OIS turns 3

Today we celebrate OIS's 3 year anniversary. Even though it is not the way we thought we would celebrate yet another great milestone away from each other, it is a moment to reflect.  

On 8 January 2018 we opened our doors and welcomed 26 international families to our new school. Are you also interested to find out how it all started? We asked Anne Marie, our director, to give us some insights.

Tell us about the first day when OIS opened its doors?

I remember that day very well. We were situated in the building of the Dutch Optimist and we were super excited to welcome our first 26 children at the door. We had 3 classes spread over the school. The children of the Dutch Optimist had made flags of each new students’ home country to welcome them.

Why did you decide to open an international school in Hoofddorp?

In 2017 there was a rising demand for international education in the metropolitan region of Amsterdam and at the same time a limited availability of international schools. The municipality of Haarlemmermeer wanted to be attractive to international companies and internationals, which is why they decided to have an international school in Hoofddorp. At that time I was deputy director at the Dutch Optimist and we were asked to accommodate and establish this new international ‘department’ which grew into an autonomous school in March 2019.

What were some of the challenges when starting?

Wendy van Vliet, project manager assigned by the municipality and I were sitting at a table in the summer of 2017 thinking ‘Where do we start to build a school? Let’s start to work on finding some students, teachers, work on a curriculum and classrooms, furniture and materials’. For establishing a school you need exactly the qualities we consider important to develop for our students, the personal goals of IPC: first of all we had to be inquisitive and explore the world of international schools around us, and be creative in our thinking, be pioneers. Resilience, collaboration, communication and adaptability are also important skills I developed further during this period. The hardest part of a start-up school is planning everything. Although we make forecasts, the number of students is unpredictable, because children come and go during the year. So you need to be very flexible. We are pretty flexible in our organization, but housing is the most challenging factor.

Now 3 years on, how do you feel?

Today we had an online meeting with 32 staff members coming from around 15 different countries, even 2 new staff members who started this week, with different specialist teachers like music, PE, EAL, Dutch teachers, support staff members, such a big team compared to 3 years back. While we were discussing how to change to online teaching again, I noticed how flexible we are, how professional everyone in our team is, how everyone knows what to do, like a well-oiled machine, but most of all I felt the positive energy of this team, so passionate about learning. We often call ourselves ‘one optimistic family’ and that’s exactly how it feels. Even more important now that everyone has been separated from their own family living abroad for a long time already.

Where do you see OIS in the coming years?

At the moment we have almost 200 students. Even in this crisis situation we are still growing. Next year we expect to start with 14 groups which means we will use our entire building. Depending on the possibilities of additional housing, we hope to grow into a child center which offers (English) education and also (after school) care from the age of 2. On the other side of the spectrum we are collaborating with Haarlemmermeer Lyceum, a bilingual secondary school to also have a more international secondary offer in Hoofddorp. Also we are working on expanding our after school activities programme.

Anything else you would like to say?

I would like to say to all children that I look forward to seeing them back at school soon. I will join some online sessions to see them online the coming weeks. I am so proud of all children when I see and hear how they are working from home, how independent they already are, and I am impressed by their technological skills. Also, I have a lot of respect for our parents. Having four kids myself, I know what it means to combine having a family and a job. Although I enjoy to be with my family so much, I realize that times like these can be challenging, with the whole family working and learning from home. Please take care of each other.