After facing possible closure at the end of 2010, Escuela Bilingüe Futuro Verde has turned its fortunes around, and reopened it doors Jan. 31 for a new school year.
The nonprofit school between Cóbano and Montezuma, on the southern Nicoya Peninsula, serves students in kindergarten to 12th grade with the mission to “create a bilingual educational setting … where students learn, explore and grow with respect and attention to the environment, diversity and social aspects that exist around us,” according to its website.
The school, originally named Escuela Futuro Verde, was started by two expat mothers from Europe to fill the demand for bilingual education among the international community. Although its early years saw growth, by the end of last year the school was facing financial turmoil, dwindling enrolment and no school director, and closing looked to be a real possibility.
In December, Montezuma resident Khalida Lockheed took over as president of the Escuela Futuro Verde Association. The New Jersey native’s motive was simple: Without the school, her family’s days of living in Montezuma would be numbered. Although other private options could address some basic educational needs, Khalida felt they could not provide the multicultural environment and enrichment she wanted for her children.
To give Futuro Verde one last chance at survival, she placed an advertisement on Craigslist in the United States. Elizabeth Samworth, an experienced teacher and administrator with a master’s in education specializing in bilingual and special education, accepted the offer to become Escuela Bilingüe Futuro Verde’s head of school. She has been joined by a strong, well-qualified team of teachers and volunteers, both from the local area and abroad.
Since hiring a new head of school, local enthusiasm and support for the project have been overwhelming, Khalida says. She attributes much of the increased enrolment to her husband, Alex Jiménez, a Costa Rican with strong family ties in the area, who has put countless hours into the project, spreading the word among the local community.
“The local children and community deserve good educational choices,” Alex says. “For the school to succeed, it has to draw from the different communities in the area.”
“The school was beautiful; it was just drawing from too small a population,” Khalida adds. “Because of our family’s bicultural heritage, we are able to address the educational concerns of foreigners while at the same time making local families feel welcome, explaining to them that we’re not trying to replace the Costa Rican curriculum, but add to it.”
Alex praises the bravery and pioneering spirit of those first local families who have enrolled their children, and puts immense pressure on himself to make the project work. “They are taking a big risk with their children’s futures and putting their trust in me,” he says.
He is confident the school will deliver. “Once others see how happy these children are at school, more will follow,” he says.
One of their greatest areas of success and sources of pride are the scholarships they have been able to offer local schoolchildren – bright, intelligent children who could not reach their potential in the stretched local public system, Alex says.
With so much achieved in such a short time, the first few weeks of school will be quite a challenge, Khalida says, but it is one she is ready for and excited about. Her hopes and ambitions for the school seem unlimited: securing accreditation from the Education Ministry, building more classrooms, awarding more scholarships, building a science lab and creating a high school that will offer an International Baccalaureate qualification.
For now, Escuela Bilingüe Futuro Verde can boast a truly diverse school population with a true blend of international and Costa Rican students.
“The school is in the best shape it has ever been in,” Khalida says. “Enrolment has almost tripled since last year, and is still growing.”
To find out more about the project, or to donate or volunteer, visit www.futuro-verde.org.