Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 06/01/18

Personal Experiences from Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria 06/01/18

Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?

I have 2 children attending AIS.

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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

One child attended from grades 1-3, the other from grades 4-6.

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3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

Spouse employed at embassy.

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4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

Yes -- there are many options. We chose this school because it had a good reputation, but other schools did too. The proximity to our home was the deciding factor.

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Admissions & Welcome:

1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?

Yes. Although I later learned how incredibly handicapped un-friendly this school is, and it's not clearly stated anywhere. For example, if your child is in a wheelchair, s/he cannot attend because it is simply not handicap accessible.

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2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

It's fine. Fairly standard as international schools go.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

Generally pretty good in elementary school, but middle school is pretty awful in terms of communication. There is a weekly newsletter, "Scoops", that includes key information from the principals of elementary, middle, and high schools. There is rarely any info from the middle school. And when information does come, it's often conflicting.

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2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?

Most things are rolled into the tuition, but this school seems to have a lot of "sneaky" fees -- that can definitely add up if you have more than one child.

For example, in grade 2, students are required to play a string instrument. But if they want to continue after that, you have to pay a lot to rent or buy the instrument.

In middle school, in grade 6, students can play any band instrument and have one-on-one lessons each week. But if the student continues in higher grades, they have to find a private tutor for weekly lessons. None of this is explained at the outset, it's just something parents learn later.

In middle and high school, sports teams travel a lot internationally, and these can also be expensive. The fees are not announced in advance, they just suddenly appear on your overdue account.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

Counselors for each level (elementary, middle, high). Elementary is awesome, middle not so good. Maybe staffing will change. I am not sure about high school.

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2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?

There is some kind of after-school care for elementary kids, I am not sure of the costs. I think the info is on the website.

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3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

There is a library, but the elementary one is fairly small. Room for improvement here! Students are definitely encouraged to borrow and read books at home.

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4. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?

Devices are provided in the class for elementary students as needed, and middle school students are issued their own laptops. It's quite tech-heavy once they hit middle school.

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5. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

No computer lab since students are issued their own devices.

The school seems to do a good job of teaching digital citizenship, cyber bullying, etc. That being said, they don't really seem to check, monitor, or install filters or safeguards on any devices, which has been a bit surprising.

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6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

Good resources, gym, fields, etc. No swimming pool but the school takes advantage of nearby pools and other excellent facilities to fill in any gaps.

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7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

Generally, yes, although grade 6 (start of middle school) is notorious for a very large amount of homework (often deemed "unreasonable" by parents).

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8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

A little bit of everything -- lots of options for anyone with any interest.

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9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

I assume so.

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10. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

Some support for learning disabilities, but we did not have any first hand experience with this.

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11. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

Practically ZERO. Also keep this in mind if you have a baby/small children. The school is NOT accessible with a wheelchair, stroller, or similar. There are a lot of staircases throughout this windy school, and you cannot avoid them. It is a challenge.

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12. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?

There is a little bit of everything in elementary and middle school. As noted above, communication in middle school is lacking a bit. We often learned about teams and activities AFTER they happened (and I read everything and am a fairly actively involved parent).

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

Yes and no. In elementary and early middle school, yes. But I have heard, and seen, that locals versus expats become more separated and segregated in the later years.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?

B. It was fine. Maybe my expectations were too high since it's Vienna and I figured everything was top-notch. It's a good school, my kids learned and had a good experience, and I would generally recommend it to others.

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2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!

My biggest concern is with the school's bus system. From what I (and my children) have experienced, there are no bus monitors, and in our
experience, the drivers do not appear to speak or understand English. I have heard of more than one incident where the school's buses were involved in accidents with trams. As a parent, I'm very concerned about how my children would communicate with the driver and/or
emergency assistance, especially if they were directly transported to a hospital. Having a monitor would greatly alleviate my fears.

I'm also concerned about bullying on the buses in the absence of monitors, and about the use of personal devices on the bus, which
evidently has free wifi. My 2nd grade son has told me that he would intentionally sit behind older kids so he could "watch them play
inappropriate games and videos" (his words, not mine). I have been advocating that the school add monitors to the buses, and I understand
others are doing so as well, but I have not yet seen a change in the situation.

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