Back to School Preparation
Dear Families and Community of AIS, I’m sure we are all looking forward to returning to school and you will have read news about students being allowed to return to class in the near future. Following this lengthy period of lockdown, it is really important that we are clear about procedures and protocols for a gradual return to school and our Senior Leadership Team have been working hard, behind the scenes, to formulate a plan to re-open campuses. I am also grateful for the support of the Saigon Heads group for their communication and collaboration in the run up to a ‘safe, staggered, controlled’ return to school (to borrow a phrase from a Head Teacher in Bangkok). Parents will, understandably, have many questions and we will look to communicate quickly and as clearly as possible but we must also adhere to the rules and directives of the People’s Committee. At this point, I am able to reassure parents that our teachers have all received their second vaccination. Our Secondary students (12+) are also in the process of receiving the second vaccination. However, as COVID-19 is still in the community, it would be unrealistic to expect no cases at the school in the coming months and we must be prepared to minimise repercussions from this eventuality by establishing preventative measures, cleaning the building and classrooms and establishing and maintaining protocols. We will need families to be compliant with regulations concerning COVID outbreaks and we will need to be able to track and trace quickly to limit exposure. So, with permission from parents and teachers we will ask if names can be used as this makes the track and trace
Newsletter process faster and minimises the stigma of COVID in the community. I reiterate that we will only do this with permission from those concerned. In this newsletter you will find more detailed information which should answer any questions you might have, allowing us to concentrate on Learning and Teaching and welcoming students back to class. We will not have all the answers straight away, of course, so if you don’t find the information you need, please contact myself or my colleagues listed below, for the relevant person for your stage and phase of school. Your feedback, comments and suggestions are still welcome. It is crucial to ensuring we do things better and if you have seen good practice elsewhere let us know. It is important that this process is as stress-free as we can make it. As you will know from other newsletter messages, wellbeing is so important to us and I hope we can all contribute to making this process as smooth and effective as we can. I am looking forward to welcoming students back to AIS and, eventually, parents and community members too. Let us hope that this is the beginning of the end, as they say. Leading to a bright future. Davina McCarthy, Executive Principal.
Back-to-School Protocols and Procedures
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Are the number of cases in HCMC low enough for schools to re-open?
4) Can parents choose whether to send their children to school or keep learning remotely?
AIS will always be guided by the People’s Committee on opening and closing campuses. It is useful to remember that the People’s Committee will be working to the government school calendar and may decide to re-open schools when we are on the Christmas break. With the Tet holiday common to government and international schools we will likely have a staggered entry up until that point (see next question). When we have permission to open up for specific groups of students, Heads of Schools will email and message families to update them.
Parents can only choose to keep their children at home while the hybrid programme is running. Once we discontinue this model, we expect students to attend campus. It is important for academic, social, emotional and wellbeing reasons that students begin to adapt to a normal school life. If a student has medical reasons, with relevant documentation, then we can look at this on a case by case basis.
2) Will there be a staggered return to school and when will my child be expected to attend? The priority groups of students will be Secondary exam students (Years 11 and 13) and KG / Y1 students who have not yet attended campus. We intend to get all students back quickly and safely and a staggered start is widely considered to be the best practice. Students will continue online until their due return date. When we know the specific dates, we will publish these in a community newsletter. The People’s Committee are briefing schools on 5th December, after which we can update families on what we can do. 3) What will be the different models of learning for reopening of school? Is there a hybrid programme? During the transition of a return-to-school there will be a number of weeks where we operate a hybrid model. We have surveyed students and parents to find out how many families are outside HCMC and overseas and those overseas students will continue learning online until they are permitted to re-enter Vietnam. However, we are anticipating that all students will be able to return to school following the Tet break. We will adjust this outlook if school re-opening is delayed by the government. If you can return safely to HCMC, then we recommend returning to school as soon as possible. It is in our students’ wellbeing interests that they see their teachers and friends. You can access further advice from our Counsellor on preparing your child to return to school at email@example.com and Kate has also written a feature for this month’s newsletter. We would like to reassure parents that AIS will be making every effort to implement various safe management measures to ensure safety of all students and staff. Allowing your child to return to school will ensure teachers are able to work effectively with your child.
5) How will parents, students and staff be educated about symptoms and will temperature or other health checks be done on students, staff and teachers daily? AIS will follow the 5K protocols. We have produced infographic posters which illustrate expectations and these will be shared on social media and in newsletters, as well as be placed around school campuses. Anyone entering the school campuses will have temperature checks. Students will not be allowed to return to school without the correct documents for their age and stage e.g. Secondary students must have had the double vaccination and be able to provide certificates to show this. All AIS Staff have received both approved doses of vaccine. 6) How will you ensure my child is kept safe if they return to school? During our period of online learning, staff have been preparing the school campuses, clearing excess furniture and creating the necessary socially distanced spaces in classrooms and other student areas. Students will be instructed on how to remain in their ‘bubbles’. Rooms will be regularly cleaned and disinfected, including highcontact areas such as tables, desks, bathrooms and so on. Staff will encourage students to follow 5K protocols and everything possible will be done to ensure students are safe and secure when they return to class. 7) Will there be a maximum number of students per class? This will be guided by the People’s Committee back-toschool protocols and we will follow their guidelines. Along with this, we will ensure social distancing is in place in all classrooms and other student spaces. There will be no large group activities. For example, assemblies will remain online for the time being.
