How is OSCS different from my local public school?
OSCS differs in several ways. OSCS is a small school designed for young children and their developmental needs, and enrolling only students in the kindergarten through third grade. We create a warm, welcoming school culture, encouraging parent visits and participation. Each student will personally know and be comfortable with all of the ten Ocean Studies teachers and staff members. For the first two years we will enroll no more than 72 students, and in the third year will permanently cap the enrollment at 116 students.
Our research-based curriculum is designed to allow each child to progress to mastery at his or her own pace, and to accelerate learning for all students. It encourages the different learning styles of the students, utilizing the best techniques for reaching each child. It fosters cooperation between students rather than competition, and introduces research and investigative techniques beginning in kindergarten.
What is the ocean studies about, and how will you implement than part of your program without taking time away from the basics?
Two new science labs provide different aspects of our Ocean Studies curriculum. One lab houses various marine environments and specimens which the students care for. Equipped with microscopes and other scientific tools, this lab provides for experiments, studies and charting, practice of the scientific method, and investigative reporting of data. The second lab contains the state-of-the-art computer lab, media streaming, a marine science library, and the students' science portfolio work. There is a full time marine science teacher working with small groups of students on projects continuously throughout the day.
The ocean science studies curriculum involves daily reading, writing, mathematics, geometry and research into topics of interest to the students. Topics investigated include basic understanding of marine biology, climatology, earth science, geophysics, energy, ecology and environmental science. An involved and engaged student learns and remembers, and hands-on science is very interesting and engaging for young children.
Who will the teachers be?
Our highly qualified Florida State Certified elementary teachers have a strong love of mathematics and science, and many have a Montessori certification. We prefer to hire local teachers, but do a Florida-wide search for teachers with extra educational certifications to cover our needs.
How do the kids get to school?
Because our school day is longer than the local public schools, we do not have access to the public school buses. We had grave concerns that school buses do not have seat belts, carry a large group of students of various ages, have no one to supervise the students onboard except the bus driver (who should be watching the road). Parents will drop off and pick up their children, and the school will help with the arrangement of carpools for those parents who wish to carpool.
I'm a working parent. Do you have a lot of inservice days, half days, unusual holidays and furlough days when school is closed?
No! Consistency is one of the foundations of solid learning. We like the students to be at school from 8:30-3:30 five days per week for that reason. We do follow the district vacation calendar for the convenience of parents who have children in other schools. We do not have many half days, furlough days, and our inservice days generally are held during district vacations. We may celebrate some unusual holidays but we celebrate them at school! Attending school five days each week creates a culture of consistency, order and empowerment.
Do you offer school lunches?
No. We ask that the parents send a healthy lunch from home. We have a low-sugar policy and teach nutrition as part of our lunchtime curriculum. Parents can order hot lunch on certain days if desired, including but not limited to Pizza Friday.
Why do parents have to volunteer?
Parents play an essential role in the education of their child and we want to encourage our parent population to remain part of their child's learning experience. We will need parental assistance in the coming years for field trip drivers for our marine studies excursions, for involvement in our 'reading listener' program which boosts individual student reading speed and comprehension, for help with our fundraising events. Parents who work full time can help us out by cutting out some art projects for your student's teacher over a weekend or a fishing captain could donate some time and fish to a fundraising 'sushi night'. We hope to create a fun and friendly school culture, generating ideas regularly from our parents on how to make our school even better.
Are there any fees or tuition we must pay?
Like all other public schools, OSCS cannot not charge any fees or tuitions.
For working parents, is there before and aftercare available?
Before school from 7:00-8:30 am and after school form 3:30-6:00pm, the adjacent private Montessori Island School will run a daycare program for elementary students. The elementary students will be segregated from the Montessori Island preschool children, and will have art and games in a separate classroom and on a separate playground during these hours.
Are there after school optional activities or clubs?
The convenient dance studio next door offers various dance and gymnastics classes. Several classes and clubs will be offered after school with fees determined by and paid to the individual instructor by the parents.
Is the calendar the same as the district?
Our calendar will parallel the district calendar for all school vacations (Thanksgiving, Winter Break, Spring Break), and for all national holidays.
Why do you group different age levels together?
Our classes are organized to group a two- and three-year age span, which allows the younger students the stimulation of the older students, who in turn benefit by serving as role models. Students stay in one class for two or three years, making the class culture very stable and allowing the students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers. The age range also allows especially gifted students the stimulation of their intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade or feel emotionally out of place. The grade-appropriate 'work' is presented to small groups, assuring that all members of the group comprehend the presentation and then practice examples of that lesson while the teacher begins another small group lesson. Lessons are often given by an older student who wishes to teach a mastered lesson to an eager younger student. The older student teaching of a mastered concept to another child internalizes the learned material at an deeper and better remembered level .
Why are the class groupings open plan?
Many schools take pride in having small classes, and the State of Florida requires an average of 18 or fewer students per teacher. Traditional public schools placing the students in groups of 18 with one teacher assume that the teacher is the source of instruction, a limited resource. They reason that, as the class size is reduced, the time that the teacher has to spend with each child increases. Actually, with one teacher instructing 18 lower elementary students, several of whom may have special needs, much of the public school teacher's time is spent on classroom management and control of the group. It is very hard to get 18 five year olds to agree to do anything together at the same time.
