Covid-19 Update – Moving to Phase Two and Potential Changes to Online Learning Classes
We purposely opened the school to classes on campus with a conservative approach. As things are going well so far and the COVID-19 situation in Senegal seems to be stable, we are considering adjusting some of the health and safety guidelines.
The school’s reopening plan has a number of different phases based on the conditions in Senegal as well as the conditions on campus. Below is a summary of each phase. Note, these phases are subject to change based on the evolution of the virus, Government of Senegal guidelines for international schools, and recommendations from international health organizations.
Phase zero – The school is closed to on-campus classes due to government mandate or the ISD Board of Trustees determine it is not safe to hold classes on campus. The school would offer a fully online learning program only to students. Campus use may be closed or have limited capacity for students and parents.
Phase one – This is our current phase. The Government of Senegal allows international schools to open with specific guidelines and the ISD Board of Trustees determines it is safe to hold classes on campus. The school offers different learning scenarios, including fully online learning, based on recommendations from international health organizations.
Phase two – The school administration will consider moving to this phase provide all the condition of phase one still exist, the number of positive cases in Senegal is relatively low and stable, and there has been limited or no positive cases among students and staff. This phase would allow for larger cohorts to mix, although physical distancing guidelines would not change and masks would still be required.
Phase three – The school administration will consider moving to this phase provided all the condition of phase one and two still exist, the government of Senegal eases its guidelines, and the Board of Trustees and Administration agree it is safe to ease the health and safety guidelines further. In this phase, physical distancing guidelines would be eased, there would be an increase in after-school activities and sports, and a larger capacity for use of school facilities outside of school hours. Masks will still be required.
Phase four – This phase would basically be a return to relative normal school practices. For this to happen, the Government of Senegal would need to eliminate most or all health and safety guidelines for international schools, few or no cases of Covid-19 in Senegal and the Board of Trustees and Administration agree it is safe to ease the health and safety guidelines further.
The biggest change with moving from phase one to phase two would be to increase our cohort groups in grades kindergarten to grade ten from 10 to 30 - 45 students. Currently, students in grades three to ten stay in a cohort of 8 to 11 students for the whole day. The 8 to 11 students stay in one classroom for their classes, with the teachers rotating in, have a break together, and eat lunch in the same area. We would like to expand this so all the students in a grade level, on-campus on a given day, would be a cohort.
Since the start of school, students in grades 11 and 12 have operated as one cohort, ranging from 25 to 45 students. We have not had any issues as they wear masks throughout the day, can physically distance when indoors, and are appropriately social distancing outside. Therefore, we are comfortable giving the other students more freedom of movement. We will still maintain the hybrid model of having only half the students in a grade level on campus on a given day. Also, we will still have a limit on the number of students in one classroom.
There are two main advantages to allowing larger cohorts in grades three to ten. One, the students would be able to have French class in person. If the whole grade is a cohort, then the students from different classes can mix, which would allow us to group by ability level. Two, the students will be able to socialize with any of the students in their grade on campus that day. This will help ease some of the isolation students are feeling, particularly in middle school.
The leadership team will make a final decision in the next week based on the available data, as well as, feedback from parents and teachers.
I will be hosting a parent town hall this Thursday from 5:00 pm GMT to 6:00 pm GMT to share the details. The Zoom meeting details will be emailed to parents on Thursday morning. The session will be recorded and shared by email.
If all continues well, we would look to start implementing some of the changes in mid-October. Most changes would be implemented over time. The major impacts would be as follows:
In-person French classes are possible for grades pre-K to grade 10.
Students in grades 6 to 10 could socialize with other students in their grades during break and lunch with physical distancing.
Math classes in grades 9 and 10 could be ability grouped.
Students in Pre-K 3 to grade 2 could stay for a full day.
The health and safety committee is reviewing the plans and the administration is discussing the implementation with the affected teachers. We believe we can implement the above changes without increasing the risk to the students or staff.
Combined Online Classes in Elementary
When the school year started, approximately 20% of our elementary students were participating in a fully online program. This meant between 8 to 11 students were fully online depending upon the grade. We are seeing a number of the online learning students transition to classes on campus as families return to Dakar and parents feel comfortable with our health and safety precautions.
As a result, we are expecting to have to combine some of the elementary online classes in October. Some of the grades will have fewer than five students online. This number is not enough to justify a full-time teacher. For example, we could have a combined kindergarten-grade 1 teacher who would work with students in both grades. The students would have separate academic programs.
The teachers who released from online teaching would move to learning support or ELL roles.
The online learning model in middle and high school is will not change, as those students are connecting with the classes on campus, so we will not need to make any adjustments to that program.
International School of Dakar