Head of School Newsletter - March 26, 2021
Adam gets to do all the fun stuff this issue while I’m going to make sure people know that, despite SF being in the “Orange,” nothing has changed until further notice. We need to comb through reams of new DPH docs and make system wide changes that are safe. And by safe, I mean we continue to get 0% positive tests, so be patient while we do right by your kids!
Before Adam dives into DPH guideline changes, I want to make good on two promised pieces of information from earlier this week.
Further Securing Our Campuses
As I mentioned in my message on gun violence at the start of the week, CAIS administrators, NCIS, and SFPD have been in frequent conversation regarding steps we can take to further enhance our security measures. While I can’t go into details about all of our efforts, some specific actions that have come out of these conversations which I can share include:
• I connected directly with Captain Paul Yep, the Commanding Officer at SFPD’s close by Northern Station, to build our collegial relationship and prepare for a time when CAIS parent Lt. Yin becomes an alumni parent.
• NCIS is moving up its training for security from the annual June slot to as early as possible.
• Extra signage has been ordered to post around all campuses, indicating the presence of surveillance cameras.
• We are looking into outfitting all CAIS employees working drop off and pick up to wear blaze orange security team vests, which Lt. Yin describes as a “force multiplier” strategy with demonstrated deterrent value.
Come Together as a Community to Combat Anti-AAPI Hate
Thinking of the three S’s I wrote about a few weeks back, our sense of Safety is greatly affected by the ways in which we’re supported in our Self-Respect and feel Solidarity in our communities. CAIS families and faculty have been reeling as we watch the rampant rise in anti-AAPI hate and violence. It is clear that there is a yearning and need for us to find strength in gathering together. Building on the energy generated by our past DEI Roundtables, all CAIS community members are invited to gather online next Wednesday evening, March 31 from 6:00-7:15 p.m. to share, reflect, and brainstorm actions for the school and individuals alike to combat anti-AAPI racism.
The evening will be structured along a path that moves from Reflection to Celebration to Solidarity and culminates with productive thoughts on Action. Trustee parents Emily He, Chris Tom, and Sherilyn Adams will give introductions on topics including the impact of recent events, what a Chinese immersion community means to a person of Chinese heritage, and allyship and solidarity. After each, participants will be able to gather in smaller groups to reflect and share feelings and takeaways. We will conclude with a session that provides “seed” ideas for brainstorming actions that the school and individuals alike can take to address systemic racism and the eruption of anti-AAPI hate.
Even in Orange Tier, Still Need for Continued Caution
In my last Adam’s Corner, I referenced light at the end of the tunnel as a useful (if slightly hackneyed metaphor) for the glimmer of hope we were feeling as vaccine availability had just started for school workers. This hope continues to grow, with yesterday’s announcement that everyone over the age of 16 will be eligible for vaccinations starting on April 15, along with greater supply soon coming to meet this much larger demand. Surely we are returning to “normal,” right?
To answer this, I’m going to share another hackneyed metaphor, namely I am going to sound like a broken record in my message this week. Even with these vaccines, we are only in the Orange Tier. Vaccinated individuals will still need to wear masks, maintain 6 foot distance from others, avoid mingling with individuals from other households, and avoid travel out of the Bay Area, recommending quarantining for 10 days following travel more than 120 miles from home. Yes, SFDPH has made some updated guidance (which I will review here shortly), but the fundamentals of our lives in this pandemic are fundamentally unchanged.
I know, you’ve heard all of this before, but please don’t be lulled into the false security of restaurants and businesses reopened with the longer days and warmer temperatures we are having with the start of spring and the start of Daylight Saving Time. We must continue to be on our guard and engage cautiously.
This ethos of caution continues to guide CAIS’s Pandemic Response. While we have received a number of emails from parent community members asking “now that we are in the Orange Tier, can CAIS…”, we are not able to jump into quick decisions. Our Pandemic Response Operations Team has determined that responding to the new SFDPH guidelines for schools will take some time, and that we must not rush any new protocols until we are sure we can enact them securely and safely. Even with more and more of us in the CAIS adult community currently getting our vaccines, your kids are not, so it is our duty to continue to exercise caution in our operations. Similarly, we have seen reopenings all through our country, and all around the world before. In just about all cases, we have seen an uptick in COVID cases or even a full surge. Let’s not put ourselves in that position again.
Here is a summary of key new information from SFDPH, and potential implications for our operations this spring and potentially into the new school year. Many of these new guidelines offer preschools and child cares more flexibility, though there are some new guidelines too for older students that can impact school operations. There was a lot for us to process—and in some cases, we are still evaluating. Even the DPH-Schools staff was apologetic in a recent Zoom call with schools about the sheer volume of information to take in with these changes. These are just a few key points:
Updates for Preschool:
• Limiting on cohort sizes has been lifted, and Preschool may return to licensing ratios of students and teachers. This will not impact our current cohort divisions and sizes this year.
• Students must remain 3 feet apart during independent activities. However, there is additional guidance for spacing children during activities like naptime that ECD Head Britta Pells, Preschool Director Chu Hsi Tseng and I will need to review further to determine how we may best implement these guidelines.
• Staff may work with more than one cohort. This will allow us more flexibility in staffing different cohort sections at Waller.
Updates for K-1, Lower School and Middle School:
• Routine COVID testing is no longer required for faculty and staff. CAIS however will have all faculty and staff (including Preschool faculty and staff) participate in saliva pool testing for the foreseeable future.
• Students must remain 3 feet apart, and do not need to face in the same direction in a classroom. This will allow us to consider how to bring all MS students back to the 888 Campus for daily on-campus learning. However, we still need to consider our existing classroom furniture sizes, spacing, and arrangement to make this happen.
• Outdoor field trips allowed if no shared vehicles or public transportation is used. This will allow cohorts to take “trips” on foot to local parks or neighborhood locales.
Updates for Student Extracurricular and Out-of-School Activities:
• Children may participate in up to two extracurricular cohorts in addition to childcare. This impacts family decisions on student activities. Please decide what activities to enroll your student in, and follow health and safety guidelines provided by the activity provider.
Until we have decided on amended protocols, please assume that all current protocols for health and safety are in place. If we make any significant changes to school operations, we will be sure to be in touch.
One final note. There is going to be a good amount of uncertainty about “what’s allowed/what’s safe?” in this period of gradual reopening and increased availability of vaccines. Here’s a quick read/video surveying three prominent Bay Area physicians and immunologists about “What Would You Do?” in various situations. It’s instructive—to me at least—that there is some not insignificant differences among their responses about what is “safe” in their eyes:
“It’s allowed, but is it safe? We asked 3 doctors if they’d go along with orange tier reopenings”
—ABC 7News / KGO (March 25, 2021)
Thanks for reading, and even with our continued caution, hooray for vaccines becoming more and more available, warmer temperatures, and longer spring days!
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