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Dear Parents,

Pedasi is getting a new school!  This page is for quick updates.  We will try to keep you informed via the comment section below.  We are all working moms here, yet very dedicated to the cause.  So please forgive the very informal approach.

  1. Together (Panamanians and Foreigners) we can have a better, higher quality of life by learning from each other, enjoying our similarities and differences.  Any school will be designed for the purpose of bringing us together.
  2. Understanding languages opens doors.  For the Panamanian child to learn and be fluent in English, opens the door to both further education away from home and job opportunities.  An English speaking Panamanian can earn sometimes four times the income for the same job.  English is good for Panamanians. For the English speaker, there is no better way to learn Spanish than as a child in both an educational and immersion setting.  Without our Panmanian brothers to play with on the playground, we lose the opportunity to really integrate into this lovely country we call “home”.
  3. Affordablility is important. Pedasi is home to people of many income levels.  Our school must be able to accommodate more than only the wealthiest of foreign and local families, yet still produce educational results at a high level.
  4. The spirit of the Junta de Embarra can be used to create a school structure, fill it with quality tools like computers and science lab items as well as great teachers.
  5. We have several offers of donated land. Several builders and developers have already raised a hand to support the cause.  Land and property owners recognize that whether they have students in their families or not, it is to their benefit to support the establishment of a school.
  6. Like water, electricity and safety, education is paramount in any developing area.  We, as a town cannot succeed without a school.
  7. We have a list of over 45 students growing daily.  With this list, we are actively soliciting ESTABLISHED schools that meet our town’s criteria to open a branch, bring in great teachers and run both a successful business and educate our students.
  8. Pedasi is home to people from all over the world!  Where else can you have so much global exposure in one tiny area???

We will be posting updates in the comments section so that you know what is going on.  Please check back often if this story is of particular and timely interest to you.  When things become concrete, we will send email updates to any parents on the list.

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Showing 17 comments
  • Karla Adams
    Reply

    Good morning!

    The update from the meeting The Oxford School had with MEDUCA is… they APPROVE the online school with the requirements that the students learn together, not in their own homes. They require that we have a building of 50 square meters more or less, an air conditioner, and one qualified teacher. OR, if we have two rooms, it can be smaller rooms, but there would be two teachers. The teacher does not have to be Panamanian, but needs to be qualified, bilingual and capable of teaching Spanish lessons and guiding extra-curricular activities in Spanish. Currently, I am looking at the small Baptist church across from the entrance to the public elementary as a potential location. If we can arrange it, the benefit could be a potential cooperation with the public school, if we can present a mutual benefit to them. At this moment, our youngest son is in the public school, and our oldest will go next week. The Oxford School has ALREADY recorded most of the first term, so we literally can roll this out as soon as we fit the final pieces together. 1. rental building 2. teacher or teachers 3. enough students to pay the teacher/s 4. Desks, supplies, setup. For students less than 6th grade, The Oxford School is willing to allow us to purchase their curriculum and use it for group homeschooling. This way, the students can get on track for an easy transition when we open the official/accredited school branch. I am waiting on more details from Mr Griggs in terms of pricing, etc. For teachers, at this time our classes will be extremely small. Since the Panamanian schools have already started, most students are already enrolled in another institution and will join us next year. So, I anticipate that unless we have donations of cash to pay a teacher, it may be problematic to pay a full salary. So, at this time we are looking for a qualified bilingual teacher who would approach this as volunteer with a flexible salary proportionate to the class size. Potentially, we could have a few volunteer teachers who could work a few days per week. Please let me know if you have interest. When I have time, I will begin reaching out to people who have already offered assistance. Thanks again for all the support!

  • Karla Adams
    Reply

    Last week, Mr Griggs CONFIRMED that they are making plans to open a branch in Pedasi for opening as early as 2019 if we have an appropriate, qualifiable school building, and ample students and teachers. YAY!
    Currently, the new school will service grades pre-kinder to 5th grade. They will open the high school when there are enough students to do so. We did not have enough sign-ups for grades 6-12 to warrant a full opening. But that could change as things become more concrete.
    In the meanime, they are working on rolling out immediately an ACCREDITED ONLINE SCHOOL for students 6-12 grade. (Including our two sons, yay!). Yesterday they had a meeting in Las Tablas to iron out some of the details so that they can come up with a clear plan on how that will work and the costs associated with it. The initial discussion presented a very low tuition, making it possible to hire a school administrator who can facilitate a “group experience” with other extracurricular activities for the students.
    We await the update from The Oxford School on exactly what they learned in yesterday’s meeting.
    To keep things moving along for the full-blown school, we have a meeting next week with architects to begin drawing the plans for the building. Mr Griggs has sent me the rest of the requirements, so we will pull all of these together and start working.
    I am trying to work on a building solution for the online school. The idea is not that we have a bunch of English speaking students learning in their own homes, but together with others and integrating through various activities with the local kids in Pedasi. IF you know of a potential building that could be used for free for one or two years, please let us know. And also, if you know someone who would like to be a classroom facilitator, please also contact me with your salary requirements, avialability and experience.

