• Friday, August 7, 2020

Reopening CAIS - Weekly Update August 7

The Anatomy of a Rumor

I had an interesting experience this week. During one of our many parent town hall-style Zoom meetings, I was chatting with a parent who said he had heard that two San Francisco schools had received waivers from the county and were opening up for in-person learning. The parent wondered, naturally, why CAIS didn’t have a waiver too? I was nonplussed by this exchange—San Francisco County has not yet released information on the waiver application process, how could any San Francisco school have been granted a waiver? I asked for the school’s names and the source of the information. We mused about whether or not there might be politically connected parents at that school who had bypassed the process (we figured out that there were such parents at the schools in question). Still, I was incredulous—San Francisco public health officials have been vigilant in their stance, and both Mayor Breed and Governor Newsom have been strong advocates of a cautious approach. Surely no school could obtain a waiver yet when the process for doing so hasn’t even been developed  by San Francisco authorities. Moreover, I am in contact with Bay Area school heads several times a week—we are all aware of what one another are doing. So I scoured the website of one of the schools in question, and the parent dug around for his sources. And then, simultaneously, we shared the results of our research. I shared with him an announcement that the school’s head had shared only the day before that the school would be in distance learning mode until authorities permitted them to return to campus. The parent shared with me that the email he had been sent was a couple of week’s old and stated the school’s intention at that time to open school for on-campus learning. Mystery solved, all within a few minutes.     

The point of this little vignette is that we need to be sensitive to the nature of the information we gather and share. The parent in the story and I were able to suss out the story in a few minutes—before it became a rumor that would have occupied the time and energy of people who are already, no doubt, anxious about the pandemic. And I would like to ask you to please trust that the school is in possession of the latest and most relevant information available about the rapidly evolving local public health and regulatory environment; it’s literally all most of us have been paying attention to for the past two months. 

Coda: We are still awaiting information on the waiver application process for San Francisco County. We are committed to making an application, but I won’t be able to share much more until the county informs us of its process. Here is a link to the State’s guidance to county governments which was issued Monday evening.    

Permission Seeking? Who, CAIS Parents?

During this week’s Zoom calls, many parents submitted questions in advance via a Google form which enabled us to focus on the issues that were most relevant to our families. Without fail in each meeting we received several questions about what CAIS families will be “allowed” to do or not do. In some cases this makes sense. For instance, will CAIS parents be “allowed” to come onto campus to drop off or pick up their children? No. Will children be “allowed” to wear plastic face shields in addition to cloth face-coverings? Yes. Some of the questions, however, extend to behavior outside of school over which the school exercises no real control. For instance, are CAIS students “allowed” to have playdates with classmates from the same cohort? Are we “allowed” to carpool with other families? I appreciate that questions like these reflect the seriousness with which families are taking their responsibility for controlling the spread of the virus. Yet I am aware that the school has neither the authority nor the means to make or enforce rules about behavior outside of the school day. I’m not sure I would want that role anyway. What the school must do, however, as a condition for reopening in person when permitted, is to circulate a set of agreements to all students, employees and families. The agreements are those things that we promise to do in order to take care of ourselves and our fellow community members. While we cannot force anyone to do anything, we are articulating our hope and expectation that every member of the CAIS community can be trusted to follow the public health guidance that will protect our community and those in the greater community. We have seen a spectacular failure on the national level, and in many states and cities as well, to do what needs to be done to bring this virus under control. I have watched—as have many of you—with disappointment and disbelief as people indulge their momentary impulse—disguised as “rights”—at the expense of the health and safety of those around them. As a community, I know we can do much better, but it is not a matter of what is allowed, it is a matter of personal responsibility and of trust. We need to encourage and trust one another to do the right things, regardless of whether we are allowed to do otherwise.             

Adam’s Corner
Updates from Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross

Catch up on the Zoom Conversation 

It was good to see many of you in our various Zoom webinars for parents this past week. I hope that you were able to come away with a greater understanding about our decision to confirm at the start of this month that we’re opening in distance learning for K-8th grade on August 26. If you weren’t able to participate or would like to relisten to division heads’ details about what the start of school will look like, please click on the recordings below. Head of School Jeff Bissell and division heads also shared important information and answered questions about how we plan to mitigate risk as much as possible when we are able to have in-person learning (as soon as August 26 for Preschool and when we receive guidance from the Department of Public Health that we may do so for K-8).


K-1st Grade

2nd-3rd Grade 

4th-5th Grade

6th-8th Grade


Classroom Ventilation

Three news items regarding our plans to address classroom ventilation:

• I have just confirmed with NCIS, which manages CAIS facilities and maintenance, that the installation of bipolar ionization systems for our existing air circulation systems at our Oak campus is complete. Per the manufacturer, bipolar ionization “reduces airborne particles (i.e., dust, pet dander, pollen) through agglomeration. The ions attach to the airborne particles. The particles are subsequently attracted to one another, effectively increasing their mass and size. The air filtration system easily captures the larger particles, increasing the capture efficiency of your HVAC system.”

• In addition, we are providing stand-alone HEPA filters as one more level of air filtration in classrooms at all three campuses. These devices will be placed close to teachers—given that they are at greater risk—but naturally they will filter air more generally in the classroom spaces. 

• Lastly, we will open windows to allow for circulation of fresh outside air when appropriate, though we realize we will need to reassess this practice if and when San Francisco is affected by another potentially serious wildfire season in northern California.


Children and COVID-19 Transmission

I also wanted to share a “hot-off-the-presses” video webinar from UCSF (link below), which I just viewed today. It provides a good overview of what we know currently about COVID levels in student populations, and current data on transmission levels in school, both from what we have observed worldwide and with reopenings around the country. Two physicians are featured and give a deep dive into this data. Here are some of my takeaways:

• Masking among students and faculty/staff alike is integral to reducing the spread of COVID.

• Transmission in schools is tied to community rates of infection. It is imperative for our community to reduce infection rates to a safe level before in-person learning for older students.

• Transmission in households currently accounts for the greatest amount of COVID cases amongst young people. For this reason, public health offices still strongly discourage families from creating learning or social “pods” until guidelines for safe home cohorting can be developed.

“What We Know About Children and COVID-19 Transmission”

Recorded Webinar Link:https://youtu.be/hdgFdbz0-rQ 


• Dr. Naomi Bardach, Associate Professor, Pediatrics and Health Policy
• Dr. Darpun Sachdev, Medical Director of Linkage, Integration, Navigation and Comprehensive Services (LINCS), San Francisco Department of Public Health

Thanks for reading!


  • Chinese American International School


    Early Childhood Division (Preschool) | Alice A. Carnes Center
    42/52 Waller Street 

    Early Childhood Division (K-1)
    and Lower School (2-5)
    150 Oak Street 

    Middle School (6-8)
    888 Turk Street 

    San Francisco, CA 94102