Many Things

Testing, Conferences, and October Break

First, we have been working over the last couple of days with our planning relative to the upcoming long weekend, the October break, and our original plan for conferences for both Elementary and Upper School. I’m going to try, in the next few paragraphs, to capture the details of our planning that finally came together this morning with collaboration and final decision this afternoon.

We have three issues that we are trying to address:

  1. Generally, maintain our COVID testing schedule to minimize expirations and keep re-testing within a grace period of no more than 3 days after the expiration date.
  2. Minimize time out of school and coordinate days for families.
  3. Provide for transition back to school after a longer vacation.

So, our most immediate concern is the upcoming 4-day weekend that includes a professional day for staff on Thursday and a three-day weekend for all of us to take a well-deserved break. For this and future 4-day weekends (or, with slight differences, 3-day weekends), we will do the following relative to COVID testing:

  • Students normally scheduled on Thursday will be tested the day before on Wednesday.
  • Students normally scheduled on Friday, will be tested on Monday.

This means that the Thursday students will expire one day before their regular day the following week. Friday students will be expired for two days before their Monday testing. We can’t adjust the app for the expirations, so we will inform you of this consequence and you can send your child to school even though the app might show that you are not OK4School due to an expired test. This will be the same plan for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend in November and our general strategy for three-day weekends when they occur.

For conferences, we want to combine tackling this along with our plan for returning to school after the October break. With this message, we are changing both our ES and US parent conferences to the same dates right after the October Break:

CONFERENCES for ALL GRADES are now November 2 & 3!

These are the two days right after the October Break. This is different from prior communication from both principals and they are correcting their messaging now to communicate this change to all families and staff.

We had long considered that we would need to have re-entry testing for students after long breaks and many parent comments in our surveys pointed this out. It took us a bit to put all the pieces together and this is our plan.

First, all conferences are virtual and had already scheduled for students to stay home while teachers connect with parents via virtual connection appointments, similar to our Spring meetings with parents. Second, while we have typically scheduled upper school and elementary conferences at different times, there is nothing that precludes us from doing them together and we believe this is better for families with students in multiple divisions.

Next, during November 2 & 3, we will arrange for the transition back to school by setting up for drive-through testing for all students, family-style during these two days. With extra support, additional stations, and extended times, we think we can accomplish the large task of testing the whole school during this time period. So, for two days, each family will plan to do the following:

  • schedule and participate in online conferences for all Upper School children in the family
  • schedule and participate in online conferences for all Elementary School children in the family
  • schedule one family appointment for drive-through testing at school

To be clear, our advice for October Break is that we do not believe travel is warranted at this time. But, if you or a family member travels during the October break, you must be aware of the following:

  • If you travel, you must return 72 hours prior to your family appointment for drive-through testing. If you are scheduled to test on Monday, you must return by Thursday.
  • If you travel and you visit high-risk countries, you must wait 7 days before testing and return to school

I know that some will bristle at the suggestion, but there is still no clear evidence that travel is safe at this time. Numbers are still climbing and most areas are seeing significant increases in the number of cases. I’m hopeful that most of our families will remain in or near Warsaw for the upcoming vacation, as I have suggested previously. To that end, if you do not travel during the break, we will have additional drive-through testing appointments scheduled for Friday, October 30, during the break to relieve some of the stress the following week. We will have all the times and details out shortly along with directions on scheduling both testing and conferences.

Fire Drill

We will have our first official fire drill on Friday this week at 10:30a. This is our only announced fire drill of the year. Last week’s bad sensor didn’t count and not everyone was here, so this is the annual test of our procedures. Students at various levels have already been practicing, so we feel we are ready for this. If you are in the parking lot on campus or attempting to enter, please be prepared to wait until the drill is complete before you will be allowed to move. We will also send a test message from our Emergency SMS system on the day.

U. S. Election (for U.S. Citizens only)

If you are a US citizen and still have not sent your absentee ballot, we are pleased to inform you that, like four years ago, ASW, in consultation with the Consular Section of the US Embassy, is offering an opportunity for US-citizen members of our community to turn in their absentee ballots at ASW. Given the unusual circumstances, this year the Consular staff will not be able to assist you in person with registration or casting a ballot. Therefore, to assist you in voting, ASW will put out a ballot box at the main entrance area where you can drop off your ballot during school working hours (8:00 a.m. through 4:30 p.m.). Outside of school hours, you may still hand your envelopes to the security guards at either gate who will then bring them to the school and add them to the ballot box. Please make sure that you have properly sealed your ballots and placed them in a correctly addressed envelope with proper postage attached. You can print a postage-paid label HERE!

The deadline for turning in your ballots at ASW is September 30th, 4:30 p.m. The ballots will then be collected by the Consular staff and dispatched via diplomatic pouch.

