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40 Years of Success

In the Beginning

Before Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley was founded, there were no bilingual schools in the East Bay. Bill and Mijo Horwich, whose daughter was about to enter kindergarten in a public school, decided to do something about it.

Starting in early September, 1976, they convened several meetings in their north Berkeley home, hoping to attract others to help organize a new French-American school. At the second meeting, Christine Leigh-Taylor and David Weber stepped forward, and the four of them agreed to work together to launch Ecole Bilingue.

It All Started in the Little House

Bill Horwich and Christine Leigh-Taylor 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.

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.

Other committed parents soon stepped forward, and the first Board of Trustees was created with the following founders:

  • Annie-May de Bresson
  • Gretchen Grant
  • Bill Horwich
  • Tanny Keeler-Hodgetts
  • Christine Leigh-Taylor

A Real School

It quickly became apparent that other parents had been waiting for a school like EB, and once this critical mass committed to enrolling their children, Ecole Bilingue became a grassroots movement, with everyone pitching in to get the myriad details done.

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.

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 over 450 students in Toute Petite Section (2.5 years 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. A last count, our alumni have lived and worked in 55 countries worldwide.

The Commitment of a Community

EB was founded by pioneering parents with a vision to provide their children with a bilingual education in a rich, multicultural environment. From the start, the school was fortunate to attract a strong and committed community, forming strong bonds through fundraising, play-structure building, and celebrating simple events. This same spirit has persisted through the growth and change of the past 40 years.

Read more

Learn more about EB's history in our special 40th anniversary edition magazine.