West County Mandarin for the 2021-22 school year

My husband and I are moving to the East Bay and are interested in a Mandarin immersion elementary school. We have an adopted son who will be entering kindergarten in the fall. 

1) I've read some posts about the budget crisis facing the West Contra Costa School District and would love any perspective on how this has / will impact the school

2) Also, we heard that the school will be moving to El Cerrito in the fall and be meeting in portable buildings. Does anybody have insight into whether this is a long-term plan, or have other thoughts on how this will impact the quality of the education? We're excited about the school but a bit nervous about all the changes afoot. 

3) Has anybody done research into the pros/cons and differences between Shu Ren, Yu Ming, and West County? 


Parent Replies

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I have 2 kids attending West County Mandarin School (WCMS). Here are some answers to your questions:

1) The budget crisis facing WCCUSD is similar to the budget crisis facing all public schools within California. How it affects WCMS will be similar to how the budget cuts affect any other school. At this point, I think all districts are focused on how the pandemic is affecting students in distance learning. There is some additional money that will come from the state to help schools, but it won't be enough to solve the budget issues that the districts face. WCMS has a very committed and close school community that has worked together to fill in gaps in enrichment programming and material/supply "extras" through grant writing and fundraising events. Because of the grants and fundraising, I feel that WCMS offers an extensive array of enrichment activities including art (taught by professional artists in the Mandarin language), music, P.E. (with a dedicated coach that teaches during P.E. class, as well as during recess), dramatic arts, spoken word poetry, social-emotional awareness programs, and more.

2) The school has been so successful and popular that it has outgrown its current site. Currently, it is slated to make a temporary move to El Cerrito to a portable campus. The school district is still working out where the permanent location will be. The permanent site could be anywhere within WCCUSD (El Cerrito to Hercules). This school is young, nimble, and extremely resilient, so I have no doubt that the school will continue to thrive no matter where it lands. The leadership is very strong at this school - the principal is amazing and is very open to listening to parent ideas and input; the teachers collaborate on all their lesson plans (i.e. there are no "bad" teachers); the PTA at this school has one of the highest (if not the highest) parent membership rates. All this to say that I believe what is important about a school isn't just where it's located but the community and learning that happens within the school.

3) We have several families that have attended Shu Ren for preschool and/or kindergarten that are now happy members of the WCMS community. Similar to Shu Ren, WCMS will be an IB (international baccalaureate) school - it is currently in the candidacy stage, but is on track to be approved at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.  In my view, one of the biggest differences about WCMS is the diversity. WCMS is committed to being a diverse school and reserves 50% of its seats for low income/English language learners/foster youth. We are the first school in our district to elect a Race and Equity Teacher Lead, are part of the African American Site Advisory Team, actively implement Restorative Justice practices both to resolve conflicts and to build connections to one another for a stronger school community, and have core school values (that were created by together teachers, students, parents/caregivers, and staff) of equity and inclusion with a specific focus on anti-racism.

I would really encourage you to sign-up for a virtual information session at wcmspta.org/tours and stay until the end to speak with current parents at the school. You can also let the BPN admin know if you'd like to contact me directly. I'm happy to answer any other questions you have about WCMS. Good luck with your school search! I hope you find the best school for your kiddo.