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San Francisco’s Esteemed Sterne School Celebrates 40th Anniversary with New Home at Chinatown’s St. Mary’s School

media contact: David Perry / (415) 767-1067 /

San Francisco’s Esteemed Sterne School Celebrates 40th Anniversary with

New Home at Chinatown’s St. Mary’s School / @sterneschool

First Day of Classes is August 21

28 July 2017 – San Francisco, CA:  For 40 years, San Francisco’s Sterne School ( @sterneschool) has provided personalized educational experience for students who learn differently. With an expanded need for services over the past decade, Sterne is thrilled to be moving to an expanded new home at the site of St. Mary’s School and Chinese Catholic Center at 838 Kearny Street.  The community of teachers, students and families is celebrating its past and embracing its future.  The move is scheduled for August 1, with the first day of classes scheduled for August 21.

“I want to welcome the Sterne School to District Three and acknowledge their commitment to working with students who learn differently and their families,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin. “This collaboration is going to ensure that the beloved community traditions and programming of historic St. Mary’s endure for generations to come.”

Sterne School is a non-profit organization and the only school in the Bay Area exclusively dedicated to Middle and High School students with learning differences.  Established in a storefront in the Sunset District in 1976 by visionary education professional Val Anthony, Sterne has since grown into a premier independent school, where specially trained faculty work with each student to foster academic achievement, self-confidence, and self-advocacy.

“For over 40 years Sterne has upheld a proud commitment to students with learning differences,” said David Bradlow, President, Sterne School Board of Directors. “Our move to Kearny Street is the most important moment in our history so far.  With space to grow our student body, this campus gives us the longed-for resources to secure the future of specialized education for thousands of Bay Area students in the decades to come.”

“Having grown up in the San Francisco Chinatown neighborhood, this new home for Sterne School is particularly meaningful, given the history of the location, how Sterne benefited our family, and knowing how many more students will benefit and thrive here into the future,” reiterated Janet Chen, Sterne School board member and site committee member. “We are grateful for this opportunity to work together with the St. Mary’s community.”

 In April 2016, St. Mary’s school building became available following the suspension of St. Mary’s School.  After a competitive RFP process and lengthy discussions with the Archdiocese and the St. Mary’s School and Parish communities, a 99-year lease agreement was reached with Sterne School. The new campus can accommodate up to 220 students, with space for a full-size gymnasium, art studios, and a science and engineering lab. The majority of the building was completed in 2011, and the unfinished spaces are exclusively available for Sterne to build out in the next 3-5 years. 

This move comes after a decade-long search for a suitable campus for Sterne School.  In the 2008 Strategic Plan, the Board of Directors cited space as the school’s most pressing priority for expanding its program – particularly around holistic co-curricular programs such as the arts and athletics. In 2012, the lease of a second campus at 245 Valencia Street allowed for the opening of Sterne High School and the development of robust athletics teams and visual and performing arts programs.  However the two-campus configuration was never an ideal choice for Sterne’s close-knit community, and the Board Site Committee never gave up hope that eventually Sterne would reunite the entire school under one roof, and pave the way for a secure future for specialized learning in the Bay Area.

“We are very excited to start the school year in our new home, and to bring this beautiful building to life with learning,” said Ed McManis, Head of Sterne School. “Moreover, our new neighborhood is rich with culture and history, right in the heart of San Francisco.  Getting to know the St. Mary’s and Chinatown communities these past few months has made us aware of the incredible opportunities for service and collaboration that are now right on our doorstep.”

“We are very excited about having The Sterne School share this magnificent building with us,” said Fr. Bart, Pastor of Old St. Mary’s Church. “While The Sterne School is independent of St. Mary’s, it is clear that we both share in the mission of academic excellence for our students.”

There was much pain and sorrow from the St. Mary’s alumni, family and friends when the decision was made to suspend operations of the school.  The past year was painful with 90% of the building vacant without the creative energy and sounds that our hundreds of students bring.said Jerry Lee, alumnus of St. Mary’s and also a former principal. Looking forward, we are thankful that a quality institution like Sterne School will bring vibrancy, purpose and life to this building and, most importantly, to the community

Helping to preserve a unique and beloved Chinatown tradition, Sterne School will continue to provide space for St. Mary’s community programs, including St. Mary’s Preschool and the Chinese Language School, along with St. Mary’s iconic and internationally-famous Drum & Bell Corps.