West County Mandarin School
West County Mandarin School
West County Mandarin School (WCMS) is a public Mandarin immersion school in Richmond, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. WCMS is the first planned K–8 Mandarin immersion school that is part of a public school district in the state of California. Student enrollment is diverse by design, with 50% of enrollment at the school set aside for students from underprivileged backgrounds. At WCMS, we celebrate our student and family diversity as one of our greatest strengths and educational benefits, which is reflective of the greater global community. WCMS is also an International Baccalaureate candidate school, with the program authorization process expected to be completed in the spring of 2021. The mission of WCMS is to provide a high-quality International Baccalaureate education that prepares every student for life success as an internationally minded and caring inquirer who is bilingual in Mandarin and English and contributes to the betterment of our world.
WCMS was founded in 2017 with three kindergarten classes. Each year an additional grade level is added, as it grows into becoming a full grade K–8 school by the year 2025. WCMS was honored to receive guidance on development of the school from national Mandarin immersion expert, Dr. Shuhan Wang. Currently, WCMS enrolls 300 students and adds approximately 75 additional students to its enrollment each year. As part of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, WCMS expects that students will have the ability to matriculate to the school district’s International Baccalaureate high school Diploma Program (DP).
The WCMS program is founded on 6 key community agreements and values:
- Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Community
- Caring for Our World and Each Other
- Academic Excellence and Rigor
WCMS has a one-way language immersion model, whereby no incoming students are required to already be proficient in Mandarin (although approximately 20% of students do speak some Mandarin at home). The program is also a 50/50 immersion model in all grades, with 50% of student instruction time in Mandarin and 50% in English. WCMS honors the mother tongue of all of its diverse students, with approximately 25% of the students speaking a language other than English or Mandarin at home, which enables them to have the capacity to become trilingual! WCMS also has a robust English Language Development program for students identified as English language learners.
WCMS has an enriched, child-centered program. As an International Baccalaureate (IB) PYP candidate school, WCMS students engage in inquiry and project-based learning in conformity with the IB Units of Inquiry. Instruction is also implemented primarily through a transdisciplinary curriculum that makes learning exciting for students and connected to “real world” applications. The WCMS program is also based on state academic standards and is differentiated with high expectations for all students. WCMS students have consistently performed at high levels on District academic benchmark assessments. The development of students' language proficiency in both Mandarin and English is measured through rigorous assessments that are aligned with state standards and the ACTFL proficiency guidelines.
WCMS also offers a wide range of co-curricular learning and enrichment opportunities, including music, STEAM, visual arts, theatre, restorative justice, mindfulness, physical education and sports programming, multicultural studies, and dance. WCMS students perform annually in community cultural events that reflect the diversity of the WCMS community and the wider San Francisco Bay Area, such as Richmond’s Cinco de Mayo Parade, the Richmond Juneteenth Parade, and the world-famous San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade. WCMS also offers Mandarin language summer programs for its students and is the current recipient of a federal STARTALK grant to fund the costs of the summer language program. In addition, WCMS has developed collaborations with Chinese organizations such as the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, which provides teacher interns; and the Richmond Zhoushan Sister City Commission, which has provided fiscal support.
WCMS prides itself in having a strong community with high parent and family engagement. All of the diverse WCMS parents and caregivers are welcomed and supported to volunteer and participate in the school program. Parents volunteer in a multitude of ways throughout the fabric of the school including in classrooms, advisory committees, fundraising/grant writing, program development, facilities development, community engagement, and enrollment outreach. In addition, WCMS has parent affinity groups that include an African American Parent Advisory Committee and an English Learner Advisory Committee, which help foster the highly inclusive school environment of WCMS.
Eric Peterson, Ph.D., NBCT
International Baccalaureate (IB) Coordinator