COVID-19 has necessarily altered our lives as we follow the local authorities’ safety measures. At the same time our teachers have responded admirably to enable students to finish this school year with anticipated progress.
Assuming permission to recommence on-campus learning in August, we now face important questions as to how and with what new rules and practices. We understand there will continue to be COVID-19 related challenges. Your completing the re-enrollment questionnaire will assist us in anticipating and managing these.
Schools are designed to bring children and teachers together to share in the excitement of learning. Unfortunately, social distancing is completely the contrary to how schools are traditionally designed. For this reason, in places reopening their daily routines, such as China, school campuses are often the last to reopen.
Most of our school population is young and COVID-19 poses close to zero threat to them. However, the virus is a real danger to other, older people, especially those with underlying health problems. Some of these people at higher risk include faculty and staff of our school. Most children will not get very ill, but they can pass the illness to teachers, parents, and grandparents. Moving forward, we will need to consider ways to minimize contact with more vulnerable members of our community. We are being forced into opportunities to rethink how we do things. For example, we may need to protect more vulnerable members of society by allowing them to continue working remotely.
We will need to know as much as possible about the health status of our community. There may be government mandates as well as institutional policies for our mutual safety such as testing students and staff for COVID-19 before returning to campus and testing throughout the year. We may need to adjust our schedules and classes, prepare for occasional disruptions or campus closures. Some students may need to learn from home, some teachers may continue teaching from home, while other students are on campus.
The above scenarios illustrate the need to rethink how we will operate. Other changes may include prohibition of large gatherings, limitations on campus visits and field trips and/or international travel, as well as the use of facemasks and deep cleaning of the campus. The way we have all adjusted to distance learning is testimony to our resilience. We must be prepared to further adapt and rise to each occasion, teach and learn differently, assume different roles and help each other. Together we will make it happen.
COVID-19 is a paradigm, not a problem. Problems have “solutions”. A problem would be students in a particular grade generally not performing as expected on division questions of the NWEA mathematics assessment. This can be resolved by greater focus on division. Overall the NWEA results improve. “Problem” resolved. But there will always be students who struggle in math, parents who are concerned about math and teachers trying new strategies. That is the paradigm with no simple solutions. It cannot be “solved”, it must be managed. If learning mathematics was a problem we would have found the “solution” long ago. Let’s not confuse problems with paradigms.
We are in the midst of paradigm shift. There will always be discussion about math, curriculum, homework, students not getting along with other students, satisfaction or lack of satisfaction with individual teachers, assignments, grades, etc. That is the traditional school paradigm. The new paradigm is how to navigate the labyrinth of COVID-19. You will soon be invited to join a “Thought Exchange”, an interactive online platform to gather thoughts and ideas, collectively identify questions and hopefully generate ideas to manage, not necessarily solve, this new paradigm.
COVID-19 will remain a fact of life in every school at every level. Forms of restriction will continue for some time. We will make use of every measure to manage this paradigm, always focused both on safety and your children’s education. An essential action we can take right now is to cooperate, share ideas, be empathetic and patient. On behalf of the Board, administration, faculty, staff, and most importantly, your sons and daughters, I look forward to exchanging thoughts on how we move forward. In the meantime please remember to help celebrate our virtual International Festival (record your video and/or send a recipe to Damiana Proaño, firstname.lastname@example.org) and fill out the re-enrollment questionnaire.
Thank you, have a wonderful week and a Happy May Day this Friday. May Day is an ancient celebration of spring, the return of life after months of winter darkness. There will be renewal and time to celebrate after this current crisis. Let’s always hold out that hope for our children.
Robert van der Eyken