HANDBOOK

For parents, guardians, students and community members

Last revised 22 March 2019


Contents

Last revised 30 August 2018

Contents

Non-Discrimination Statement

Permission for Free Access

Useful Contacts

Organizational Structure

Founders

Board of Directors

School Principal

Lead Teacher

Homeroom Teachers

General

Purpose of this Handbook

Mission, Vision and Core Values

Our Mission

Our Core Mission Elements

Our Vision

Our Core Values

Our Critical Success Factors

Academic Curriculum and Approach

Educational Approach

Teaching Philosophy

Curriculum

Multiage Environment

Evaluation Methods

Languages

Class sizes

Homework Policy

Admissions

Application and Registration

GDS Tuition Exchange (TE) Program Policy

Children with Special Needs

School Policies

Uniforms

Daily Uniforms

Physical Education Uniform

Art Uniform

Excursions

Dress code for excursions

Parent Visits at School

Student database Information update

School hours of operation:

Drop-off and Pick-up

Emergency early release

School Calendar

School Timetable/Schedule

Students with Academic Challenges

Birthday Celebrations at GDS

Lunch Policy

Drinking Water in the Classroom or going to the Bathroom

Sweets and Treats

Books and School Supplies

Internet Use

Bringing Electronic Equipment/Toys to school

Mobile Phones

Toys

Vandalism at GDS

Confidentiality

Values and Practices

Fostering a passion for learning

Building Community

Taking care of ourselves, our school, and our environment

Behavioral Policy

School Rules  

Standardized Approach

I. Fostering Positive Behavior

II. Response to Mild Misbehavior

III. Repetitive or Serious Misbehavior Stage

IV. Chronic or Dangerous Misbehavior

Bullying Prevention at GDS

Preventative Model

Absence and Punctuality Policy

Academic Honesty Policy

School Safety Procedures

Response Plans

Fire

Lockdown

Bomb Threat

Intruder on Campus

Shelter-in-Place

Earthquake/Major Disaster

Power Outages/Utility Problems

Serious Injury or Death response plan

Security

Parking

Insurance and Medical Emergencies

School Medical Insurance

Medication Administration

Student Illness During the School Day

Outbreaks

Lunch and Recess

Recess

Lunch

Community and Parent Involvement

Volunteering

Parent Committee

Gifts


Non-Discrimination Statement

The Gamboa Discovery School (GDS) does not discriminate in the enrollment, hiring practices, client services, or in the care of children based on race, color, creed, ethnicity, national origin, gender, marital status of parents, adults or staff members, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, religion, differing physical or mental abilities, use of a trained dog or service animal by a child or family member, communication and learning styles.  

Permission for Free Access

Parents/Guardians are given free access to the students at any time during the school year, as long as it does not interfere with classroom learning.


Useful Contacts

For questions regarding the following topics:

Admission of new students: admission@gamboaschool.org

Fees/tuition/payments/uniforms/facility: accounting@gamboaschool.org

Academic curriculum/ pedagogical approach and discipline policy/volunteering: principal@gamboaschool.org and/or leadteacher@gamboaschool.org

General information about the school: info@gamboaschool.org

School address:

Humberto Zárate
Street #56, Gamboa,
Colón, Republic of Panama
Telephone 69802710
info@gamboaschool.org
www.gamboaschool.org


Organizational Structure

Founders

The founders of the school began working in 2014 to devise the mission, vision and core values of the school. They set the basic institutional policies. The founders dedicated personal resources to build school infrastructure and the legal framework for the school to operate in Panama. The founders’ children attend the school.

Beth Coates 

Marina Pacheco 

Andrew Coates

Board of Directors

The Board of directors review institutional policies, perform strategic planning, manage the school finances and steer the school to effectively manifest the mission of the Gamboa Discovery School.

 

School Principal

The school principal is in charge of the daily management of the school. She makes sure that the teachers carry out the curriculum. She is responsible for creating a culture where students and teachers and parents work together to perpetuate the school mission, values and practices.

principal@gamboaschool.org

Lead Teacher

The lead teacher is in charge of leading, mentoring and guiding the teachers in the application of the GDS unique educational approach, teaching philosophy and assessment methodology in the learning processes.

leadteacher@gamboaschool.org

Homeroom Teachers

teachers@gamboaschool.org


General

Purpose of this Handbook

This handbook describes the programs that the school is involved in and the policies it abides to. These policies are available to staff members and parents every year and are posted online on the school webpage.

Mission, Vision and Core Values

Our Mission

Set within the heart of the Panama rainforest and alongside the Panama Canal, the Gamboa Discovery School takes advantage of unique natural, scientific and cultural assets to deliver a comprehensive and unforgettable education.

Our Core Mission Elements

Each child flourishes academically based within our six core mission elements:

Our Vision

Reflecting back on their education we want our pupils to remember a time of outstanding education, personal and social discovery and irreplaceable formative experiences, all within the uniqueness of Gamboa.

