Q. What kind of child does MCDS look for?
A. MCDS enrolls children capable of realizing success in a comprehensive and challenging school program. There is a wide range of ability levels in all areas of school life, supporting the school's goal of creating an environment that reflects the richness and variety of the community at large. Beyond this, the school strives for diversity in its enrollment and to maintain a balance in the classroom of gender and geography (Marin and San Francisco).
Q. What about siblings of those already enrolled?
A. Kindergarten siblings of concurrently enrolled families, who demonstrate the capacity to be successful in our program and whose families have supported the school as actively as individual circumstances permit, will receive special consideration in the admission process. They follow the same application procedure as do all applicants, although kindergarten families have an earlier deadline and are given the courtesy of early notification.
Q. How many openings do you have?
A. Our goal is to enroll approximately 54 children in kindergarten with 50 percent boys/girls and SF/Marin. Vacancies in grades other than kindergarten and sixth are dependent upon attrition. Enrollment increases in sixth grade and we look forward to welcoming 18 new students each year in this grade, since we move from self-contained classrooms to a departmental structure and increase the number of advisor sections.
Q. What are the chances of getting in?
A. The ratio changes from year to year and from grade to grade depending on attrition and the number of qualified applicants. Typically, there are more applications than places in school. Parents are encouraged to visit and apply to several schools.
Q. Should I wait a year to apply to kindergarten?
A. The school prefers that children be five by August 1st in the year they enroll. However, there is no absolute cut-off date. We have a developmental program that is appropriate for a range of children. Ours is not the kind of kindergarten that makes waiting an extra year an automatic benefit.
Q. How early should I get on your wait list?
A. Parents may apply only during the year prior to that in which their child would enter MCDS. A wait list is not kept from year to year.
Q. How do children handle the commute from San Francisco?
A. The commute typically becomes a pleasant daily ritual--a time of conversation and camaraderie with friends. The range of bus riding time for S.F. students is 25-50 minutes, which is less than that for many carpools.
Q. Do the buses have seat belts?
A. Our newest bus is equipped with three-point restraints and our riders use them to reinforce the safety practice of "buckling up" in passenger vehicles. The other buses in our fleet are costructed to "compartmentalize" children in padded sections, according to current safety regulations In the ongoing process of retiring and replacing our buses we continue to stay abreast of the latest research on safety, including the need for and effectiveness of restraint systems. All MCDS buses meet strict safety and repair requirements. They are inspected regularly by State safety officials and daily by the drivers.
Q. Does the school have programs for gifted children? For learning differences?
A. We look at individual children, each with unique needs, for enrichment as well as for support in any given area. We have several Student Support Services specialists who help teachers meet these needs. In addition, in the upper grades there is a Transitions Program designed to meet the needs of students with learning differences. Throughout the school, all students receive personal attention.
Q. Why do classrooms differ?
A. Teachers share common curricular goals and objectives though their teaching styles differ somewhat. The teachers and specialists have written a sequential curriculum and academic standards to guide the course of study from kindergarten through eighth grade. Teachers review and adjust these documents frequently. Within the curriculum, teachers are encouraged to develop multiple teaching strategies to meet the needs of a diverse group of learners. MCDS students are deliberately given a measure of freedom and responsibility that is a very important attribute of their educational environment. The school seeks to help students become responsible and self-monitoring.
Q. How is curriculum developed?
A. The school's excellent Professional Development program enables teachers to become students themselves in the education field. In addition to attending workshops and conferences throughout the year, MCDS teachers spend time in the summer creating and revising curriculum. The faculty use an Understanding by Design approach to curriculum development, starting with the end goals for students and working backward from there. Occasionally, educational experts are consulted in a particular field, such as STEM, Education for Sustainability, or Multicultural Education, and work with faculty to develop exemplary units. In addition, the school has a Curriculum Review Committee on which faculty and administrators serve. This committee stays up to date with current trends in education, helps vet curricular change proposals and evaluates summer grant applications.
Q. Are there classroom aides?
A. There is a full-time support teacher in each kindergarten, first grade and second grade classroom. In addition, we have one full-time support teacher for each third and fourth grade level. The fifth grades share a specialist to support their work in science. We are continually weighing the pros and cons of a variety of models that would provide additional support while maintaining our commitment to small class size.
