Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are starting a school in Palo Alto, California.
Dubbed The Primary School, the new private school will be located just a stone’s throw away from the Facebook headquarters and cater primarily to preschool-age kids and K-8 students in low-income areas.
Chan will be the CEO of the school, which ties free health services to each child’s education thanks to a partnership with nearby Ravenswood Family Health Center.
The announcement, first reported by the San Jose Mercury News, comes on the heels of what many saw as a failed investment from Zuckerberg of $US100 million in Newark, New Jersey, public schools in 2010.
While Zuckerberg had noble intentions of uplifting a struggling neighbourhood, analysts concluded the project got caught in the quicksand of bureaucracy and poor planning. Almost none of the money reached its intended destination.
The Primary School is scheduled to open next August with a student body of around 700. The overarching mission is to build a support system families can depend on when things get rough.
Psychologists and public health workers have long agreed that a child’s early years are critical in determining later-life outcomes. The stressors that come with poverty — financial insecurity, hunger, physical and sexual abuse, unsanitary conditions, unstable family life — can wreak havoc on kids’ psyches.
“There is something physiologically happening early in life that changes a child’s trajectory,” Chan, a former science teacher and now a primary-care physician, told the San Jose Mercury News.
Rather than just teaching kids maths problems from a textbook, teachers in a whole-child system help kids learn how to be healthy (both mentally and physically), individualize students’ learning based on their particular needs, and help kids appreciate the impact they can make in their community.
According to the Mercury News, the school hasn’t decided how it will admit students if the demand exceeds available enrollment, which, given the star-power behind the upcoming project, is almost certain to happen.