Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

What to do... what to do?

I have been searching high and low for the 'perfect' school for Boobie. After scanning the world wide web, calling about a million schools and visiting 8 of them, I narrowed down my list of choices to 2. The two I chose had to meet my rigorous requirements and pass the tests I set forth for them.

First off, I was looking for a school that would be Boobie's home away from from home for the next 8 years of his school life. I wanted a school he would LOVE, hence do well in and make friends. Not to mention get along well with his teachers. I was also looking for a big school. I am so tired of sending him to these small schools with barely enough room to turn around in without bumping into someone. Also a school that had enrichment and after-school programs and clubs was at the top of my list.

I also really wanted a bilingual school. After going to CECR, I was not pleased with their English program at all. Too simple for Boobie and really not enough work to challenge him and keep his interest. It was not a bilingual school, so that said a lot about their English department; it was seriously lacking.

Also at the top of my list:

* Affordability. We're NOT rich. We cannot afford hundreds of dollars a month for school with 3 kids. No way. So my goal was to find a GOOD school that was less than $200 a month, or about c100.000 colones, to start (roughly $176 dollars). Schools go up around C10.000 each year so I had to calculate the rising cost of his education for the 8 years he has left of school and try to find an institution that would not bankrupt us in the future. I know how lucky we are to have great options for private schools here in Costa Rica in that price range. I consider myself blessed, especially when the cost of daycare in Boston is considerably more. And while a mere $200 is cheap in American terms, it's considered quiet a bit of change here in CR. My kids education is important to me, and that is why Boobie is in private as opposed to public school. That is why I try to find good and affordable schools so that I don't compromise my child's education, while also having money left over that we save on education for fun family outings.

*Proximity to our house. While his last 2 schools were within walking distance, I knew I would have to branch out and search for a school that was a little farther away from home, if I wanted to find a good school in my price range. I need the school that I choose to be close enough for me to get to without too much trouble. Very important when you consider teacher conference meetings, events and other school related activities that I will have to attend, and the fact that I have small kids and NO CAR!!!!

* A gym. Boobie complained that at CECR, physical education class would sometimes get canceled due to rain since the kids had no where else to play than outside. They did not have a gym. So I put that on my list for Boobie. I think PE is important and kids need a place to play, both indoors and outside. They need options.

While 2 of the schools I visited were only primary/elementary schools, the rest went all the way to the 11th grade; high school. I weighed my options of sending him to one of the elementary schools since that would enable me to switch him out, once he graduated, to one of the schools I really wanted him to go to.... both of which were full.

However, that would again pose another problem of searching for yet another school once he graduated... although I would have an easier time since I already had all the information I need and know which schools I want. BUT since this will be Boobie's THIRD school, I am hesitant to have him switch schools yet again, even if that means him graduating. I just want him to find stability and be able to make life long friends.

As my search winded down, I set my sights on 2 that stood out the most... and the two that Boobie happened to fall in love with. Bulls eye! They both have pros and cons, not really against each other, just against my list. Now I have to make the decision of which to apply to... and of course hoping that he gets in.

First School: Conbi College
*closer to the house in San Pedro Montes de Oca (about a 10 minute drive... 25 minute walk)
*offers bus service at around $62 a month
*Big... lots of green space, outdoor play space
*cafeteria/audio visual room/gym/outdoor soccer fields and basketball court/school psychologist
*offers Mandarin 3 hours a week
*7:30 to 2:30 every day
*offers scholarship program with affiliated colleges around the world
*20 minute recess and 30 minute lunch
*big classrooms (max 20 students)
*many electives (8 to choose from) and extra curricular activities (6 to choose from)
*separate computer lab
*separate art studio

Second school: Saint Benedict
*farther away from home in Curridabat (about 20-25 minute drive)
*offers bus service (at first the school said no bus service was offered in town, but when I called the bus driver said she could come pick up ds in the neighborhood for around $70 a month)
*Big... lots of green space and play space
*has a gym/all purpose room/cafeteria/outdoor soccer field/play area/library/school psychologist
*offers French
*7:30 to 3 pm Mon-Thurs; 7:30 to 12:30 on Fridays
*two 10 minute recesses. 20 minute lunch and another 10 minute recess
*Around $26 dollars a month cheaper (for tuition and bus service) than Conbi
*Around $56 cheaper for the yearly fees than Conbi (so not a HUGE difference in prices)
*Big classrooms (max 30 but only about 18 right now in ds's grade) and 2 classrooms per grade
*many after school clubs ( 5) and extra curricular activities ( 6)to choose from
*separate computer lab
*separate art studio

My cons:
Conbi is c116.000 a month... so more than I initially wanted to pay for tuition. And they have yearly fees that add up to about $130 dollars. Also, I was not that impressed with Conbi's gym. It looked unfinished to me and dark. Also, there was no library. But I loved everything else.

Saint Benedict's big drawback is the distance... a problem for me and the reason I have yet to apply. Other than that, I think it's the front runner. The price is right and it offers just about as much as Conbi, though Conbi WAS our first choice. I was not too impressed with the cafeteria like I was with Coni's cafeteria though. It just looked so small. And while the brochure says the school has a library, it was not shown to me on the tour.

My pros:
I have to admit Saint Benedict's price is a big seller. I mean for the size of the school and all they offer, I was surprised at how low the price is. A mere c88.000 a month plus they allow you to pay December's tuition in installments each month along with the regular tuition; you end up paying c96.000 a month and then not have to worry about paying December at all, or all at once. And while it baffles me why schools have you pay for December when the students get out in November, I am used to that now. Also, while the gym was not that impressive, it was big and Boobie liked it. Another plus: the school offers intensive English, which Boobie needs in order NOT to lose his English...12 to 13 lessons a week in English. Impressive!

I really love Conbi's location; a perfect school setting. I also love the look of the school and the office was HUGE. And like I said before I LOVE their cafeteria. It was so much like the cafeterias I am used to back in the States...except it had seats inside AND outside... options that I love.

It has been a tough decision trying to decide which school to choose. But after I do choose, it's then up the school to accept Boobie and that in itself poses another problem. While Conbi only requires 70 or above on a child's report card, Saint Benedict requires 80 or above in conduct. I will think it over some more, then select the school I think is best for Boobie... Boobie is rooting for Saint Benedict. We'll see how the application process goes and of course I will keep you all updated. I am so excited!

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