• Friday, October 9, 2020

Head of School Newsletter - October 9, 2020

The Jury’s In: It’s Far Nicer Seeing You in Person than on Zoom

First Day K-1 In-Person

This morning was another highlight as we welcomed back Kindergarten and First Grade students to 150 Oak and half of our Sixth Graders to the 888 Campus. Kudos to our K–1 and 6th grade faculty, props to NCIS for helping us with traffic, and an especially big thank you to our parents for preparing your kids well for the day that awaited them. After nearly seven months of SIP and DL, it is difficult to overstate how wonderful it felt to see everyone in person as opposed to in a Zoom screen on my smudgy 13” monitor. With the return to Preschool over a month ago, we marveled at how well our tiniest scholars handled the routines required by Covid-19. It was the same with our K-1 and 6 kids; in the last half year they have become—sigh—pandemic savvy.

Our communication protocols were put to the test right away (just as they were in the Preschool) when a student was removed from class because of a cough, and all CAIS families received email notification. In any other year this would not have raised an eyebrow, but the caution we are required to take in a pandemic means that you will likely be receiving this kind of communication from time to time. We are committed to a high level of transparency and information sharing schoolwide. We apologize that we mislabeled the cohort in question in an initial communication, a situation that was quickly addressed.

While it was only a half day for our K-1 students, and only half of grade six was on campus, today feels like a big win as we head into the three-day weekend.      

Where Our Authority Ends and Your Responsibility Begins

Many families have contacted Adam, Lesly, Chu Hsi, Britta, Kim, Joe, or me in recent days wanting more clarity about what families may or may not do in various situations with implications for preventing the spread of Covid-19. We appreciate and are grateful that families are demonstrating a strong willingness to follow the school’s guidance. As I have said n times, each person’s individual decisions can impact the health and safety of everyone in our community—it is a huge responsibility. It is critically important that our families understand and adhere to their specific responsibilities for keeping our community healthy and safe—so it is my hope that I can lay out those obligations with clarity here, as so many of you have requested.

As a condition for reopening school, The San Francisco Department of Public Health has required CAIS and all schools to adopt a set of Return to School Agreements, which we communicated with you several weeks ago. In order for your child(ren) to be permitted to return to campus, you must read and accept these Agreements (this is being managed through the Magnus Mobile App). One of the Return to School Agreements reads as follows:

[I]t is the school’s expectation and families’ responsibility to adhere to Department of Public Health guidelines both inside and outside of school including, but not limited to, the primary measures of physical/social distancing, use of face masks, good hygiene/hand washing, and symptom screening.” 

The intent of the above agreement is to state CAIS’s unequivocal expectation—and to obtain your commitment—that the decisions you and your family make and the activities in which you engage adhere to Department of Public Health guidance. In order to make this guidance more immediately and conveniently accessible, we have compiled links to the DPH guidance that applies to most of the questions we receive. I know that the DPH and CDC websites can feel like a tangled morass of dense information, so we want to provide you with a kind of public health GPS and a flashlight. So, for instance, if you ask us “are we allowed to hold outside parties with our cohort…?” our answer will be, “It is our expectation that you will adhere to public health guidance on this and all matters, and you committed to doing so when you accepted our Back to School Agreements. Please consult the link to the DPH guidance on outdoor events which we provided….” If you then go to that link, you will learn that: 

A group consisting of up to 12 people (including both Participants and Hosts) from more than one Household may congregate in Small Outdoor Gatherings. Participants from different Households must follow all Social Distancing Requirements. The size of a group must be reduced according to the size of the outdoor space and Participants’ ability to follow Social Distancing Requirements at all times. For example, if the size of an outdoor space allows no more than 10 people to follow Social Distancing at all times during a gathering, then the maximum total size for that Small Outdoor Gathering is 10 Participants.” 

So, If your outside cohort gathering has more than 12 people total, then you are not adhering to DPH guidance. 

Here is another example, for people who are thinking about travel plans. If you ask “are we allowed to travel outside of San Francisco? If we do, will our child be required to self quarantine before our child returns to school?” our answer will be “It is our expectation that you will adhere to public health guidance on this and all matters, and you committed to doing so when you accepted our Back to School Agreements. Please consult the link to DPH guidance on travel which we provided….” If you go to that link, you will learn that:

[U]pon returning from travel outside the Bay Area, you are strongly encouraged to quarantine for 14 days if you engaged in any of the following activities that place you at a higher risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • you interacted for more than 15 minutes within six feet of someone outside your household when you or the other people around you were not wearing a Face Covering at all times;

  • you were indoors, including on a plane, train or bus, and either you or those around you were not wearing face coverings at all times;

  • you interacted for more than 15 minutes within six feet of someone—either with or without a Face Covering—who was experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who began to experience symptoms of COVID-19 within 48 hours of your interaction with them.”

So, you may travel, and if any of the bulleted scenarios above occurred, then the DPH recommends that you self-quarantine.  

We could answer every question we receive from parents about the school’s policy by pointing to public health guidance, and by reminding you that it is the school’s expectation that you adhere to the guidance, as you promised to do by accepting the Return to School Agreements. But rather than spending our limited bandwidth on advising CAIS families on particular matters of behavior outside of school, we feel it is much more important that we focus on in-school behavior that can prevent the spread of the virus. We are expecting that you will take responsibility for your family’s actions outside of school. This includes socializing, traveling, extracurricular activities …. 

Please also consider the following. In addition to lacking the bandwidth to regulate and monitor our families’ out of school behavior, we—in many or most cases—also lack the authority to do so. We are not legally empowered to tell you that you may not travel or that your child cannot participate in a soccer skills group. And if we were to attempt to make unenforceable and legally dubious rules about the private behavior of community members outside of school, it would also have the effect of shifting 24/7 responsibility off of families and onto the school. We cannot get through this pandemic by shifting responsibility, we will only get through it if we all accept responsibility.

So this is the school’s policy: we expect you to familiarize yourself with DPH guidance and follow it. We will make it easier for you to fulfill this responsibility by pointing you to the important guidance.

FAQs for Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Orders


This page includes much information for individuals on conducting a wide range of activities. There are guidelines for trips on planes, buses and trains, as well as staying in hotels.

Tips and Frequently Asked Questions for Gatherings


CAIS Return to School Agreements


  • 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