Vilnius, Lithuania Report of what it's like to live there - 09/19/18

Personal Experiences from Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania 09/19/18

Background Information:

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

Parent of three children who attend/attended the school.

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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?

2016-present. Grades 4/5/6, 8/9/10, and 10/11

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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)?

US Embassy assignment

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

Yes, there is another English-speaking option, Vilnius International School, but at the time we arrived they were only K-10 and we had wanted to keep all 3 kids in the same school. AISV is the most used school at post by the Embassy community, but some contractors used VIS as it was considerably cheaper.

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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?

The school website was easy to navigate and there was excellent communication with the admissions director throughout the process.

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

I would give it an A. There is an orientation for new students complete with student ambassadors on hand to answer questions from a kid's point of view. A welcome BBQ is held early in the fall offering a chance to socialize and meet other parents. Back to School night provides an opportunity to meet all the teachers and learn about the classroom procedures. Also a weekly newsletter keeps parents "in the loop".

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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 uses various means of communication including newsletters, Facebook, Instagram, and other online platforms such as Seesaw (which I loved!) and Managebac. Seesaw allowed my son's teacher to share photos, videos of in class activities and grade reports as well as reminders and class announcements. In the upper grades, Managebac makes it easy to view grade reports, homework assignments, and teacher announcements so you can make sure your student is on the right track. Monthly assemblies honor IB traits in students, provide guidance, and encourage socialization. Monthly "Cafes" provide information on various topics to parents and give them a chance to communicate directly with the administration in a more social setting.

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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?

There is a "bring your own device" policy in place beginning in grade 6. It doesn't require any specific brand or style, but laptops are encouraged. My daughter actually uses her Ipad with an external keyboard. There are field trips and sports events within the CEESA sphere that make travel necessary, and parents are responsible for those expenses. Each year the upper classes take a trip and this is at your expense as well. For example, IB Week Without Walls in Portugal, MUN in Poland, Art History trip to London for ninth graders, etc. Costs vary but we paid 350 euros for a trip to Berlin. The Portugal trip was 500 due to the cost of the workshops provided there. It varies. Local trips within Lithuania are usually covered 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?

The school offers both college/academic counseling and guidance/personal counseling. They also brought in a special educational professional last year. All students take PSATs and SATs are offered. The academic/college counselor schedules meetings with both students and parents to try to gauge what type of university environment might work best for the student. I have also found her very regimented in sending out copies of transcripts in a timely manner.

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

There are plenty of after-school activities and there is a program for preschooler care after hours, but I am unsure of the fees. My daughter used to earn service hours for assisting with the care.

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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 nice little library with a good selection of books for all grade levels. Also, there is a decent reference section with many guides for the IB classes. Students and parents are encouraged to borrow books for home use.

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

Yes, there is a well supplied computer lab and a technology teacher on hand.

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

BYOD policy for grades 6-12. Google Chromebooks are issued to kids in the elementary program for classroom use. There is also a technology lab which is used for classroom instruction/projects. In the upper school, most work is submitted electronically. In the lower school, kids use technology in various projects and lessons.

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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?

Around 4 years ago, a brand new and quite impressive gym was added to the school complete with locker rooms and an indoor track area. It is nice! Also there is a relatively new soccer field on the premises. There are separate playgrounds for preschool/K students, lower school students, and a small climbing area for upper school. There is an outdoor basketball court. Students use a nearby swimming pool for the swim team. Parents are responsible for bringing their child there for practice, then the school/instructor brings them to the school afterwards.

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

Around 16 in grades 4/5/6, 12 in grade 8/9/10, and there were about 12 in the 10/11 grade when my child was there.

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8. 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?

The Upper School is IB only (mostly). Students can pursue a regular diploma, but they will technically be in the same classroom with the IB kids, just not working towards the test. Full IB diploma is not required, but encouraged!

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9. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?

I think it has been adequately challenging for all my kids.

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

Pretty standard. Of course, the kids think it is too much, but it seems normal to me. Last year, my son's teacher (grade 5) had a no homework policy and it was glorious! Just reading and being a kid for a year made us both happier.

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

Excellent and enthusiastic art and music programs! My kids complain about the art teacher being "too passionate"...lol. She gives homework and has high expectations of all students. The works produced are quite stunning. Music gives kids a chance to use instruments, learn voice control, and music theory. AISV has its own school song that is sung at all assemblies and events. Last year they performed their first musical, Into to the Woods, at a local theater and it was an amazing performance! My son has been cast in this year's Beauty and the Beast Jr. and he is very excited. There is also a "rock band" comprised of students and teachers that jams at assemblies and school events.

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

Not sure, but the main subject teachers are native English speakers. Some local hires teach classes such as German, Lithuanian, French, gym, and assist in classrooms, but they are all fluent in English.

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

No particular experience, but I have known of situations where students have received additional resources, projects, etc. to supplement their regular course and provide additional challenges.

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

A special education professional was brought on staff last year to work with kids with IEPs and special needs.

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15. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

There is a large population of ESL students (mostly local students but sometimes other nationalities) and there is an ESL teacher who works with them during their "foreign language" or mother tongue periods. No experience personally.

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16. 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?

LOTS! This year includes MUN, Basketball, Soccer, Badminton, Swimming, Art, Robotics, Computer Game Design, Art, Quilting, German and French studies, Math Counts, Drama, Choir, etc. It is a good selection and there are fees associated. I believe it costs 150 euro per activity per year. Activities that involve travel within CEESA (most sports) are free as parents are required to pay for travel to those events.

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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?

A bit tricky. In the lower grades, definitely, but in the upper grades it is not as mixed. I guess it really depends on the children? One of my daughters has many local friends and goes to the movies, the mall, or restaurants with them regularly. The other daughter really only connected with her American classmates and when they left post, she wanted to return to the US to finish school. I think everyone is welcome and mostly included, if they want to be, but sometimes personalities just don't click.

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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.

There have been some normal issues in this regard for my kids. Nothing targeting him for his being American or anything like that, he just doesn't always feel welcome with the "sportier" kids in class and they may "dis-include" him from games because he is not as skilled as they are. This was a problem for him stateside too. My daughter didn't really connect with her foreign classmates but she was quite introverted and did not really share the same likes/dislikes as the small group of kids in her class. Pretty normal stuff.

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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 give it a B+. I think there is always room for improvement and no school is perfect! I would definitely choose it again and we will be very sad to leave it.

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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!

It is small, but expanding. Approximately 265 kids in all grades with a nice mix of nationalities and it feels like a big family to me :). The campus is on a hill overlooking the old town area of Vilnius and the view is beautiful. When the weather is nice, students often visit the many nearby parks and in the winter there is a special sledding day out. Bus service is available for regular school hours.

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