How do I find a San Francisco private school that will fit my children's needs?
January 25, 2010 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know the San Francisco private school system? Want a seriously engaging and academic (also nurturing, non-competitive) school for my (currently) 3rd and K boys, can't find any online guides worth anything, don't have many contacts in the city. We've been public school people all our lives but I don't think it's going to work with this move.

I am such a NYer, but my husband may have the job of his dreams in SF (and I can work from almost anywhere). I know this is going to be hard on the boys--they are lovely and smart but they get anxious in new situations, and this is going to be a doozy. They are now in a fantastic school here and have such wonderful teachers, are always engaged, love going to school. I don't want to lose that for them!
posted by Wittamer to Education (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I went to Brandeis Hillel, on Brotherhood Way, and had a pretty great time of it. My cousins went there much more recently and are fairly awesome for the experience.
posted by effugas at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2010

Try the folks on the SF forum.
posted by mrsshotglass at 1:56 PM on January 25, 2010

Not a private school, but I went to San Francisco Community School for 3rd through 8th grade and LOVED it. Project-based learning with an emphasis on service learning, and the school is tiny so there was plenty of individual attention (academic and otherwise.) This was about 10 years ago, but as far as I know they are still awesome (got named an exemplary school last year.) You might check out the alternative schools in general (Claire Lilienthal, Rooftop, etc.) I have some thoughts about public vs private schooling in SF that I'd be willing to share but not so much for the whole internets...feel free to MeMail me if you'd like (I'd also be happy to tell you more about SF Community privately.)
posted by kelseyq at 2:02 PM on January 25, 2010

It would help to know a little more about what you're looking for in a school and what is working well/not working at their current school. I would take a look at Nueva (my alma matter) down the peninsula a little; it has changed over the years (or should I say, it never stops changing), and I certainly can't say whether it is right for your boys, but it's a darn interesting place that's worth looking at in order to get an idea of something a little different out there. If you wind up considering it seriously, feel free to MeMail me and I can ramble on a bit more.

I've been hearing a bunch of good things about San Francisco Friends School lately, though I don't know a whole lot about it. It's a fairly new school in the Mission, very diverse, that seems to have a lot of momentum behind it. It is a Quaker school. I know a number of ex-Nueva teachers have wound up there in the past couple years. If you happen to talk to Suzanne in the admissions office, tell her I say hi :-)

Town and Stuart Hall are the two "fancy" (whatever that means nowadays) all-boys private schools in town (Stuart Hall is linked with a girls school). You'll have to judge the academic vs competitiveness scale for yourself. There are a bunch of other "feeder" schools not already mentioned that seem to send a lot of kids to the "top" academically rigorous private high schools in SF (and there are far, far more important things to base your decision on, but for your reference) include (excluding a couple all girls schools here) San Francisco Day and Marin Country Day. People like Live Oak too and it's worth looking at French American if you like the idea of an immersion program.

And there are many others. That list looks pretty complete for schools that are in the city itself, so I would start working your way down through the websites to get a quick feel for possibilities.

I'd encourage you to jump on this right away if you're looking to get them enrolled this fall, as admissions are insanely competitive (especially for transfer slots) and many applications were technically already due, though they may work with you given that you're moving cross-country. Good luck!
posted by zachlipton at 2:35 PM on January 25, 2010

Oh, and if you want to see how crazy people get over this whole process (not that NYC parents don't go crazy too), this blog post where parents compare which preschools are the feeder schools to hot elementary schools. Hilarious and terrifying!

Kelseyq is spot on about some of the alternative public schools as well. They too can be crazy competitive to enroll, but ought to be considered along with the various private school options.
posted by zachlipton at 2:39 PM on January 25, 2010

I also attended Nueva, which zachlipton recommended above. I just want to caution you about Nueva, and about all small private schools that essentially limit their classes to the gifted children of affluent parents: these schools do not always know what to do with children who are not already disciplined, self-motivated, confident learners. I was an anxious child, and I did not find Nueva to be a nurturing environment where my challenges were understood and addressed with sympathy and care. Instead, I felt very much like the odd one out. Generally, the teachers made me feel like there was something wrong with me for not having my shit together the way the other students did. My strong advice to you, therefore, is that you visit whatever schools you end up considering and ask the teachers there what they would do about a student who was anxious or who began acting out. If they don't have a good answer, avoid!

Just my two cents about Nueva, specifically. BTW, the Odyssey School in (I think, now) San Mateo is even worse, or was for me.
posted by prefpara at 4:04 PM on January 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for giving me some places to start. I've started poking around, and it is a little hair-raising. Speaking of which, does anyone know any places that are opening this fall or expanding? It looks like our timing is a little off for the next school year.
posted by Wittamer at 6:59 PM on January 25, 2010

Keep pursuing it. You're not that late in comparison to most of the normal application deadlines and a cross-country move does present a decently extenuating circumstance. If you can overnight them a subset of the application materials in the next week or two, they may well be willing to work with you, so talk to the schools on the phone and see who is interested. They can also give you a quick idea of whether there are any spots for transfer applicants in the relevant grades at all, so you're not wasting your time with the schools where there is no chance of making it work.
posted by zachlipton at 7:26 PM on January 25, 2010

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