Recommendations for Spanish immersion 1st grade in Berkeley?

Hello all, my family is moving to Berkeley next month (yay!) and we are looking in to schools for our son, who will be in 1st grade next year.  He was in a Spanish immersion for kindergarten, and finding him a Spanish first grade experience is really important to us.  We know Sylvia Mendez is the Berkeley public Spanish option, but we also know it can be tough to get in to, particularly since we will be registering so late.  The registration office unfortunately cannot give us a sense of whether they would have room for him, and we aren't going to be able to enroll until we actually get to Berkeley, which won't be for another month. Thus, we are considering doing a year of Escuela Bilingue Internacional and then trying to get in to Sylvia Mendez.  Does anyone have kids in EBI, particularly at the kinder/1st grade level?  If so, how have you liked EBI?  I am nervous about the potential exclusivity feeling of a private school, and was sad to see the school doesn't appear to have much of a play yard for the kids. Does anyone have experience with both EBI and Sylvia Mendez?  I would love to hear what you think of both, thank you!

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I wouldn't give up on Sylvia Mendez. Enrollment for the kinder class was low last year for obvious reasons and the district does not think those numbers will fully recover this year. So it is quite possible you would get a slot there even with the late registration -- particularly since your child was in immersion last year.

My only experience with EBI was their summer program which my son (a SM student) went to for a week after 2nd grade. It was a lovely program and did not feel exclusive at all, but of course summer can be quite different than regular school year.

Good luck to you!

Our son is starting his second year at EBI in the pre-kinder program. FWIW, he has not complained about the lack of play structures. I would also say, emphatically, that EBI does not have "exclusivity feeling" of a private school-it's very down to earth and I would highly recommend considering this as an option for your son as we have had an exceptional experience with every aspect of the school. 

My understanding is that EBI offers a fair amount of financial assistance to families in order to have a good balance of financial backgrounds.  While there a certainly other options besides EBI, I think it's the most popular one for spanish immersion.

Hi, and welcome to the East Bay! We've lived in Oakland for 9 years and love it here. Our son is at EBI, he just finished kinder and is moving into first grade. He loves his school, teachers and friends. He comes home from school excited and happy. We came for the Spanish immersion (he went to a Spanish preschool), and have become so impressed and happy with the IB curriculum, it has kept our son asking more and more questions, and I feel like he has a deep love for learning.  I understand your worry of the exclusivity, I did not attend private schools, and we stretch ourselves thin to make it work for our son. All of the families I have met are super down to earth, great people, who have a global perspective. For the play yard they do set up a lot of activities for the kids to play outside, I've found my son's imagination has expanded with the games they all come up with for outside play. They also have a very large gym inside. The San Pablo campus for 2nd-8th grades has a lot more outdoor space. I don't have any experience with Sylvia Mendez, but have heard it is also a great school. Best of luck with our decision! I know it's not an easy one. 

My now 8th grader was at EBI K-5th grade.  It was a very positive experience and she’s fluent in Spanish. I have had children in several different independent schools and one of the things I loved about EBI was the parent community and the social justice value.  Some independent schools attract families who believe their child deserves coddling and are entitled to more than other children.  Families choose EBI because of the language not necessarily to get into an Ivy League college or because their child is entitled to special treatment. That being said the children are valued and nurtured and very well educated at EBI too. We didn’t get into Sylvia Mendez which had a different name at the time but I know many families who have been very happy there as well. 

Hi! We have a "rising" second grader who has been at EBI since Pre-K, and a son who just graduated from 8th, after being at EBI since K. It's a great school, and the Spanish is terrific. They have teachers from I don't remember how many Spanish speaking countries but many - and every class has a native Spanish speaking instructor and a fluent English speaker (both) -- so while classes are all in Spanish, kids who are younger and learning, perhaps from an English only home, have lots of support as well - it's a high priority for the students to be comfortable and feel supported. EBI Admin and faculty know that those are necessary conditions for kids to be ready to learn. Re the "Private School" thing, I don't think you'll get that vibe (I'll bet you could schedule a meeting with the head of school and maybe a couple other admin/faculty members to get a sense at that level of the school's culture?). The Admin is very approachable and also highly qualified, and the parent/school community is warm, positive/supportive, and pretty diverse, in multiple ways. Kids wear simple uniforms as an equalizer of sorts (easy for parents too.). With two boys who never stop moving I can say the play area has never felt restrictive -- I totally appreciate your question there, very understandable. Starting at 2nd grade the kids move to the school's San Pablo (in Emeryville) campus that has a slightly different outdoor layout. Last thing: When Covid hit last spring, EBI pivoted on a dime, and was online before we could blink, full time. And in the fall of 2020, they were balancing online school while bringing back the little ones (the pre K kids were back from the beginning), and then the school gradually brought back the other grades, one by one, youngest to oldest, while testing weekly, etc. I think the school had two positive tests (in one class) in Oct? and then nothing after that. None. And everyone had the option of being back full time (not everyone took it, but it was a family level choice), full time from I think Nov 2020 on. (The teachers were rock stars and all outward indications signaled they were fully on board, which in turns suggests they felt supported by the Admin). I know a lot of families were pretty thrilled to be at EBI this last year. Happy to talk or connect you with others if you wish. Warm regards and good luck, and welcome to Berkeley! (from an Oakland neighbor : )  ) Zabrae