Spanish Immersion K-12 Schools

Parent Q&A

Recommendations for Spanish immersion 1st grade in Berkeley? Jul 2, 2021 (6 responses below)
Bilingual Spanish Preschool-5th grade - which public school? Mar 2, 2021 (8 responses below)
Public Spanish Immersion Elementary School or Program? Dec 4, 2019 (8 responses below)
Dual language Spanish Oakland schools? Nov 12, 2017 (1 responses below)
  • 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!

    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.

  • We are searching for where we can live in the Bay Area, or anywhere in NorCal, where we can guarantee our Spanish-speaking child can go to a great Spanish language immersion program for preschool and/or Kinder to 5th grade. We know there is a Spanish immersion elementary school in Berkeley and one in Oakland, but just living close by is not enough. Surely, in California, this exists? Thank you!

    I'm sure they must be out there, but the only K-8 Spanish immersion pathway that I personally know of that's pretty much guaranteed is Davis.  That said, if you keep up your child's level of fluency even if you don't get a K spot initially in OUSD, BUSD, SFUSD, etc. you eventually would likely be able to get a spot in the class due to attrition-- it's always harder for language immersion programs to replace students who leave/move.

    Oakland Unified has seven elementary schools with dual immersion (Spanish-English) programs. Middle-class families have flocked to Melrose Leadership Academy in recent years and many people seem to think that is the only program in the district, but that is incorrect (10-15 years ago middle-class families flocked to Manzanita SEED). More information and a full list of schools is here - If you listed only schools with dual immersion programs on your Options form you would definitely get into one of them (and several are wonderful but chronically underenrolled programs). San Leandro Unified also has a dual immersion (Spanish-English) program at Washington Elementary. None of these schools have "good" scores on Greatschools because they don't have great test scores (partly because test scores typically lag for dual-immersion students and partly because they enroll a high proportion of low-income students and test scores are always correlated with socio-economic status). That doesn't mean that they are not amazing school communities providing quality education - and they are absolutely worth exploring.

    Also interested in the same thing :)  EBI is great but would prefer a public option.

  • 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. 

    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.

  • Dual language Spanish Oakland schools?

    (1 reply)

    We're researching TK level Spanish Immersion/dual language schools for our 4 year old. Any ideas? We've identified several in OUSD but we're looking for more choices. What about private schools?

    Our three year old just started at Escuela Bilingue Internacional, an independent PreK-8 school in Oakland (PK-1) and Emeryville (2-8)  The school was founded in 2006, and has had two graduating eighth grade classes.  We highly recommend it for the International Baccalaureate program and loving environment.  Application deadline for fall 2018 fast approaching!  

  • I've just arrived in the area and am interested in learning about public Spanish immersion/dual-language in the area elementary schools. Our family is bilingual and we're interested to know about folks' experience with these public options for dual-language- how they operate, admission, performance, school culture (specifically if there are actually Latino children in the schools, a mix of learners and native Spanish speakers), and overall satisfaction. Where do kids go for MS or HS when they finish?

    Thanks for any insights!

    Check out Melrose Leadership Academy, in Oakland near Mills College. It is a dual immersion k-8 school with a good reputation academically and as far as the Community goes.

    I don't have first hand experience but have heard good things about Melrose Leadership Academy and Manzanita Community School. 

    Welcome! Berkeley's public elementary two-way immersion school is at LeConte in south Berkeley. My child attends and the following is my understanding of the aims and policies, though I may be off on the official line. They aim for 50% Spanish-dominant population and in practice I believe get 1/3 Spanish-dominant, 1/3 bilingual, 1/3 Spanish-naieve/English-dominant. At a glance, the school appears to be roughly half Latino (including biracial). BUSD uses a lottery for all their elementary schools. Any Berkeley resident can apply to LeConte. Because they aim to get 50% Spanish-dominant, it is harder to get in if your child does not speak Spanish. If you claim Spanish language on the application, your child will be tested. While I once heard that bilingual children end up filling in the 50% Spanish dominant slots (because it's hard to fill those), it seems like you may only get preference if your child is actually stronger in Spanish than English. But that may not be true. LeConte offers 30 min of language lab 4 days a week for language learners to focus on their weaker language at their level--this seems to be a very good program. The two-way immersion works. My child was Spanish-naieve and speaks, reads, and writes well in both languages after 3 years (English spelling is rough, though!). Kids speak English on the playground but I think the aftercare teachers speak in Spanish. I know a mother who speaks Spanish at home and has sent 4 children through BUSD's two-way immersion program. She says her children are very strong in both languages and she is very happy with the program. Students can attend Longfellow Middle school to continue the immersion. (But FYI the immersion is 90% in K, gradually reducing to ~50% by 5th, and middle school is <50% Spanish, I believe.) I've heard Berkeley High has lots of great classes for advanced Spanish speakers. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Spanish Immersion In Berkeley and Oakland

