Welcome to School Year 2020-2021
Dear CAIS Community,
In lieu of more updates about sinks, DPH guidance, and community agreements, I want to use this space to welcome everyone back to the beginning of another school year. I must admit, though, that this year’s first day was like no other. After spending most of the summer with my colleagues planning for the physical return to school and looking forward to the traditional rhythms I expected for my 11th first day at CAIS, the reality of Preschool in-person and K-8th online felt a little bit disorienting. But like much else that has happened at CAIS since late March, I have been impressed and delighted (though no longer surprised) by the creative ways in which our teachers have recreated important rituals in a virtual environment. On Wednesday there were messages and screenshots flying around via email and Slack channels, documenting the return of students and everyone’s excitement at seeing one another again. Of course we all wish we were able to be on campus waving, fist-bumping, high-fiving, and giving each other welcome back hugs. But even without those options, it still felt like the first day of school. Teachers’ Zoom snapshots showed that the thrill of reconnecting is a constant no matter the venue. In addition to our creative and conscientious teachers, I want to recognize our tech team who have worked long hours to get everyone ready for another stretch of virtual schooling—a big thanks to Annie, George, Jason, Jack, and Daniel. I also want to thank all of our CAIS parents across the divisions. The outpouring of support and gratitude this week has been inspiring and motivating. Thank you for all your positive messages and your confidence.
Very First Day for Preschool
At our Preschool campus, our youngest students were permitted to return for in-person learning. I was worried about our staggered drop-off and pickup schedule, but it went extremely smoothly. Preschool parents did an excellent job at preparing their three- and four-year olds for first day separation, and there was less crying than in any of the ten previous years that I’ve been here. Preschool Director Chu Hsi Teng wisely noted that parents cooperated and did not linger inside the campus, so kids were able to quickly refocus on their classmates, teachers, and toys. Seeing our newest parents dutifully follow her experienced advice was a great start to the parent-school partnership that will be critical to a healthy and successful school year. Our NCIS partners at Preschool were instrumental in making drop off and pick up run smoothly and safely—thanks to George, Mark, and Frank! I was also curious about how our littlest ones would do with face coverings all day long. To my surprise the kids did great—more evidence that over the summer our families helped us out by ensuring that their children spent time getting used to face coverings. I want to give a huge shout out to our Preschool faculty. Against the challenging backdrop of frequently shifting public health directives and guidance, they have pulled together and opened a warm, nurturing school environment for grateful families and excited kids. Thank you Preschool faculty! Additionally, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Adam Ross who has coordinated all our efforts, pulling together a million pieces to ensure a smooth opening of our Preschool campus. Most important, the Preschool kids were happy and engaged—not even their face-coverings could hide the joy in their eyes.
Updates from Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross
We have just finished our first short week of school, with K-8th grade in Distance Learning and new students in Preschool getting acquainted in their first days of learning at our Waller Street campus. Whether online in Zoom sessions or wearing masks in the classroom, our return to school has not been quite the same as past years, but it has been good to reconnect with CAIS colleagues and students alike.
The Waiver and The Wait
I wish to spend some time explaining the waiver process that could possibly allow our K-6th grades to open later this fall even if the San Francisco Department of Public Health has not yet authorized schools to reopen. The State of California announced this waiver process several weeks ago, and left it to individual counties to determine the process for the waiver. You may be seeing that schools in other counties across the state have received the OK to reopen. However, San Francisco County so far has only asked schools to submit a Letter of Intent to demonstrate willingness to apply for the waiver. At this point, we are awaiting further instructions on how to submit our application. We expect to receive this information sometime next week.
We have anticipated that this waiver process would take some time, which is why we determined the earliest we possibly could reopen would be in early October. Even this date will depend largely upon how long the waiver submission and review process will take. The process will require that we detail our current virtual learning programs, health and risk mitigation protocols, and COVID testing plans for faculty and staff, and a data monitoring plan to track infections and potential outbreaks among students and faculty.
Keeping Our Core Values
It might seem rather quaint to look to our CAIS Core Values and the cute icons alumna Katrina Soo Hoo ’99 designed for us last year (shown in the newsletter header above), but if there is any time for us to call on our CAIS “super powers” of Inclusion, Perseverance, Courage, Kindness, and even Curiosity, this is it. I am seeing this everyday in the work our Preschool teachers are doing at Waller, and in the dedication our K-8 teachers are putting into the start of the school year online. All of us can tap into these super powers in our work toward Reopening CAIS.
Thanks for reading,
Pandemic Response Coordinator
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