St. Luke's School, also known as SLS, is one of the oldest preschools in San Francisco having been founded in 1948. The preschool is located at 1335 Sutter St. in an old church. The school was completely remodeled in 2014. This is a personal review of SLS preschool.
First Impression of St. Luke's School (SLS): Terrible
When I got there with my family at 8:30 am for the tour, it was a little chaotic because Sutter St. is a busy street. There were several cars looking to drop kids off during rush hour traffic. Because I was unfamiliar with the location or the protocol, I pulled up to an open spot right in front of the school where a car had just pulled away.
Instead of getting a warm welcome, I was told to move my car back and then forward to a different spot. When I finally parked and the chaos was over, the Head of School said, “I thought you were an Uber driver.“
As an Asian American, I was taken aback by her response given I was here for the tour. Further, Uber drivers are not allowed to carry passengers under the age of 18, let alone preschoolers between 3-4 years old.
The Head of School's response immediately made me feel unwelcome. She was an older white lady who seemed to display a subtle type of casual racism or micro-aggression that many minorities are accustomed to feeling in America.
In fact, the Head of School was like the white couple on Gough Street who confronted an Asian American man chalking “Black Lives Matters” in front of HIS house!
As a minority, it is really tiring to experience this subtle type of racism. This experience reinforced the stereotype about SLS: that the school lacks diversity and caters to a very white crowd that lives in Pacific Heights, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city.
Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive about my initial reaction. However, I've never been told I was Uber driver while my wife and son were in the back seat. Further, we pulled up in a Range Rover Sport.
St. Luke's School (SLS) Review
Although the school boasts a 5:1 teacher to student ratio, it still felt crowded inside compared to other schools with a 7:1 teacher to student ratio. The reason must be due to the size of the school.
The school is on three levels, but the quarters feel cramped compared to the space at Cavalry Preschool or The Little School, two competing preschools.
Overall, the atmosphere was friendly and orderly. The teachers really focused on respect and discipline.
They line up the kids in single file, boy then girl, before sitting in their own square spots. The teachers also don't tolerate kids speaking without first raising their hands.
If you like a more conservative and disciplined environment, SLS is a great fit.
The teachers and students were ~85% white and the rest mix or Asian. I did not witness any Hispanic or Black children. The student makeup is in large contrast to the population of San Francisco, where over 50% of the population are minorities.
If you are a high-income earning white family, you will fit right in. If you are Hispanic or Black, you may feel a little awkward due to the lack of diversity. Even as an Asian person, you may also feel a little out of place given the lack of representation.
San Francisco is a minority majority city. Therefore, SLS’s lack of diversity was tremendously jolting.
The teachers all have 4-year college degrees. It seemed like at least half of them had over 20 years of experience. This shows that SLS pays their teachers well and retains them, which is great for parents and students. On the other hand, perhaps some of the teachers may not be as enthusiastic as younger teachers trying to establish themselves.
All the teachers were white, except for one teacher who was Japanese and another teacher who looked mix.
St. Luke's serves children between the ages of 2.5 – 6 years old.
As you can see from the chart below, it's only when your child reaches 4 years old can you send them from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm. Even still, a 3:30 pm pick up time is 1-2.5 hours earlier than other competing preschools. Think about if both parents had a day job. A 3:30 pm pick up time is not ideal. Then again, the pandemic has made working from home with a flexible schedule much easier.
8:30 am – 11:30 am really isn't a long time for preschool between ages 2.5 – 4 years old. There must be a stay at home parent to accommodate.
St. Luke's Preschool won't reveal the tuition, but full-time tuition is over $25,000 a year. This is on par with other full-time private preschools.
SLS Overall Score: 2.5/5
SLS is a fine school with a lot of tradition. Many luminaries such as Gavin Newsom, California's Governor who is trying to become president, attended. The Head of School said Gavin was an alumni twice. This gives you an idea of how much old money is connected to this homogenous school.
It seems like the vast majority of kids go on to attend private K-8 schools, such as Town School, Cathedral School, St. Catherine's, Hamlin School, SF Day School, and more. These are the other highly rated grade schools in the Pacific Heights area.
Bottom line: SLS caters to wealthy families who are predominantly white and live on the north side of San Francisco. If you are not white and wealthy, you may feel out of place in the school, that is, if you can get in. SLS is a very conservative school.
San Francisco is a minority majority city. A school should try to reflect the diversity of the city. Unfortunately, SLS tries to be exclusive instead of inclusive. The location is not great and there is hardly any outdoor space, which is especially important during a global pandemic.
During this time, I would strongly consider homeschooling instead. Our kids grow up fast and you might regret not spending more time with them while you are young.