How cohesive is the parent community?

Our family community is one of the school’s greatest strengths. Because participation in school activities is so central to our progressive model, parents are a regular fixture on the playground, in the classrooms, and as part of school operations. Each classroom tends to become a closely-knit group, and there are also many opportunities to socialize with other families at the school-wide level, such as community service events, our Chinese New Year celebration, and frequent “Count Me In” events. 

At the same time, we understand that parents are busy, so we also strive to ensure many activities and opportunities for participation are outside of normal school and work hours.

What does it mean to be “progressive” or “inquiry-based” or “Reggio-Emilia inspired”? How does this differ from what I experienced at school?

PKS’s pedagogical approach is deeply connected to the principles of progressive education. Progressive education is neither new nor new-fangled, but traces its early roots back to philosophers John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both of whom championed observation, experience, and critical thinking as the key to knowledge rather than rote memorization of given ideas. The Progressive Education Movement in the United States was led by John Dewey starting in the 1880s.

Like learning itself, progressive education is a dynamic and challenging journey that is not easily confined or contained within tidy definitions. Schools that embrace and commit themselves to progressive education widely share these core beliefs and principles: whole child education (social, emotional, physical and artistic as well as academic); integrated and experiential learning (aka “project-based” and “inquiry-based”); rigor viewed through the lens of meaningful learning and authentic assessment; incorporation of student voice to nurture intellectual curiosity and internal motivation; and engagement with the broader community to foster a sense of social justice and responsibility.

Read more about progressive education and our preschool.

How do non-Mandarin speakers learn Mandarin?

Many PKS families have no Chinese language experience at all. Our targeted immersion approach allows children to absorb the language and adapt to it naturally. At the preschool and kindergarten stages, children do not need every word to be translated for them, because by observing and interacting in an environment that immerses them in the language, they are able to figure out meaning from context, thereby picking up vocabulary. Our teachers use a variety of verbal and nonverbal communication techniques to facilitate understanding, and they adjust their strategies to the individual level of each child as the school year progresses.

Read more about Mandarin immersion at PKS.

How can I help my child with homework if I don’t speak Mandarin?

Parents are not expected to help with homework at all, whether in Chinese or English. Progressive pedagogy cultivates and values independence in children, so we encourage our students to take pride in working through Chinese homework and assignments on their own as they get into the upper grades. To make sure students are supported in learning and using Mandarin, Presidio Knolls School is structured to have a somewhat longer school day and more days in the school year, allowing students to learn more during school hours. Moreover, as students get older and begin to have homework, the school offers Mandarin-speaking tutors after school to answer homework-related questions.  We encourage parents to continue to support their children’s English abilities and vocabulary development by reading to them nightly.

Why are you 80% Mandarin “full immersion”? Will my kids be prepared for US high schools and college?

Your kids will be well prepared. Research has found that for immersion students there is no detriment to progress in their native language or to subject-matter achievement. English-proficient immersion students are capable of achieving as well as, and in many cases better than, non-immersion peers on standardized measures of reading and math.

Because students will learn primarily through multidisciplinary units of exploration, language learning will arise naturally from the content of units, and the content of units will be expressed through the target language of Mandarin. As with our mother tongue, we learn language by genuinely needing language and by using language every day for real and immediate purposes.

Elementary students also have English class one period a day with a native-speaking English teacher and many of the specialist teachers conduct their classes in English as well.

How many teachers are in each class? What is the student-to-teacher ratio?

Typically, there are 3 teachers per preschool classroom, with some including up to 4 teachers depending on the size of the classroom and the age of the children. For 2-year-olds, the maximum student-to-teacher ratio is 5:1.  For 3-5 year-olds, it is 8:1. For the elementary school, two teachers co-teach each class; the typical ratio is 10:1.

What is a typical day at the preschool like?

A typical day depends on the specific age group and class, but will include meeting time, small group activities, snack time, indoor and outdoor playtime, story/reading time, lunch and nap. Read more about our preschool program.

Do you provide lunch and snacks?

Lunch is not provided. Parents either pack lunch or sign up with a provider. For preschool students, snacks are provided twice a day (a starch and a fruit), as is milk at lunch. Elementary students bring their own snacks to school. Water is available throughout the day. 

My child has allergies. How do you address this concern?

We maintain a strict no nuts environment on school grounds and field trips. If your child has other allergies, we can develop a plan to accommodate these at the classroom level.

Do you help with potty training for young children?

Yes. Our preschool teachers support P1 children and families in the process and can accommodate pre-potty trained children. Our expectation is that P2 and P3 children should be potty trained.

How often do you host parent-teacher conferences?

Twice a year, generally in the October/November and March/April timeframes.

How can I learn about what is happening in the classroom?

Preschool teachers send daily newsletters via email, and elementary school teachers communicate regularly over email and through our (login-only) class pages.

What should I expect with regard to parent involvement?

We believe parent involvement helps create a thriving and well-functioning school community, and demonstrates to children that their schooling is a family undertaking. PKS families are expected to contribute an average of three hours per month or a total of 40 hours a year on various parent committees and projects. There are numerous ways to get involved, accommodating for a range of time constraints, such as serving on committees, helping with admissions, chaperoning field trips, planning special events, or helping with landscaping. There are also off-site or non-school day opportunities to accommodate our many two-parent working families, single-parent families, and parents who travel frequently.

What are the expectations around fundraising?

We ask all families to contribute to the Red Envelope Annual Fund and the Capital Campaign. Together, we are building what we hope to be a longstanding San Francisco institution, and we expect families to share this vision and participate in our growth.

How is discipline handled in the classroom?

Through positive guidance and behavior modeling, teachers help children self-regulate and act responsibly. In our approach:

  • Expectations are limited to what is realistic for the developmental level of the child, and they are clarified so that the children understand what is expected of them.
  • Teachers model appropriate behavior.
  • Teachers encourage children’s efforts to build feelings of self-worth.
  • Children are given alternatives, which enable them to turn destructive situations into constructive ones.
  • Natural and logical consequences are used to motivate and empower children to make responsible decisions about their behavior.
  • Behaviors such as cooperating, helping, negotiating, and problem-solving are encouraged and acknowledged.

If, in our judgment, any child’s behavior places the well-being of other children in jeopardy, we will work with parents to develop a plan. If the behaviors continue, we will act quickly and decisively to resolve the situation.

Does the school teach traditional or simplified Chinese?

Presidio Knolls School teaches simplified Chinese, the standard for mainland China.

What are the school hours?

Early drop-off begins at 7:30am, and aftercare (including specialized classes) is available for all ages through 6:00pm. Regular classroom hours are:

P1: 9:00am-3:30pm

P2-P3: 9:00am-4:00pm (3:30pm on Tuesdays)

Kindergarten through Fourth Grade: 8:30am-3:30pm (2:30pm on Wednesdays)