Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 07/30/15
Personal Experiences from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
School Name: Pre-Escolar Montessori
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?
Preschool from ages 1.5-3 years
3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
lived in Santo Domingo for two years while spouse worked at Embassy
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Pre-Escolar is the most traditional pre-school Montessori in Santo Domingo. In fact, it is the feeder school for Primaria Montessori (the primary aged Montessori for kids aged 6-12). The school is set off the main street and has huge trees and a nice "natural" setting with two decent play areas where the kids can explore, socialize with other kids, etc. The teachers are well educated in Montessori and are incredibly nurturning. There are "pets" on campus (birds) and music is heavily integrated into the curriculum. The classrooms "look" like any Montessori classroom in the world- simple, work stations, Montessori materials. The program is entirely in Spanish, but that was ok for us since we speak English at home. Pre-Escolar is centrally located between Las Praderas and Piatini, so traffic is relatively manageable.
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?
A- we contacted the school before we arrived. We originally thought we wanted to place our 1.5 year old in school when she turned two but when we arrived, we decided starting her at 1.5 would be better. We worked with the school on a new start date (six months earlier than we originally planned), and the school was accommodating.
I think it's better to contact the school to give them a heads up if you think that this might be an option for you, so the school can tell you whether or not they will have space. Usually there are 1-2 Embassy families per year. There are TONS of preschool choices in Santo Domingo, so I encourage you to visit several schools to see what school might be the best fit for your family and child.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
B-The administration was very understanding if I had questions or concerns. The administration gives overviews of the Montessori method and how they prefer that parents keep a Montessori following (schedule, toy organization/work stations, teaching kids to be independent by feeding themselves, etc) at home as well as at school.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
You may start your child at age 1.5. The teachers at 1.5-2 are incredibly nurturing especially as the kiddos are learning how to become more independent, learn to walk/run, talk, etc. There is very little communication between teachers and parents, but you can ask the teacher a question if you need to gather more information on the progress of your child.
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:
A- as far as I could see, all students and families were treated fairly. There were some pretty wealthy Dominican kids at the school, and those kids were treated just as fairly as the more middle class ones. There are kids in the school from Korea (South), France, etc. but the majority of kids are from the DR.
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
C- you have to ask the teacher for feedback. That being said, the teacher(s) will remind you if there is an activity or if you need to bring something or if there was an incident. It's minimal communication but it is existent.
Like traditional Montessori, parents are not really allowed or welcome in the classroom, since it is the kids' environment. You drop your child at the gate or at the classroom door.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
C- If your kid is a bit gifted, they don't seem to do much at the young (1.5-3) age range. They use many of the same material at the end of the year as they do at the end, so our toddler became bored with the puzzles.
There were a couple students with learning difficulties or 1-2 who were autistic. I think it would be difficult at Pre-Escolar and your kid might get lost b/c the classroom sizes are quite large, so they don't have individualized care/tutoring.
So, basically, if your kid is pretty average, he/she will do fine but if your kid needs some special care- either on the gifted front or the learning difficulty front- this might not be a great fit.
5. 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?
uniforms (khaki pants, skirts that you purchase on your own) and school shirts (350 pesos each)
6. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
N/A. None although there is a decent parent network where you can get ideas for after school activities. But the younger kids from 1.5-4 also just want to spend some time at home since they are at school all morning. Afterschool activities in Santo Domingo could include: music class (Gymboree or Crescendo), ballet, gymnastics, tennis, soccer, swim lessons. We had our kid at Crescendo music (1x/week) from 1.5-3 year old and it was great!
7. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
A- all the students came back relatively clean (faced washed, etc). The Embassy doctor commented on how well our 3 year washes her hands- something that they teach and reinforce in the Montessori environment. Almost all the kids were toilet-trained by aged 2 b/c the teachers really help and work on this with all the students. It was fantastic and super, super easy to potty train b/c they were so supportive of this at school.
8. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
9. Administration-parent communication:
A- the administrators speak English well and welcome feedback and communication. They are great!
10. Teacher-student communication:
A- our little one was more than happy at her school. She really loved the school, the teachers, the environment. It's a small school, so all the teachers know all the students and it seems like a really tight knit "teaching" community.
11. 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?
Yes- I felt like they needed to incorporate science into the program. At summer camp, our tot had "experiments" every week and loved it. This seemed to be missing from her Montessori school.
12. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
Yes, at the beginning, the teachers seemed to work with her on her Spanish because when we arrived, our 1.5 year old could not speak any Spanish.
13. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
Yes, the school helped our child become bilingual.
14. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
Not sure although unlike Montessori schools in the States, this Montessori seems to keep all kids at the same level for the 1.5-3 year olds. Maybe in the older ages, they modify based on the kid.
15. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
16. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
17. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
You have to pay for meals (snacks) which I generally thought were packaged foods and unhealthy, so we brought our own. Therefore, the 2nd year, we did not have to pay for school snacks.
18. What activities do you feel are missing?
19. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
20. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
Yes, they are patient and help kids integrate.
21. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
There was a two month learning curve, so we made sure she had playdates in English with other Embassy kids to make sure her transition to her Spanish-only speaking school wasn't the only "kid" interaction she was having.
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?
N/A- although during the 2x/year parent-teacher conferences, the teachers always asked what "activities" the kids did during the week. I think they wanted to know that the kids weren't watching TV all day.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
C- the school could have a bit better selection of puzzles and books or improve their "library" of resources
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?
A-The kids had outdoor play area every day at least once, maybe twice. The play area is shaded (it gets hot and sunny here!), well maintained and clean. There are slides, swings, a monkey climbing area for the toddlers, a few Step 2 houses... and huge trees, plenty of geckos and rocks for the more natural adventurers.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
B- This is the downside. The classes are quite large. The first year (1.5-2 year olds) had 28 students with four teachers. But with colds and vacations, etc. the average was probably about 22 students per day. The second year (ages 2-3), there were 33 kids with four teachers and the average was about 28 kids per day. That being said, while the classes were larger than in the USA, the teacher-to-student ration was still good.
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)?
B- Music is a huge part of the program. There is music class every week. In addition, the kids sing songs every day in the classroom. There are two "recitals" during the year- one at Christmas and one around Mother's Day- when the kids perform and sing.
The kids do some art- it depends on the teacher. They color, paint, etc. We augmented "art" at home because I felt our child needed/wanted more art.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
No, not at all. It is a Spanish speaking preschool. The administrators and 1-2 of the teachers speak Spanish.
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?
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. Our daughter was invited to many birthday parties!
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.
No, our child was included in everything as far as we could tell. She had many friends. She was the only native English speaking kid but did fine after she learned a bit of Spanish.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
traditional Montessori with competent teachers
2. Greatest challenge?
Frustration that they use the same materials at end of the year (puzzles, etc) as they do at the beginning so feel that they don't adapt enough to kids who want more challenge...b/c the classroom size is so large
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
Yes in a second. Loved it. Was a great fit for our child, our family.