of their personal strengths and weaknesses and were then encouraged to look at their classmates graph to identify peers who could help them improve or needed a hand.
We visited the music room and heard the 2nd graders singing. The lower school has music 2 times per week and they focus on vocals and percussion instruments. The Upper school has music 1 time per week and they focus on vocals and studying various genres.
We saw a middle school Science class and a middle school math class. The math class was working independently checking their answers – they teacher was asking them to look over their work and identify their “Ah ha” moment. On the wall were photos documenting an 8th grade project measuring the slope of the sidewalk outside the school.
We visited a 7th grade humanities class – the kids were listening attentively as a boy gave his opinion about the book they were all reading. I was interested in the sign on the wall which read “What does learning look like?” and radiated out with: Independent Reading; Writing; Group Projects; Journal; Class Discussion; Blog: Presentation; Drama. The guide explained that many upper school classes have a blog where students who might feel shy about speaking up in class can have a forum.
We visited a Spanish Class – Spanish is the only language offered during the school day. 4th graders take it 2x per week, 5th graders, 3x per wk and in middle school (6 to 8) kids take it 3 or 4 days depending on which section they are enrolled in. Spanish is the only class that is divided into separate classes for the advanced level.
The docent told us that the 8th graders take a trip to Washington DC and raise funds by selling pizza on Mondays. The school offers a hot lunch on Wednesday and there is an optional (and extra cost) bag lunch program available.
We returned to the Library and three 8th grade students came to answer questions. They were composed and very open when answering questions. I couldn’t help but consider my son standing up there in 9 years and it was pretty adorable.
The kids talked about what they liked best (the small classes and the interaction between kids and teachers) and what the didn’t (short lunch period -- it’s 40 minutes, with a 5 minute passing period on either side and the lack of French as a language option.)
This was one of the best tours I’ve been on. The Head and guides did an excellent job describing what is important to the school philosophically. I especially liked what the head had to say about Live Oak’s emphasis on knowing the children well and intentionally giving them a safe environment in which to take risks and grow.
The children are grouped into K to 8 mixed age groups called “Groves” and they meet monthly to build social emotional relationships around various activities and community service efforts. Many of the rooms had posters about class expectations and behaviors that the students themselves wrote or contributed to. This felt like a school where the children really were encouraged to participate and feel ownership.