West County Mandarin SchoolCommunity Subscriber
In August 2017, the West Contra Costa Unified School District became the first public school district in the East Bay to offer a schoolwide Mandarin immersion program for its students. West County Mandarin School develops bilingualism/biliteracy for students through content taught in both English and in the target language of Mandarin. The program also develops student cultural competencies related to the target language. The district’s Dual Language program in Mandarin is a “one-way” immersion model which means that there is not a requirement that any percentage of the incoming kindergarteners be already proficient in Mandarin before they enroll.
The school became IB certified in 2021, and moved to a permanent site in Pinole. The school is open to students in the WCCUSD district (Richmond, Pinole, Hercules, El Cerrito, San Pablo, El Sobrante)
West County Mandarin School is an amazing school, and our family feels so lucky to be part of such a warm and nurturing school community. These must be some of the hardest-working teachers and staff I have ever met! They are always going above and beyond to ensure that each of the students is getting what they need to succeed and thrive. My two kids love going to school every day and feel so supported here. The parent community looks out for one another and is extremely involved at the school. I have been so impressed with how everyone has come together to help one another, especially during this pandemic. There are so many enrichment programs that are part of the regular school day, such as art, music, drama, PE, social-emotional learning, STEAM (science, technology, art, math) lab, and so much more. After-school there are additional opportunities to learn abacus, martial arts, and chess. There are even weekend sports activities such as soccer and basketball. Last but not least, the principal at the school, Dr. Peterson, is a dedicated and inspiring leader. Anyone that meets him can see that education is not just a job to him but a life mission. He is enthusiastic and is able to quickly prioritize the needs that impact the students and teachers most. He heard the mandate to create a diverse, equitable school and built an inclusive, multicultural, and socioeconomically diverse community of teachers, staff, students, and families that believe in and uphold these values every day. Our school is incredible because every member of the school shares their generosity and their love with it.
Since the previous parent mentioned the Mandarin immersion school, I just wanted to weigh in. My kids are black and Asian (not Chinese) and attend the Mandarin school. We love it. Last I checked, the school actually has more black kids than the district at large. And a significant number of mixed black kids. And while most (all?) of the Mandarin teachers are Chinese, many of the non-Mandarin teachers are black. Plus they have enrichment that is intentionally multicultural. West Contra Costa Unified is also increasing its focus on supporting black students (who, frankly, have been underserved). So, I recommend you check it out. I think the last year or two has had a wait list, so it'd be good to reach out before kinder registration/transfer to figure things out.
You might try looking in the Richmond Annex. It tends to be more affordable than El Cerrito, but still safe and family-oriented. East Richmond Heights is also a good area to look, although it's a little further from 580 than the Richmond Annex. Marina Bay area of Richmond would also be close to 580 for your San Rafael commute and if your husband is able to take the ferry to SF, that might work too. You're right off the Bay Trail there for scenic walks and bike rides.
In terms of schools, a lesser known option for WCCUSD is the West County Mandarin School. It is located in East Richmond Heights and is open to anyone that lives in the District (El Cerrito/Kensington to Hercules). It's currently K-2, but will grow by one grade each year to become a K-8 school. 50% of the seats are held for low-income families, English language learners, and foster youth. It's extremely diverse (not all heritage Chinese families) both ethnically and socio-economically. You don't need to know any Mandarin when you start in Kindergarten. Our family doesn't speak any Mandarin, and now my 2nd grader is bilingual - speaking, reading, and writing in both English and Mandarin. We love this school - the school community is supportive and lovely, the academics are strong, and we feel like we have a 2nd family there. Also, Skytown Preschool is a cooperative preschool that recently relocated to East Richmond Heights. This is such a sweet, loving community of parents and teachers that allow toddlers and preschoolers to truly find themselves and be kids. They've been around for over 50 years for a reason. I think you'll find that Richmond has a lot to offer!
No thoughts on Thousand Oaks, but wanted to recommend the West County Mandarin School, a traditional public school in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. It's very diverse, and (at my last check) about 30% of the students are black. And the staff are diverse -- two of the teachers are black (one English teacher and the PE teacher), many staff are Latino, and all the Mandarin teachers are Asian.
It's in central Richmond, right off of Arlington. It'd take you about 15 minutes to get there. You'd apply for an interdistrict transfer. In past years, there have been a few families from North Berkeley. The school's become more popular, so it might become harder to get in. But you can always just add yourself to the waitlist.
It's a great school. My black son is thriving there!
I just wanted to share that tours are happening now at the West County Mandarin School (K-2nd grade) for the 2019-2020 school year. My son is in first grade at WCMS, and we love the passionate teachers and principal, the warm and diverse community, and the school's commitment to teaching to the whole child. In addition to the standard curriculum, the school has music, coding, art, mindfulness, athletic coach, STEAM Lab, a focus on social emotional learning, and more. We've been impressed with the school's commitment to nurturing and celebrating diversity at our school. It is a FREE, public (not charter) Mandarin immersion elementary school open to anyone in the West Contra Costa Unified School District (Kensington, El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo, El Sobrante, Pinole, Hercules). No prior Chinese language experience is required. My child started Kindergarten knowing zero Mandarin and is now conversing, reading, and writing in both Mandarin and English! WCMS will be enrolling grades K-2nd grade for the 2019-2020 school year, adding an additional grade each year. Priority registration is in early February. Sign up for a tour at www.wcmspta.org/tours to find out more about this awesome school!
Hi there. I wanted to point out that West Contra Costa School District has a newish public school near you -- the West County Mandarin School. It's a Mandarin-immersion school that currently has grades K-1 and will keep moving up a grade each year as the kids get older. To get in, you apply to your neighborhood school (Mira Vista) and then apply to transfer. I think so far, everyone in-district who applied on time has gotten in, but I imagine as word gets out, it'll be harder to get in.
My son is a 1st grader there and we absolutely love it. We had no Mandarin experience before but he is having full conversations with Mandarin speakers now! And he's able to read signs that we see around. It's simply amazing! Plus the school community is great -- the other families, teachers, staff, and principal. And it's very diverse to boot.
So, just another school for you to consider.