San Francisco launches high school for immigrants
SAN FRANCISCO—15-year-old Zunrey Malgar and his sister, Aileen, just came from Mindanao 8 months ago. Fortunately for them the San Francisco School District has a school catered for them and other recent adolescent immigrants. They are both freshmen in San Francisco’s just-launched international high school.
Inside their class, fifty freshmen between the ages of 13 to 15 represent a dozen countries. Everyone is a recent immigrant. With limited English, the students learn through interaction with each other.
“The classes are hard because we don’t understand each other,” said Malgar, “But they (the instructors) teach us English in their lectures.”
There are 12 public international high schools in the country. 10 are in New York, one is in Oakland, and several cities are also considering opening one. A class day is about an hour longer than the average San Francisco high school. There are no tuition fees, and the only requirement is a student has to be a recent immigrant in the U.S. for four years or less, and live within the school district.
Unlike English as a Second Language courses offered in most public schools, the curriculum here incorporates English language throughout every subject. Students also have advisors throughout their four years of high school. This helps prepare these immigrants for a path to college.
“Kids are mixed up to their language grouping at the time, so our classes are different, our credits they get on our transcripts are different, and their credits meet the (University of California) requirements,” said Sonia Geerdes, Principal of the International High School.
The school district opened the international school to help the recent immigrants who struggle in class, sometimes dropping out.
“Our graduation rate for English learners is horrible, less than 50 percent,” Geerdes said. “It’s even worse for adolescent immigrants. They’re not graduating in the current system, so our school is sort of the answer for that.”
The Malgars and their classmates will be among S.F. International’s first graduating class of 2013 if they make the grade. The school plans to expand to 400 immigrant students in the years to come.