German International School moves into former Anna Yates Space

Published On February 24, 2017 | By Rob Arias | Education, News & Commentary

The German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV) has signed a temporary license agreement to occupy the site of the former Anna Yates Elementary school. Anna Yates was folded into the ECCL when it opened last fall leaving the former K-8 facility vacant. The Yu Ming charter school and Albany USD had both initially been in negotiations to lease the space but these discussions reportedly fell through. “We received an urgent message in late December that they realized they were in a building in Berkeley that was not earthquake safe and had to vacate right away” noted EUSD Superintendent Dr. John Rubio. “We were able to help them while also utilizing the space to generate some revenue for the school district.”

GISSV opted to evacuate their former space in North Berkeley when it was deemed seismically unsafe putting their 104 students and parents in limbo. “We are grateful for the opportunity to move into Anna Yates School for the remainder of the 16-17 school year” noted GISSV head Michael Koops in this recent Berkeleyside story. “[We] are especially indebted to the Emeryville School District’s Superintendent and Board who have been tremendously supportive.” The short-term agreement with GISSV was signed with the EUSD over the holidays, and was expedited as to not disrupt the children’s education.

GISSV acquired the Hillside school site back in 2011 at a greatly reduced cost knowing it would need significant seismic upgrades. The school conducted itself for several years until the lingering safety risk and unfeasibility of fixing them became a lightning rod of controversy. Complete retrofitting the building could cost million of dollars. The site, which is near the Hayward fault-line, is also on the National Register of Historic Places and a former BUSD school that was closed in 1983.

The preschool through 9th grade aged children enrolled at the school are fairly evenly distributed between expat families, families of German decent and parents that want their children to learn a second language. GISSV is designated an official German foreign school or ”Deutsche Auslandsschule” and receives resources from the German government. GISSV also has campuses in Mountain View and San Francisco.

GISSV’s former location in Berkeley was located at the historic Hillside School at 1581 Le Roy Ave.

It’s unclear what the reaction to GISSV will be to the neighborhood. There is still a small faction of parents and advocates that are dubious of the K-12 ECCL and are hoping to reclaim the former Anna Yates space as a detached K-8 facility. There’s also the ongoing national narrative that private and charter schools are robbing our public school system of resources. Proponents argue that they provide choice to parents that want a different curriculum for their kids or are reluctant to enroll them in underperforming public schools in their residential district. Technically GISSV and does not fall under the designation of a “private” school but is in fact dual-accredited as a German public school (students in fact receive two diplomas).

Empty buildings in Emeryville, and the region for that matter, are often subject to vandalism and squatting and this space has already been the subject of at least one break-in causing a significant amount of damage. Having this building activated is clearly in the best interest of the neighborhood. The revenue generated by their agreement goes back to the EUSD to help fund their operations.

Compounding the situation, the GISSV has announced it will pull out of the East Bay after the 2017-2018 school year. Current school parents have formed a “solutions committee” to create a successor school being called The East Bay German International School. “We’re scrambling to put together an entire school in just over one year. That means bylaws, financing, teachers, a building lease, engaging with neighbors, and a thousand other details”. “It’s a challenge, but one we’re up for”, said Bryce Nesbitt a member of the solutions committee and someone with a long history of activism in the Emeryville Community. The transition to a new facility has not come without cost as ten students opted to pursue other options lowering their current enrollment to 94 students.

GISSV will be hosting an open house on Saturday, February 25th starting at 11 a.m. followed by a German “Karnival” event at 1:00 p.m. “We are particularly interested in becoming part of the Emeryville community and creating joint programs like soccer with the EUSD and hosting German cultural events” noted Nesbitt. “We want to build links and are open to community input on our future and our vision.”

Visit GISSV on the web for more details including enrollment.


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About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

8 Responses to German International School moves into former Anna Yates Space

  1. Hannah Mitchell says:

    Rob, great article and update to the Emeryville community on the old Anna Yates campus. I’m a current parent at the German school and I think I speak for most of the parents in our community when I say a big THANK YOU to the Emeryville unified school district. We’ve set up a vibrant school in a matter of weeks in part thanks to Emeryville’s quick response to our urgent situation. Love the school, the teachers, the students and now, our new neighborhood. We intend to be a positive addition to the area, creating an even more diverse educational group of close-by schools.

  2. melissa ober says:

    I also want to thank the Emeryville Community for welcoming us in to their neighborhood. We feel very fortunate to currently be located in this thriving and central part of the East Bay. The Karneval was a fun way to meet local families who came by and we look forward to more ways to integrate ourselves in to the community.

  3. Oakland Neighbor says:

    It’s great to see this space occupied and we are excited to have additional cultural offerings close to our home! However, I’m surprised to see the claim that GISSV doesn’t count as a private school – with tuition around $20k per year, I am pretty sure that it’s not a public school. In my book, public schools are run by elected public school districts, not private boards of directors – even if it’s using a curriculum from public schools in Germany. Can you clarify? I know that private schools have branded themselves as “independent” schools but it’s a bit of a stretch to claim that GISSV is not private given the admissions process and tuition costs.

    • melissa ober says:

      My understanding from the article is that the point of that comment was to explain that students graduate with 2 diplomas, a German public school diploma and an American diploma. This makes it easier to attend Universities in Germany once they’ve graduated.

  4. Tammo Rieg says:

    My two sons attend GISSV and love it there; they greatly benefit from bilingual education and the warm, inclusive, personal environment. That’s why I am thankful to the Emeryville Community for welcoming us in their midst and giving us a new lease of life. My hope is that we can find ways to cooperate with other local schools, public and private alike, and remain part of the rich and diverse fabric of the East Bay.

  5. Re the private school question, of course it does charge fees, so you could certainly look at it as “private” from the US perspective. However, it doesn’t just “use a curriculum” from Germany, it’s actually regulated by the German government (which includes the board being elected democratically), has to follow rules laid down by the German state just like a public school there, and many of the teachers are state employees from the German public school system on rotating assignment here. So in that sense it’s “like” a German public school, just located in the US. Hope that helps to clarify!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this great article. I am a parent at the school and would like to echo what other parents have said. We love the site and are grateful to EUSD and the City of Emeryville for welcoming us. Look out for more community events. A summer festival with international food and a host of activities are being planned for May.

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