The Student Services Department in both elementary and secondary school is in charge of promoting universal values among students: respect, tolerance, solidarity, empathy, and responsibility are only a few of the values that are promoted throughout the Peers Together, Kids’ Korner, Character and Ethics lessons. Counselors are in charge of these classes, which are taught once a week, in periods of thirty and forty minutes, in elementary and secondary respectively.
Throughout the school, community service permeates all grade levels. Engaging in different community service activities is consistent with the school philosophy, which states that Blue Valley students will show solidarity with others and recognize that the welfare of every individual is the responsibility of each one of us. In elementary, students participate either in fund-raising activities or actually performing a community service activity, such as visiting an elderly home.
The main objective of applying restorative practices in Blue Valley is to contribute in repairing or building relationships and to strengthen the sense of community. Restorative practices can take the following forms:
1. Circles to facilitate expression of feelings, to obtain information about a situation and strengthen bonds among students.
2. Academic circles (sequential), so that students can give their opinion about an academic topic, or to find out how much they know before introducing it.
3. Small impromptu conference, used to solve conflicts at the precise moment they occur.
4. Restorative conference, the most formal of all, requires planning and preparation of the participants. It is used to address specific incidents in which there is a clear offender/s and victim/s. Its goal is to restore the relationship and repair the harm.
Circles are part of daily life at Blue Valley. Depending on the severity of the situation, it is up to the guidance counselors to decide if parents are communicated of their use in their child’s class. In the case of restorative conferences, parents are always informed before they take place.
In elementary, counselors work constructively on values through activities that involve team effort. In doing so, they develop cohesion and encourage positive interaction among students. They also address everyday circumstances that merit adult intervention. Conflicts are arbitrated through group discussions and skits.
In second and third grade, counselors supplement “Peers Together” with an additional small group support class, “Kids’ Korner”, to create a caring environment that will promote good citizenship by empowering students to cope with everyday circumstances. The methodology includes the use of puppets, music, teambuilding games, role-playing, and play dough.
In middle school, students receive Character Education lessons with their homeroom teacher once a week. Each class is assigned a different character trait that students work with throughout the entire semester: caring, citizenship, responsibility, fairness, respect, and trustworthiness.
The methodology includes modeling appropriate behaviors, sharing of beliefs, feelings, values, and motives; discussions on why we acted that way and comments on the decision-making process.
For those students (especially in the lower levels) whose previous school offered an English level different from the one expected at Blue Valley, the school offers an ESL program. Students work with a language specialist for a maximum of one school year to learn the necessary basics to become functional in the classes, most of which are taught in English. The student is pulled out of lessons (usually the regular English class) three to five times a week for this purpose. In secondary school, students are usually admitted only if they have a functional level of English.
For those students (especially in the lower levels) whose previous school offered a Spanish level different from the one expected at Blue Valley, the school offers a SSL program. Students work with a language specialist for a maximum of one school year to learn the necessary basics to become functional in the Spanish class (in secondary Costa Rican civics and social studies are also part of the process). The student is pulled out of lessons (usually the regular Spanish class) three to five times a week for this purpose.
New students who require additional help in Spanish and English receive weekly support with a language specialist during some of their lessons. This service (free of charge) is offered for one semester. After this period, students are expected to join the regular Spanish or English class.
Blue Valley’s mainstreaming policy for its special needs students is aimed at having all of our students ready to carry out the academic program. While the guidance staff works with students and teachers to ensure that the specific needs of each student are being met, no significant adjustments are made to a student’s course-load. But, for example, the guidance staff or the teacher might read the test to a student, give a student more time during exams, or recommend outside tutoring for academic support. However, no significant changes are made to the curriculum content.