International School opens new campus

Publication Date: Wednesday Sep 13, 2000

SCHOOLS: International School opens new campus

Offices replaced by classrooms for school that teaches in French, Mandarin

by Charlie Breitrose

A year ago, the International School of the Peninsula community did not know whether their school could survive in Palo Alto. Five months ago, their building was an office complex. Last Tuesday, the school opened its new home on Laura Lane in Palo Alto. Tucked next to Palo Alto's main post office off of East Bayshore Road, the office building has been converted into a two-story building with hues of purple, yellow, green and blue.

"I was told this was a 21-month job," school director Ellen Fournier said. "The builders have done a great job, doing in five months what usually takes 21 months."

The building, which was designed by Bill Gratiot, of Spencer Associates and built by Vance Brown, kept only one wall and the concrete base from the original structure, according to Stu Berman, a parent and trustee of the International School.

Until now, the school had leased space from the Palo Alto school district at the Garland School site on North California Avenue. The district terminated the lease because it needs to reopen Garland as a a school.

The International School found its new home last year, and purchased it with some assistance from developer John Arrillaga, Fournier said.

The school started in 1979 as the Peninsula French-American School, a school where students are educated in French and English. It recently started a Mandarin program, too. Students can start in the pre-kindergarten program and go through ninth grade.

With nearly 500 students, the school has grown rapidly in recent years. Just five years ago there were only 200 students, Fournier said.

The new building has 24 classrooms, two libraries, a multipurpose room, a computer lab and a science lab. For the first time the school has dedicated art and music rooms. It cost approximately $12 million, Berman said.

"In the past, the music teacher would have to haul her things from class to class," Berman said.

Clementine Bonneville, the International School's music teacher, is very happy to have her own room. "I would teach in classrooms next to other teachers," Bonneville said. "It was very loud."

Not only will Bonneville her own space, but new computers will enable her students to compose music.

Berman said the school tried to maximize the new space. The two-story, 26,000-square-foot building sits on a lot of nearly two acres.

The multipurpose room is the size of half a basketball court, and has wood floors and basketball hoops. Tables fold into the wall so students have a place to eat when the weather turns foul.

Outside the building, a fire lane in the back of the building doubles as a basketball/volleyball court. The basketball hoops are easily movable, in case of fire.

The school has playgrounds for younger children, but no athletic field. The school may work out a deal with the city to use the Baylands Athletic Center, which happens to be on the other side of the fence.

Despite some inconveniences, the members of the school's community are thrilled to have a permanent home.

"This school is ours. No one can kick us out," said parent Bob Cohn. 

Back up to the Table of Contents Page