• Friday, February 26, 2021

Head of School Newsletter - February 26, 2021

Dear Families,

This is another Friday newsletter. I have become facile at exercising verbal ninja tricks, all of which at the end of the day are a combination of finger wagging and peer pressuring you into compliance with a host of health regulations aimed at engendering a sense of safety, responsibility, and trust between and among our community members. 

This Friday I’m going to break (dramatically!) with convention. It’s not that I’m out of ninja tricks. Nor has the importance of remaining vigilant waned, despite the glimmers of optimism that are appearing on the distant horizon. It’s because I want to acknowledge—celebrate even—our encounters with joy over the past 11 months. I’ll leave this week’s notices about saliva kits and travel restrictions to my friend and colleague The Amazing Adam, while I pivot to the topic of amazing and joyful things we have experienced during the pandemic. I hope that you read this, and then I hope you will hit “reply” and share with me your own stories about amazing and joyful things that you or your family have experienced, against the backdrop of the pandemic. 

Many of us have become increasingly aware of our privilege and good fortune during this time of great suffering. For me, this has at times created a dilemma—on those occasions that I feel happy, fulfilled, or joyful, I sometimes have a hard time acknowledging it without feeling a slight burden of guilt; how can I revel in silver linings when so many others are suffering in a way that is difficult for me to truly imagine? Yet at the same time, I have long believed that cultivating personal happiness is actually a compassionate act. If a person is joyful, then it almost always brings joy to those people around them. At an intuitive level I think many people get this. I mean, when you are in someone’s orbit who is happy and joyful, doesn’t it make you feel better too? So, without diminishing the suffering wrought by this pandemic, let’s acknowledge and embrace our personal silver linings over the past year. This is a good time to do so, as I know many of my colleagues are beginning to feel a sense of lightness and optimism after having received their first Covid vaccine shot this week. I got mine yesterday, from a masked, front line hero named Maria (shown right) whom I will always remember. By my reckoning, over half of my colleagues will have had their first dose by the end of the day today. So let’s just allow ourselves to feel good about something.

So here’s my story. As many of you know, I have two children, JJ and Joe. JJ is a third grade teacher at another school in San Francisco, and I am as proud of her as I am of our CAIS teachers. Joe is a musician. Before the pandemic, Joe lived in LA which had a thriving music scene. But in mid-March of 2020, all of LA’s performance venues shut down, and all of the music festivals for which he had been booked were cancelled. On top of that, two of his three day jobs disappeared. I was worried about him (I’m his dad, after all). How would he fare without a creative outlet? Would he be able to make rent without his main sources of income? Could he afford food? Because he was able to do one of his jobs remotely, we agreed that he would weather the pandemic in San Francisco, and we would keep each other company. I drove down to LA to pick him up and bring him back up here with his musical gear to wait out the pandemic.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, and people in the creative arts have had their own unique challenges. I was apprehensive. Would he lose his sense of purpose? Would he lose his motivation? He lived downstairs, and before long my questions and concerns began to subside. Every day and often late into the night I would hear music wafting up through the floorboards. I’d hear an idea that would become a verse, then a chorus, then a bridge. He set up a recording studio. He taught himself to use pretty sophisticated recording and production software. He ramped up his social media presence. Pretty soon he started doing live streaming events. Eventually, one of the songs I had heard evolve over the weeks (while I was upstairs on Zoom calls with CAIS colleagues, trustees, and parents) was released on Spotify, Apple Music, and I suppose a number of other streaming services with which people my age are not familiar. I heard more musical ideas unfold over time from the studio downstairs. Then one day he released a video to accompany his song. When I visited him downstairs, his living space had been further crowded with a green screen and a small video studio. He taught himself how to use video editing software. This pattern repeated itself: musical ideas, increasingly complex arrangements, streaming events, the release of a new song on numerous streaming platforms, and then a music video. Sometimes he would collaborate with other musicians in LA—they’d have long Zoom calls and send files back and forth. He did one collaboration with a musician in London whom he met virtually during the pandemic. I noticed that after a flurry of creative energy lasting four to six weeks, he would slip into somewhat of a lull, binge watching several seasons of some show on Netflix or rewatching all of the Star Wars films. I’d start to worry, but then after a two-week creative lull, the music would start again.

This has gone on since last March. I have been treated to a steady diet of new music which I’ve enjoyed with a front row seat to an incredible creative process that has not only allayed my initial parental concerns, but made me a super proud father. My boy Joe (Zee Machine, shown right) has, against all odds, found more creative and productive inspiration and been more resourceful during the pandemic than I ever could have imagined. Here is a Spotify playlist of his music (shameless plug, I know) if you’re interested—the first four tunes were written, recorded, mixed, and released downstairs, during Covid. 

