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Glossary of School Terms

Here are some common terms and language used at CDS that we hope will help new families and employees understand and navigate our culture and traditions. Please note that some of the events referred to in this glossary, such as our Friday Morning Assemblies, have been paused or moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All School


  • 16th Street: This is the three-story building near the exit gate of the parking lot, which houses administrative offices. The 16th Street offices include admissions, advancement, after care/summer camp, communications, finance, technology, human resources, P.E. teachers, the Early Childhood After School Program Coordinator, and the Lower School Counselor.
  • 333 / SJH: 333 is short for 333 Dolores Street, the address for the lower school building. It is also called St. Joseph’s Hall (SJH), a name given to the building when it opened in 1925. SJH includes our transitional kindergarten through fourth grade classes.
  • 601: 601 is short for 601 Dolores Street, the location of our Middle School, grades 5-8.
  • Bid & Bash: Annual fundraising auction and community celebration. The money raised directly supports sliding scale tuition.
  • (The) Bower: Also known as “The Papa Artie Bower.” The area is named after a former CDS student’s grandfather. The shaded area adjacent to the Starfish (preschool) classroom. The treehouse, mud kitchen, and willow hut are located here.
  • Boys & Girls Club / B&G Club: The Columbia Park Boys & Girls Club, adjacent to the east property line of our 333 yard. We are proud of our community partnership with the Boys & Girls Club. In addition to our leased gymnasium space located there, our Community Library and Center for Inquiry also is located in the B&G Club and is the hub of an exciting learning commons for both of our communities.
  • Bungalows: Also known as the preschool bungalows, these are the classrooms that house our preschool. The classroom names are the Teddy Bears, Leaping Lizards, and Starfish.
  • The Coop: Weekly all-school newsletter, sent through ParentSquare on Wednesday afternoons.
  • Divisions: CDS has three main divisions: Early Childhood Program (preschool-transitional kindergarten), Lower School (K-4th grade), and Middle School (5th-8th grade).

Contacting the divisions:
Early Childhood Program and Lower School: Call the Front Desk at (415) 861-5432, x310.
Middle School: Call the MS Front Desk at (415) 861-5432, x450.

  • Double Doors: The two brown wooden doors that open onto the driveway at the west end of St. Joseph’s Hall (SJH). TK-4th grade students are dismissed from these doors each day.
  • Earth-Friendly Raffle: Held weekly at Friday Morning Assembly, students who come to school in an earth-friendly way and/or with a waste-free lunch may enter the raffle. Parents who bring their own coffee mugs may also enter the raffle. This raffle is generally hosted by members of the student-led Green Task Force, now a part of Student Leadership Team.
  • FAM: an acronym for the Family Access Module, a password-protected section of the CDS website where current families can update their contact information, find an online directory of CDS families, view and download student progress reports, etc.
  • Farm & Garden: The space off the main yard at the 333 campus with vegetable gardens, fruit trees, sheep, and chickens.
  • Friday Coffee: Weekly coffee provided on the CDS yard prior to each assembly. Parent/guardian volunteers sign up to bring the large urns of donated coffee from Church Street Cafe.
  • Friday Morning Assembly: This is a weekly gathering from 8:30-9:00 a.m. on Fridays, in which the entire CDS community is welcomed to student-led assemblies.  
  • Grandparents & Special Friends Day: Annual event taking place before Thanksgiving to which all our grandparents and special friends are invited. Features student performances and classroom visits.
  • Liaisons: Parents/guardians who act as communicators for upcoming activities or events related to a specific class or grade.
  • Magnus: A web-based platform used for medical and health forms.
  • NDP: Notre Dame Plaza, a senior citizen residential facility directly west of the Lower School and Preschool campus, with whom we share our driveway.
  • ParentSquare: A software platform that allows families, faculty, and staff to share ideas and details of upcoming events in a variety of ways (i.e. by class, by division, or whole school). It is also used as a way to communicate regularly with households about class updates and learning activities.
  • Preschool Gate (AM): The large, vehicular “fire gate” on the 333 campus that is staffed and opened each morning for preschool drop-off from 8:00 - 8:30 a.m.
  • Preschool Gate (PM): The pedestrian section of the black gate facing the driveway where preschoolers are picked up at 2:15 p.m.
  • Procare: A software application designed to help families sign their children in and out of school in a secure, efficient manner.
  • SJH: St. Joseph’s Hall, the historic main school building on the 333 campus.
  • SFO: Not the airport! SFO is an acronym for SchoolForms Online, a secure module of the CDS database accessed through our website. Families access SFO when completing enrollment agreements and annual information forms required by CDS.
  • Sliding Scale Tuition (SST): The wide range of tuition offered to make our school accessible and affordable to families from a broad range of economic circumstances. Our sliding scale tuition is strictly need-based and recognizes that each family’s financial situation is unique. This program supports our belief that socioeconomic status is a core aspect of diversity that benefits the learning experience of all children.
  • TK: Transitional kindergarten, also known as the “Alligators.”
  • UltraCamp: A registration website that the Extended Program uses to post and enroll students in enrichment classes, as well as vacation and summer camps.
  • Wood Chips: The play area in between the Lower School building and Preschool classrooms covered in wood chips, that houses play structures and a sandbox.


