• Friday, October 23, 2020

Head of School Newsletter - October 23, 2020

Guidance for Travel | Guidance for Gatherings | COVID Symptoms List


This Is What School Looks Like

As of today we have Preschool, Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade (returned today!), 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade students who have returned to school.  I could have been much more concise with that last sentence, but I wanted to linger on the fact that we have 82% of our students back in school—it feels amazing!  On Wednesday of next week we will welcome back our 4th graders, and on Friday we will welcome back our 5th graders.  

I was concerned about how staggered drop off and pick up would work—we have narrow windows of time, unpredictable traffic, and we need to make sure all of our kids have been screened for symptoms before entering school.  I want to thank all of you parents for doing your best to deliver your children on time and for cooperating with the NCIS employees who are doing a great job at directing traffic so that everyone is safe and all our kids are dropped off within their time windows.  I also want to thank you for your vigilance with the Magnus mobile app.  Compliance has been high—we would like to see it at 100%, and I urge our 4th and 5th grade parents to master the app before your children return next week.  

We promised that we would be vigilant about screening for symptoms (see SFDPH list in Hot Links list above) and requiring symptomatic children and adults to stay home or, if they develop symptoms during the school day, to return home. Parents have been largely cooperative which is not only appreciated but expected. As I have repeated N times, community health and safety rank far ahead of individual convenience, and it is a non-negotiable expectation that all parents will comply with any and all CAIS employees who are responsible for enforcing our clearly articulated protocols that have been published since June.

We also promised to be transparent and timely with our communication about all adults and children who are sent home with any symptoms. Some of us on the Task Force (myself included) worried about the potential psychological effect if some weeks parents receive several mails about children being sent home. Since August 26 you have received over a dozen such messages from CAIS. However, if we put this into context, this is not alarming. In a normal school year (that’s the “old normal”), we would have over a dozen kids coughing, sneezing, or complaining of headaches and sore throats every day. Some would be sent home and some wouldn’t, but we have never sent emails to the whole community when one child had a cold. So in fact, we are probably far healthier this year than ever before. 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, we will continue to fire off an email every time a Firedragon coughs.      

Kids appear genuinely happy to be back. I have remarked to many people that we have different kids than the ones who went home on March 11. It is quite clear that they understand that in a COVID-19 world they cannot do whatever they want whenever they want. There is a maturity that seven months of sheltering in place with family has cultivated.  Of course much of this is owed to your parenting skill, and we are grateful for the work you have done in preparing your children for school.   



P.S. You’ll be seeing more of our firebreathing friend as we will include the Hot Links above atop COVID communications moving forward.

Is it Safe to Travel for the Holidays? …

What About Get Togethers? …

Hear Directly from Our Resident Experts!

You do not want to miss the community Zoom call with CAIS parents and Task Force members Dr. Monique Schaulis and Dr. Ben Lui, who will share their perspectives with CAIS families on the thorny questions regarding travel and social gathering. 

Share your questions via this Google Form ahead of time, and Drs. Schaulis and Lui will work to answer them when we gather for a Lunch & Learn Zoom Wednesday, October 28 from 12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m. A recording of the Zoom will be available later if you are unable to join at lunch.

Protocol for Requesting Temporary Distance Learning Option

As mentioned in the Parent Zoom calls this month, we have now put a system into place for parents/guardians of students currently on-campus who would like to request that their child temporarily join the Distance Learning option for various reasons. Temporary is defined as a period of 14 days or fewer. Approval of such requests is at the discretion of the Division Head and Pandemic Response Coordinator. To be considered for temporary Distance Learning, parents must complete this Request for Temporary Distance Learning Form. 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.


Adam’s Corner
Updates from Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross

Encouraging News, But Musn’t Let Down Our Guard 

One of the success stories we have had in San Francisco this past week was the county’s recent move into the “yellow tier”  rating for COVID-19 risk in our community—the only urban area in California and the only Bay Area county to achieve this rating to date. This is clearly good news, and shows that our city officials’ plan to put safeguards into place early—along with a resident population that by and large has accepted distancing and masking as effective and necessary protocols—has worked well. It also throws our city into sharp relief against much of the US as a whole, as COVID infections continue to spike in much of the country.

However, this yellow tier status also stands as a double-edged sword. As we move into late fall and winter—as well as our eighth month coping with this pandemic—we are already seeing the signs of “COVID fatigue,” and the danger of trying to return to a sense of normality as we enter the holiday season. We have seen more recent spikes in COVID cases in places that had done well to “flatten the curve” of COVID infections, such as Europe and the northeast of the US. Most likely this has come about as residents have relaxed personal safety protocols, have tended to be less vigilant about masking, and have become more ready to return to “normal” activities in public, such as meeting up with friends socially, eating out in restaurants, drinking in bars, etc. I worry that if we too let down our guards here in SF, particularly with the desire to convene with family and friends for Thanksgiving and other holidays, we may find ourselves in the same boat and return to the “orange tier”—or worse—with higher rates of COVID infection in the city.

If anything, this is the time to double-down and keep to what has worked well to maintain our personal, family, and community health and safety. In past messages, Jeff has asked you to review current SF Department of Public Health guidance in regard to travel and social gatherings, particularly as many of you are planning for Thanksgiving and December Holiday Break. These guidelines change often, and they too have changed this week to match stricter California DPH guidelines. See the “Hot Links” above for details. 

Assessing Student Illness at CAIS

Families please note, you can help us by letting us know if your child is prone to “symptom-like” health reactions that are baseline for them. Some of these reactions may include:

• Sneezing, coughing, runny nose due to allergies
• Frequent headaches/migraines
• Breathing problems due to asthma

If your child falls into one of these categories, we highly recommend that you have your child’s physician document the issue and possible reactions so that we can be aware and better able to assess your child’s health when needed. If you have any questions, please reach out to our Health Center Director Lesly Louie at l_louie@cais.org or 415-865-6003.

Thanks for reading this fairly lengthy “corner” (more like a whole city block!). We really do think this information is important, so do take the time to process this material and to review the public health guidance included above and collected in the guidance “Hot Links” which will appear in communications moving forward. 

Adam Ross
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


The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has received a permit for the operation of a stationary diesel generator located at 830 Eddy Street. As this is within 1,000 feet of CAIS campuses, California state law requires that the parents or guardians of students enrolled at this location be sent a Public Notice (available as a PDF here), which includes a description of the permit filing, preliminary evaluation, and details on the public comment period.