Sept 2013

Hello I am a mother of a 4 year old and a 2 year old and we are looking for quality dual immersion schools for spanish speaking families. I have heard of a few but a lot of the reviews are old. We speak spanish at home and would like to find a great bilingual school for our family. I also would appreciate any advice on application processes. Thank you, Megan

You didn't say whether you were looking for preschool for right now, or looking ahead toward kindergarten. For preschool, I'd recommend any of the several Kidsland home-based daycare/preschools (mostly located in S. Berkeley, but also w/locations in San Leandro).

If you are looking ahead toward kindergarten plus, Oakland Unified School District offers dual-immersion Spanish/English in several of its public schools, including Melrose Leadership Academy, Manzanita Seed, Community United, Global Family School, and Esperanza Elementary. I chose Esperanza for my son this year, and have been impressed thus far w/the level of caring & commitment amongst the teachers, admin, and after school staff. All of the Spanish language arts teachers are native speakers. There are some of the usual public school issues (class sizes larger than ideal in some grades, for instance), but for an Oakland public school, I'd say they make a dedicated contribution to the community. Parent who switched from private to public

(Editor Note: Several responses were recieved for Escuela Bilingue Internacional - see that page for reviews.)

Spanish Immersion after 5th grade

Dec 2011

My daughter has been attending the Spanish immersion program in a Berkeley Public School. Does anybody know if there is a Spanish Immersion middle school in the Bay Area? I would love for her to continue her education in Spanish, but I don't think any of the Berkeley Middle Schools offer the immersion program, or am I wrong? wanting to keep it up!

I believe Longfellow is the Berkeley middle school where the continuing Spanish immersion kids go, but I could be wrong. In Contra Costa, Portola is the feeder for our Spanish immersion kids but their program is in its infancy, just started this year. anon

The only Spanish Immersion Middle School that I know of is Escuela Bilingue Internacional (EBI) in Emeryville. Currently the school is Pk-5th grade but the plans are for the school to go up to 8th grade. Next year they add 6th grade and are currently accepting Middle School applications.

This is our 5th year at EBI and we plan to stay through middle school. EBI is getting accredited as an International Baccalaureate Organization school, which means that the curriculum is Inquiry based. Students are taught to think critically, to develop their analytical and experimental skills, to take responsibility for their learning and consider how it affects the world around them and to be better global citizens. You should take a tour and check out their new facility. Happy EBI parent

You should check out Escuela Bilingue Internacional (EBI)! It's an amazing bilingual English-Spanish immersion K-8 school in Oakland and Emeryville. My child began this year and we've been very impressed with the quality of teaching and the organization of the school. In addition to language immersion, the schools offers an IB curriculum as well as a strong arts program. We also love the friendly and open community of families who deeply care about the school. You can check out the website and contact Liza Sanchez, the Admissions Director at 510.653.3324. There's also an upcoming Middle School Info Session on January 10th. Good luck! Anonymous

Spanish immersion continues at Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley. You will need to fill out a new Middle School application and preference form, like you did when your child entered Kindergarten. Choose Longfellow's Spanish Immersion when you fill that out. Berkeley mom of 3

My child is younger, but attends Escuela Bilingue Internacional , a private Spanish/English school with campuses in Oakland and Emeryville. They will be adding a middle school next year in Emeryville, as they have been adding a grade per year. The school is only a few years old and they add a grade each year as the older students ''age in'' to the next grade level. It is a wonderful school, I can't say enough positive things about how great it has been for our daughter. We adopted our child from Latin America and wanted her to have some contact with her birth country's language and culture. EBI is an international baccalaureate school, all the classroom teachers are native Spanish speakers and bring their culture and language to the school. It is a warm, supportive staff and community of diverse families. Happy mom

Longfellow Middle School continues the Spanish immersion program through 8th grade. My son is a 7th grader and he loves it at Longfellow. He is challenged academically and has made great friends through the sports teams. My 5th grade daughter will start there next year. Longfellow is a dynamic caring place. The teachers and administration are responsive and talented. The parent community is involved. I highly recommend that you check it out. Cherene, Longfellow PTA President

