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Vatican to decide if Chinese American International School can move

April 5, 2021
The soon-to-be new home of the Chinese American International School in San Francisco

You don’t see a headline like that on every Mandarin immersion post, do you?

But in this case, it’s warranted.

After 40 years of wandering around San Francisco, the nation’s oldest Mandarin immersion school is finally getting a forever home — in the spacious campus of a Catholic girls’ high school in San Francisco that closed at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.

Mercy High School was build in 1952 for the Sisters of Mercy. Its fourth floor contained the order’s convent. After years of declining enrollment, the school closed last year. Many of the remaining students joined Riordan High School, a formerly all-boys Catholic high school which went co-ed in 2020.

There has been furious speculation in San Francisco over what private school could occupy space and on Monday, CAIS head Jeff Bissell emailed the school community to tell them that after a “rigorous process, CAIS was selected from a competitive field of schools” to purchase the property.

It’s not entirely a done deal. A purchase agreement has been signed but must now be reviewed by the Vatican, as is required for property owned by the Catholic Church.

Located in southwest quadrant of San Francisco, Bissell noted that the largest current CAIS classroom could fit inside the smallest classroom at the new campus.

San Francisco’s Chinese American International School was founded in 1981. Since then it’s had three different homes, first in rental basement space at a University of California extension building near downtown and later at the Presidio, a 1,500-acre park on a former military post on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Since 1997 the main school has been housed in a former telephone company office building five blocks from San Francisco’s City Hall. CAIS shares the building with the French American International School and International High School. The CAIS preschool is five blocks away.

In 2016 the middle school moved to a building seven blocks in the other direction whichonce housed the Saint Paulus Lutheran Day School and later a community clinic. In 2012 the building was taken over by 75 Occupy SF protesters for a day.

The move to the Mercy campus, which Bissell says won’t begin until Fall of 2022 at the earliest, will allow the school to consolidate all its students in one place.

CAIS currently has 480 students, but the Mercy campus has been home to as many as 1,000, so it seems very likely the school will expand with time.

Mercy High School soon after it was opened.

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