Please find here the Embassy’s most recent message addressed to U.S. citizens about voting and their website at https://www.fvap.gov/. Should anyone still have questions, you are welcome to e-mail the Consular Section of the US Embassy at  ACSWarsaw@state.gov or call +48 22 504 2784.

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Getting our Focus Back

Let’s take a break from our COVID conversations and enjoy our stability for the moment. Testing is stable, response to infections has worked, wristbands largely adopted, surveys going well. So, let’s talk learning!

This week and next, you’ll have virtual opportunities to learn from teachers about our program this year. Similar to my message about getting into our stride, we are ready to help you understand our programs in more depth so that you can interact with students at home. Open houses will necessarily take on a virtual format this year, but that means you’ll have content you can also watch that is recorded and you can go back and review. Each division has its own program and structure, so watch for messages to explain and eNotes from principals below should help you navigate.

Knowing more about the learning your child is attempting should lead to conversations at home that gives you greater understanding of accomplishment. Find ways at home to have these conversations and use listening starters like “I heard you say…” or “Can you tell me more about…” and let your child expand their reflections. Use SeeSaw at Elementary and Google Classrooms Guardian Summaries in the Upper School to chart the learning path in more depth or help you with questions you can ask. Watch or participate in the Open House or Back to School together as a family and think about how you will create a habit for reflecting on school each week – where does it fit and how best to make sure you take the time for it. Research has shown that reflecting on learning is critically important for kids to see value in their efforts and connect parents to the partnership. We value all of you in this process of building meaning together!

One key measure from the annual Parent Survey just before July that continues to be a strong measure for us is this statement: My child is engaged and interested in learning at school. 97% of the ASW community either agrees or strongly agrees that this is the case. And, for this statement “The ASW curriculum provides my student with the knowledge, skills, and understanding for the next stage of education.” we have 92% either agree or strongly agree. Both of these are strong indicators of engagement and the framework for accomplishment to thrive. Thank you for your feedback as we work to continuously improve in all areas!

One additional note: We had an impromptu fire drill today just about dismissal time. Most elementary students were already gone, but most of Upper School was just about to be released when it went off. Our scheduled drill is next week, so this was a bit unexpected even though elementary just got done practicing yesterday. The alarm was caused by a faulty sensor in a middle school classroom, so there was no concern and we evacuated both the building and the buses to our safe areas while the usual checks were performed. My thanks to the parents who waited patiently in the parking lot while we completed our protocol.

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Week 4 – NWEA MAP Testing

It is usually about this time that we celebrate finding our stride for the year as we complete the “getting to know you” phase of our annual journey. No more poignant than this is the assessments we do to determine readiness for the tasks ahead of us.

One of our usual tools for this is what we refer to as the MAP test. This is the short name for the Measures of Academic Progress that has helped assess and understand the dynamics of the academic growth of students over many years in our school along with other students and schools around the world. We use this tool in conjunction with other measures of student progress to plan and tune our program each year to meet the specific and special needs of students. This year, in particular, it is an important benchmark for how kids are doing despite the circumstances of our challenges.

There are many instruments of this nature that we refer to as achievement tests. An achievement test is most easily understood as a comparison between your child’s level of performance and the average range of thousands of other kids of similar age and accomplishment who have taken the same measurement. It’s a statistically measured test that uses mathematical formulas to estimate current placement and growth over time. We never use the MAP test by itself in measuring academic growth, but look for MAP to help inform us along with other classroom measures and teacher observations of student performance. But, MAP can help us look both at individuals for greater understanding and at groups of students to determine how we might focus our attention for support, professional training, and resources.

Remember that we are also equally focused on social-emotional growth, so measurements of this kind should inform our teaching and learning, but should never be used in isolation as a grade or judgment. In order for instruments of this nature to be accurate, we must remove all stress associated with the activity and allow students to demonstrate the best of their true abilities. The best decision coming from this, or any other assessment, is to plan more effectively for the next best learning activities.

Middle School is partway through this process and High School and Elementary will follow shortly. We look forward to sharing our insights from these tools as part of our ongoing collaboration with you through meetings and conferences in the near future.

Cafeteria is Serving Up a Great Lunch!!

I just want to offer a shout out to our cafeteria, Solivoda, for the wonderful job they are doing under difficult circumstances. For elementary, they are serving individually packaged lunches with extra care for our youngest learners. For Upper School, kids have a selection of lunch choices served in special containers consistent with our hygiene protocol. I can’t applaud them enough for their efforts in bringing a healthy competent lunch to us and following all of our guidance for packaging and safety, including the compliance of all their staff for testing and daily survey. Please consider reviewing the menu and joining the program online at https://asw.solivoda.com/

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