8) If a teacher or student has to stay home, what strategies are in place to support remote work or learning to ensure students don’t fall behind? It is very important that we protect everyone, including teachers. If staff need to isolate then AIS will provide cover for face-to-face learning, supported by the teacher in isolation. Parents and families may need to be patient while we manage the transition to normal school attendance but as we will have a hybrid programme in place, students forced to remain at home will be able to continue to access learning in this way. We will ensure clear and transparent communication and ensure all are kept informed and updated regularly. 9) Will my child need to wear a mask? How will the school support mask use? Can my child use a face shield instead of a face mask in school? Yes, all students must wear masks when on a school campus, except for when eating meals. Students will be prompted by staff about this and posters will be placed around campus as reminders. We understand that it can be difficult for young children and we will make every effort to support them with this. Regarding the use of face shields, COVID-19 is spread predominantly through droplets. A face shield has gaps which let droplets through and is not a fully effective way of reducing the spread of the virus, so we are mandating using a mask which securely covers mouth and nose. 10) Will hand washing stations or sanitizer be available throughout the school and when will children be required to wash their hands? Yes. Outside and inside each classroom we will have hand sanitizer available and staff will remind students about using this, along with encouraging the 5K protocols throughout the school day. 11) Will AIS be conducting testing for COVID-19? Everyone has a responsibility to help prevent transmission of the virus and if symptoms are present, they should be checked before coming on campus. This basic courtesy can prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, the Saigon Schools Group network are discussing testing of staff and students at key intervals. If a boarding student is returning to campus, they may be asked to take a rapid response test. Further guidelines will be issued shortly and, once we have established protocols for testing, we will communicate this to the community. 12) What happens if a student or staff member has symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19? At this point in time, students or staff who test positive should report this to the school so that we are able to track and trace potential F1 contacts. Any F1’s will then need to take a COVID-19 test and isolate until a negative result is received. Anyone testing positive must isolate for 14 days and produce a medical certificate to show they are clear of the virus before returning to school.
13) Will portable air cleaners be used in classrooms and other relevant school spaces? Hygiene and ventilation are important factors in ensuring a safe environment for staff and students. Many of our Primary classrooms already have air filters. Classrooms will be regularly deep-cleaned and we have made additional spaces available so that classes are able to move into larger areas during the staggered return. 14) Will distancing strategies like staggered arrival and dismissal times be implemented? Yes. Dependant on age and stage, students will have staggered lunch breaks and recess periods as well as leaving times. On arrival, students will go directly to designated areas to avoid overcrowding. 15) Who should I contact about any issues related to my child’s return to school and the plan for containing COVID-19 transmission as the school re-opens? The Senior Leadership team and admin managers represent the steering committee for the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also have site specific contacts who can help you in the first instance and these are noted below. Secondary Thu Thiem campus – Ms Thi Duong (firstname.lastname@example.org) Primary Thu Thiem campus – Ms Mai Phuong (email@example.com) Primary Thao Dien and Xi campuses – Ms Lien Hua (firstname.lastname@example.org) Parent concerns and complaints – Ms Bang Nguyen (email@example.com) School Nurse – Ms Mercy Candelaria (firstname.lastname@example.org) 16) What guidance for contact tracing, testing and isolation is in place, should my child’s teacher or another student contract COVID-19? Cases should be reported to the School Nurse at email@example.com, who will report to the Senior Leadership team for communication with teachers and to track and trace potential F1s. Heads of School will communicate with families on any relevant information related to COVID-19 cases in the school community. 17) Will ECA programmes be available? Due to restrictions with limited time on campus, only essential ECAs, for example EAL, VNC and Chinese in Primary will run initially. Please look out for updates on this in newsletters and on social media.
