• Friday, September 11, 2020

Head of School Newsletter - September 11, 2020

Air Quality

I used to like listening to a comedian in the mid-late ’80s named Steven Wright. On Wikipedia his comedic genres are described as “surreal humor” and “anti-humor.” He had this one-liner where he’d say “For my birthday I got a humidifier and a dehumidifier … I put them in the same room and let them fight it out.” I have thought of that joke in recent weeks as I read guidance from public health officials recommending that children spend as much time outside in order to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. They also recommend that we keep children inside because of the air quality due to the wildfires. What do we do?

Some parents have raised this issue, and it’s actually a question I can answer fairly easily and without any caveats. One principle of decision making at CAIS is that we identify the authorities on which we will base our decision in advance. This is reflected in all of our Pandemic Response protocols (check out the website), and in 101(-ish) other places at our school. For decisions about taking children outside during the wildfires, we rely on the EPA, which measures and posts the Air Quality Index (AQI) and posts it online, along with guidelines about appropriate precautions at different levels. 

Our protocol at CAIS is to automatically bring children inside when the AQI in our area reaches 150, the level designated “Unhealthy” for everyone. We use our discretion and may bring children indoors with AQI levels between 100-149 depending on the duration and intensity of activity and mindful of exceptions such as children with respiratory issues.

Interestingly, this week on Wednesday (remember, dark orange sky) the AQI was well below 100, so even though it looked like the end of the world, the air quality in the city was actually considered “moderate” and “acceptable” by the EPA. As a point of information, the US AQI has been in place for many years.  

Get Your Flu Shots!

The annual flu shot is more important this year than ever. You don’t have to take just my word for it, though; Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, highly recommends it, along with San Francisco and California state public health officials. In an interview with Cardiology Magazine Dr. Fauci shared recently, “We have to get as many people vaccinated for influenza as we possibly can. You don’t want to get COVID-19 and you don’t want to get influenza either. Everyone six months of age and older should get vaccinated, with a particular emphasis on the higher-risk groups, small children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions.”

Making it even more CAIS-specific, families are reminded that being sent home this year for the flu can be especially disruptive not only for your child, but for their entire cohort. In addition to being an important step to help safeguard your family, getting the flu shot can help the community by reducing the number of circumstances that might create COVID concerns. 

The San Francisco Department of Public Health shares the following resource for locating where you may get a flu shot.

Calibrating Communications

Though in an ideal world (even if only in my head), you would love to hear from me even more often, I recognize that it will likely be welcome news that I am shifting my newsletter to a biweekly publishing cycle. One less email won’t give you back as much time as I would hope, but I would like to be responsive to community feedback and calibrate the pace at which Adam Ross and I share important news. Please note that we will continue to issue Special Bulletins should information need to be shared urgently.

Especially since I’m not able to bump into parents on campus, I also remain committed to continuing monthly Zoom meetings with parents so we can stay connected that way. More details to come. 

Pandemic Communication Protocols 

As the community saw both last week and today with our all-school notifications regarding children being sent home for symptoms of illness, CAIS takes both our health and communications responsibilities very seriously. The Reopening CAIS planning that is documented on our website outlines how the school balances the community’s need to know while abiding by families’ right to privacy. In that spirit of transparency, we are sharing the protocols developed with our Scenario Planning Task Force that we will be following for a variety of circumstances ranging from students or employees being sent home with symptoms of illness all the way through community members having close contact with COVID+ individuals or testing positive themselves. The grid of scenario responses has been added atop the Risk Management page.

Adam’s Corner
Updates from Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross


Many of you read Jeff’s piece in last Friday’s newsletter about the trials and tribulations schools have been enduring trying to read the tea leaves in guidance and requirements from the San Francisco Department of Public Health in regard to planning for reopening schools this fall. We have been working on applying for the waiver to open CAIS for K-6 levels, but we also have been aware that plans to include opening grades 7-8 have been in the works, and our work on the application has focused on both the “elementary” (i.e, including 6th grade) and the full Middle School campus as well. The waiver application has been quite extensive, requiring that we fully detail our risk mitigation planning in regards to student cohorts, symptom screening, COVID testing plans for faculty and staff, hygiene and physical distancing practices, cleaning/sanitation protocols, ventilation and air filtering in indoor spaces, use of outdoor spaces, plans for distance learning, and a host of other issues for the future, such as data analysis of potential COVID-19 transmission. We also are providing supplementary information in the form of a letter of support from the CAIS Family School Alliance (which many of you may have already signed to support!), and documentation of minutes from summer faculty information meetings. It’s been a very complex process, however, we will be ready to submit this application early next week.

In addition both Jeff and I took part in a DPH webinar for School Heads to discuss plans for reopening, and more clarification on these processes. We received a good deal more context on the waiver review process, and have started to strategize next steps for us to get our 150 Oak and 888 Campuses ready for reopening in the coming weeks. We will have further updates very soon in the coming 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