San Salvador, El Salvador Report of what it's like to live there - 08/31/23

Personal Experiences from San Salvador, El Salvador

San Salvador, El Salvador 08/31/23

School Name:

Escuela Americana (EA)

Background Information:

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

Parent

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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?

1st-4th Grade

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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)?

government

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

The majority of Embassy families go to Escuela Americana (EA) or Academia Brit√°nica Cuscatleca (ABC). There are several other options including French and German Schools and Colegio Internacional de San Salvador, among others. We were deciding between EA an ABC and ultimately chose EA for several reasons. During COVID, ABC was much more conservative with in-person learning and we really did not want to go back to virtual learning. I had also talked to several families that switched from ABC to EA during COVID for that reason. The majority of Embassy families were at EA at the time of our arrival. EA's campus is beautiful, we received a very warm welcome from the admissions team, we wanted to stay in the American curriculum, we liked the various specials and opportunities they offered (for example STEAM), and EA's school day schedule worked better for our family.

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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?

Admissions was very helpful in responding to email questions, meeting with us virtually before we arrived, and walking through application process. They do require an interview and asked that we wait until we arrived to do it in person (vs. virtually).

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

The school administration, teachers, and counselors were very welcoming of us. We had a special open house for all new families. I think an area that could be strengthened is making sure new students and families are fully integrated. I hear this can be especially challenging at the older grade levels. Many of the families at the school know each other well, so it can be hard to break in socially. My kids easily made friends however and their teachers made them feel welcome and integrated while at school.

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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?

The school has made improvements in communication over the years. All grades have a newsletter that is posted Friday afternoons for the following week. There is an EA App where you get all announcements and it connects to the platform where you access newsletters, lunch menus, uniform store, sports registration, etc. There are still tons of WhatsApp chats mostly in Spanish, although all official announcements go in the grade level chats and are in English and Spanish.

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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?

Uniforms, school supplies, and lunches are extra. Kids start playing an instrument in 4th grade and that is provided by the school.

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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?

I don't have experience with college counseling yet as my kids are younger, but I know it exists. In the lower school, each grade has its own dedicated counselor, which is is way more than our public school in VA had. The counselors are all very approachable and were especially helpful in making sure our kids got settled. They also help kids with social emotional learning.

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

Yes, EA has one for lower school and one for middle/upper. The lower school library is big and modern and has many books for students to check out and read at home. I am sure the same is for the upper school library.

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

Students need access to some sort of device at home for homework. The lower school uses several apps that are often part of homework (IXL, Raz Kids, and Epic).

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

My kids have mentioned using chromebooks at school for certain projects and there is a STEAM lab that is part of their "specials" schedule.

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

There is unfortunately no swimming pool. There are several gym areas, playgrounds, playing fields and a track. The school has tons of outdoor space. It's a beautiful and large campus.

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6. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

My kids' classes have consistently had 16-18 students in them with one teacher. K and 1st grade also have assistants in the classroom. This has been one of the positives for us as we are coming from public school in VA where class sizes were as many as 26!

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7. 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?

AP in upper grades but I have no experience with this as my kids are younger.

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

I've never been a big advocate of homework for younger kids, but I think what EA requires is ok. It's usually just reading for 20 min and maybe a quick math assignment on IXL (app) twice a week. A couple days a week they also get a Spanish reading assignment.

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

Yes, the grade level teachers all speak English, although most are local teachers and bilingual. Some of the specials teachers have more limited English. There seem to be more American teachers this year than last year.

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10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

I have one child that was identified for the gifted program in VA before we moved. While the school doesn't have a gifted program in elementary, his teacher was amazing at offering him differential learning assignments to keep him learning and engaged. He probably could be challenged even more, but we knew going into this, the school didn't offer the same gifted resources he would have had access to in VA.

The upper school offers AP and advanced levels for different classes I think.

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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?

Basketball, soccer, track and field, volleyball, table tennis, handball are all offered this year. Swimming is the big one that is missing.

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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?

My kids do socialize with local students, although they also have some strong Embassy friendships at school. The majority of students are Salvadoran, so it can be hard for any kid to break in socially, particularly at the older grades. It's not a true international school where lots of new students are coming and going all the time.

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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.

I have heard bullying is an issue at older grades, as can be the case in a many schools. I hear the Administration is trying to do something about it, but I don't have other specific information. We have not experienced bullying or cliques at the younger grades.

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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?

I would choose EA again, as we haven't had any major issues, and most importantly, my kids are happy. We've had some very good teachers and I think the lower school administration in particular is very good. There are very strong opinions about schools here. The best advice I got was reach out and visit (even if virtually) several schools and then choose from there. What works for one family doesn't always work for another.

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