Our Core Values

Our Critical Success Factors

The Gamboa Discovery School will:

  1. Establish an exemplary model for exceptional academic and personal development
  2. Promote the development of its staff with openness and stability
  3. Grow ethically and with environmental care
  4. Respect, understand and contribute to local culture, history and surrounds


Academic Curriculum and Approach

Educational Approach

A well-rounded education is essential. It has to be challenging, comprehensive and engaging to be wholly effective. We appreciate the cultures knowledge, and experiences students bring into the school. We believe learning starts within the GDS explorer who is supported by the community, his/her family and the GDS teachers who act as facilitators, counselors and resources.

The Gamboa Discovery School aims to create an academic environment that supports the needs of students and their families. At the heart of the school’s foundations is the knowledge that each child acquires about the world in different ways, and in turn excels in myriad forms. The GDS will prepare children for the future by building upon each child’s strengths so that they are prepared to contribute wholly to community and society.

Our schools seeks to help children be:

Teaching Philosophy

GDSTeachingPhilosophyPillars.png

The pillars of GDS’ teaching philosophy are joy, kindness, discovery and community. We value and foster joy in our everyday lives and particularly the joy of learning; kindness to take care of one another and our environment; discovery as the motor and method for learning; and community to ground us, support us and inspire us. The pillars are interconnected. Being mindful of the world and others, discovering with curiosity and learning with joy provide us with possibilities to apply our passions with a purpose so that we may, for example, utilize creative problem-solving to serve our community. Our teachers teach with joy and passion. They utilize constant, close, mindful contact with the people and environment in our community to spark curiosity and guide discovery processes for student learning.

Curriculum

Gamboa Discovery School utilizes the British Curriculum, which provides continuity, fosters our teaching philosophy, and allows for teacher creativity and school independence, The British National Curriculum has been adapted to the Panamanian context by adding required content from the Panamanian Curriculum, and to the Gamboa community by emphasizing local knowledge and practices. The newly reformed British Curriculum places particular emphasis on skills alongside knowledge, depth as opposed to breadth of learning, and formative assessment. Homeroom teachers teach science, math, language (English), and social studies (citizenship, geography, and history) from the adapted British curriculum. There are specialty teachers for arts and music and physical education who follow the adapted British curriculum. There are also Spanish and social studies specialty teachers who follow the adapted Panamanian curriculum. Students at Gamboa Discovery School also practice yoga on a weekly basis with a specialty teacher. Finally the personal, social and emotional development content from the British Curriculum is taught by all teachers, particularly the arts and homeroom teachers. The curriculum is divided into stages. The Early Years is for children ages 3 to 5 and is equivalent to Maternal and Pre-Kindergarden in the Panamanian system. Key stage 1 is for children ages 5 to 7 and equivalent to Kindergarden and 1st grade in the Panamanian system. Key stage 2 is for children 7 to 11 and is equivalent to grades 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th in the Panamanian system. Key stage 3 is for children 11 to 14 and equivalent to 6th, 7th, 8th grade in the Panamanian system. Teachers utilize the learning objectives set for each keystage and those suggested for each year for their term planning and progress reports. Weekly plans, activities, and assessments are designed towards the achievement of those objectives.

Multiage Environment

Students are taught and assessed according to developmental stages and standards, rather than age or grade designation. Teachers focus instruction on students’ learning needs rather than on grade-level curriculum. Students, therefore, have the advantage of continuous learning. Children of different ages have the opportunity to get to know one another in the safe environment of their classroom; they are encouraged to develop open, trusting interactions with each other. Older children often become 'mentors' to younger children. In a nurturing learning environment such as multiage, competition is not imposed. Challenges are offered for students to choose when they feel ready.

Teaching Methods

We base our teaching style on a constructivist understanding of learning processes, and mostly teach by facilitating experiential learning. Constructivism considers that children build new knowledge and skills on top of their existing ones, and considers the whole child and the previous experiences and ideas they bring into the learning process. Constructivism is based on learning by doing, as opposed to receiving information from others. Experiential learning provides students with experiences that require thinking, as well as structured reflection to transform experiences into learning. Through processes based on discovery learning, students interact with the world around them, for example by exploring their surroundings and manipulating objects, in order to acquire information they discover themselves. Our signature strategy is utilizing inquiry-based learning to facilitate carefully designed experiences guided by questions in which students learn by discovering the answers themselves, with the guidance of the teacher. We also utilize other related methods such as project- and problem-based learning, in which students learn by completing products or objectives and finding solution. We place particular value in the collaborative learning and the presentation skills students put into practice through these methods. Gamboa Discovery School emphasizes the application of these methods outside of the classroom, learning outdoors regularly, learning from and in nature, and engaging in excursions outside the Gamboa area, in ways that are integrated with the curriculum. Place-based education allows us to facilitate learning experiences rooted in the unique opportunities and experiences our community has to offer, and immersed in the local landscapes. Project-based learning allows for holistic development, and integrated cross-subject learning. Finally, flipped learning fosters independence, and differentiated instruction includes everyone’s needs and gifts.

