Dubai: Despite rising competition as well as the coronavirus pandemic, Vernus International School (VIS) launched in Dubai last month, with all students physically attending class on campus on all school days.
VIS managed to launch on time at the start of the current academic year with its pre-pandemic opening target of 120 students, Heath Bailey, principal of the new American school located in Dubai Silicon Oasis, told Gulf News. VIS offers project-based learning (PBL) and a multilingual programme, all included in the annual tuition charges, which also cover all books, uniform, stationery, and medical fees.
“Yes, the pandemic had an impact on our plans but it didn’t stop us from believing and establishing the school. Launching in Dubai is now as competitive as ever but being able to remain agile in delivery has enabled us to remain on track for our launch. We know that times have been challenging for families during the pandemic and by offering an affordable schooling option to families in the area, that includes school uniforms, learning materials and online resources in our fees, we knew that we would be supporting families,” said Bailey.
He added that any additional costs associated with the pandemic, such as extra health and safety measures, barely changed the project costs whilst opening a new school as these are something every school in the UAE has been subject to. “We have built the school with particularly large, spacious classrooms, so this has really enabled us to maintain the required social distancing between our students,” Bailey said.
The school, which has a capacity of around 600 students, has classes from pre-KG (Dh34,000 per year) to grade five (Dh39,500 per year). VIS is also in the process of launching its second phase covering pre-KG to K12. “With all new schools in Dubai, there is a gradual ramp up in terms of the number of students in each class. In comparison to other new schools in Dubai we have opened with considerably more students,” he added.
Beyond traditional schooling
VIS seeks to go beyond “traditional academic schooling” by focusing on PBL “in every aspect of the curriculum”, a relatively new approach that asserts students acquire deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems, Bailey said. “A good example of PBL is our hydroponic classes in the farming programme. Students will learn about how to plant seeds in our hydroponic set up, how plants grow using hydroponics, how to then ready a grown plant for preparing to eat, study nutrition and finally use the harvested ingredients in a recipe that has been written in class. The recipe in this example would have English, Math and Science integrated in different sections and then tie back into the farming project.”
VIS’ core foundation is based on Art & Music, Farming & Gardening, Food & Cooking, Technology & Innovation, and Sports & Well-being. Students will learn about Hydroponics, Astronomy, Music & Dance, Media & Drama, IT, Technology, Science and Art.
“We have an experienced Native teaching team and added benefits such as a full-time doctor. Whilst we work through the pandemic, having a doctor on site all day, every day is something we’re very proud to offer. We also offer a Multilingual Programme which includes English, French, Arabic and Spanish for no additional costs,” Bailey said.
Moving into term two, which begins January 2020, the school’s Virtual Reality programme will take shape. Its farming programme will also be fully integrated into the curriculum. “We are hoping that when COVID-19 restrictions are eased, we will see our students planting, growing, harvesting and then cooking their food in school,” he added.