Thursday, October 16, 2014

School Tour: Alvarado

There is nothing much that I can write about Alvarado that is not already written by previous posters here.

Its a solid school with a very involved parenting community. It was one of the first public schools we toured. And I really liked the "school" like building ( compared to some "home" like buildings of private school), bright and cheerful artwork by kids peppered all over the hallways, the outdoor garden, the spacious yard to play during recess. I like the ceramics Arts kiln, the concept of yard coaches to streamline recess and reduce conflicts/bullying.

Kindergartners have separate restrooms attached to their classes and use the yard at specific times when older kids are not around. The play structure in the yard looked big and well maintained.

The principal is new to the school but has a solid record. She met us (parents) in the cafeteria / auditorium for Q & A. She was enthusiastic and enthused about the school.

But a few things that stuck out for us.

1. The PTA raises a little over 400 K /year. Its no surprise given how big the school is.They choose to spend that on money on things like science take home kits, class size reduction, math tutors, PE coaches and art & literacy programs other than school supplies. The PTA  also is heavily involved in a lot of sprucing/cleaning work at the school hand's on. Like painting the cafeteria/auditorium over the weekend; shampooing the Principal's rug etc.

It seemed a bit odd to me that parents were volunteering to do this work instead of spending money on a janitor. I overheard this feedback from couple of other parents who were discussing this as well.

Having said that, the school and the classrooms do look a bit dated and worn with use rather than the well kept interiors of not just private schools but other public schools like Claire Lilienthal or even  Spring Valley.

2. The Kindergarten classroom seemed to be in chaos. The substitute teacher was reading a story while the kindergartners seemed to do their own thing. Some were talking, others walking around yet others doing something else like scribbling. I couldn't help contrast it mentally with the kids at other schools who continued with their task on hand.

I wish we had got to see the actual school teacher in action. Maybe the class tour would have been more realistic.

3. We saw the kids in Spanish Immersion 1st grade. The kids seemed awfully quiet. Not in a way that they were focused on task but just as if they were a quiet bunch.

This coupled with the chaotic K classroom didn't leave a good impression in my mind.

4. I really loved the artists in residence and the studio. Our tour parent volunteer joked that this is where all the "junk" your kids will come home with is made. It offended the artist/teacher but resonated with all preschool parents on the parents who all laughed (probably imagining their kid at the studio and the artistic by products that will come home).

5. The library is being renovated. The kids seemed crammed in the little library and were naturally distracted when our rather large tour group made its way to the library.

Having read so much about it, I wanted to fall in love with Alvarado. When I saw the large group of parent waiting for the tour, it confirmed its popularity. I was let down. That's why I guess touring a school is so important!

 Did you tour Alvarado? How was your experience? What are your thoughts?

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