Planning Strategies

Teachers meet at the beginning of each school year to design a School Improvement Plan, and a yearly teaching plan. The teaching plan for the year includes a theme for each of the three terms, learning objectives for each subject, as well as term and/or yearlong interdisciplinary projects that emerge from the themes and learning objectives. They also set a school year calendar that includes all scheduled activities. They also work on term plans at the beginning of each term further detailing what will be done during each week of the term for each subject. Finally, they spend time every week to complete and submit weekly plans that break down the activities to be completed for each subject, including review, discovery, reflection, application/assessment, and closure.

Evaluation Methods

Gamboa Discovery School utilizes qualitative formative and summative assessment. That is, we utilize an ongoing process in which the teaching-learning and evaluation processes are indistinguishable from each other, and our teachers keep regular notes on their journals based on their daily observations of students. Additionally, we build summative assessment during closure activities for each learning unit, utilizing individual performance-based assessments and rubrics that support teacher evaluation. That is, we do not simply utilize written tests or look for memorization of content, instead we assign students tasks that require the application of deep knowledge and mastered skills, allowing teachers to observe students’ demonstration of achieved learning objectives.

Formative and summative evaluations are entered, through an ongoing weekly process, unto progress reports that are shared with students and parents three times per year and list each students’ progress towards the achievement of the learning objectives for that term. Progress is described in four levels.The first level, “Help needed”, means that the child has not met expectations and is in need of support in order to develop this skill, ability or to learn the concept. It is equivalent to “emerging” in the British system, and a score below 3.0 in the Panamanian system. “Skill developing” means that the child  performs well some of the time and is currently working on the ability, task or concept. “Very good” means that the child performs well most of the time and is meeting expectations. “Skill developing” and “Very good” are equivalent to “expected” in the British system, and a 3 and a 4 respectively in the Panamanian system. “Advanced” means that the child performs excellent all the time and is performing above expectations. It is equivalent to “exceeded” in the British system and a 5 in the Panamanian system. Progress reports are presented utilizing our qualitative scale, and “boletines” following the Panamanian system model are kept in the student file and available to parents upon request and on the event that students exit our school. Finally, it is our goal that at the end of each key stage students complete British National Curriculum Assessments (often known as SATs).

Languages

The school values multiculturalism and encourages students to learn and speak in multiple languages. Lessons are taught primarily in English, and we run a Spanish language program.

Class sizes  

Each class is limited to 15 students. In each classroom there are places for up to 3 temporary students. Amongst Gamboa’s scientific and artistic community there are many seasonal residents. It is in the philosophy of the school to welcome these families as long as the class limit is not exceeded. Students have to commit to attend minimum 3 months at the school in order to be accepted as temporary students.

Teacher Training

We value professional training and understand the important role of teacher guidance and coaching, professional development workshops, and Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in improving school effectiveness.  PLC promote mutual accountability, while inspiring educators to collaborate, and actively create best practices at a school.  Gamboa Discovery School invests in training for our staff and engages a lead teacher, who guides curriculum implementation and facilitates teamwork.

Homework Policy

The GDS believes in homework as a means to encourage children to explore the world around them through the topics discussed in class.  Homework at the GDS is given as an opportunity for children to share with parents what they have learned. We encourage our families to interact with children as much as possible through some of these assignments.

We understand that all children learn differently and therefore our homework is highly personalized and also empowers students by giving them choices on how to complete their assignments.

Our homework assignments will be reviewed individually by our educators. Children will meet with the teacher in order to discuss their homework assignments.


Admissions

Application and Registration

Admission requires parents or guardians to apply to the school. Directions are on the Gamboa Discovery School webpage (http://www.gamboaschool.org/admission).

All information is kept confidential.

GDS Tuition Exchange (TE) Program Policy

Scholarship Terms

The Gamboa Discovery School offers a Tuition Exchange Program to families who apply for a scholarship. GDS reserves the right to select individuals who can benefit from this program and determines the value of the Tuition Discount.  GDS will provide applicants with a full description of their rights and obligations with the school. The interested family must know what the needs of our schools are and both parties will sign a letter of agreement based on the stated needs. GDS will facilitate a copy of the terms and conditions agreement to the student´s family. The scholarship will usually cover a portion of tuition but not registration,commitment, uniforms, field trips and other fees. GDS will have the right to terminate the agreement if the student’s family does not fulfill the goals that have been established to obtain the scholarship.

Application Process

It is the responsibility of the GDS TE scholarship candidate to do the following:

1. Request an interview with the principal to learn more about the program. If interested,

2. Read the job description provided by the Principal,

3. Send a work for tuition formal proposal to the school,

4. Discuss the proposal with the principal,        

5. Sign the parties’ agreement.

6. Implement the plan according to the agreement


Children with Special Needs

The school has an inclusive policy and admits students irrespective of their disability or special educational needs, provided that there are good prospects of meeting their needs without unduly distracting from the education and the welfare of other students. Also, in a situation where the Gamboa Discovery School is unable to provide or make available help by a trained professional or treatment required to support a student’s learning, the parents must take financial responsibility for providing extra support for that particular child.

