• Friday, November 6, 2020

Head of School Newsletter - November 6, 2020

Guidance for Travel | Guidance for Gatherings | COVID Symptoms List

Requesting Temporary Distance Learning Is an Option Only for Medical Need or Risk

With the holidays fast approaching, we reiterate that families need to adhere to the DPH guidances on travel and social gatherings (links above) and use these guidances to determine whether they need to self-isolate based on their activities over the upcoming breaks. Please note that our procedures for requesting temporary placement in Distance Learning have been designed to meet the SFDPH guidance (see PDF page 4) for students whose circumstances merit offering Distance Learning. The SFDPH specifies these circumstances as

• students with a health condition 
• students with family members with a health condition 
• students who cohabitate or regularly interact with high-risk individuals, or are otherwise identified as “at-risk” by the parents or guardian.

The Distance Learning accommodation is not intended for use by students who are simply traveling (but don’t need to quarantine upon return), or do not want to come to school for a non-health related issue. To be considered for temporary Distance Learning, parents must complete this Request for Temporary Distance Learning Form. (Temporary is defined as a period of 14 days or fewer in Preschool through 5th grade or 30 days minimum in Middle School.) Please note that we are unable to accommodate same-day requests; your request will be processed within 3 school days. Approved requests will be communicated to the parent(s) and the relevant faculty members and will include an effective start date.

CAIS COVID Alerts: You Might Have Seen One, or Twenty…

As I mentioned in the October 23 newsletter, we promised to be transparent and timely with our communication about all adults and children who are sent home with any symptoms. While the volume of messages may feel like a lot and you may worry about inadvertently tuning out an alert that pertains directly to your child(ren)’s cohort(s) or involves a positive COVID case, please be assured that:

1) If an alert directly involves your child(ren)’s cohort(s), you will receive a direct message from Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross, along with a text message echo to alert you to the email.

2) An alert regarding any positive COVID case will be flagged specially to the entire community to cut through the noise.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, despite the steady average of a message per day, the numbers of students being sent home or staying home actually reflect a student body that is significantly healthier than in years past. This is, of course, due to the strict health measures that we are following in school and that families are following at home. So for now, again, we will continue to fire off an email every time a Firedragon coughs.   

Reminder: No School, No Childcare on November 20 

We had planned our traditional early dismissal day for Thanksgiving luncheons for November 20; alas those feasts unfortunately cannot happen given public health guidance. With everyone back on campus, our staggered drop off and pick up windows in the context of early dismissal would leave very little time for learning. Taking those factors together, we are opting to cancel classes for Friday, November 20.

Gift Policy Update 

As first mentioned in our October 28 message, we need to amend our policy on Gifts to Faculty or Staff in light of pandemic concerns. (Please keep in mind that there is no expectation for families to present faculty and staff with gifts.) Here is the updated section of our All School Policies and Procedures:

While in normal circumstances, simple gifts such as homemade cards or perishables such as food or flowers are the most appropriate way for families to express their gratitude to a teacher or staff member, during the pandemic we must ask that families not give physical gifts and opt instead for digital. The financial value of an individual gift should not exceed $50. Those families following the Chinese tradition of the hóngbāo 红包 should likewise limit the cash amount to $50 or less.

Cecilia Chiang Tribute 

CAIS and the world bid farewell to our friend Cecilia Chiang, the famous San Francisco restaurateur and socialite, who passed away last week at the age of 101. 

Cecilia learned of CAIS years ago, and the school’s mission moved her to establish a scholarship fund in her name.  Each spring for many years, CAIS chose a Cecilia Chiang scholar from among rising 6th grade applicants with demonstrated academic promise, proven academic record, behavior and attitude exemplifying the CAIS mission, and commitment to the study and use of Chinese language. The successful applicant would receive partial financial support for the three years of CAIS middle school.

Three years ago Cecilia was again moved by our school’s commitment to global programs in Taiwan and Mainland China. She worked with us to align her scholarship with the CAIS’s approach to access and affordability so that our global programs were accessible to all fifth, seventh and eighth grade students.

Cecilia was a special guest at many CAIS events.  For years she enjoyed presenting her scholarship at the fifth grade promotion/eight grade graduation ceremony on the stage of the Herbst Theater.  She was also a regular guest at ShowCAIS, and generously donated a dinner party where she served as chef—a popular auction item.

With your indulgence I’d like to share my favorite personal Cecilia China story.  A few years ago I was invited to dinner along with Cecelia Chiang at the home of my good friend and former CAIS board chair Alonso Wong.  I was seated next to Cecilia, and we began talking about Beijing history—Beijing was my home for 11 years, and I have an affection for the city’s history and architecture—especially its disappearing hutong alleys and sihyuan courtyard houses.  Before fleeing the invading Japanese army as a young woman in the 1930s, Cecilia had grown up in a large courtyard compound near Beijing’s Dongdan neighborhood.  I have explored most of Beijing’s surviving hutongs, and I wanted to know exactly where she had grown up.  We were talking about the various alleyways around Dongdan, and she told me her family lived in a courtyard on Shijia hutong.  I had visited Beijing the previous summer, and a new museum had just opened on Shijia hutong—the Shijia Hutong Museum.  I spent two days that summer in the courtyard compound-turned-museum; I loved the place and couldn’t get enough of it.  I asked Cecilia what her family’s address was on Shijia hutong (mind you she had fled this childhood home almost 80 years earlier).  She told me the address, and I said “Cecilia, do you know that your family’s courtyard is now a museum?”  I pulled out my iPhone and we started scrolling through photos of the courtyard museum that was her childhood home.  It was unbelievable.  There we were, in San Francisco, at dinner, in the former CAIS board chair’s home, scrolling through photos of the childhood home that she had fled eight decades earlier….

I am grateful for Cecilia’s contribution to our school, for my friendship with her, and for that serendipitous moment at dinner when we connected my affection for Beijing history with her childhood home.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle’s tribute to Cecilia Chiang here.           

Adam’s Corner 
Updates from Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross

With cooler weather arriving, please keep in mind that the interiors of CAIS campuses are likely to be chillier as well now that we are keeping windows open and drawing in continuous fresh air to the ventilation system to meet SFDPH guidance. The building’s heating systems will not be able to maintain the interior climate to the same degree as in past years, so please be sure to dress your child warmly and in layers as appropriate.

Believe it or not, to accompany our cooler temperatures this weekend, rain is also in the forecast for the Bay Area next week. We also recommend having an umbrella ready for your kids for morning drop-off and check-in as needed. Needless to say, remembering to complete the Magnus Health system tracker before coming to school will really help to keep kids for whom we don’t have a survey report off of cold and wet sidewalks while we confirm that they have no potential symptoms. Thanks for all of your help here.

One final note of good news—our approval to reopen from SFDPH following site visit inspections of our buildings came with the requirement to submit a report of ways we have continued to improve our health and safety measures, and to provide additional information about things like our building ventilation systems. I submitted this report earlier this week and just received an email back this Friday afternoon from the DPH-Schools team which states, “both Chinese American International School sites at 150 Oak Street and 888 Turk Street have been updated by the Schools and Childcare Hub to Full Compliance. No additional site visits are necessary at this time.” A nice vote of confidence to end the week!


  • 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