  • Karla Adams
    Reply

    Today we had the great opportunity to host Mr Malcolm Griggs and their group from The Oxford School. Today we also had with us Mr Miguel Batista, our Mayor.

    A few things are definitely established and agreed upon.
    A. We NEED a good bilingual school in this area. Mr Griggs would really love to help meet that need because of his passion for education.
    B. Our area WILL GROW with a good school, which means that in the future we will have more students for the school.
    C. Our area is unique because we have a greater “international” aspect, so the school needs to be more bilingual than other location so foreign students can learn Spanish.

    Although The Oxford School has successfully started multiple branches, this will be the first time that they open a school where there is no building and the population is smaller than cities like Santiago, David and Chitre. We have a decent list with relatively little effort, but it is less than what they had at the beginning of the launch of the Chitre branch. I think that if The Oxford School was to follow the same procedure here, they would garnish more students than we can accomplish on our own because they are a trusted and reputable school in Panama. However, in order to really start marketing the school the building aspect needs to be established.
    As you know, we already have many things coming together for the building. The next step is for us to take the building requirements (just given by Mr Griggs), create a plan based on that, and then establish a budget. Once that is done, we can solicit the donations needed to build. Any donation is really an investment in the byproduct of community growth.

    One unique topic is the University of Cambridge International Examinations which adds a higher level of international accreditation. This program has very strict guidelines in both education and building regulation for safety and amenities. For example, they require a library, a tech and science lab of a certain size. The award can take years to gain and you have to have a graduating class and each grade level in order to qualify. But if the building is created according to the specifications from the beginning, that removes a lot of potential hurdles in the future in trying to modify existing structure. This is good for Pedasi. Even if the school does not have this certification in the beginning, the fact that the school is going to be run as if it has it, means that we can trust our children are getting a very high quality education on a global scale. This improves our appeal to new coming families!

    The topic of cost for tuition is a concern and can only be answered by looking at the total balance sheet and determining how many aspects of the overall budget can be donated. Small class sizes put more burden on each student to pay the cost of quality teachers and the operation of the school. If we are able to eliminate a rental budget, this can compensate for the small classes as the school grows. Anything we, as a community, can do to volunteer and reduce costs will directly effect the tuition expense. The goal is to keep the mandatory expense low, and pull from those who can afford to give more by way of donation and volunteering.

    The plan is currently, that Mr Griggs will give us a complete list of what they need to operate a school and a budget per line item. Then, we can create a committee to consider all options to reduce those costs and bring the tuition to a perfect level for the area. At the meeting several ideas were brought up by parents and attendees that may assist in the reduction of costs.

    Dr Vera and others feel that it is time for the Panamanians to bring support from around the country to raise funds for the school. I agree that in order to accomplish something as large as this, we will need sizable donations from Panamanians, as well as foreign investors to give us a base. We, the community can then come together as teams specializing in each area of need to accomplish the rest.

    For the high school, we did discuss a potential accredited online classroom here in Pedasi. We would need a space several students and an on-site teacher/ teachers’ aid to facilitate the school. The students can then go to Chitre once per week or month to participate in a larger learning environment and lab exercises. This would allow the students to continue enjoying their lifestyle here in Pedasi, which often involves surfing! Mr Griggs has most of the situation established and needs to do another check with MEDUCA to make sure they are all set. And they need to determine what location will be doing the recording of the class. One disappointing factor is that so few middle and high school students signed up for the list. We know you are there, but without your name on the list, even a situation like this would not work. We can’t have our high school students learning from home. There needs to be enough students to make it feel like school and afford the on-site teacher and other services. Tuition for this program would be very low, and we would have to supplement the cost of the space (unless it is donated) and the teacher (unless we find a volunteer). If you have a high schooler, would you please send me a message! I would love to talk to you again about this issue.