In cases where a trained shadow teacher is required full-time to support the student’s learning, it is responsibility of the parents to make the appropriate arrangements to guarantee that the students is accompanied by such professional at all times.


School Policies

Uniforms

Daily Uniforms

We utilize uniforms as a safety policy in order to easily identify our students, as well as a practice to build a sense of belonging among our students. The daily school uniform is red Guayabera with school logo and plain beige bermuda or cargo shorts, skirts or long trousers. Students can wear shoes, tennis shoes/sneakers or Crocs. Flip Flops are not allowed.

Before a new academic year starts, parents are requested to fill in an online form prior to the deadline for the yearly uniform.  All students must wear the appropriate uniform in order to attend school.

New uniform requests during the academic year can be sent to accounting@gamboaschool.org. Be aware that these uniforms are specially made and require time to sew.

Physical Education Uniform

On Physical Education (PE) and Yoga days, students must come to school wearing the PE/Yoga uniform.

The PE/Yoga uniform is the GDS sport T-shirt, which is sold at the school along with any preferred sport pair of shorts. On PE days, students must wear sport shoes, not Crocs, otherwise they will not be allowed to attend the PE class.

Art Uniform

GDS students are expected to wear a smock during Art Classes to help protect novice artists’ uniforms from paint stains. Smocks are a part of the uniform to be provided by parents and should be kept at school. Acceptable smocks include: old shirt that can go over uniform or apron. Child’s name should be printed on the smock.

Excursions

Excursions always support the curriculum and are considered supervised trips made by students during school hours outside of Gamboa. Parents will be given a minimum one-week notice for field trips outside Gamboa. Parents or Guardians need to grant written consent in pertinent permission forms that are provided by the school every time an excursion is taking place. If parents fail to provide written consent, the student must stay home on the day of the excursion.

Dress code for excursions

Students should be in school uniform unless otherwise specified via written communication from the school teachers or administration.

Parent Visits at School

Prospective parents are welcomed at the school. Out of courtesy to the teachers and students we ask a minimum of 48-hour notice by e-mail to the principal (principal@gamboaschool.org) for a visit to a classroom. Such prospective visits are one day only and  limited to a 1 hour maximum and will be scheduled by the classroom teacher.

Parents of students that are already enrolled at GDS are welcomed to visit the classrooms time to time following the same procedure.

Parents that have a scheduled visit or meeting at the school are required to register at the administration office upon arrival.

For an informal prospective visit to the school grounds, please inform the principal with  a minimum of 48-hour notice by email. Once the visit is scheduled, a member of staff or will accompany visitors. We try and maintain as little interruption to the classrooms as possible.

Student database Information update

All the correct and up to date names, telephone numbers, emails and physical addresses, both residential and from workplaces of parents or guardians need to be provided and registered at the school administration. Also, it is a requirement for parents to provide the school with an up to date list of people authorized to pick up their child. Any change must be promptly notified to the school in written form (this includes going home with another student or family member that is not on the list). The Gamboa Discovery School will not release students to people who are not on the list or without written authorization. The Gamboa Discovery School holds the right to request individuals for ID’s before releasing the students in order to ensure everyone’s safety.

School hours of operation:

School Hours: 8:00 am to 2:30 pm.

Office and administrative hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm

Drop-off and Pick-up

Children should arrive no earlier than 7.45 am and no later than 7:55 am to prepare and settle before school starts promptly at 8.00am. Children arriving on the bus will be dropped off in the designated areas.

At GDS two bells are rung to ensure that the students starts classes at 8:00 am on the dot:

First bell is at 7:55 am (warning bell)

Second bell is at 8:00 am and by then all the students must be inside the classroom ready to start the day.

Students that arrive after the second bell has rung are not allowed to enter the classroom and must be directed to the principal. The principal will issue a tardy slip and escort the student to his/her classroom.

At GDS, tardiness is considered a minor misbehaviour and will be treated according to the approach depicted in GDS’ behavioural policy (please refer to the sections “Students late arrivals and absences” in the "Behavioural Policy" of this guide)

Parents need to pick-up students at 2:30 pm unless the child has extracurricular activities. GDS  Staff will not release students to third parties who are not on the student pick up list submitted at the beginning of the year by the parents or guardians. It is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to make sure the list is updated as needed. In addition, GDS holds the right to start charging families for teacher supervision if students are not picked up on time on more than 3 occasions. GDS will charge B./15 for every 15 mins.

In order to pick up a student prior to school pick up time, the parent or guardian will need to communicate in advance and have the consent of the school head teacher.

The following are considered reasons for personal early release:

.   Organized sports, youth group activities, private music or dance lessons if teachers have been previously informed about it.

·      Family schedule makes it difficult for student to be picked up at the end of the school  day.