There is a BUSD Middle School continuation of the Dual Immersion Program at Longfellow Middle School . We are currently in our 9th year and have successfully continued the bilingual development of Berkeley Unified Students from all three TWI elementary schools and the Thousand Oaks Bilingual Program. Our program runs from 6th through 8th grade, and then we help place our graduates in advanced Spanish classes at Berkeley High School. You are welcome to visit Longfellow and the Dual Immersion classrooms anytime. Longfellow Teacher Mary Patterson

I would suggest that you look at Escuela Bilingue Internacional (website: It is a private Spanish immersion school, and it goes up to 6th grade (ultimately it will go up to 8th grade). I think you'll be be very impressed with the rigorous academics, the talented staff, and especially the warmth and diversity of the families that attend. The curriculum is called International Baccalaureate (IB)and has a global community focus. They have financial aid available too! Happy parent of bilingual kid

From what I understand, kids/families who want to continue in TWI through middle school all attend Longfellow Middle School . All 3 TWI elementary programs feed into Longfellow, which has a TWI track alongside their regular program. Our oldest is only in 3rd grade (in a TWI class), but from what I hear, Longfellow is supposed to have a great program. TWI Mom

Longfellow Middle School has a well-respected dual emersion spanish-english program, although some students there are in the english only program. If you know some families with older kids in the dual emersion program, you should speak with those families about their middle school choice. The longfellow community is small and close and supportive with good teachers. The campus is safe with a big yard and a great auditorium. Sports, music and other programs are offered. They probably have an open house coming up at some point that you can check out. My student did not go,through that program, but has friends who did and those kids are great. Another BUSD parent

In Oakland, we have Melrose Leadership Academy , a public two-way immersion school that is building a k-8. Right now I have a son in 2nd grade and every year a grade will be added until 8th.

Spanish immersion school with strong art program

April 2010

We currently live in SF and are moving to the East Bay. Our son currently attends a Spanish immersion preschool that is arts focused, which he loves. We are looking at elementary schools in Berkeley with Spanish immersion programs and a strong arts curriculum. I toured Cragmont and was impressed with its arts program. I also toured Escuela Bilingue in Oakland and, while the Spanish Immersion seemed great, the arts seemed limited, especially in the upper grades. Can anyone speak to either of these schools or other schools that would be worth looking into? Thank you! hoping to move

My child is at Escuela Bilingue International (pre-K), so take my comments, especially about the upper grades, with as much salt as necessary. He's my second, much younger, kid, so I've seen my share of schools. What strikes me most about EBI is the thoughtfulness of the administration and community in creating the curriculum and deciding how things will be done. There's an amazing flexibility and creativity in finding the best situation for each child. There is a very sincere commitment that I see in action to enable students to direct their education. You really see classes shift direction based on the ideas and interests of the kids, individually and collectively. In some ways, this is more meaningful in the upper grades, but I see it as well even in the PK. It takes a special kind of a teacher to start a day with a certain plan in mind and integrate changes in direction at the drop of a hat, but I've watched it.

Which is to say two things about arts -- if a kid's interested in art, I know that they would get a tremendous amount of support in integrating that into many aspects of his education. And, I suspect that as the school continues to expand, arts will be strengthened. I continue to see the school fine-tune and strengthen various parts of the program (this year hiring a gym teacher who is really amazing). I'm not sure that I perceive EBI as particularly weak on the arts -- there's currently a display of children's interpretations of great artists' works.

One last thought for you -- I had a fairly specific list that I used when looking for a school for my older son, based on his pre-school experience and his interests. He's in an arts magnet school which he loves. It's a great school. But, he's lost interest in art. Not because of the school. He just grew and changed. I don't regret it exactly, but if I had to do it again I would look for the overall school that seemed to support students well, with a much less specific list.

One last thing about EBI -- it's a very international community (not surprisingly) which is very fun and, I think, broadening. EBI parent

Wanted to provide some feedback on EBI . The langauage aspect is phenominal, as the teaching staff represents many spanish speaking countries and the manner in which they teach is comprehensive. The art program is completely integrated into the curriculum, which is why it may seem limited. My kids have been exposed not only to hands-on art projects in many mediums, but also the a variety of artists and can speak knowledgeably about them. All of the teachers use art as a way to teach other subjects (math, geography, science and music). We have been very satisfied with the entire curriculum and recommend that you take a second look at EBI. Very Satisfied EBI Parent

