Public Spanish Immersion Elementary School or Program?

We are moving back to the Bay Area in summer 2020 after a 5-year stint in New York. My almost 6-year old currently attends a dual-language kindergarten (English/Spanish) here. We’d love to continue with a Spanish immersion program once we move and strongly prefer a public school. Any suggestions for school districts that offer a program like this in the elementary grades? We have not yet chosen an area to buy/rent and this will affect our decision. Thanks so much. 

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I think Sylvia Mendez in Berkeley is Spanish immersion, and not zone-based (Berkeley is on a lottery system otherwise). 

Oakland has great options for you to look at, but I guess your challenge could be knowing if they have space for a 1st grade next year. For public start with Melrose Leadership Academy or Manzanita SEED. For private, consider my Escuela Bilingüe Internacional (EBI). My 2 kids go to EBI and have been doing quite well and the community is diverse, progressive and fantastic. Easy to meet families and find like-minded parents who value a bilingual education. Good luck.... EBI mom.

Berkeley has one dual immersion (English-Spanish) elementary school, Sylvia Mendez. Admission is by lottery and it's quite hard to get in as a native English speaking family (about 10% of applicants are admitted). I don't know if that changes at all in grades above kindergarden. Oakland has two dual immersion English-Spanish schools that I'm familiar with--Manzanita Seed and Melrose. Both have been struggling with Oakland Unified budget cuts but both also have active PTAs trying to bridge the funding gaps.


Berkeley Unified, a relatively small district, has one Spanish immersion school at the elementary level, Sylvia Mendez. The program continues into middle school at Longfellow. My kids go to Sylvia Mendez and for the most part we are very happy there. Dedicated teachers and staff, and quality curriculum. The district strives to have a balance of native Spanish speakers, bilingual, and English-only students. In practice, however, it is skewed toward English-only as the demographics of Berkeley are changing and there are fewer recent immigrants coming here. If you are transferring in at 1st grade and your daughter has a solid foundation of Spanish, she might get a spot, but you should know that there is a waiting list at most grade levels.

My only other experience is with San Francisco Unified which has several Spanish immersion programs. I don't know how easy it is to transfer at 1st grade. Our daughter was at Buena Vista Horace Mann for 3 years, and while we had a good experience, it was demographically a very different school. It had a large percentage of low income families, many more kids who knew no English, and many more newcomers. Definitely a more immersive experience for our English-only kids!

Good luck to you on your search. We've been in Berkeley for 2+ years now and have overall been glad we moved. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions.

We’ve heard great things about Washington Elementary’s immersion program located in Point Richmond. It’s a lovely little town, too!

There are a few in Oakland.  Melrose Leadership Academy has been really popular in the past years, so hard to get in to . Manzanita SEED, International Community School, and Greenleaf also have dual immersion programs for spanish.  It's all a lottery but I believe changes are very good to get into one.

Berkeley has Sylvia Menendez, but my understanding is that space is extremely limited there, also lottery based.  changes might be higher if your kid is already spanish-dominant, as I believe they try to balance it.

I know several people whose kids are at Washington elementary in point Richmond and have heard wonderful things about that school as well.

i personally have no experience but have heard many positives.

The school board decided to expand Melrose Leadership Academy in response to its high demand, so it will be a bit easier to get in to compared to previous years. Plus, there is a limited number of students who have the language abilities to start in later grades to fill the spots opened by attrition, so you probably have a good chance at a spot for a first grader, even with late enrollment. (Don't be disheartened if you are initially waitlisted - spots always open at the last minute.) The neighborhood around Melrose Leadership Academy is pretty nice if you are looking for somewhere relatively affordable.