·         Student has a medical appointment

Emergency early release

Under certain conditions, students may need to leave/be picked up early. These events include:

·         Presidential last minute announcement

·         Strikes that can affect transportation and children’s and teachers ‘security

In case of an Emergency Early Release, the following procedure must be followed:

Principal emails parents as soon as official notification of class suspension from MEDUCA is issued"

On the early release day:

a.    Principal, administrators and teachers will send an email to parents, informing about the exact time the early release will take place (7:30 a.m.),

b.    Administrator will call parents to inform them about the early release verbally,

c.    Administrator will make sure parents respond verbally to our call,

d.    Principal is responsible that the protocol is followed

School Calendar

Our school observes an international school calendar with classes beginning in the month of August and the school year ending in the month of June. Students have a vacation period during the end of year holidays, and a longer break in the months of July and August.

GDS aligns with Panamanian National Holidays

The Gamboa Discovery School Calendar can be accessed online at http://www.gamboaschool.org/calendar/

We recommend parents subscribe to the calendar to keep up to date of events in the school. To subscribe, follow the instructions on the webpage.

Parents may request a hard copy of the calendar from the school administration, although events are continuously being added so it is highly recommended to subscribe via your phone or computer.

School Timetable/Schedule

Classroom teachers are required to send home a printed copy of the class schedule at the beginning of the school year. Please consult your classroom teacher and request a copy of the classroom schedule for your child if you have not received it at the beginning of the year.

Students with Academic Challenges

Parents of underperforming students may be required to attend a meeting at the GDS in order to discuss and develop plans for academic improvement with the student. The GDS maintains the right to withhold academic records until parents attend the meeting in severe cases of underperforming students or students with severe attendance records.

Birthday Celebrations at GDS

Teachers may schedule Birthday Celebrations in the afternoons. Parents can bring a cake, cupcakes or healthy snacks for other students. Parents may not bring piñatas, candy, party decorations, or goodie bags. Teachers can share birthday party invitations only if the whole school or whole classroom is invited.

Lunch Policy

There are two lunch options permitted at GDS. Cold lunch brought from home or a hot meal ordered from our local ‘fonda’. If students opt to bring lunch from home, the food will be eaten cold (no microwave use permitted). Cold lunches might include: quiche, sandwiches, fruits, quesadillas, wraps, salads, etc.

Fonda is the only hot lunch option. This option requires families to:

Call the ‘fonda’ to place you’re your child’s order (contact information available from the school secretary) before 8:30am

Inform the school secretary you have ordered food  

Money must be given directly to the school secretary, in the morning, as soon as your child arrives to GDS

Place money securely with the amount and your child’s name (plastic wallet, clutch, envelope, etc.)

Fonda will be delivered to the school, hot, at lunchtime.

Drinking Water in the Classroom or going to the Bathroom

Students may drink water and go to the bathroom when needed but must request permission from the teacher in order to prevent disruption. Students should leave their water bottles in the water bottle area after drinking and rejoin the class.

Sweets and Treats

The mission at the GDS promotes respect for self and fosters tools for lifelong health. Therefore, sugary treats are not given as rewards and are not a part of the school ritual of celebration of success and happiness. Sugary treats are an exception to the rule. Parents can help reinforce the mission by packing healthy lunches and snacks.

Books and School Supplies

GDS is constantly updating its resources including its library. Books and supplies are given a great deal of respect and it is a part of the children’s education to care for and maintain books and supplies. In addition, the Gamboa Discovery School has kindle readers that allow children to explore reading through the use of new devices. Children responsible for damaging school supplies will be responsible for replacing them.

Internet Use

Students at the Gamboa Discovery School have access to the internet in order to engage in proper extension activities that are related to their plans of study. The GDS teaches students how to use the internet safely and appropriately. Failure to comply leads to consequences under the discipline policy.

Bringing Electronic Equipment/Toys to school

The Gamboa Discovery School allows the use of electronic equipment only under the request and supervision of the classroom teacher. The GDS has electronic equipment available for student use. GDS is not responsible for any damage, loss or theft that may occur to devices brought from home by students. Please ask the classroom teacher prior to sending your child with an electronic device to school.

Mobile Phones

Students, at parental request, are allowed to bring a mobile phone to school for emergency use on the way to and from school only. Parents must indicate their agreement with the following policies:

Toys

If Students bring toys these must remain in the child’s backpack. GDS is not responsible for what may happen to these personal items. Students may use toys from home during recess only on Fridays, and must be inclusive with their use. GDS will not permit certain toys that might cause harm or might be inhibitors for school violence including: toy guns, swords or choking hazards..

Toys or electronics from home used by students during class time lead to immediate confiscation. Teacher may ask parents to collect the item personally if necessary.

Vandalism at GDS

Vandalism is an unsightly, expensive and derogatory act. The school will do its best to minimize acts of vandalism. The safekeeping of the school buildings and assets against misuse and damage is the responsibility of all staff, students and parents as well. The parents of students found guilty of vandalism will be liable for costs associated with the replacement or repair of vandalized property at the rate of 3 times the value of the repair or replacement to cover administrative time and effort.  In addition, if applicable, a work schedule will be devised for parents to volunteer time for the labor required for the repair work.


Confidentiality

GDS understands that the school is placed in a position of trust by all stakeholders and there is a general expectation that a professional approach will be used in all matters of confidentiality.           

