History of Ecole Bilingue

40 Years Ago

Before Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley was founded, there were no bilingual schools in the East Bay. Five families, along with EB’s first Head Jeannette Rouger, got together and decided to do something about it. They felt that young children should not have to commute long distances for a quality bilingual education, and since no other options were available, they decided to found their own neighborhood school here in Berkeley.

It was a very grassroots movement, with everyone pitching in to get things done. Somehow, it all came together through hours of phone calls, letter writing, hauling materials, building from scratch, and scrounging for furniture and books. EB opened its doors in the fall of 1977 with six teachers, 50 students… and ten different nationalities! The “little house”* was home to administrative offices, and classes were held in some of the current Lower School classrooms. The playground was in a vacant lot owned by a neighbor, an 80-year old woman named Dolores Meacham. She agreed to rent it to the school for $1 per year, but so loved the idea of kids playing there that she ended up donating it to EB for use in perpetuity. 

From the start, EB was a school founded on ideals, on a vision by a few parents who wanted to give their kids the chance of a bilingual education in a rich, multicultural environment. Through those early years, parents formed the glue that held the school together: organizing events, cooking for potlucks, building play structures, and bringing life to our community. This spirit has held strong throughout all the growth and changes over these past 40 years. As long as this community spirit exists, 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.