Dear Members of the KAIS Community,
Thank you again for your kind patience, understanding and support during this challenging moment in our collective history. We are truly grateful for your messages of solidarity in last month’s Campus Reopening Survey, and appreciate the opinions you shared with us regarding the approaches that would most appeal to you. The question of restarting on-campus operations is one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make, with all sides of the argument having solid and sound justifications, so your input has been extremely valuable in guiding us on what to do next.
There is no perfect solution to this situation; we face a dilemma that, by its very nature, is divisive, nuanced and murky. Do we continue with the Distance Learning Program until the end of the school year – aligning with local international schools, ensuring a stable, consistent routine for our students and maintaining the ultimate form of physical distancing? Or do we take the initiative, now that the number of COVID infections has relatively decreased, to reestablish our physical connection with school and respond to the community’s social needs by resuming on-campus operations following a careful reopening model and strict safety precautions?
Looking at the survey data, exactly half of our families have said that they would be comfortable sending their kids back to school next week. 35%, on the other hand, have responded that they would not do so. The remaining 15% remained Undecided. While continuing the DLP would certainly be the safest and simplest option, that would unfortunately leave many in our community unsatisfied and burdened with additional responsibilities. Reopening the campus, on the other hand, incurs a vague yet frightening amount of risk to our stakeholders – as well as to the school itself – yet could be tremendously beneficial to certain individuals who are struggling to cope in the context of this health crisis. Like I said, this is one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make…
“Risk Determines Model”
To help make this decision, we’ve introduced a useful framework (above) in which “risk determines model.” Within this framework, the level of acceptable risk our community is facing guides our decision-making process during these crisis situations. In moments of low risk, it makes sense to return to regular, on-campus operations. In periods of high risk, we now have a developed distance learning approach to fall back on. But what about the gray zone in the middle? These would be classified as periods of “medium” risk, and would require a careful, balanced approach to the education we provide. We spent weeks putting together this “Hybrid” DLP model in which on-campus operations would partially resume, with our teachers continuing the DLP from school along with pre-assigned (A/B) groups of students also attending their online DLP classes from school. Within this hybrid approach, a school-wide health initiative would be put in place, following a wide range of strict health precautions.
Basing ourselves on this system, current circumstances place us in the High Risk category. While the number of newly infected patients has fortunately trended down in May, recent events in Tokyo and in Kyushu have caused some concern. Local authorities have indeed removed the State of Emergency, but the municipal government has invoked a “Tokyo Alert” warning, asking residents to strictly follow health guidelines as well as promoting remote work where possible to mitigate the increasingly crowded trains and stations. According to the city’s COVID-19 Roadmap, this alert precedes a spike in infections in the lead-up to the expected second wave. Consulting other international schools, all the major institutions on our list (except one) have moved exclusively to distance learning until the end of the school year.
Source: Tokyo Keizai Online
After much deliberation, we cannot in good conscience lower our risk assessment to allow on-campus operations at this time. As a result, we have decided to maintain the Distance Learning Program until the end of the 2019-20 school year in order to guarantee the safety of our students, families, and staff. Though painful for some, this appears to be the wisest path given the current outlook, and buys us the necessary time to gather more conclusive data regarding the threat we all face. We strongly hope that conditions improve soon, so that schools around the world can safely return to what we all, at some point in our lives, took for granted – face-to-face learning.
Your warm messages of support have been helpful throughout this stressful period. We understand that these special circumstances have steeped many of our families in additional work; we truly empathize with the situation, and honor your helpful contributions from home. We want everyone to feel safe here at KAIS, so please let us know if there is anything else we can do. For now, we’ll focus on closing out the term as successfully as possible, and preparing for an exciting return to school for the 2020-21 school year.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions, comments, or suggestions.
KAIS International Elementary & Middle School