It’s Not Normal Yet

I know you are probably sick of me writing it, but the reality is clear that we are not normal yet and it is likely that we will have to adopt a new normal for the long term. With another case identified today, we are reminded that the prevalent nature of potential infection is always with us. There were major milestones that hit around the world in recent days and yet many questions remain unanswered. We are trying to understand something that may not be understandable. We are struggling to do our best and harness the odds.

I fear we will now find ourselves in a constant cycle of identifying new cases and doing our best to minimize exposure to the rest of our community. There is no one solution that is possible, but it is clear that the path of infection is impossible to predict. Thus far, we have stopped further spread in its tracks and our protocols on that front are working. But, the odds that we would see nine infections by this point in the year were low. This means that community spread is higher than what is reported and there is risk that exists around us. Our learning from recent cases is not crystal clear.

Some were certainly travel related, either by a relative or a family member. Travel increases risk, that much is clear. With some planning trips even this coming weekend, I can only offer a word of caution and note again the stipulations of our rules adjudicated through our survey. October Break brings another layer of challenge to this and we are hopeful of your attention to these parameters.

Some of our infections were simply community exposure. As we move about, we need to be thoughtful about risk in the general public and avoid outside activities that bring potential harm to the community. We can never be sure about where this might emerge. The government announced changes to address this by lowering the number allowed in public gatherings from 150 to 100 – an attempt to limit these vectors of potential exposure. Our OK4School app is about informing and educating you on these potential lines of concern so that you can protect yourself.

At school we can’t avoid risk entirely. We stated that at the outset and students are here in these hallways through informed consent, with parents understanding the risk.

On the long weekend, we will be making updates to the OK4School application and will communicate these tomorrow after final checking. It will tighten some areas and make some parts easier for you to address. We are growing as a community in our response and our thoughtfulness. Step back to assess as numbers climb and understand the difficult task we face of unifying around a new normal of consistent practice and holding our families and our community close and protected.

Recent Evening Events All Successful!

Want to thank everyone for their participation in key orientation events provided by both the Upper School and Elementary, the traditional Back-to-School. Many thanks to the teachers for their creativity and energy in delivering this content in a new format and to the administrators, coordinators, and counselors who all had a hand in making it memorable and relevant. As always for virtual events of this nature, many thanks to the IT folks in the background working hard to make all of this function effectively! And, thanks to parents for your interest and your partnership again renewed.

Remember that the side benefit of doing these virtually includes being able to watch this content over and over again in the video archives. Please ask if you don’t know where to find it or check eNotes in the relevant sections below for guidance.

Posted in school | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in school | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in school | Leave a comment