All information about individual children is private and will only be shared with other members of staff where this is in the child’s interest and on a need to know basis.

Staff do not discuss children or their families outside of the school setting.

Staff are sensitive about discussing an individual child in front of other children or adults. This includes discussing progress, behavior or family issues.

Information about families is not discussed with colleagues except where this is in the child’s interest.       

Staff are aware of the need to handle all issues about different types of families in a sensitive manner and not to make assumptions.

The school prides itself on good communication with parents /guardians and staff members are available to talk to both children, parents /guardians about issues that are causing concern.

Addresses and telephone numbers of parents and children are not passed on except in exceptional circumstances with parental consent or to a receiving school.                    

Where sensitive information is widely known, it should not be assumed by those immediately involved that it is appropriate to discuss or share this information further.                        


Values and Practices

Fostering a passion for learning

At GDS we …

Building Community

At GDS we ...

Taking care of ourselves, our school, and our environment

At GDS we …

Behavioral Policy

The Gamboa Discovery Schools believes that in order to provide the best education and promote healthy supportive and respectful relationships between staff and students it is imperative for our school to follow a behavioral policy that reflects current practices. These current practices are selected based on extensive research and a complete understanding and evaluation on the needs of our community. Therefore, we are committed to continuous research and evaluation on a yearly basis, in order to provide a safe and positive culture for all of our pupils.

At the GDS we believe that alignment between our teaching philosophy, core values, and our behavioral policy is imperative to developing a transparent positive and successful culture at our school. Our desire is for all of our students to enjoy school and learn effectively in an environment devoid of intimidation and threat and where every child feels cared for.

Our school’s decisions on how to promote positive behavior, as well as how to respond to student misbehavior is critical to the success of our mission.After extensive research our school believes it is critical to move away from dominant traditional discipline practice into current solution-focused positive discipline:

At the GDS school every staff member:

  1. Understands that the quality of our relationships and our school climate are critical to successful learning in the classroom
  2. Establishes strong meaning and connections with our families and staff in social and school settings.
  3. Views mistakes as opportunities to learn and misbehavior is always an opportunity to practice critical life skills
  4. Implements beliefs on mutual respect while promoting encouragement
  5. Focuses on long-term solutions to misbehavior at all levels. (Individual, School and Class).
  6. Believes that students must learn how to take responsibility for their own actions.
  7. Refers regularly to the school rules, which are visibly posted in each classroom, in order to foster students understanding, redirect misbehavior, and celebrate positive behavior.
  8. Follows our standardized approach to behavior, in order to document misbehavior and to provide appropriate follow through and guidance, as well as to communicate with parents and involve them in our behavioral processes.

School Rules  

“At Gamboa Discovery School: 

WE ARRIVE ON TIME

WE LISTEN TO EACH OTHER WITHOUT INTERRUPTING

WE KEEP OUR AGREEMENTS

WE ARE KIND TO EACH OTHER

WE TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES AND OUR BELONGING

WE TAKE CARE OF OUR SCHOOL AND OUR ENVIRONMENT

Standardized Approach

I. Fostering Positive Behavior

We expect all of our students to show respectful behavior towards their classmates, other students, teachers, administrative staff and visitors

Prevention of Misbehavior takes place by building positive emotional connections and engaging all students in learning, while practicing problem solving and empathy.

Actions:

II. Response to Mild Misbehavior

Low-level Misbehavior (annoying and mildly disruptive)

Examples:

Actions:

III. Repetitive or Serious Misbehavior Stage

Stage One

At the third repetition of any mild misbehavior above or at the first instance of a serious misbehavior.

Examples:

Action:

Teacher communicates with parent, preferably in person or over the phone, and sends a written notification.

If the issue is solved, a follow up thank you note is sent to the parents and the student is congratulated on their improvement.

Stage Two

At the fourth repetition of any mild misbehavior above or at the second instance of a serious misbehavior.

Action:

Teacher sends a Behavior Report, which must return to school signed by the parent. If the report does not return to school signed 48hrs after it was sent home GDS will proceed with Stage Three.

If the issue is solved, a follow up thank you note is sent to the parents and the student is congratulated on their improvement.

Stage Three

At the fifth repetition of any mild misbehavior above or at the third instance of a serious misbehavior.

Action:

Parents are called into a mandatory meeting. A Behavioral Contract is developed between the student and staff member, including a plan for improvement and consistent follow-up which parents or guardians are required to sign it. If the parents do not attend a meeting, GDS will proceed with Chronic Misbehavior procedure. Child is encouraged to “make amends” by having an active role at school

IV. Chronic or Dangerous Misbehavior

If there is no progress on a Behavioral Contract, or at the first instance of a Dangerous Misbehavior

Examples

Any other action or omission that from the judgment of the authorities of School, constitute serious infringements.

Actions:

Bullying Prevention at GDS

Preventative Model

Students should be taught the use of skills that support them in building positive classroom cultures. Bullying is a serious misbehavior and leads to possible suspension or expulsion.

Students are encouraged to tell and speak to an adult when another student’s safety is at risk.