    We will hear from Mr Griggs and his team again in the next few weeks. I know they will be brainstorming with their team as much as we will here. They know we are working hard and seem to be really impressed with the unity expressed between all the representatives. So, I want to really thank ALL of the attendees today and everyone who helped in big and small ways to have a successful meeting. Additionally, I want to thank those who donated food. We know they can afford food, but it was a measure of hospitality and respect that was definitely was well received. Thanks to those who submitted resumes and letters! We can only accomplish this great feat with the combined effort of everyone. GRACIAS A TODOS!!! JUNTOS PODEMOS!!!! Little by little, we are getting there. Stay the course!

  • Karla Adams
    Reply

    Our meeting in Panama City with Mr Griggs went very well. They are coming to us in Pedasi on January 23rd and 24th to see the building site and meet with key community leaders and parents who are passionate about the school project.

    They would like to know right away how many teachers are among us in Pedasi and how many are likely to come for the launch of the school in 2019. If you or someone you know is a quality teacher of any nationality please let us know right away.

    Today I had another great meeting with Dr Vera and Senior Dimas Quiroz, and later on Miguel Batista. Sr. Dimas is the town’s chief architect and he is very enthusiastic about the school. He will work with Alejandra (both as volunteers) to design the building plans and make sure we have everything we need for permits of the school. He also has political influence and can help make sure we have no issues with the progression of the project. THANK YOU!

    Additionally, Dr Vera has gained the support of a prominent and respected attorney in the city to assist in the legal formation of the foundation. The idea is that The Oxford School will rent from the foundation. This is the key to being able to offer scholarships and is what will make this school so great for the future of Pedasi!

    Now is the time for all of us to rally. Parents, those who currently live in Pedasi, and those who are wanting to move here. We need your help in whatever capacity you can offer it. Time, money and expertise! Please let us know what you can offer!

  • Karla Adams
    Reply

    I apologize for the delay, but it was worth the wait…

    Mr. Malcolm Griggs has given Pedasi a conditional approval to open a branch in Pedasi for the year 2019!!!!

    On January 10th at 12:30 PM, Mr Griggs has invited me to his office in Panama City to discuss logistics and get the project started. The conditions of the school are:
    1. We (Pedasi) provide a MEDUCA approved building.
    2. We present enough students. Our current list of 65 students needs to be double checked for accuracy. The Chitre branch started with around 75 and opened with well over 100 students as soon as people knew for sure that The Oxford School was coming to town.

    What’s next:
    Later in January I will be meeting with Alejandra who is donating her time to draw up the school building plans.

    How you can help right now:
    1. Fund Raising. We have someone already willing to lead the team and he thinks it will not be difficult to raise the funds needed. If you can help make calls, send emails, etc., please let us know.
    2. List management, calling parents, verifying information
    3. Building plans: if you have relevant experience and can contribute, let us know.
    4. Business planning: If you have legal/financial/business experience and can assist in helping this to be a huge success through proper planning, we can use your help.

    We will get to the educational aspect and volunteer needs after the meeting with Mr Griggs. Thank you!!!

    PS. Special thanks to Dione whose conversation with Julia who works at The Oxford branch in the city, and to Julia for your time to come talk to me here in Pedasi and pop your head in Mr Griggs door. I am so glad you did.

  • Karla Adams
    Reply

    Yesterday I had a meeting with Vanessa and Ember at The Oxford School in Chitre. The purpose of the meeting was to give me an update on what they have discovered in their meetings with MEDUCA and also present some options for how to handle the 2018 calendar year. Please keep in mind, that Vanessa and Ember are moving forward with the preparations and laying the foundation so that the decision for the owners is an easy choice and so that the initial questions would already have been answered. A logistical issue for The Oxford School is that they have two new branches in infancy stages, so the question is, can they take on another at this time.

    Last week, Maria and Ivan delivered a letter from Mayor Miguel Batista to the owners of the school letting them know that he is in full support and will make the doors wide open for the school, wherever he has authority to do so. The owners were not there that day, so the letter was left at the office. Vanessa told me that on December 4th, the owners will be returning from an international trip, and will be available to come down to Pedasi to meet with us around that time. We await a date to schedule their trip.

