History of GAIS
The concept of a German-American School in the Bay Area in order to promote the German language and culture started in May 1980, with an ad-hoc committee under the leadership of Dr. Liedkte, Professor of German at the San Francisco State University. He was assisted by a group of dedicated parents and Mr. Rothmann, the German consul at that time and the Swiss consul, Mr. Frey. The result of many years of dedicated work, the German American School (GAS) was created by a small group of parents wanting to provide a good bilingual education for their children.
The guiding idea of the founding families was to build a school for their own children that would be both German and American, and therefore also teach in both English and German bilingually at the native speaker level. It would promote the German language and culture, as well as familiarize the European families with the American culture. A full-time German-American School would eventually lead to the High-School diploma and the German Abitur, thus broadening the horizons and preparing the students for both university systems. Most of the founding families were of mixed marriages, with one German parent, permanently living in the US, but also wanting to pass on the German or European cultural heritage and language.
One of the main founding families was Steve and Claudia Kispersky. They met at the home of Dr. Kurt Mueller Vollmer, professor of German language at Stanford University, and decided to embark on the laborious yet rewarding task of organizing and building the DAS School. It took about two years from the first official meeting until the school opened its doors. It was first located in three rooms rented from the Woodland School in Portola Valley.
Building a private school from the ground up without external financial support required an unexpected level of commitment. There were times when Steve Kispersky, the President of the Board, had to pay the teachers from his own pocket because the school did not have the required liquidity. Electricity and phone services were disconnected several times, providing another opportunity for the Board members to bail the school out. Soon, however, the school started to grow and attracted an ever more international clientele. Families from Europe, Asia and Africa started to send their children to the school. They were readily integrated into the school community, and the program was extended to include international project weeks far before anyone had ever heard about the International Baccalaureate program. Said Claudia Kispersky: “Building up a school costs an immense amount of time, idealism and nerves. But the effort paid off, both on a school level as well as on a personal level.”
Steve and Claudia Kispersky deserve very special thanks for what they have done for our school. Without them, we would have never gotten off the ground, or stayed afloat! We are thankful for their long term vision, commitment and continued support. Our parents typify the cooperative spirit of people from many countries who work together to make our school a special place, a center for cross-cultural learning and exchange. This is the true GAIS family and community!
1998 – present
Mrs. Erika van Deusen is the new director: A very successful year for our school with the number of students peaking at 264. Two classes per grade in elementary school and for the first time a tenth grade with six students and a total of 31 teachers. So many reasons to celebrate!
The number of students increased to 250 with three first grades and two second and third grades for the first time in school history. Large upper grades have an average of 17 students per class and six students in 9th grade. The school extends its use permit to 300 students and adds five portables, including the new gym, new upper grade classrooms, new assembly room for music and a teachers’ prep room, art and crafts room, expansion of library. The old portables are refurbished and the Kindergarten is completely remodeled during the summer. First time consideration to offer 10th grade and apply for the German Anerkennung, with visits from Mr. Lauer and Mr. Quennet of the Bundesverwaltungsamt.
The school increases to 162 students with 24 teachers. First overseas DAS party, organized by Angelika Hahn, our first parent rep.
Our school has 103 students in 1st to 9th grades and 38 in Kindergarten. New science lab is installed thanks to sponsors, donations and many fundraisers organized by parents and students. Second major fundraiser at Kohl Mansion in Burlingame.
Student body formation (SMV, Schuelermitverwaltung) help with organization and funding for school projects and activities. Opening of a new computer lab for upper grades.
School has 89 students and 36 in Kindergarten. Addition of 2 classroom portables on campus, new KG room, and KG play structure. Major donation by Siemens/Rolm provides new office equipment, such as fax/copy machine. First major fundraiser at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga.
Five-year celebration at the Elliott Street campus, with many special guests including the German, Austrian, and Swiss consuls.
Official opening of our first German library with the support of Claudia Kispersky. First edition of student newspaper, the Echo. 52 students, first to eighth grade, 18 teachers.
Opening of the school in Menlo Park on October 23, 1991. We welcome our second principal, Herrn Heinz Jochem Schmahl. The school receives the required permit to operate a non-government organization.
The school opens its Kindergarten at the University Center in Palo Alto.
Opening of the GAS (German-American School) at the Woodland School campus in Portola Valley, thanks to the hard work of teachers, staff and families. The school begins in 5 rented rooms at the Woodland School, with 22 students ranging from Kindergarten to 5th grade. Frau Anne Gross is the first principal with seven teachers.