FAQs about Alta Vista School

What is project-based learning? an experiential curriculum?

Project-based, experiential learning is rooted in a hands-on, dynamic learning process. Students participate in a variety of engaging activities that allow them to explore ideas and concepts in action. At Alta Vista, students are not “told” – they “do.” They learn how to think critically and creatively. Our goal is to teach students to explore the world around them independently and to apply concepts to multiple situations. They thereby learn how to solve problems, not just recite answers.

One good source for more information about project-based learning is Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning

How is Alta Vista a “community school”?
For us, being a community school represents our overall philosophy and commitments. To start, we believe in developing a strong sense of school community for our students and their families. But it is important that we go beyond that. We are also a school that wants to reflect and be an active participant in our vibrant San Francisco community. Our school takes advantage of the City’s extensive and diverse resources as an extension of our classrooms through Alta Vista Adventures. Community service is also an integral part of our curriculum.

What is "Junior Kindergarten" at Alta Vista?

At Alta Vista, we enroll and place students based on developmental age, not calendar age. Junior Kindergarten is for school-ready (5 years old by the end of the December), but developmentally younger students. Our Junior Kindergarten program is very similar to the Kindergarten program, with a similar academic focus and goals, but with an even smaller class size and an approach more closely aligned with the students’ developmental age. 

Your curriculum sounds very academic. My child has been in a play-based preschool. Does that mean s/he wouldn't be ready for Alta Vista?

Although Alta Vista is an academically focused school, our experiential, project-based approach keeps students active and involved in the process of learning and allows them to develop at their own individualized level and pace. We integrate play into our own curriculum and are fans of play-based preschools, which allow children to focus on socialization and the gross and fine motor development that they will use in Junior Kindergarten/Kindergarten school activities.

What is the homework philosophy at Alta Vista?

We view homework as a way to connect school and home. Like our curriculum, our homework is activity-based, not worksheets. For example, playing a math-skills card game together, finding objects that start with a certain letter or sound, or interviewing a family member on a particular topic. Our innovative teacher-developed curriculum and integrated homework assignments are posted weekly on our website under "This Week at Alta Vista." Check it out!

I see that many of your faculty members are Spanish-speaking. How is Spanish integrated into the curriculum at Alta Vista?

Alta Vista is not an immersion school nor do we approach foreign language as an academic subject in the lower grades. Instead, our philosophy is to introduce a second language, Spanish, in the lower grades as something interesting and fun. We present it in a very natural setting – play. We also speak in Spanish during transitions and at snack, lunch and recess. In Kindergarten, as the year evolves and the students become more acclimated to school, a Spanish vocabulary and oral language component is gradually introduced reflecting our class lessons. In first grade, Spanish starts to be used as a natural part of everyday school activities early on.Does Alta Vista have an active parents group?

We are proud that Alta Vista is a school of families, for families. Our parents are very active in creating and participating in our school community. One of the tenets of our school is that every family has something valuable to add to our community. Alta Vista wants and values the ideas, contributions and participation of all of its families. That comes in many different forms. We do not mandate participation. Families become as involved as they like, or as their time permits.

How diverse is Alta Vista?

Alta Vista School is committed to developing a school community as diverse as the San Francisco community it serves. Creating an environment that is accepting of and welcoming to a variety of views and backgrounds is important to us. You can see that abundantly in the curriculum developed by our faculty, from social studies and art projects to ball games from other countries and cultures. We are proud to have a vibrant community welcoming to a diversity of backgrounds, including ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, and socio-economics. Many of our families are multicultural and multilingual, and some of our families/parents originate outside of the United States, including from Denmark, Ghana, Germany, Mexico, England, Italy and Guatemala.

What is the growth plan for Alta Vista?

We have grown a full lower school and are building our middle school. Our Somerset location once housed a full elementary school and offers great facilities and space for our vibrant program, as well as substantial outdoor space that we are progressively incorporating. Our long-term facilities planning is underway for purposes of accommodating the fully grown school in the future.
We are very interested in Alta Vista School, but would need financial aid. What tuition assistance is available?

Alta Vista School is committed to building a community of families who share common values, irrespective of financial means. As part of that vision, the school reserves a significant portion of its operational budget to support need-based financial assistance. We strongly encourage families who may need assistance to apply. 

Alta Vista School
a forward-looking school for curious young minds
 info@altavistaschoolsf.org |  
(415) 467-3700