Zuckerbergs to start school mixing learning and health

A photo posted on Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg of wife Priscilla (left), who has started The Primary School.
A photo posted on Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg of wife Priscilla (left), who has started The Primary School. FACEBOOK

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his doctor wife on Friday revealed plans to start a private school in a hardscrabble Silicon Valley town, mixing education with healthcare.

Mr Zuckerberg voiced pride in his wife, Priscilla, for the plan to create The Primary School in the working-class city of East Palo Alto.

Ms Chan works as a paediatrician and has also been a teacher, seeing first-hand how poor health hinders learning in classrooms, her husband said.

"Health and education are closely connected," Mr Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook page.

"When children aren't healthy, they can't learn as easily."

Despite being located between high-income Palo Alto and thriving Menlo Park where Facebook has its headquarters, East Palo Alto has long had a reputation for crime, gangs and poverty.

Ms Chan has been working over the past year with the community to combine early-childhood through 12th grade education with pre-natal support and on-site healthcare for children, according to the blog post.

"By bringing healthcare and education together in one place, the goal is to support families and help children from underserved communities reach their full potential," said Facebook co-founder and chief executive Zuckerberg.

"It's inspiring to see Priscilla grow as an entrepreneur and leader."

In June of last year, the couple began pumping US$120 million (S$160 million) into San Francisco Bay Area schools.

Distribution of the money is being spread over five years, with initial grants going toward initiatives for providing computers and Internet access in public schools as well as training teachers and enlisting parents in efforts to keep students on track.

"Improving public education in our country and our community is something Priscilla and I really care about," Mr Zuckerberg said at the time.

More than five years ago, he channelled US$100 million into improving schools in the New Jersey city of Newark in an early foray into improving public education that got failing grades.