July 24, 2020

Good Morning Friends!

I am going to keep this brief as I have teenagers to torture with a hike to a swimming hole. I will make sure to share with them that you are all concerned that my husband and I are assaulting their bizarre circadian rhythms with physical activity, sun, and full conversations that do not involve texting. 

We have been trying to take a bit of a break from COVID-world, with some semblance of success, so I am just going to share some of the key highlights of the week from the bit of resource surfing I managed this week. 

First, our country lost one of our finest civil rights heroes recently with the passing of John Lewis. He wrote this piece for the New York Times. I share a quote at the end here for your consideration as we all prepare to enter a school year like no other both in terms of the pandemic, but also going into this election and the continuing work around equity and justice. 

On the COVID front…

  • We had a great conversation on Wednesday about board involvement in decision-making right now, led by Ned Murray, and then I jumped in with some insights into risk management and liability. The recording is here
  • As we discussed on Wednesday, there is a need for a lot of “if this, then this” planning for when staff or students are diagnosed with COVID. The CDC guidance from last week helps, although be aware that state and local health officials may have more stringent requirements. The NYT puts the guidance in perspective with what has happened in other countries when schools reopening.
  • Speaking of the NYT, they have this very cool map put together with help from some researchers on how many cases of COVID are likely to show up for school right now in each county in the country.  It helps to see how the “pods” or cohorts of 10 are that much less riskier than whole school interactions, and how much size impacts potential spread. 
  • Many schools are developing matrices that identify various triggers for moving from phase to phase based on community spread, hospitalizations, and outbreak within the school community itself. Schools are often working with medical professionals and each school should create one tailored for the school’s situation and environment as appropriate. This example from High Meadows school in Georgia may help your school as it tackles this issue. This is something higher ed does not seem to have embraced, at least not openly, and the linked article gives interesting insight to what they might at least be thinking of (and a link to the Syracuse plan that goes deeper).  If you are revisiting your reopening plans, or doing variations on your original themes, know that you are not alone. Many schools are tightening processes, revisiting who is coming back first, looking closely at their cohort models. If you have versions you would like to share to help each other out, please send them my way at debra@sais.org
  • Along these lines, international schools have been doing the same sorts of revisiting and retooling. AAIE has shared with us this toolbox that contains a set of plans from 30 schools around the globe. 
  • This new study dives into ventilation and its effects on the spread of the virus. While this research has been somewhat slow moving, I think we will see more here as the realities of re-opening plans for schools become much more concerning with the number of districts moving to online for the fall. 
  • Harvard is doing a webinar today on reopening schools, the link to register is here, or I will share out the recording (if there is one) once I have it. 
  • International students, ones with brand new F-1 visas, won’t be allowed into the country for purely online programs. At least, that is the guidance this week. 
  • Vaccine questions are starting to abound, particularly around flu and the eventual COVID-19 vaccine. This article gets into the details around employees, and we had an earlier webinar around issues with students. 
  • Parents creating pods for students for online learning is a trend many of us are watching right now. The idea is that parents are creating a cohort with a tutor or other form of oversight. In theory, these create pandemic “quaranteams” and meet the social and learning needs of the children in them. This might be a longer term, more organized outgrowth of the homeschooling movement, particularly with the numbers of online education courses and opportunities being offered. Schools might think about how these pods also create opportunities in terms of providing access to facilities (labs, maker spaces, etc.), even when students are not enrolled at the school. 
  • And, because I find hope in students, check out this article on the Coronavirus Visualization Team and the work they are doing. 

Beyond COVID, but not far beyond it, is the very discouraging news about the US economy.  While our region has generally been blessed with strong growth for some time, we should continue to be aware that this downturn will be affecting our families more over time as the overall effect starts to really impact our parents. Schools will want to revisit their financial aid funds in the event that families need more support this academic year. 

Finally, this is me waving a red “pay attention” flag… the election is coming and temperatures are running high, particularly after this week’s engagement around the election timing. SAIS is partnering with two other large regional organization to help you prep your community for the (additional) complex conversations to come. Along these lines, we have a survey that we have sent out around special programs and the contact information for those in your school. The info for DEI coordinators or directors would be very helpful as we try and support your school. Please participate if you have not already. 

Also, fresh up on the website, we have scheduled a session to share insights from schools that have early starts. The webinar will take place on August 18th at 4:00 Eastern/3:00 Central. We will have three brave volunteers with a week of school under their belts to share what they learned in the early days of this experiment. You can register here.  If you are game to share your reopening story as we get deeper into the fall, please let me know. I am sure these real life insights will help us all as we continue into the fall. 

And, here I leave you with John Lewis’ words from his op-ed this week. Be safe and well out there, my friends. We at SAIS are here to help in any way we can as we continue down this unmarked trail together.