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Preparing International Schools for 2021 and Beyond - A Round Table Discussion


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Kevin Lloyd

1914366201_2021MaskorNoMask.png.cb5925e95753523f4843880b17306c01.pngWith the International Schools well into managing their operations during the challenges of the Global Pandemic, The International School Recovery Forum – Supported by Together School, Clearpath EPM and the ECIS recently held a session focusing on the preparation moving forward out of the Pandemic.  COVID-19 has presented schools with new challenges and many of these challenges have impacted schools how they operate and how they will operate.  This session was designed to gain insights from schools moving forward.

Thought Box:

Preparedness
-    Pandemics are a something we need to be prepared for – COVID-19 is 3rd Coronavirus in past 18 years.
-    Schools have been reacting, which is not where we want to be.  We want to be in a position of response as response denotes prior planning.

The key insights:

  1. Schools are still very focused on the present.
  2. Schools rely on guidance from governments for a lot of their current planning.
  3. Schools are better prepared now than they were at the start.
  4. International School collaboration has increased as a result of the pandemic.
  5. Things schools expect to continue going forward beyond the pandemic
  • Blended learning / online learning has accelerated due to higher competence amongst staff, acceptance by parents. Various ideas about how this will further evolve exist.
  • Technology adoption in some areas has accelerated and will remain in place going forward.
  • New rules about managing sicknesses at schools will remain.  Any ill staff or students are expected to remain at home.

Mitigation

  • Schools indicated that they do conduct regular, but not necessarily frequent, testing of students and staff, however issues exist that limit this process:
    • Technology available
    • Trained Staff
    • Financial
  • Most schools indicated that they are dealing with having to send classes or grades home on a regular, sometimes daily basis.
  • Staff anxiety and well-being were also cited as reason for testing – the testing helped reduce anxiety among staff.
  • Procedures further help to support mitigation efforts.
  • Having access to contact lists and to identify high vs. low-risk exposures to positive cases.
  • Increasing usable space is another way to support mitigation efforts – use of external tents for eating to help keep levels of people in the canteen low.
  • Vaccination requirements – although some vaccinations are required before children can come to a school, local government regulations and guidelines are what will influence most schools with this.  Schools did indicate they expect this would be a required vaccine.  
  • New practises and procedures that have been adopted due to COVID are likely to be kept in place to help keep other illness out of schools.  It is expected that people who are sick will be asked to remain at home or will be sent home from schools.
  • The main tools used by schools to manage campus access included use of self-declaration forms and restricting parental access. Increasingly the use of mobile / digital tools has been seen as a means to manage attendance and communication more effectively.
  • The ability to quickly identify cases has been seen as very helpful in containing the spread within schools.  Saliva based testing is seen as more helpful, however the cost of testing is an issue.
  • It is important to follow to local government guidelines to help guide their mitigation strategies.

Guidance:

The CDC now defines a “close contact” of someone with COVID-19 as anyone who was within six feet of someone infected for a total of 15 minutes over the course of 24 hours. For example, if a student came into contact with a sick classmate three times during a school day, for five minutes each time, he would be asked to stay home and isolate himself for 14 days, while checking for fever, coughing, and other symptoms of COVID-19. Students and adults in schools would need to go into quarantine if they had close contact from two days before the infected person showed symptoms (or within two days of being tested, if the person had no symptoms) until the infected person started quarantine.

The CDC noted that students and teachers should still be considered “close contacts” even if they wear masks. While this wouldn’t change contact tracing and quarantine, separate research suggests that schools that use preventative strategies—universal mask wearing, six-foot social distancing, regular hand washing and cleaning—have significantly lower risk of infections.

https://www.edweek.org/leadership/cdc-clarifies-15-minute-rule-for-social-distancing/2020/10

Innovation

  • Use of digital tools can be beneficial beyond remote learning:
    • Professional development
    • Community building
    • Availability and access to content has improved
    • Participation in parent / teacher 
    • Live participation is not always great, but accessing content is greater
  • Technical competency of staff has also increased making this an excellent time to further train staff.
  • Awareness and impact technology on GDPR / privacy has increased which is again a further opportunity for schools to lock in the learnings here.
  • Changes to how schools operate has also been accelerated including:
    • Adoption of cashless systems for cafeteria/canteen and other payments at schools
    • Managing transportation to increase efficiency
    • Digital tools to manage attendance
    • Adoption of mobile apps to improve communications

Thought Box:

Now that the need for technology and its benefits are more clearly understood by staff, students and parents, planning and preparation need are extremely important. Schools must approach technology adoption: 

  • strategically
  • consider the long-term implications of technology choices 
  • manage the GDPR / privacy related implications
  • plan for proper adoption, training and rollout of technology solutions

Blended Learning

The Pandemic has forced a rapid acceleration in the use of online tools, coupled with in person teaching. From this, we have come to understand some key points, including:

  • Although necessary during the pandemic, clearly, we can see that online learning is not for everyone.
  • Competency with tools has increase 
  • Schools have understood better the strengths and weaknesses of the tools and the processes
  • Families have come to accept the potential as well as limitations
  • Full remote option – some schools have seen demand from families who are moving temporarily or to places where education is more challenging to demand remote options. Leveraging what has been learned in the pandemic has increased the consideration to deliver a remote learning option.  

Now is an opportune time for schools to further assess and align how they address blended learning, the related processes, competencies and technology.

Thought Box:

Acceptance of the potential for Blended Learning has led to increased expectations including support for sick students and closures for things like snow days. These expectations present challenges for schools as technology and resources are not yet prepared for rapid shifts between onsite and online, nor are they for simultaneous support. 
Schools need to manage expectations of parents while exploring alternatives:
-    Technology adoption
-    Training
-    Flexibly delivered curriculum, either online or in class. 
-    Program of study available with similar access whether face to face or online.

Communication

  • Effective, real-time communication that keeps the school community informed and engaged has been key to successfully managing COVID-19 at schools leading to trust and confidence from the whole community.
  • It is recommended that schools clearly established upfront what they will communicate and what they are allowed to communicate.
  • Coordinate communication to share information to community
  • COVID-19 changed school communication and they are not bound by work schedules – a positive case requires the ability to contact different community members with different messages at any time of the day or night. Although a clear learning from COVID, this should be part of any preparedness plan for any school and any school incident that may arise.

SCHOOL COMMUNITY COMPACT

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https://www.riverdale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Riverdale_covid_compact_090820.2.pdf 

 

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