So, what are your pandemic silver linings? I’d absolutely love it if you’d reply to this email and share them with me. I have a vague idea about pulling together some of our community’s stories of joy and resilience in some kind of collection to share among us—so please let me know if you’d be willing to let me share your story more widely with the community—I will, of course, respect your wishes.

Have a great weekend everyone, and as always, stay healthy and safe.


Adam’s Corner
Updates from Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Those of you who saw my early morning “ALL CLEAR” message about student pool testing will recognize the cliché in the title from the analogies I made to this week’s availability of vaccine doses to school workers, as well as the image of a woman and child walking through a tunnel in Lincoln Park in Chicago that was featured in this morning’s NY Times main page. It’s a hopeful image that reflects how a lot of us are starting to feel this week.

I personally feel like I am starting to see that distant light at the end of the tunnel. Having gotten my first shot, I commented to a parent in an email this morning that I definitely feel “safer and saner.” I also see this mix of happiness and relief in my colleagues, who are excitedly sharing that they have gotten their first shot in emails, Slack messages and, most often, when we pass in the hallways here at Oak. We have a lot to celebrate this week—two whole months of no positive cases for our students, faculty, and staff; the start of vaccines; even the return of sunshine, warmer temperatures, and with the sun now setting after 6:00 p.m. as of yesterday, longer days to boot! 

At the same time, we continue to double down on our safety protocols. Many of us now wear two layers of face masks as extra precaution against more virulent COVID strains. We continue to wash our hands often even with chapped, red skin from so much handwashing. And—hard to imagine for me, dogged world traveler that I am—it’s been more than 12 months since I’ve gone further than Burlingame in terms of traveling anywhere.

The NY Times article is a worthwhile read about how we are getting closer to beating this virus, and what we all need to do to keep the virus at bay. It’s worth your time to read.

Travel Ban Lifted, Travel Advisory Still in Place

As many of you have seen, this week SFDPH lifted its travel ban which required anyone who traveled outside of the Bay Area to quarantine for 10 days. 

In terms of school policy, CAIS opted to require any individuals (students as well as faculty and staff) to complete their current quarantines before returning to campus, per the guidance this week from DPH authorizing schools and organizations the right to keep that protocol. At the same time, our guiding star in determining protocols for risk management during the pandemic is to follow the most recent SFDPH guidance, and as a result of this amended order, we will remove the first question in regard to travel from the Magnus Health Daily Symptom Tracker survey, starting on Monday, March 1. 

However, the lifting of the ban is not exactly carte blanche for everyone to return to traveling as we had before. The current “Stay Safer at Home” order now advises people that they should quarantine after recreational travel 120 miles or more away from home. It is just not a requirement to do so. The title of the SFDPH press release:



Those who travel out of state or more than 120 miles from home still advised to quarantine for 10 days

So, the guidance essentially remains the same. SFDPH and the NY Times are essentially asking the general public in our city and our country to do the same thing—keep doing the things that keep the virus at bay: masking, distancing, not traveling long distances, etc. We’re almost there, folks—still in the tunnel, but the light is up ahead, and we’ll get closer to the light and out of the pandemic if we keep doing what we need to just a little bit more.

A New Look for our Saliva Testing Kits

I know, I know, I promised last time I would take a break from writing about saliva testing, but you all knew I couldn’t resist, right?

I just wanted to share that Mirimus has now started to send pre-packaged saliva testing kits, and our shipment for March just arrived today. This is really a boon for Health Center Director Lesly Louie, myself and members of our admin, business office, and advancement staff who have spent many hours over the past two months putting kits together—seeing these new premade kits really made the day for a lot of us! 

Most families will find your kids with the blue-capped vials shown at right for their samples next week. Do note that these new kits no longer contain an alcohol wipe. So, if your student does make a bit of mess with their sample, please take a little time to rinse off the sealed tube with a little soap and water, dry off the tube, and return just the tube (please discard the rest of the items) into the ziplock bag to bring back to CAIS

Thanks, as always, for all of your help and support to your kids with this process! 

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

FSA Sponsored “Parent Hangout” - Mixology

Friday, March 12, 7:30 p.m. PST

Mix up three classic gin cocktails while “mixing” with fellow CAIS parents in this first of a few FSA sponsored “Parent Hangouts” in March and April! Details and signup: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70a0e44a9a82aa64-mixology