View Full Version : All SF Brandeis School Tour Notes

10-31-2012, 10:47 AM
Forwarding the following tour notes I saw on another website that I thought were great and wanted to post here, as there isn't much info on Brandeis ... hope it's helpful!

Bernal visits Brandeis Hillel Day School (BHDS) (http://www.thesfkfiles.blogspot.com/2012/10/bernal-visits-brandeis-hillel-day.html)

Brandeis Hillel Day School (BHDS) is a Jewish independent school in SF serving more than 550 students on two campuses (Marin and SF). Next year the school will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The school is kindergarten through eighth grade. This post is only about the SF campus. The pillars of the school are Integrity, Kindness and Service.

The tour was run by head of admissions, Tania, a current parent and Tania's assistant. This was BY FAR our best tour yet. With the exception of Alta Vista all of our tours have been led by parents. This of course can create such a varied experience. Tania is amazing, well spoken, funny, etc. It felt like this was the most natural and honest tour, to date.

Kindergarten is from 8:15 AM- 2:00 PM. First through eighth grade is 8:15 AM- 3:15 PM. There is one bus (for an additional fee) that picks children up from the north part of the city. There is after school care program that runs until 6PM. Kids can partake in various enrichment activities during this time.

There are two classes of 22 students each, per grade. From kinder - third grade there are two teachers plus one assistant in each class. From 4th - 8th its one teacher plus one aide. Children in K-5 get art once weekly, music once weekly and PE three times weekly. The older grades get that plus they have varying electives which might include band, music, choir, various art classes, etc. The lower grades have two recesses per day. Kindergartners have third grade buddies and first graders have fourth grade buddies.

Judaic studies begin in kindergarten and Hebrew is introduced in first grade. From grades kinder - second, Judiaca studies are integrated into the classroom (with a Judaic studies teacher). Starting in grade three there is a separate class (just as there is math, english, etc). Also, starting in grade three there are three levels of hebrew (as some kids come in as native hebrew speakers). There is an eighth grade trip to Israel. The school leaders talked about there being the full range of religious families ranging from non-observant to conservative. We were also told that many families (I didn't write the number down) have one parent that is not Jewish.

Starting in third grade, Spanish is offered in the after school program. Them in fifth grade Spanish is offered an elective.

The school employs two part-time learning specialists and all kids in grades K-2 are screened by a speech and occupational therapist. Tania explained that the purpose of the screenings is to help the teachers best understand the children.

There is a computer lab with what looked to be about 20 (new) computers. There are also about 22 laptops which can be signed out from library. The whole school is wireless. When the tech/computer teacher was asked if typing was taught he replied "no, not formally". He then said something to the effect of "besides who knows if typing will still be the way in ten years..it might be voice recognition". Hmmmm, this answer seemed questionable to me.

The building is beautiful and has a great indoor/outdoor feel. The middle school kiddos are housed in a separatish (!!) area - through a walkway. The outdoor play areas are in a courtyard-like space. There is a blacktop area with a great, big play structure on one side and then a double basketball court blacktop area on the other side. No grassy areas.

There were about 14 of us on the tour. After the initial introductions in the lobby we started the tour. We spent time in several classrooms - kindergarten, first grade, negotiating, judaic studies, science, PE, art.

The kindergarten classes were very large, bright and cheerful. One class was working in small groups trying to decide what letters of the alphabet were symmetrical. The other class was working in a large group, led by the teacher, identifying cards that added up to ten. Both teachers seemed very different but equally engaged and wonderful.

One of the first grade classrooms were working on a science project with meal worms and beetles. The other classroom was in the middle of a circle time. In the first grade, there were seventh graders helping out (an elective of the other kids).

The negotiating class was an elective of about 10 eighth graders. This class was led by the head of school and the topic was the dangers of the internet.

The older grade judaic studies was great. We watched a student leading a group lesson.

The students did not "look" overly diverse in terms of skin color. We were told 30% of the families are on some kind of tuition assistance and there are LGBT families in all grades.

After the tour we ended in the library ( the biggest one by far - over 2000 square feet packed with books) for Q & A with the heads of school and Tania, admissions director. The head of school is new this year (bringing with him 37 years on the job). This was the first school - public or independent that talked about their curriculum program, at length!! The school told us that 95% of graduating 8th graders get into their first and second choice high schools and 93% get into their first choice. There is no homework in kindergarten and there is about 15 minutes in first grade, 20-25 in second grade and about 45 minutes in third grade.

Below are several of the programs that Brandeis uses in their curriculum:

Judaica Studies - Tal Am (http://www.talam.org/) and Neta (?) Meta (?)
Reading and Writing - Lucy Calkins (http://www.unitsofstudy.com/)
Math - Singapore Math (http://www.singaporemath.com/) and Mathletics (http://www.mathletics.com/)
Science - Foss (http://www.fossweb.com/)
Wilson Learning Program (http://wilsonlearning.com/)
Orton Gillingham (http://www.orton-gillingham.com/)
Mind Set - Carol Dweck (http://mindsetonline.com/)

Overall, I was super impressed with the tour and admission director. I thought the description of the curriculum far exceeded anything I have heard to date. I was a bit disappointed with the once weekly art and music and no drama department.

We left this tour with a lot of questions. Would me and my family be comfortable here? Does the school have enough of an arts program for our daughter? Do we need more diversity from a school?
So much to think about.

Thanks so much to all who comment - it really is helpful and often brings up great points that I might not have otherwise thought about.

10-31-2012, 11:43 AM
mannamom, tx for posting this. I'll add my own when I have them.