18) Will transportation to and from the school be available and what changes will there be? If your child travels to school by bus, there will be regulations that drivers will follow such as mask-wearing, social distancing and so on. For more specific information on your child’s school bus journey, please contact Mr Khang on Khang.firstname.lastname@example.org. 19) Are parents and visitors allowed on campus? Initially, parents and other visitors will not be encouraged to enter the campuses. As with the previous re-opening, this will need to be introduced gradually. If you do need to come into the school for any parent issues you should make an appointment to visit outside of school hours and produce the relevant documentation (vaccine certificates etc.) to limit exposure. For any school visitor there is a QR code to manage health declarations and for track and trace purposes. 20) What will happen with sports and PE? We consider it especially important that students get back to physical activities but, again, this will be a phased approach. It is unlikely that we will take part in inter-school sports events for the remainder of this academic year and it is likely that spectators will not be permitted at other events. However, we will be encouraging students to take part in activities, within the guidelines and protocols set for us. 21) Our HCMC family is travelling outside the city. What steps do we need to take so my child can return to school? The expectation is that they would take a rapid response test and make a health declaration but we will confirm this following the issuing of guidelines. Secondary students must also be double vaccinated. 22) What do we need to do if we are travelling internationally? As above but you must be compliant with national border protocols when entering Vietnam. 23) What are the arrangements for priority exam classes? AIS was able to manage this during the difficult period last academic year in the lead up to the lockdown. We will address any specific concerns parents may have about exam groups but we are able to note that exam results were not impacted. With clear communication and working together with exam boards, issues are minimised and the exam boards can be sympathetic to the circumstances. We believe this will be the case going forward. Please note that we may not have all the answers at this point but we will communicate with our families quickly and clearly as possible.
Back to School Questions and Answers for Parents Adapted from Guidance provided by UNICEF Asia by Kate Roberts, School Counsellor
As we prepare to send our children back to school, we all have questions about how best to protect them from COVID-19. The impact of school closures on a child’s wellbeing is significant. Where possible, it’s important that children have an opportunity to socialise with their peers, to learn and to develop emotionally. Research to-date shows that children are at lower risk than adults, though they can spread the virus to others, including other children with underlying medical conditions. AIS has developed a number of COVID-19 rules, routines, and safety protocols in order to keep everyone informed of how we are creating a safe space for students and staff to return to. Overall parents should follow the local public health advice and regulations. In the meantime, here’s some answers to a few key questions that will help keep everyone safe. 1. Should I send my child to school this year? The short answer is, whenever open, yes. School closures have been shown to negatively impact child health and wellbeing, as well as their learning. The risk to children when returning to in-person school – even with new variants – is low when the school, staff and teachers follow COVID-19 recommended precautions and where safety protocols around handwashing, distancing, and ventilation are in place. If your child is sick, with COVID-19 symptoms, keep them home until their recovery. 2. How do I prepare my child for school? Remind your child about all the fun and exciting things the back-to-school will bring, such as the time with their friends and their teachers, their routine and activities. Talk about the best ways to stay safe against COVID-19, including by keeping their hands clean, practicing physical distancing and covering their mouths and noses if they cough or sneeze with their bent elbow or a tissue. When masks are recommended, children should know how to wear them, covering their mouth and nose, and understand how to wash and dispose them of. You can also make returning to school fun for your younger children by keeping them involved. Some ideas include letting them pick out colourful masks, making up songs to remember hand-washing routines and safety protocols. You can also show them fun ways to greet their friends while keeping their distance – it can be through a simple wave or even a different move!
3. What if my child is nervous to go back to school? Children may be experiencing anxiety with the prospect of returning to school. Keep an eye out for signs of stress and encourage your child to talk openly about their concerns. Reassure them that the school is doing their best to protect everyone from COVID-19 and we all can do our part. Remember to be honest and understanding about their feelings. The most important thing is to encourage your child to feel confident about their new school year! If your child’s anxiety is to a level that causes you concern, inform their head of year and the school counsellor and we will make sure that we put in additional measures such as checking in on then and contacting them before school reopens to talk through their worries to try to alleviate some of that stress. 4. What if my child is sick? If your child is showing any signs of illness, such as a fever, stuffy nose, sore throat, or a cough, it is best not to send them to school. Follow your school policy and seek medical advice if necessary. On the other hand, if your child has had contact with a person infected with COVID-19, make sure to keep him/her at home following local public health authorities’ recommendations on self-isolation. Keep your school informed throughout. You may get in contact with the teacher or notify the school by phone or e-mail. Check with the school or teacher what is the best way to keep in contact with them. 5. Should I be taking any extra precaution, including when my child is back home from the school? AIS has prepared additional measures to be a safe place for children and their families. Ask your child or the teacher to keep you informed about activities that may put them in close contact with others. As AIS is implementing the recommended safety measures, you should not be concerned about their return to home. However, if you or anyone in your household is at increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection due to age or co-morbidities, make sure this person follows the protective measures, including physical distancing, and gets the vaccine once available. Provide advice to your child on how to travel safely back home. For instance, you can recommend that they walk or cycle to avoid school buses or public transport. If this is not possible and masks are recommended in your location, remind them to use the masks covering their mouth and nose in closed and crowded settings, including on the bus. Make sure he/ she takes proper hygiene measures upon arrival. Overall research shows us that the wellbeing benefits to children being back at school outweigh the risks of COVID 19 and we are all working together to ensure that we manage any worries that students and parents may have. Please do get in contact with the school counsellor, Kate Roberts email@example.com and School Nurse, Mercy Candelaria Mercy.Candelaria@aisvietnam. com if you would like to discuss your child’s physical and emotional wellbeing before returning to school so that we can implement an individualised support plan.
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