San Jose, Costa Rica Report of what it's like to live there - 06/10/13
Personal Experiences from San Jose, Costa Rica
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
Twins in kindergarden. Please note this is mainly a preschool, but they will accept children up to age 6.5-7 due to the local school configurations of Preparatory & 1st grade (which is equivilant to our 1st & 2nd grades).
3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?
2011 - present
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
US Government (Embassy)
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, it was very easy. No waitlist and no testing.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
It is a very welcoming school, however I still don't know many families there, as our girls ride a bus. Therefore I'm not there to see the parents when it's drop-off time.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
This is a traditional Montessori preschool. Many schools locally advertise that they are Montessori, but do not follow all the Montessori teachings & processes nor have the correct/appropriate Montessori supplies. There are approximately 45 students, ages 10 months to 7 years. There are 11 teachers. The director is a Costa Rican married to an American who has her degree from Harvard and has studied Montessori in Switzerland. You can choose a half-day or a full-day program. Additionally, this school operates year-round with just a few 1-2 week breaks per year.
2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Excellent. They send home a monthly newsletter, and each student has a notebook that comes home periodically when information needs to be passed to the parents.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
I am not aware of any children attending with learning difficulties. However, I think with meetings & discussions with the director there could be an excellent plan implemented. My girls began reading by 4 years while in this program and are doing simple math. I think any gifted student would excel at PKA due to the Montessori concept.
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
None, however the school stays open until 5:30 pm daily.
6. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
7. Administration-parent communication:
8. Teacher-student communication:
9. Academics, answer the following questions "yes" or "no" with an explanation if appropriate:<br><br>Are there any classes or subjects where students are not appropriately challenged?
10. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
11. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
12. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
13. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
14. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
The only drawback is that there is not a lot of instruction regarding lessons specifically geared towards America and/or American culture...such as seasons (there are only 2 seasons in Costa Rica - rainy & not rainy), patriotism (July 4th), etc. However, they do celebrate Children's Day and dress in their native costumes, so the American kids dress in something American related.
15. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
Yes, as stated above. Additionally there is the occasional field trip. Also, each year you must either pay a school-supply fee or send a long list of supplies (typically in January).
16. What activities do you feel are missing?
Would love to see a musical-instrument offering (violin?) and gymnastics.
17. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
18. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
19. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
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?
2. 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 not a library per se, but there is ample access to books for the students.
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
P.E. is offered at an additional fee once (1 hour) per week. There is an outdoor yard area for play, as well as an indoor play area for rainy days.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
For an extra fee there are weekly extra activities in Music (Kindermusik program), Cooking, PE and Ballet. These are offered during school hours.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
No. Most teachers are biligual, however not all. The school is all dual language and has at least one English-speaking teacher in each classroom.
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
11. 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?
Limited, see above.
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, there is at least 1 birthday party per month to attend. We also schedule playdates with 1 or 2 other students.
2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
Very small and almost like a family. Wonderful teachers including two Americans.
2. Greatest challenge?
Small class size, so it's hard for my twins who would do better if seperated. In fact, the school has been able to accommodate this to some extent by splitting the class in half and doing different activities in different locations of the building.
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
Yes, our girls have excelled dramtically at this school. In fact, we contemplated moving them to a more traditional school for kindergarden and had them tested. They tested at the Preparatory level, which is the equivilent of first grade at the age of 4 1/2.