Location: 250 Foerster Street
School hours: 8:40-2:40PM
Principal: John Simard
School tours: Tuesdays 9-10:30am (more info)
Kindergarten size: 66 - 3 classes of max 22 each
Total student body: 360
After my third school tour (Thomas Edison and Miraloma which I didn't write a tour report on, wanting to focus more on spreading the word about non-trophy schools), the grounds are getting more similar with each other. The school is set in a 1920s building with large windows. It's in a quiet neighborhood with great freeway access. There are many parent volunteers throughout the halls.
What struck me the most from this visit was how much this school seemed to match our family priorities and values. Some of the highlights are:
- A strong science and technology program, both from partnerships such as with UCSF and also through strong parental involvement with tech-focused parents fundraising for laptops and other initiative such as school-wide WIFI
- Super involved PTA. When Sunnyside lost its Title 1 funding several years ago, the parents rallied to fundraise to make up the difference so that no programs were cut. The PTA president self-described them as "not a pushy PTA" - everyone has busy lives and people can contribute in many different ways without being made to feel guilty. The PTA seemingly has provided many things - 2 paid yard monitors, a garden education specialist, safe routes to school funding, arts programs, plus have also squirreled away rainy day funds. Seems pretty impressive to me!
- Diversity. After my vastly different experiences with Thomas Edison (very diverse!) and Miraloma (not so diverse!), Sunnyside seemed like a great mix where my little one could find friends both similar and dis-similar to her.
- It seemed that most classrooms we visited had a student-teacher from nearby City College helping out as an extra pair of hands. This is in addition to any parent volunteers. I'm not sure how common this is for the SFUSD, but surely it can't hurt to have City College a couple of blocks away.
Other things that were important to me included:
- 3 near-site after school programs (YMCA onsite, ExCEL at the nearby Sunnyside playground, and TutorsRU at the nearby St. Finn Bar)
- A philosophy of treating the kids with respect and non-traditional discipline. I think that all the SFUSD schools have adopted restorative practices. I especially loved that K kids are paired with 3rd graders as buddies.
My Personal Questions
- Would I consider putting Sunnyside above Miraloma? Miraloma seemed beautifully-shiny-new-(maybe cliquey?) but Sunnyside had a different sense of authenticity, that perhaps the parents & teachers were willing and open to have a conversation about their issues and then work together to solve them.
- How much does it matter that construction would be going on during my daughter's first grade year? How disruptive will that be? The school has out-grown their space a a couple of 1st grade classrooms are in bungalows. They have funding and architect plans to expand and start construction in Spring 2013.