    Because many international students in Pedasi/ Playa Venao have been enrolled for a few years in an unaccredited school, there is a logistical setback of getting all the children assessed to make sure they are at the proper grade level and can move forward with the Panamanian Ministry of Education and also with the Oxford standard of education. This is going to be a very tedious process requiring translations, and potentially the use of online standardized testing or other testing procedures. Our guess is that we will need the “summer” break to complete these activities and be prepared for the 2018 school year. Bilingual translations and administrative assistance (on a volunteer basis) will be needed, so please let us know what your availability is to help with this project. A background in education would be helpful for anyone wishing to volunteer.

    Another key point of discussion was what to do about year 2018. Vanessa and Ember realize that right now the international parents are losing time, and need something immediately. We have people, good people, who have already left the area and are right now making plans to leave for educational purposes. This is not just a want, it’s a NEED. So, they are very keenly aware of the urgency, and are working to consider all possible solutions. Here are a few:

    PLAN A: A building turns up that meets MEDUCA standards that we can rent at a good price while the new school is built. As soon as I receive the requirements, I will post them, so we all can be looking. Those in the area who have a suitable property that can be donated temporarily (usage) to the school, please let us know.

    PLAN B: Ember suggested a shortened school day with a direct private bus to Chitre and supplemental work being done offsite here in Pedasi somewhere. The question is what is the MINIMUM requirement for time spent physically at the school in Chitre. For our family that attends CADI in Las Tablas, this would actually be an improvement because our children are on the bus for three hours per day in addition to a full school day. This bus ride would be only 45 minutes each way (from Pedasi, more for Venao). So, this would be a step in a better direction. For the students living in Playa Venao, this would be a lot more difficult.

    Do you have another idea on an interim solution for the 2018 school year? Remember, Panamanian school year is approximately March through December.

  • GeoLin McNeal
    Reply

    What do you do for your high school children right now? We are considering time in Pedasi and are wondering what the current resources are. We can homeschool as we have experience with it but it would be nice to know what is available. I’m looking for contact with families with children in Pedasi so we can learn more. Thank you!

  • Sayira Mikkelson
    Reply

    Buen Día a todos de parte de la familia Mikkelson, Brett y Sayira queremos contarles que la escuela the Oxford school en la ciudad de Panamá ha sido excelente en el sistema académico para nuestros hijos, desde sus primeros añitos se logró notar el aprendizaje en el idioma inglés y escucharlos en platicas su pronunciación y fluidez nos hizo sentir satisfechos.
    Me encanta la idea de la expansión del colegio en Pedasí y los exhorto a que sigan cada día con la visión de mejorar y seguir preocupándose por el sistema académico, disciplina, comodidad , seguridad para los estudiantes ya son el futuro de Panamá y el mundo.

    • Karla Adams
      Reply

      Muchas Gracias, Sayira! Estoy muy agradecido de que valides la calidad de la escuela de tu experiencia. ¡Gracias por tu tiempo para alentarnos!

  • Karla Adams
    Reply

    We have been hearing more great feedback from parents who send their children to The Oxford School. I sent a letter of invitation to the two owners in Panama CIty to come visit Pedasi. I wish they could have seen all the cute kids at the Halloween Parties last night!!! There were so many more than I even know! I have been told by Dr Vera that our Mayor, Miguel Batista has offered to open all doors from the municipality to support the school in exchange for scholarships . Next time you see Sr. Batista please tell him GRACIAS!

  • Cecile Masse
    Reply

    Karla….you have engaged in a herculean effort and are meeting success along the way!…good for you! This sounds like there is much community support behind it. …and you’re spearheading the effort. I’m curious as to the early interactions with Oxford/Cambridge connection….did you seek them out or did they approach you? I imagine the school will be open to children of all nationalities? Does Panama have a regulating body for schools and do they assign the MEDUCA accreditation? Sorry for all the questions but I’m fascinated about this process. I had taught in the Master’s Degree program at an extension of Cambridge College in Virginia – but it was not associated with the British school. Kudos to you and your community and I would offer my services if , when and where needed.

    • Karla Adams
      Reply

      Cecile, Thank you for your question and your interest in helping! In observation of the reasons why former attempts to build a school have failed, we are soliciting only schools who have a solid reputation within Panama and have been successful over a period of time. We know that to run a good school you must be great educators first, and have a solid approach at running the business aspect. We have solicited a few schools, Oxford being one of them. Because the MAIN goal is a school that is available to Panamanian students as well as foreigners, we are only considering schools that have already achieved the MEDUCA accreditation and can quickly bring the Pedasi branch to that level. One thing to note, we will be setting a criteria for an affordable tuition, made possible by the donation of land and hopefully the structure itself. I have also spoken with CADI in Las Tablas and initiated discussions with other institutions as well. At this time Oxford has shown the most enthusiasm and promise, but we have not made or received any commitment at this time so we are open to any institution meeting the requirements is solidified. If you or anyone has suggestions or connections, the help is appreciated! Great questions, thanks!