Q. What are your policies on homework? Grades? Discipline?
A: Homework: Homework in kindergarten and first grade is very occasional and "topic" oriented; for example: "Bring in an apple;" "Talk to a parent about the field trip;" "Count the leaves on a plant;" etc. We encourage parents to read with children and to engage them in interesting events or weekend activities. In second grade, students read daily. In grades 3 - 5 homework may take 30-90 minutes, but assignments vary with grade level and teacher and the time of year. Children are also asked to do free reading every night. Teachers stay alert to the impact on home life. Since Upper School curriculum involves many long-term projects, students' actual load varies, but averages per subject per night (5 subjects) are as follows: 6th grade, 20-30 minutes; 7th grade, 30 minutes; 8th grade, 40 minutes.
Grading: In grades K-5 parents receive assessment of their child's growth through parent/teacher conferences and written reports. In grades 6-8 letter grades supplement parent/teacher conferences and written reports.
Discipline: Respect for people, property and ideas is the guide for behavior at MCDS. Students are asked to take appropriate responsibility for their actions. The child's teacher is the initiator of any disciplinary action. Each case that arises is treated individually. There is, however, a clear policy with regard to substance abuse. Specific rules and guidelines are written in the Lower and Upper School Handbooks.
Q. What are school arrival and dismissal times?
A: School begins at 8:15am for all grades, K-8. Kindergarten dismissal is at 2:10pm on Monday-Thursday and at 1:55pm on Friday. Dismissal time for grades 1-8 is 3:05pm (Monday-Friday). Latest dismissal for our PM (after school) Program is 6:00pm.
Q. What if we're concerned about being able to afford tuition at MCDS?
A. MCDS offers indexed tuition based on a family's ability to pay. Because the school is determined to make an MCDS education accessible to families from a wide range of economic backgrounds, the school offers a wide range of tuitions. For the 2012-13 academic year, tuitions range from $750-$28,330. The school encourages families to request information if they think they may be eligible for tuition below the top of the index (contact Ann Borden at 415-927-5910 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q. What is included in tuition?
A. Tuition includes the cost of instruction, books and educational materials, lunch, outdoor education, laboratory fees, field trips and yearbooks. It does not include the cost of optional items such as bus transportation, accident insurance, special after-school activities or the after-school program. Tuition pays for approximately 70 percent of the cost of educating each student. The difference is realized through various fundraising activities, fees for special programs and endowment income.
Q. What involvement is expected of parents?
A. MCDS expects that all parents will participate in volunteer activities and will contribute to various fundraising projects to the degree that family schedules and circumstances permit. Parents are expected to participate in all grade levels, K-8.
Q How does the school lunch program operate?
A. Lunch is included in the yearly tuition. Our Food Service Department provides a variety of healthy and appealing choices for lunch on a daily basis.
Lunch entrées, side dishes and salad bar selections are prepared on site using fresh, organic and local ingredients whenever possible. The salad bar features organic mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, sliced cucumbers and hard boiled cage-free eggs along with a rotation of items such as edamame, fresh cooked golden or red beets, artichoke hearts, chickpeas and marinated baked tofu. Other selections include sliced roasted turkey breast, sliced Tillamook, Swiss or gruyere cheese, cream cheese, jelly and organic yogurt.
The kitchen staff also prepares a variety of specialty salads -- Greek, Caesar, spinach, basil, tomato & mozzarella, potato, macaroni, Asian sesame, brown rice and quinoa -- to include on the salad bar. A selection of locally baked breads and bagels is offered on a daily basis.
Fresh, local and organic produce is ordered in season through Marin Organics and a local farmers' market and is supplemented by vegetables grown in the Lower and Upper School gardens -- tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, lettuces and a variety of herbs. In fact, proud kindergarten students often deliver the vegetables they've harvested from the Lower School garden to the kitchen for use on the salad bar!
Each morning a fruit cart is filled with a variety of organic apples, oranges and bananas. The fruit is available all day for a self-serve snack for everyone on campus.
MCDS is a "peanut free" campus and we are careful not to use any products that contain nuts or are processed in a facility that handles nuts.
Q. Where do MCDS students go to high school?
A. The majority of MCDS students go to local independent schools in both Marin and San Francisco: The Branson School, Drew, Lick-Wilmerding, Marin Academy, Marin Catholic, St. Ignatius, University High, Urban and The Bay School, for example. A small percentage go to boarding schools. Some students prefer to attend public high schools, such as Redwood in Marin and Lowell in San Francisco.
Q. How do local Bay Area Independent Schools coordinate their efforts with the Admission process?
A. Bay Area Directors of Admission (BADA) meet regularly to coordinate all aspects of the admission process. They adhere to "Principles of Good Practice" to ensure a smooth admission process for students and their parents.