History of Ecole Bilingue
40 Years Ago
Before Ecole Bilingue was founded, there were no bilingual schools in the East Bay. Bill and Mijo Horwich, whose daughter was about to enter kindergarten in the public schools, decided to do something about it, and starting in early September, 1976, they convened several meetings in their north Berkeley house, hoping to attract others to help organize a new French-American school. At the second meeting, Christine and David Weber stepped forward, and the Webers and Horwichs agreed to work together to launch Ecole Bilingue.
Quickly others joined in and the founding parents steadily grew in number and enthusiasm. Bill and Christine took on the major building blocks: forming an entity and getting it qualified as a non-profit, recruiting Jeannette Rouger as first head of the school, finding a suitable facility. But from an early time, once it became apparent there would be a critical mass of committed parents who would enroll their children, Ecole Bilingue became a grassroots movement, with everyone pitching in to get the myriad details done.
Somehow, it all came together through hours of phone calls, letter writing, meetings, hauling materials, building from scratch and scouring for furniture, books and supplies. EB opened its doors in the fall of 1977 with six teachers, 50 students and 10 different nationalities! Christine Weber became the first Chair of the Board that also included Bill Horwich, Tanny Keeler, Gretchen Grant, and Annie-May Leland as parent representatives.
EB was founded on a vision by the pioneering parents to provide their children the chance of a bilingual education in a rich, multicultural environment. From the start, the school was fortunate to attract a strong and committed community, forming a glue that held together and bonded while organizing fundraising, play-structure building, and simply celebratory events. This same spirit has somehow persisted throughout all the growth and change over the past 40 years. As long as this strong sense of community persists, EB will continue to thrive.
From 50 to 500 students
From these humble beginnings, the school grew rapidly. After only three years, enrollment had already doubled, and EB graduated its first class. By 1987, there were over 300 students and more than 40 nationalities. The Middle School opened its doors in 1988, and moved to its current location at 901 Grayson Street in 1991.
Now, EB has around 500 students in Toute Petite Section (2.5 year old) through grade 8, with more than 60 nationalities represented in our school community. Our graduates have gone on to top high schools and colleges, and at last count, the alumni who have stayed in touch with us had lived in 55 countries worldwide!
Read our magazine “EB in Motion” published for the school’s 40th anniversary.
It All Started in the Little House
The iconic building at the corner of Heinz and Ninth was built as a store in 1915 by noted local architect John Hudson Thomas. It was later converted to office space for the Heinz Company before being chosen as the location for EB in 1977.
Annie-May de Bresson