Belgrade, Serbia Report of what it's like to live there - 03/03/16
Personal Experiences from Belgrade, Serbia
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?
We started in grade 3 & 5 and are currently in 5 & 7.
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)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Embassy supported school.
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?
We found the admissions and placement procedures to be very transparent. The Admissions Director was very clear in her early communications and very willing to answer any questions.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
I found this school to be very supportive of new students and families. My kids were offered welcome buddies to help with the adjustment. Involvement with the PTSA offered many opportunities to meet others.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
I think for some grades it is hit or miss. I have no problem reaching out to a teacher if I have a question, concern, or am unclear about what is being studied. I always have had a response within 24 hours.
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?
"Hidden Costs" would include the school lunches - you sign up for the next month's lunches online. You receive a special access code/pin. You can cancel lunches if needed and receive a credit towards the future month. In 7th grade we had to purchase a scientific calculator, but were notified by the teacher prior to the start of the new school year, allowing everyone plenty of time to purchase it. There are no uniforms at this school. Beginning School year 2017, the upper school students will be required to bring their own laptop, switching from a loaner laptop program that is currently in place. If your child is involved in sports, there could be travel costs involved for tournaments, but often you are given flight options so that everyone involved can vote on the costs of these trips.
3. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
Both the Lower School and Upper School offer a wide variety of after school activities three times during the school year including everyone from PK-12. To help with the numbers as well as the materials, in the Lower School, there are separate activities that are geared more towards younger (Pk-grade 2) and older (Gr3 - Gr5) students.
4. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
I think ISB does a good job at keeping the kids stimulated and giving them many avenues to learn. Not all kids learn the same, and I think this school makes every effort to keep kids engaged.
5. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
In the Lower School, in my opinion, there seems to not be enough homework that is provided, however we supplement with American History classes online, as well as reinforcing the use of programs through the school such as IXL and Raz Kids when finished with the weekly packet.
6. Administration-parent communication:
I feel that this communication is good. Each week the school puts out a newsletter with information from the Director, Principals, and others to inform us of the happenings at the school.
7. Teacher-student communication:
In the upper school especially I have seen some of the best teacher-student communication, especially when it comes to feedback on reports and tests. What I have appreciated is that the teachers still include the parents in the conversation so that we can address anything that may be a concern. In the Lower School, I have not experienced and issues with the teacher-student communication.
8. 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?
This could vary depending on the student. I think my kids are appropriately challenged with their subjects/classes.
9. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
Yes. One of my kids works with the Lower School Learning Specialist for reading and writing. In the beginning we did not feel like we were getting the services needed, however setting up a face to face appointment and sitting together we have been with her and the teachers in seeing that the needs are being met. Outside of school we work with a phenomenal company that provides tele-therapy in services we need (Speech, Occupational Services and Reading Intervention support). The Learning Specialist at the school has included reports from this outside team into our IEP/ILLP that have really helped.
10. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
See above. While the school can provide some resources for special needs, being able to advocate for your child, as well as spending the time to locate necessary services that may be needed and not provided is very important and not the schools responsibility. They can assist you locating any known contacts, but you need to be the voice for child when you feel needs are not being met. Talk with the teachers, learning support specialist, counselor. If your child has an IEP/ILLP there is a team in place to help your child. Be active in that team.
11. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
12. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
Through after school activities, as well as regular classes, art and music are offered to all students. Drama is offered as an after school activity in the Upper School with at least 2 large productions put on each year. In the lower school, in Grade 4, as a unit theme dance was one of the topics and students presented their learning of rhythm, etc through routines they worked on within their groups.
13. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
Each year Grade 5 has a bonding trip that last from 2 or 3 nights away from Belgrade. The costs is very reasonable as it includes lodging, food, transportation, activities, etc. The Upper School classes also had bonding trips that were an additional costs to the school fees.
14. What activities do you feel are missing?
There could be a list of things here, however because of the area, or school grounds/facilities available, I feel ISB offers everything they can.
15. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
My oldest has had the time to participate in lacrosse, basketball, drama, chess club, the school paper,
My youngest has enjoyed baseball, basketball, soccer, photography club, Lego class, homework club, table tennis, and probably more.
This is the first school where the activities have been offered free, and not as an additional parent cost.
There is a new swimming program that is at the costs of the parents due to travel, rental costs, etc.
16. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
This is the first overseas school where as new students my kids received a Welcome Buddy. This helped each of them tremendously in learning about the school through their peers, rather than just from an authority figure.
Academics & Resources:
1. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
While the libraries may be considered small when compared to other schools libraries, they offer a wide variety of materials for all ages. The previous and current librarian are also very active in bringing in authors to visit the school.
2. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
My kids have spent a lot of their time on laptops and iPads at school. My oldest was provided a laptop from grade 6. They have been able to do presentations based on their learning with the provided laptops.
3. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
The PE program in the Lower & Upper School is wonderful, with a variety of topics throughout the school year.
4. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
These are some of the smallest class sizes I have seen, with at most 15 or so in a class with a teacher and a teaching assistant in the lower school classrooms.
5. 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?
PYP, MP and IB Diploma program are all available at ISB.
6. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
Having been in the US prior to this posting, I feel that there is less homework given here for the week. Some parents seem to think there is a fair amount, others view it as a lot.
7. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Art, Music, are offered at both campuses. Technology and Design are offered as a class at the Upper School. Drama/Performing Arts is offered as an after school activity.
8. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
9. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
10. 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?
Yes. There is a range to include sports, arts, academic, etc.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
My kids have socialized with local and expat classmates outside of the classroom, with lots of sleepovers, playdates, etc happening on weekends and during breaks when families may not be traveling.
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.
While there have been episodes of bullying at the Upper School, the new Principal took it very serious and made it known it would not be tolerated. I have heard of instances if what some believed to be bullying in the lower school, however personally feel that bullying may be seen differently by different people and therefore could be a seen differently than our experiences.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
One of the strengths of the school is that from the lower school grades they begin to get the students to be global thinkers and how to be good citizens. There is community service action that happens from young ages and does not stop when they students are in Upper school. My oldest had a chance to volunteer with an organization showing elderly people how to use social media easily. Even with language barriers, he found this rewarding. Other students learned about drinking water not being available to everyone around the world, particularly in Sudan and took it upon themselves to raise awareness and fundraise for the Sudan Well Project, smashing their goal of money raised.
2. Would you choose this school again? Why?
Yes. My kids have been very happy there and have made wonderful friends. They have experienced great teachers, a fine learning environment, and we would choose ISB if we had the option.