Applying to Escuela Bilingue Internacional for kindergarten

My husband and I have been eyeing EBI for our 4 year old son - we love the philosophy of raising a “Global Citizen” and him learning Spanish.  He currently is in another language immersion school (that is my native language).  I love his current school because not only is it teaching him my native language, but he is also learning so much about my culture.  My hope was that he could remain in this school until Kindergarten, and I was hoping to apply to EBI for his Kindergarten year.  For some reason or another I (wrongly) assumed he would be able to just get in.

From my understanding, he wouldn’t be able to get into 1st grade at EBI because he would go in with no understanding of Spanish.  The last year he would be able to start would be Kindergarten.  But I also was informed during the virtual tour that the class is smaller and since most of the preschool kids move to Kindergarten, there may be only few openings.  I wanted to see for those that are in EBI, is that your understanding, as well?  I’m a bit saddened to take my son out of his current school so he can do his last year of preschool at EBI to ensure he can get in.

On another note, aside from the number of students, is it difficult to get into? 

Thanks in advance to an anxious mom!

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We were offered admission to EBI but we turned it down. Our child was born right at the grade cut-off but mature and we wanted them to start as a Kindergartner but EBI offered admission into preschool. They shared that there were more slots available for preschool and since our child’s age qualifies for preschool, they wanted us in preschool. We loved the school and if we were offered a spot in K, we would have chosen EBI. our kid’s friends/preschool cohorts who applied all got in as K, which was a major reason for us wanting admission in K. (3 kids applied and all 3 of us were admitted but our child being Sept. born, we were offered a spot in preschool.) My understanding is that they try very hard to build a diverse community and there is a luck factor as well in terms of racial/ethnic background, gender and Spanish fluency.  Of the 3 families, one family had a native Spanish speaking parents with a child who spoke Spanish and 2 families spoke zero Spanish. We are non-white and first generation immigrants and the other family was white but one parent was a first generation immigrant. Admission is competitive in that not everyone who applies gets in.  I went to an international school overseas and EBI reminded me a lot of my old school where over 50 countries were represented. It truly is one of the most diverse schools in the Bay Area, albeit diversity is carefully crafted and economic diversity is lacking compared to most public schools. But that is true for all private schools. Our friends are truly happy with EBI’s curriculum although they are envious of the more natural campus environment of our child’s school. EBI is more diverse than their neighborhood public school.  We are not native Spanish speakers and our child has a tutor who works with them on our native language because we chose regular private school instead of a language immersion school. We know we would have been very happy at EBI but there are many wonderful schools (German, French, Chinese and non-language focused schools all of them seem to offer a foreign language with Spanish being most common). If you are happy with your current preschool, my humble opinion is to stay. Transition to new school is not easy and language immersion is harder in the beginning. But, if your heart is set on EBI and no other school will do, apply for pre-k and apply again if you don’t get in. Good luck!

Hi there, We are also looking at language immersion elementary schools for our son, and have looked at a bunch in East Bay, including EBI. Our son has been doing Spanish immersion since he was about 6 months old, but we are interested in French too, so looked into EB (Ecole Bilingue) and Francophone and TRIS. I’m having a similar issue deciding as you are, and I think that EB gave some excellent advice, though they noted there is no right answer. K is the last year EB can accept kids without prior language experience because it’s too hard for them to do the academics of 1st grade without a foundation—it’s easier for them the earlier you start, and increasingly harder the later you start. So it’s going to be a challenging transition no matter what if they have no previous experience with the language. Based on our thinking for our situation, I might suggest that if you really want your kid to do Spanish, and you have a way to support your native language development at home, you might want to start at EBI at the preschool/TK level so that the transition down the road in K and 1st grade is easier for your kid. Then keep working on your native language at home, and try to stay integrated into your preschool community so your kid is around other speakers of your native language besides just you all at home. Also, if there are summer camps in your native language, you can use that to support your native language if you transition to EBI and Spanish sooner since EBI doesn’t run year round like preschools do. But if you love your preschool, and you’re not 100% on Spanish and/or EBI, you could take a chance with admissions for K at EBI for next year when your kid is 5, and see what happens, and then figure things out at that point based on your options. If you don’t get into EBI for K, there are other options for Spanish language immersion in East Bay other than EBI, including a number of public elementary schools in Berkeley and Oakland. So you could try other options to start Spanish immersion in kindergarten, and assuming you go with Spanish, you are still interested in EBI at that point, keep applying in subsequent years to try to get in. Really, there is no right answer, and it can be challenging to figure out what might work best for your family and situation and the languages you hope to support. Just for reference, the admissions director at EB recommended a great book for figuring out a strategy for developing bilingualism in your kid(s). It is kind of dry, I think a reduction of a textbook, but I found really helpful for thinking about what to do to try to support both languages, and when to start the second one.

Baker, Colin 2014 A Parent’s Guide to Bilingualism, 4th Edition. Multilingualism Matters, Toronto.

We are current parents at EBI, and have found it a great fit for our 2nd grader.  Although she came in already speaking Spanish (from another immersion school), my understanding is that EBI accepts kids with no Spanish in both Kindergarten and 1st grade.  You should double-check this, but I think it's still true.

For those kids that come in with no Spanish, the school really makes a great effort to get them up to speed.  I've seen a number of families in this situation, and it's amazing how fast the kids go from no language to full conversations.  They truly are little language sponges at that age.  The nice thing about EBI is that with the small class size, teachers are able to really spend time with each child and focus on their needs.

I would certainly recommend pursuing EBI for your son.  It's a wonderful, caring environment, that provides not only language skills but also a strong educational foundation.

Our child has attended EBI since PK, she is now in second grade. In K & 1, the entire school day is in Spanish except for one hour of English per day (100% Spanish in PK and TK). Her Spanish is excellent, I am very proud how well she has taken it up, she has surpassed my skills. I took Spanish for ten years in school but it never clicked into full fluency for me. We chose EBI for the Spanish (and Mandarin classes starting 3rd grade!) and are very impressed by the IB curriculum, as well as the loving and diverse community. The application process is competitive but mission-aligned families are always the priority. Kinder is a great time to apply and enroll at EBI; there is always natural attrition from PK to K, so there is usually space for mission-aligned families. We saw quite a few families join the class for Kindergarten for our daughter’s year.

We applied for the EBI pre-k program in winter 2018/spring 2019 for fall 2019 enrollment and got in, but deferred because our son really liked his old pre-school and we felt that his window for language acquisition was still wide open and we could try again a year later, fall 2020. We regret that decision!! He had attended several EBI camps (summer, spring), and he was very at home there, the teachers were all very kind and warm, and he made friends with the other children. We really should have just enrolled him in 2019. And turned out, he sort of out-grew his old pre-school... it was almost like he had expanded his horizon by going to EBI, and then he took a couple of steps back when he was back at his old pre-school. With COVID last year, all of our educational plans went out the window, and we are unable to send him to EBI now, and I lament what could have been a wonderful experience for him. 

I would recommend enrolling your child in some of the EBI camps to see how he does and to get a feel for the school.  

Our son is in his second PreK year at EBI. I just checked and it looks like the K class could probably have 1-2 more students for this school year, so I'm not sure it's full? The one thing to note, though, is that the 4YO PreK class at EBI this year is HUGE (62 students, three classes), so that may put some restrictions on new Kinder admits. Good luck, EBI is a great school.