  • Affinity Groups: An affinity group provides a “safe space” in which its members can explore issues of shared identity and experience and affirm their emotional and intellectual responses to being part of a distinct subset of the community.
  • All-Community Meetings: Faculty and staff meet together once a month for professional development, to hear speakers, and for other announcements and activities.
  • Buddy Program: Our Buddy Program pairs older classes with younger classes for dedicated time talking, reading, and playing together.
  • CBL: Community Based Learning - programs and units of study that aim to deepen students’ theoretical learning with real-world experiences.
  • Challenges: These are areas for improvement that appear on progress reports or in emails from faculty to families about their child(ren).
  • COID: Committee on Inclusion and Diversity - this group is charged with helping CDS develop strategies to realize our mission that aspires to develop each student’s genius and create an environment where children of all backgrounds feel safe to be themselves. Currently, there are two branches - one comprised of faculty and staff, the other of Board and staff members.
  • Community Partnerships: CDS partners with a variety of community-based organizations, including:
    • Aim High
    • Boys & Girls Club
    • Breakthrough
    • Our Family Coalition
    • SMART Program
  • Essential Questions: Used to promote inquiry and critical thinking, essential questions provide a structure for breaking down big ideas and making them relevant to the lives of our students.
  • MAP: MAP®, or the Measure of Academic Progress, Growth™ test is a computerized adaptive test which measures what students know and what they’re ready to learn next in language, reading and math. By dynamically adjusting to each student’s performance, MAP Growth creates a personalized assessment experience that accurately measures performance—whether a student performs on, above, or below grade level. All CDS students in grades 1-8 take the MAP Growth test two times a year; once in the fall and again in the spring. Additionally, teachers will have the option of administering the test midway through the year (during winter) on an as-needed basis. 
  • Parent Education: We strive to provide parents with the chance to learn new skills, try new approaches, and talk with fellow parents about shared experiences. We frequently partner with PEN (Parents Education Network) and SPEAK (Speakers for Parents Educators And Knowledge) to promote lectures and discussion sessions about child-rearing practices.
  • Progress Reports/Narratives: Periodic reports that describe your child’s achievements, challenges, and areas for improvement.
  • Social Justice: An educational approach and core tradition at CDS that aspires to give students the tools and practice to respectfully interact with people from diverse cultures, experiences, family structures, and beliefs.

Division-Specific Language

Early Childhood Program

  • ECP: The acronym often used for Early Childhood Program.
  • Butterflies: ECP students staying after dismissal are part of the Butterflies after school program.

Lower School

  • Responsive Classroom: a way of teaching that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community.
  • Rubric: A grid that gives concrete examples of what is and is not expected from student work.
  • The Structure: The climbing structure on the wood chips.
  • The Yard: The general term used for the area inside the black gate at 333 Dolores, in between the Lower School and Preschool.
  • The Blacktop: The asphalt area in between the Lower School and Preschool at 333 Dolores.
  • The EEK (Environmental Education Kitchen): The kitchen next to the wood chips off the yard at 333 Dolores.

Middle School

  • Trips:
    • Point Bonita - overnight trip for 5th/6th graders in the spring
    • Ashland - refers to Ashland, Oregon, where we take 7th graders to see Shakespeare plays (among others) in the fall
    • 8th Grade Trip - various locations, in the spring
  • Advisory: groups of 10-12 students that meet during the week to check-in, share updates, and engage in peer discussions.
  • Bulldog Beat: A newsletter with events and updates about Middle School distributed to all CDS Middle School families.
  • Daily Bulletin: An update with Middle School events and news shown to Middle School students each morning, usually during their first class at the Middle School campus.
  • “Do the right thing”: The idea of challenging and empowering students to think critically and contextually about decisions they make, rather than giving them a list of dos and don’ts.
  • FAS: Food and Agricultural Science class.
  • iLab / Maker Space: A space for students to design, brainstorm, build, test, and iterate.
  • MS Assembly: A weekly gathering of all students, faculty, and administrators at the Middle School campus.
  • Navigating Class: A weekly class with a focus that varies by grade. For instance, in fifth grade, Navigating aims to help new students become acculturated to Middle School. In eighth grade, it focuses on helping students navigate the high school application process.
  • Portfolio: This is a collection of student work, tests, and quizzes, used during Student-Led Conferences.
  • SLT (Student Leadership Team): A group that encourages students from every grade to be the voice of their classmates and bring their own ideas about how we can continually make CDS a better place (e.g. spirit, events, fundraisers, service learning, etc.).
  • SLC (Student-Led Conferences): An opportunity for students to practice public speaking skills and field questions as they present examples of their work to their families.
  • SSAT (Secondary Scholastic Aptitude Test): A test given to Middle School students, the score of which is included as a part of the high school application process.