Have you visited Manzanita SEED in Oakland? My son began there in K and is now in 2nd grade. He is very artistic and it has been a great place for him to learn and grow. SEED has had a resident artist teaching art once a week to each class since the school began several years ago. The art teacher also provides art instruction during the After School Program. The After School Program is free. Along with art, students can also choose to join a choir, learn expressive dance, or work with an amazing theatre arts teacher. SEED has a partnership with MOCHA so that artists come into each classroom to do several projects with each class every year, and also provide teacher training. I have seen the quality of art instruction improve among the teachers, and art is integrated often into writing, science and social studies projects across all grade levels. The Spanish instruction is wonderful and fully integrated so that students are learning science and math concepts as they improve their Spanish literacy and oral language skills. I feel I must tell you that I am both a happy parent and a teacher at SEED. I discovered SEED when I was looking for a school for my older son who is now in middle school. I was so impressed with the school and principal that I applied to work at the school myself, and I continue to be very pleased with the high level of instruction my son receives along with the opportunity for him to continue developing his artistic, social, and Spanish language skills. I feel that my older son also benefitted greatly from his instruction at SEED. anne

I am a mom of a second grader in the dual immersion program at Cragmont Elementary school . Next year she will go to EBI. I understand your concerns and felt the same when she started in kindergarten. But I can tell you that the only thing I will miss is the art program because Joe is an incredible teacher. But I am also convinced that the art program that they will be starting at EBI next year will also be great. Art is also incorporated into the academic program in many ways.

I am a native Spanish speaker and feel that the Spanish level of the kids and teachers is superior at EBI. The students in kindergarten speak in Spanish with their teacher but in Cragmont they don't as much. I have friends who graduated from there and they don't speak Spanish as well as the third grade students I have seen at EBI. They have a separate English teacher so students only speak English with that teacher and Spanish with their other teacher.

The music program at EBI is also spectacular. The instruments they play are from different parts of the world and students in first grade start playing recorder and learning to read music. In Cragmont the music program is very basic. The transdisciplinary program at EBI is complete in all aspects and the academic level is also quite advanced. That is also very important to me. My daughter had great teachers the first two years at Cragmont but this year has been more difficult. I am excited with my decision to send her to EBI next year and she is also thrilled after having spent two days there trying it out. She wanted to start right away! Best of luck on your decision!

Spanish Immersion schools in Berkeley and Oakland?

August 2008

Hi, Does anyone know about the Spanish Immersion schools in Berkeley? Is there anyway to get into them if you do not live in Berkeley? Are there any spanish immersion programs in Oakland? Thank you. -Nancy

for berkeley there is the Spanish immersion private school but I assume you mean the public school programs. first you would have to get your child accepted into the Berkeley school system as a transfer student, then possibly you could apply to be in the lottery for an immersion program spot. Additionally, Oakland would have to ''let you out'' of their district. sorry I don't know if there are such programs in Oakland. There is one in Point Richmond's Washington School (public) which seems excellent and is not so hard to get in as Berkeley; if there is room they would probably take an out-of-district transfer, but again, it is in pt. richmond- probably quite far for you. anon

Getting into Berkeley dual immersion program requires the same process as getting into any of Berkeley's public schools - you have to live in Berkeley and apply through the lottery process. Since there is a waiting list for all the dual immersion programs, I doubt there would be much chance for an out-of-district applicant. berkeley parent

There is a new Oakland public Spanish dual immersion school called Manzanita SEED located at the Manzanita Elementary School campus - East 27th off of Fruitvale. They do a 50-50 model. It's a new up-and-coming school with a lot of promise. The principal is Katherine Carter. Check it out. Oakland parent

Hi- I didn't see the original posting, but if you are looking for a Spanish Immersion program in the Oakland public schools, Piedmont Avenue Elementary has one starting next week, as an after school program,provided by ''Viva EL Espanol'', for the students. For more information,you can contact, Piedmont Ave. Elementary school's office(510)879-1460 or call'' Viva El Espanol'', #(925)962-9177 or visit Denise

Now in its third year, Esperanza Elementary in Oakland is a dual-immersion program. Native English and Spanish speakers learn together in the same classroom. In K-2, literacy and math are taught in Spanish; science and social studies in English. In 3-5 it is the opposite. The school is located in a low-income area, with many of the associated challenges, but as a teacher there last year, I must say that it is a gem of a school with a smart, dedicated, hard-working staff and wonderful children. Esperanza Elementary 10315 E St. 510-879-1551
--A proud Oakland public school teacher