PictureA rendering of the new facade at 70 Lomita Dr., soon-to-be home of the new Pacific Discovery School.

Pacific Discovery School, a new, private TK-8 school founded and headed by Wendy Xa, is opening in the longtime Mill Valley School District space at 70 Lomita Drive, the home of the private Ring Mountain Day School for the past 14 years in the building adjacent to the campus of Edna Maguire Elementary School.

As Xa and her team move towards building a new school at the location, they’re promoting a curriculum that embraces small class sizes, customized learning plans, on-site learning specialists, homeschooler support, outdoor education and collaborative learning. They’ve already accepted the school’s first round of applicants with rolling admissions continuing through Spring until they’re Fall classes are full.

Pacific Discovery School hosts another open house, this time set for Saturday, April 7 from 1-3pm. Xa, a former vice president at Goldman Sachs and a mother of two who founded the Mandarin immersion Presidio Knolls School in San Francisco in 2008 as a preschool before expanding it to a K-8 program, continues to expand her team with the recent hire of Assistant Head of School Shauna Sullivan.

Pacific Discovery is taking over Ring Mountain’s lease with the district, an agreement that runs through 2024. With the success of Presidio Knolls behind it, Xa’s Pacific Discovery School hopes to step into that void with “a focus on embracing and empowering the individual child to feel confident in who he is versus what others think he should be,” says Christina Forté, the school’s community outreach director. “That’s really the foundation on which this school has been built. Creating, self-aware, happy, empathetic and confident kids…that’s going to be the school’s measure of success.”

Forté first learned about Pacific Discovery School through her friend Kimberly Hawks, the school’s director of strategy operations and communications. Their kids go to public school together now.

“I think this school is really special and I decided to join the team to help spread the word,” she says. “Wendy is an incredibly impressive person, and she’s pulled together a great team of educators and curriculum specialists.”

Forté says Xa’s idea for Pacific Discovery School came from her desire to customize the learning environment for each child.

“She fleshed out this idea of looking at the child from a very individualistic perspective, focusing on the academic and cognitive ability of course, but also giving equal measure to the social and emotional growth of a child,” Forté says. “Customized learning plans for each child make Pacific Discovery a unique offering and one that I feel many parents will find attractive.”

Xa felt that Ring Mountain’s space lent itself well to the outdoor education component, Forte says, particularly its proximity to places like Muir Woods and Mount Tam. “Learning differences will also be embraced – there will be real support,” Forté adds, noting that Pacific Discovery will have a learning specialist on site.

Forté says the school is recruiting students from Novato to San Francisco and plans to run a bus from San Francisco to accommodate those students.

She notes that “there were many things that were happening at Ring Mountain that were pretty special, and we’ll be retaining some of those things.” That includes the Harkness table, a teaching method by which students sit at a table to discuss ideas in an encouraging, open-minded environment with minimal teacher intervention.

“It’s an amazing to watch these kids engage in a richer and more robust discussion in which everyone feels heard and there’s a confidence level in every kid,” she says.

Xa and her team plan to renovate parts of the Ring Mountain building, including the front facade, Forté says. They’ll take over the building in June.

The 411: Pacific Discovery School holds an Open House on Sunday, April 7, 1-3pm. 70 Lomita Drive. REGISTER & MORE INFO. Tours also happen every Tuesday at 9:30am. Sign up for a tour here.

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