Alto was founded in 1988 as the Deutsch-Amerikanische Schule (DAS or German-American School as it was later called) by a group of dedicated German and American families who wanted a place for their children to learn in a bilingual German-English environment. By building such a school, they would not only give their families a place to learn and practice their German, but also provide German, Swiss and Austrian expats with an arena to promote their cultural heritage.
From German to International
The beginnings were humble. The school itself consisted of three rooms rented from the Woodland School in Portola Valley. In the beginning, the school operated with little financial resources, sometimes requiring board members to pay teachers out of their own pockets while also dealing with phone and power disconnections. Over the years, the school community began to grow, attracting more international families from Europe, Asia, and Africa and eventually moving to a more permanent location on Elliott Drive in Menlo Park.
Start of the IB Program in 2007
The school continued to prosper and was subsequently rechristened the German-American International School (GAIS). In the early 2000s, GAIS began the process of implementing the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, a highly regarded international education curriculum. After receiving authorization in 2007, GAIS introduced the IB Primary Years Program and became the first accredited IB World School in Silicon Valley to offer it. The school now offers the IB Middle Years Program (introduced in the fall of 2011) up to Grade 10 as well as the IB Diploma Program in grades 11 and 12.
High School opens in 2016
The school announced its new name, Alto International School, in the fall of 2016, reflecting the increasingly diverse international student community. ‘Alto’ is Latin for “high” or “tall”, reflecting the school’s commitment to providing an outstanding international preparatory education to the Bay Area community. This coincided with the launch of the high school program and the enrollment of the first 9th-grade class. In 2018 Alto received accreditation for the International Baccalaureate Diploma for grades 11 and 12. Alto is now the only school in the Bay Area that offers the complete IB Program to students, preschool to high school, and gives students the opportunity to graduate with the prestigious IB Diploma. Alto’s first cohort of students successfully graduated in May 2020.