  • Karla Adams
    Reply

    Hello, Parents!

    Sorry for the delay, here is the results of Tuesday’s meeting with The Oxford School.

    First of all, thank you to Vanessa and Ember who came all the way from Chitre and for everyone who helped to organize this meeting. We had select parents in attendance who represented different groups, and it seems that we are moving unilaterally toward this great goal.

    The representatives from The Oxford School are running the new branch in Chitre. From what they tell us, when they first started, they had a list of about 75 students which quickly became over 100 when they committed officially to start the branch. The branch in Chitre is doing well and growing. THey think the same thing will happen in Pedasi, and we agree that with crediblity from the British Oxford/Cambridge line of education, we can count on a good education for our students and also the backing that allows us the stability to grow.

    One parent asked what schedule they run on. The answer is the Panamanian schedule. Classes are taught primarily in English, but we have discussed with them the need for more of a bilingual approach as the Spanish education helps to transition foreign students to their new country. A Panamanian schedule was unilaterally supported by the representing parents because we who live here know how great it is to have kids indoors during the rainy months and outside surfing during the sunny summer!

    The Oxford representatives have taken our information and will first go to the Ministry of Education to find out answers to some logistical questions before presenting these and our need to the school owners. We hope that the owners will come to visit Pedasi so that we can introduce them to a few families of both expat and Panamanian background and hear the great need we have! That is the next step.

    A very realistic open date is the 2019 Panamanian calendar year. Questions were raised as to an interim program or hopes of a launch in 2018 if we move forward with rental space while a school is built. The representatives from Oxford will get back to us on that.

    Meanwhile, it’s time to start rallying for the building of the physical structure. If you know someone who would like to donate to the building project, please let me know. We will be putting together a meeting for developers and builders, business owners and residents who would be interested building a legacy in Pedasi.

    Pedasi is not yet committed, and if any school wants to talk with us, please do. We are interested only in schools that already have the MEDUCA accreditation at this time.

    Have a great day!

  • Brian Carroll
    Reply

    Super promising, looking forward to hearing more! It may be too early to know, but curious if the school will operate on a North American/European academic calendar or a Panamanian academic calendar? Thank you so much for your efforts!

  • SHERRY
    Reply

    Keep up the good work Karla!

  • Karla Adams
    Reply

    Dear Parents, I have a great update for you today. Dr Eliecer Vera has offered the donation of an amazing and beautiful piece of land that is situated perfectly along the main road between Pedasi and Playa Venao. Specifically, the land is located in front of Equis Village where there are horses, a riding stable, free-range organically raised poultry and other animals as well as a working organic garden. This proximity to these amenities, in addition to what can be accomplished on the property set aside for the school will be an additional benefit to the children. There is a solid water supply, existing electricity. Dr Vera is very passionate about Pedasi and about the vision to bring the foreign and Panamanian cultures together.

    We now have over 60 children on our list… above the required amount to attract a school. Once the school is in place, we expect more families to commit also who are on the sidelines.

    A representative of Oxford academy, an established and reputable British based international school of over 30 years in Panama City with a new and succeeding branch in Chitre is meeting with a small group of leaders and parents. This meeting takes place on Tuesday, and is an opportunity for us to listen to what they have to offer and for us to present the opportunity that Pedasi presents. We want to make sure there is great synergy between the school and the spirit of our unique community of very traditional Panamanians and the foreign transplants from around the world that call Pedasi “Home”. We want the meeting to remain small so that we can focus on listening to what they have to present, rather than open to forum at this time. This allows us to remain streamlined. We will update you on our opinions after the meeting.

    Last Friday, we visited the Chitre location and found it to be very organized, clean and professionally run. The staff spoke both English and Spanish and the meeting was very encouraging. We will see how the meeting on Tuesday progresses and will keep you informed.

    We continue to solicit and establish connections with other schools until a commitment is made. If you have a school that you would like to interview with the committee, please comment here.

    Stay tuned!

  • Eliecer Vera
    Reply

    Our kids already have a quality life. We need a quality local bilingual Pedasi school. Regards

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