Definition of Bullying: Bullying is unfair and one-sided. It happens when someone keeps hurting, frightening, threatening, or leaving someone out on purpose.

Examples

Bullying is a serious misbehavior that leads directly to a team assessment, meeting with parents and a plan for action.

Absence and Punctuality Policy

Students are required to attend classes during the established school schedule and calendar.

Absences and late arrivals are categorized as either excused or unexcused. Unexcused absences or late arrivals are those that have not been excused by the parents via written communication or a phone call. Parents have 24 hours to excuse an absence or a late arrival. Failure to excuse it results in an unexcused late arrival or absence.

The Staff member that receives the written notification or phone call will confirm receiving it and inform the parent that the absence or tardy has been excused. It will be recorded in the attendance record.

An absence may be excused for the following reasons:  

The absences due to the above reasons need to be satisfactorily proven to the head teacher, otherwise they will be considered unexcused.

In the case of personal illness, a notification by the parents and a medical certificate by the physician must be provided if the student was absent for more than 2 days. The written form provided by the physician must be handed in on the day that the student returns to school in order to excuse the absences.

Parents may ask for a WAIVER if the child needs to be absent for long periods of time directly from the School Principal

All students are expected to stay on target and complete any work missed due to trips taken or illnesses within one week after their arrival. 

Tardies: At GDS when students arrive to school after 8.00 am they are considered late. Unexcused late arrivals disrupt class learning and are disrespectful to the teacher and other students. A student who arrives late must collect a permission slip from the Head Teacher prior to entering the classroom. A student who has been absent for more than 50% of the school day is considered absent.

Parents and Guardians must understand that the school and teachers cannot be held accountable for the quality of your child’s educational achievements when the child has excessive late arrivals or absenteeism.

2 Unexcused late arrivals = 1 Unexcused Absence

Late arrivals and unexcused absences are treated as minor misbehaviors and, following the behavior policy, teachers are required to provide parents with written notification via email or in printed form at the 3rd instance. If the issue isn’t resolved after written notification, the classroom teacher is required to ask parents to attend a meeting on site to develop a plan to improve attendance and student on time arrival. The GDS holds the right to withhold progress reports if parents do not attend the meeting and collect them personally in these cases.

Students who have been inexcusably absent for more than 50% of the trimester are not eligible to receive progress reports (Decreto 123 de la Republica de Panama).

Those that excuse their absences and late arrivals will be eligible for grades only if they have completed 2/3 of the work assigned by the teacher during the term. Teachers can provide assignments to the student in order to reach the minimum work needed to be eligible for receiving a progress report grade if asked prior to the end of the trimester. 

Academic Honesty Policy

Coursework and tests should reflect the knowledge and efforts of the student. Academic honesty is a set of values that promote personal integrity. Students at GDS are expected to be principled.

Lack of academic honesty at GDS includes


School Safety Procedures

Response Plans

The children will practice emergency procedures and evacuation on a regular basis. Shelving, furniture and heavy objects on high shelves have been secured to protect against falling. We continually check the school for potential hazards.

Safety is a major concern of ours and an issue we give great importance.  The following are some basic guidelines, which will be followed, in emergency situations. Your cooperation is vital.

Fire

In case of a fire the GDS Staff will follow emergency evacuation protocol and take their respective classes to the Assembly Point.  School Leadership will be notified immediately and firefighters called to the scene. Teachers and Students will not be allowed to stop to collect any belongings. Once at the Assembly Point teachers will make sure every student is present. School Leaders will ask teachers to verbally share a headcount. If a child is missing it will be reported immediately.

Lockdown

The GDS will start a formal lockdown if notified by the School Principal/Board of Directors or law enforcement officers about a possible threat near school grounds. The school may also start a lockdown if there is an intruder on the premises that is trespassing and refusing to leave the premises.

School Staff will move students inside the classrooms and notify school leadership and authorities if needed. They will start with roll call to make sure all students are present.

Students will be kept away from all windows and doors. School Staff will turn off lights, cover windows and secure the doors.

School Staff will engage the students in anxiety-reducing activities and will be prepared to evacuate at any time.

Bomb Threat

In most cases the threat will either be received in writing or by telephone.

Staff members who receive the threat will attempt to gather as much information as possible over the phone (name, call back number, number and location of people involved/injured).

The School Board will be notified immediately, and the board will contact law enforcement.

All Teachers and Students will be asked to turn off their radio and cellular devices.

School Staff will be asked to proceed with evacuation procedures and all doors will be secured to prevent re-entry into the school.

Intruder on Campus

An Intruder on school grounds is defined as an individual that loiters or creates disturbances on school property. Our procedure in this scenario is written below:

School Staff will approach the individual in a polite manner and introduce themselves as school members.

School Staff will request the individual to provide identification and ask for his/her purpose on campus.

School Staff will advise the individual about trespass school regulation.

School Staff will invite the individual to an area away from the children and if possible block the classroom door.

If the intruder refuses to leave, staff members will notify school directors and law enforcement officers. The rest of the staff will be notified for a lock down.

