Please note that my daughter attends The San Francisco School (SFS).
We made the difficult decision to abandon our public school
aspirations after our second disappointing year with the SFUSD
lottery, and managed, somehow, to get accepted into SFS for 1st
grade. I thought I’d share my impressions of our new school with the
You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with:
Community. Resources. Beauty. Warmth. Diversity. SFS is all that
-- mac laptops for middle school students, digital white boards,
organic home-cooked hot lunches, and impressive academics—all in a
friendly, down to earth culture. It’s the best of both worlds. An
apt mission: “Cultivating and celebrating the intellectual,
imaginative and humanitarian promise of each student in a community
that practices mutual respect, embraces diversity, and inspires a
passion for learning.”
Consider SFS if you want a welcoming, spacious green, outdoor garden
and playground with a ‘summer camp’ feel, progressive values, a strong
academic program, a truly diverse student body and staff, and a world
class music program (Orff-Schulwerk method) that is fully integrated
into the academic program. Consider SFS if you want an incredibly
vibrant educational community that has a wealth of enrichment classes,
and strives to model what they hope for their students, as adults.
Consider SFS if you want a school that is preschool through 8th grade.
SFS focuses on teaching its students how to learn, rather than simply
what to learn. The goal is to nurture a love of learning. In
addition, SFS dedicates fulltime staff and a room to its art program.
The art room is full of impressive supplies, but is also neatly
organized. The walls are decorated with vibrant masterpieces, but it
doesn’t stop there. All the school’s classrooms, hallways, library
and office display the children’s artwork. Creativity is nurtured
From preschool on, there is an emphasis on learning through hands-on
projects (even in middle school geometry, students were using
manipulative); curriculum focused on thematic units/project-based
learning (for example kindergartners study apples for several weeks,
making apple pies, singing apple songs, reading apple stories); A
preschool program that is Montessori based goes through Kindergarten.
The elementary program (not Montessori) begins in 1st grade, and goes
through 5th grade. Middle School (6th-8th grades) split again into
two classes of 16 students. New, incoming students enrich the middle
school social life.
Web site: www.sfschool.org
School tours: sign up online for a space. Elementary tours are
Mondays 9am, with preschool tours on Tuesday & Wednesday mornings.
Location: 300 Gaven Street near San Bruno Ave in the Portola neighborhood.
Start time: Elementary 8:30 a.m. – 3pm. Middle School 8:15am, and
Kindergarten size: Kindergarten is part of the Preschool. Each of the
two pre-school/K classes has 37 students with 4 teachers, their own
play yard (that’s two separate yards), and access to outdoor space
most of the day. The kids get to move and play, focus on projects, and
be kids! They also move out of kindergarten reading in most cases.
The two kinder classes join to become one 1st grade class, with 20-22
students, and 2 full-time teachers.
Total student body: 272
Financial aid: 35% of families receive some aid
Playground: two sizable, nicely landscaped play yards for preschool &
kindergarteners. One play yard for elementary and middle school kids,
along side a paved basketball court, picnic tables, and bunny hut.
There is a large “adventure playground” below, that can be accessed by
stairs or long slide. It offers space to explore, build forts, and
play. It is beautifully done, with a gazebo, organic garden, and duck
house. Golf and other extra curricular activities are practiced in
Before- and after-school program: 7:30am – 6pm. You buy “1.5 hour
blocks” of time for a little more than $10. Free playtime on the
yard, with plenty of supervision. You can also purchase affordable
classes (edible art, break-dancing, fencing, academic chess, golf,
Language: Spanish begins in preschool and continues through elementary
school. In middle school there are 3 classes, beginning, intermediate
and advanced. Students are placed depending on their Spanish level,
not by age, so classes are mixed.
Highlights: students have music and P.E. twice a week; art, music, and
drama is regularly integrated into the curriculum; large campus:
building - 22,560 sq. ft.
land - 1.3 Acres; incredible library; lots of field trips, including
overnight camping and a trip to Mexico for middle schoolers; an
organic kitchen provides daily snack with healthy home-cooked hot
lunches for preschool and elementary schools. The San Francisco School
is the most racially diverse independent school in the Bay Area.
Enrichment classes range from sports teams, to instrument classes
beginning in 1st grade, theatre and dance, hapkido, chess, cooking,
etc. SFS really shines here. New classes are offered all the time,
depending on interest. I love the after school program!
There is a school counselor on staff to offer families support. Also,
learning specialists work with teachers inside of the classroom to
support kids, without making a student “stand out.” The learning
specialists have their own resource room near the lovely library.
My first impression of SFS’ physical space was that it reminded me of
summer camp. The natural wood structures, the ever present green
(trees, gardens), and a sign post (hand painted by kids) that told me
which way to the office, or adventure playground, gave me an immediate
We were greeted by friendly, down to earth staff who were open to
answering all our questions (on the tour.) Truly this school strives
for transparency. Perhaps because we applied after the admissions
deadline, we were able to track our chances of getting in here. Other
private schools shut us out after admissions. The SFS' honesty and
transparency was a relief!
SFS has the best of both worlds for our family. It has progressive
values, a diverse student body and staff (families of color, single
parent families, gay/lesbian parent families, economically diverse
families, etc.) right along side a strong academic program. In other
words, these kids get a high class education, without the stuffiness
of some private schools. Plus, The San Francisco School is the most
racially diverse independent school in the Bay Area, an impressive
Culture, community, and diversity are important words at SFS.
Environmentalism (compost bins are part of the recycling and trash
systems); being a good citizen (neighborhood volunteerism is
encouraged, and a walking bus gets families out of their cars on
Thursday mornings); encouraging independence, while advocating for
fellow students; and developing a strong sense of self are important
values. The graduating students get into the best High Schools, and
are often seen as very creative, grounded and organized learners.
Children learn through hands-on projects. In the classroom, I observed
fully engaged kids working collaboratively. The first grade room
splits the class in ½--one group getting the full attention of both
teachers for reading or math (for example) while the other group
attends a specialized Spanish, music, art or PE class. The
individualized attention is impressive. The classroom reads and
writes poetry, has student of the week, and conducts food experiments
in the classroom kitchen.
On the yard I observed children playing, swinging, and organizing
games with various balls and hoops. Amidst the typical joyful chaos
was true cooperation. I have yet to see a discipline issue.
As mentioned earlier, the music program is world class, bringing
visitors from around the globe to both observe and contribute. The
students perform concerts throughout the year and sometimes they play
at venues off campus.
If you’re interested in The San Francisco School, this is what they
are looking for:
They're looking for parents who want to get involved, become a part of
the close knit community, and give time to the school. SFS is looking
for families who fit with the philosophy of the school. They
encourage you to tour, and register your first impressions.
I will leave you with a quote from the SFS website:
The San Francisco School is committed to ethnic and cultural
diversity, with 55% students of color and an inclusive ethos. Family
economic diversity, also an important goal, is achieved through a
moderate tuition, the school’s location in a modest neighborhood, and
a strong indexed tuition program which supports 35% of students on
reduced tuition. Through all of this, the entire SFS community is
committed to creating a school where students and families can live
and learn with confidence and joy.