From:                                                       Monteverde Friends School <>

Sent:                                                         Friday, March 27, 2020 1:45 PM


Subject:                                                   MFS March Newsletter: Trying Times


Monteverde Friends School/ Escuela de los Amigos Monteverde

Newsletter, March 2020


We had planned our March issue to focus on a recent Lego Robotics event and how STEM problem solving techniques are built into the MFS curriculum ... but that was early March, a whole lifetime ago, it seems.

Since then, like the rest of the world, we have been trying to figure out how to move forward in the brave new world of the coronavirus pandemic.

On the surface, all would seem calm in Monteverde. The nearest identified case of the virus is 25 miles away. It is the dry season, so the sun is shining every day while strong winds do their job. All have been asked stay home. If it weren't for such a terrible reason, it would be wonderful that our streets are so quiet, especially without the huge tour buses that were never designed for streets like ours. Grocery stores, banks and some others are open for business and without lines. Grocery shelves are full -- even in the TP aisle! And our amazing greenery and animals go unaffected.


Operationally, our school continues to function though closed for in-person attendance. After a hugely pressured week, our high school teachers have transferred all curriculum and class meetings to the Internet. Teachers for the lower grades have scrambled too, and are putting together all sorts of creative learning activity packages for younger students to work on at home. Teachers are checking in regularly with parents.

But below the surface, things are crumbling economically throughout Monteverde and the country. And we are trying to figure out how -- or even whether -- we can keep MFS running.

A survey of school parents indicates that few, if any, will be able to pay any further tuition. We are unable to continue to pay teachers and staff full salaries and the School Committee has made the difficult decision to cut all pay by 50% for April through June while continuing school for our students through the school year -- particularly those due to graduate high school in a couple of months. With this approach, teachers and staff retain their health benefits.


Why is this hitting us so hard and so fast? January through May is the dry and sunny season in Costa Rica, even here in Monteverde around the rain forest. That's when tourists are most likely to visit. In those few months, most local businesses have to earn enough to sustain them the rest of the year. You see, Monteverde is quite small. Even if you count the general area, including Santa Elena a couple of kilometers down the road, the population is only about 5,000. In recent tourist seasons, as many as 100,000 international tourists have visited, funding hotels, restaurants, stores, tours and all the other businesses that support them.

Starting a couple of weeks ago, tourists started cancelling trips or exiting if they were already here. As of March 18th Costa Rica no longer allows non-residents/citizens to enter the country at all. That's a brave move by the country to protect the people here, but an incredibly difficult decision knowing what the financial impact would be.

Already, many hotels in the Monteverde area have either closed, laid off all staff, or cut back radically. Another private school in the area closed school at the end of last week and laid off all staff for now, though hoping to open again in August. Small businesses are empty, if open at all.

As a school, we are doing all we can to find a way forward. Potentially, we will see little or no tuition for the remainder of the year. How far do we go in focusing on keeping teachers paid and the school operating this year when it risks our opening for the 2020-21 school year? How do we care for our students, their parents, our teachers and staff while assuring the school's longer term viability? We are doing our best to answer these questions.

We are deeply gratified by the response from our donors to our letter last week. We understand that many of you, too, are facing challenges like these. But we know that we will need to keep asking those of you less affected by the pandemic to help us out financially.

Meanwhile, it helps a lot knowing that we have such a network through the US and Canada to support us. We are grateful that we enjoy warm weather and walks amidst incredible natural beauty to ease our minds. We do our best to live in the Spirit, looking for way to open.

We hope that all of you and your loved ones are healthy and safe in these times as hopefully way opens for you as well.


If you, too, have been hit hard economically by this pandemic, we understand that this is not a time
for you to donate.

But we hope that others, less affected by the pandemic, will help us out as we struggle to continue the
Monteverde Friends School's almost
70 year tradition of excellent,
bilingual education based on Quaker values.


(Tax deductible in the U.S. and Canada)




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