Shelter-in-Place

Shelter-in-Place may be directed if there is a danger in the outside community that could present a danger to the school or a situation that could harm students or staff if they are outdoors.

Shelter: We will move all students and staff members inside the building.

Shut: We will lock all doors and windows.

Listen: Remain quiet in order to hear for critical information from the school board and/or emergency responders.

If the incident involves gas leaks or chemical spills we will:

Advise students to cover their nose and mouth with a damp cloth to protect from airborne hazards.

All ventilation systems will be turned off.

Children will maintain a shelter-in-place procedure until given an “all clear” from the school board or emergency respondents.

In an event of an emergency please do your best and remain calm.  Remember we have a plan and will care for your children as we would our own.  Should the situation be major, we will call you and your emergency contacts if telephone communication is available.  Do not call the school.  Incoming calls from parents will tie up the phone lines and prevent us from communicating with emergency services and parents.

Earthquake/Major Disaster

Our Earthquake procedure Inside the Classroom:

Our Earthquake procedure outside the Classroom:

Power Outages/Utility Problems

Power Outages and Utility Problems may come unannounced. If the problem threatens the immediate health/welfare of students, the school will be evacuated with the student body going outside. School closures will be communicated to parents via email or phone.

Serious Injury or Death response plan

GDS needs to be prepared to respond to a student, staff member or community member’s serious injury/death whether it occurs in the community or at the school.

Our response plan procedure:

Security

The Gamboa Discovery School is committed to the full safety and security of students while on school grounds. The GDS establishment is checked regularly for security issues.

The local police station is located 125 metres from the school and fluid communication exists between the local police officers and teachers at all times.

Parking

Parents can park on the nearest street to the school (Humberto Zarate or Sibert Street). Or, alternatively, in the parallel road that connects to the community tennis courts (Maltby Place). See map on the web-page.

Insurance and Medical Emergencies

School Medical Insurance

GDS possesses insurance that covers any bodily injury that may occur due to an accident, that comes from a violent, involuntary, and external cause. Coverage only occurs when the accident occurs within the school campus, during school hours and during our recreation.

Medication Administration

The parent is required to sign a medical form at the beginning of the year in order to authorize medical treatment during emergencies.

Parents must submit written indication for administration including dosage, storage requirements, times etc. as prescribed by the child’s doctor to his/her teacher in person. The written indications must include the prescription from the doctor. Teachers will not medicate with medication that has been brought to school solely by the student due to multiple risks and liability issues. The medication has to be brought to school directly by the parent and handed in to the classroom teacher.

Student Illness During the School Day

If a child becomes ill during the school day, the teacher or administrator will contact the guardian. The guardian will be responsible for collecting the child from the school premises or field trip location. Students with a fever above 37.5C, with loose stools, or with excessive bleeding will be sent home.

Outbreaks

Infectious situations that merit notification, will be communicated to all parents via written notification. The recommendations on such are required to be followed by parents and in specific situations, proof of treatment will be requested.  


Lunch and Recess

Recess

At GDS our approach to recess is progressive, we believe in the importance of unstructured time in order to nurture student creativity, risk-assessment, personal health and problem-solving skills. We believe that the best way to promote safety is by engaging students in the process of developing guidelines and rules. There are always two teachers accompanying children during recess. Because we value outdoor learning and enjoyment, and connection to nature, recess regularly takes place outdoors.

Lunch

There are two lunch options permitted at GDS. Cold lunch brought from home or a hot meal ordered from our local ‘fonda’. If students opt to bring lunch from home, the food will be eaten cold (no microwave use permitted). Cold lunches might include: quiche, sandwiches, fruits, quesadillas, wraps, salads, etc.

Fonda is the only hot lunch option. This option requires families to:

Call the ‘fonda’ to place you’re your child’s order (contact information available from the school secretary) before 8:30am

Inform the school secretary you have ordered food  

Money must be given directly to the school secretary, in the morning, as soon as your child arrives to GDS

Place money securely with the amount and your child’s name (plastic wallet, clutch, envelope, etc.)

Fonda will be delivered to the school, hot, at lunchtime.


Community and Parent Involvement

Volunteering

Volunteering ideas, connections and experience to enhance our sustainability, care for our environment, build on our programs and support our fundraising efforts through volunteers is very welcome.

Gamboa Discovery School invites parents and friends willing to help unleash students’ powers of discovery, investigation, and creativity.

So, if you have a field of interest or expertise you would like to share with the students, please contact the school by e-mail or speak with the Principal to formulate a plan.

If you have an idea for fundraising or a special event you would like to coordinate, please reach out to the principal or classroom teacher.

Parent Committee

The Gamboa Discovery School has an operating Parent Committee that communicates on a regular basis with the school Principal and Board of Directors. Although leadership of the parent committee changes every school year we encourage our families to join the committee, as this is an opportunity to organize events, voice concerns, engage in the community and support the school.

Gifts

Donations can be processed online via our website. Monetary gifts provide critical operating resources for our fledgling school. Donations of books and educational games complete and in good shape are also welcome. GDS Welcomes electronic software and books.