In our open-plan classroom, two teachers work as a team to teach and address the needs of two classes of mixed age students (actually a ratio of one teacher for every 15 students). In addition, our marine science instructor will teach three consecutive groups of 10 students working in the science lab for all of the morning worktime. Our two classroom teachers will work with the 20 remaining students, giving individual and small group lessons according the the curriculum plan all morning. The curriculum plan will cover reading, writing, spelling, grammar, handwriting, montessori mathematics, singapore math, geometry, research skills, and work with various geography and history materials according to the Common Core Curriculium.
My child has special needs, will your programs work for my child, is your program good for all children?
Every child has areas of special gifts, a unique learning style, and some areas that can be considered challenges. Each child is unique. Our program allows the students to learn at their own pace and is quite flexible in adapting to different learning styles. In many cases, children with mild physical handicaps or learning disabilities may do very well in our type of program. On the other hand, some children do much better in a smaller, more structured classroom. Each situation has to be evaluated individually to ensure that the program can successfully meet a given child's needs and learning style.
Will your students take the standardized tests that are given in other public schools? How will you evaluate the children if you don't give them a lot of tests? Are you opposed to competition?
OSCS complies with School District Policy on the administration of all statewide standardized tests and uses standardized assessment testing to determine the knowledge level of each entering student, and to assess the student's progress throughout the year to assure that each student makes one year of progress for every year enrolled at OSCS. However, for assessment of the students in day-to-day work learning and in mastery of various concepts, regular 'testing' is not our method of assessment. Informal and oral exams are more commonly used or assessing the quality and content of a formal presentation made by the student. Portfolio work is reviewed and monitored. Students work toward mastery rather than a standard letter-grade scheme.
How will you report student progress?
Four ways of reporting student progress will be used.
Students prepare a monthly self-evaluation of the past three month's work: what they accomplished, what they enjoyed the most, what they found most difficult, and what they would like to learn in the three months ahead. When completed, they meet with the teachers, who review it and add their comments and observations.
Portfolios of the students work are created and retained in the classroom for review by the student and teachers.
Three time per year a parent/student/teacher conference will be held to go through the students portfolio and self-evaluation and discuss the teacher evaluation of the children's progress.
Twice a year the teachers will provide the parents with a written narrative report discussing each students work, social development, and mastery of fundamental skills.
Will my child adjust if he/she later moves to a local traditional public school or a private school?
Children moving from OSCS to a traditional program will have excellent skills and a strong academic background. In some traditional classrooms, asking questions is seen as challenging authority, and the stuednt will have to adjust to waiting to ask questions after class. A bright student who has moved through academic material at a rapid pace may be bored with some of the material he must relearn. Most students have an excellent ability to make new friends, are used to being cooperative, and treat teachers and peers with respect, so they make smooth transitions.
Is your program effective for the highly gifted child?
Yes, highly gifted children find OSCS to be both challenging and flexible enough to respond to their individual needs.
Will your program teach religion or ethics?
No. As a public charter school, no religious training will be taught. We will discuss and learn about the holidays and celebrations of different nationalities and religions as part of our cultural geography lessons, discussing the food, songs, dances games and festivals without examining the religious beliefs.
We do present some great moral and spiritual themes, like love, kindness, joy, and confidence in the fundamental goodness of life in simple ways that encourage the child to begin the journey toward being fully alive and fully human.
How do you handle discipline and classroom management?
OSCS has developed the “OSCS Elementary Behavior and Discipline Guidelines for Students” which is consistent with district policy and will be distributed to all enrolling parents. It is based on honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. At the lower elementary age, the minor behavioral infractions of most students will result in a discussion with the teacher, sitting a few minutes to think about how to make a better choice next time, and perhaps having to write a letter or essay about the issue. For a more major problem, the procedures in the guide above would apply.
Why are you opposed to homework?
OSCS students spend at least seven hours at school each day. Six of their most productive hours is spent in academic learning activities, one hour more than their fellow students at the local public schools. Many of the students have working parents who may not get home with their children until 5:00pm or later, and then must prepare dinner. Other students may have sports programs or martial arts, dance or gymnastics, music lessons, religious education classes filling their afternoons. The academic productivity of a student in the evening results in very little learning, does not build good study habits since the child is tired, and often results in negative family interaction when Mom or Dad has to coax the child to complete the assignment.
At OSCS, instead of nightly homework, the extra hour is spent in class working on interesting curriculum material under the supervision of trained teacher more than equals the lower elementary homework struggle.
We do ask that parents have their student read for one half hour each evening, or if the child is not yet a reader, that the parent read to the child for a half hour, preferably good children's literature.
For first grade and above the children may sometimes have a long-term assignment or project they are working on that could use some effort at home. The teacher might occasionally offer a “challenge” to the students to prepare for at home, such as things to be experienced like visiting a museum or going to a play. The challenge might be learning to do something that could be taught to one of the younger students. The challenge might be a product to be submitted, such as a model, story, experiment, essay or play. It could be to help someone or something less fortunate or raise some money for a charity with your friends. These types of home-based challenges help the child to grow in skills, empathy, experiences, kindness and build character.