Reopening K-8 in Person

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Teams from the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) visited CAIS campuses on Oak and Turk Streets as the final step in our application process for reopening school. Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross and I received a letter from Dr. Tomás Aragón, Public Health Officer from the City and County of San Francisco indicating that CAIS has received permission to reopen school for on campus, in-person learning.

I am, of course, gratified that our application to reopen was successful and grateful to all the people (too numerous to mention here) who pulled together to make this happen. At the same time my colleagues and I, and all of our families, need to focus our energy on the work that lies ahead so that we may open our school in a manner that supports academic, social, and emotional learning in an environment that is as healthy and safe as possible. Every member of the community will be required to play a critical role, and in the coming days we will be sharing detailed information about your roles and responsibilities. I have adopted a personal mantra over the last few months: It’s not about me, it’s about us. I am asking all of us to adopt this mantra. But today I am not leading us in any mantra chanting, I am simply beginning the process of information sharing that will continue as we reopen according to the timeline allowed by SFDPH. There is important information that this message does not contain; I urge you to be patient, you will receive everything you need to know over the coming days. I also urge you to read this and all communication from the school carefully and completely.

Timeline for Parent Information Sessions and Student Return to School
SFDPH is requiring that CAIS and any other San Francisco schools allowed to reopen must stagger the return of students by grade band. Since our K-5th and 6-8th grades are on two separate campuses, we can begin the process of returning to Oak and the 888 Campus simultaneously. The timeline for reopening is below. We have also posted these dates on the CAIS calendar, and invitations to parent Zoom information sessions will be sent directly to you.

Monday, October 5

  • 4:00 p.m. Informational Zoom meeting for K-1 parents (Zoom invite to be sent directly by Head of Early Childhood Britta Pells)
  • 5:00 p.m. Informational Zoom meeting for 6th grade parents (Zoom invite to be sent directly by Head of Middle School Joe Williamson)

Friday, October 9

  • K-1 students return to campus (half day on Friday, October 9 and Tuesday, October 13, cohort schedule TBA)
  • Sixth Grade Blue and Purple cohorts return to campus (hybrid schedule TBA)
  • 5:00 p.m. Informational Zoom meeting for 2nd grade parents (Zoom invite to be sent directly)

Monday, October 12
Holiday, no school

Tuesday, October 13

  • Early dismissal for K-1
  • Sixth Grade Pink and Orange cohorts return to campus (hybrid schedule TBA)

Wednesday, October 14
5:00 p.m. Informational Zoom meeting for 7th & 8th grade parents (Zoom invite to be sent directly)

Friday, October 16

  • 2nd grade students return to school (cohort schedule TBA)
  • 5:00 p.m. Informational Zoom meeting for 3rd, 4th, & 5th grade parents (Zoom invite to be sent directly)

Monday, October 19
Half of 7th & 8th grade students return to campus (cohorts and hybrid schedule TBA)

Tuesday, October 20
Remaining 7th & 8th grade students return to campus (cohorts and hybrid schedule TBA)

Friday, October 23
3rd grade students return to campus (cohort schedule TBA)

Wednesday, October 28
4th grade returns to campus (cohort schedule TBA)

Friday, October 30
5th grade returns to campus (cohort schedule TBA)

It is the expectation of the school that families will, based on the dates that their children are returning to school, calibrate their activities accordingly so as to minimize the risk of COVID transmission when back in school. This includes distancing, face covering, hand hygiene, symptom screening, and helping us to prepare your children for new and different school routines.

How You Can Start Preparing Now: Symptom Screening with The Magnus Mobile App
As most of you know, CAIS will be using a symptom screening smartphone app called Magnus Mobile for daily screening of COVID-19 symptoms for all students and employees entering campus (only students and employees will be permitted to enter CAIS campus facilities).

We have been using this symptom screening app successfully at our Preschool campus for over a month. As other grades return, all K-8 parents also will need to log onto the app every school day before 8:00 a.m. and accurately answer a short list of questions—including temperature check—for each of their children. Children whose parents have not completed the questions by 8:00 a.m. will not be permitted to enter school until we can determine they are symptom free. I can promise you now that CAIS will be strict in our enforcement of this screening requirement, and we will expect your cooperation. I will know, if/when I hear complaints that we are being too strict, that we are doing a good job at protecting your children’s health. It’s not about me, it’s about us.

Traveling to and from School
We are required by SFDPH to follow a staggered drop off and pick up schedule that will necessarily be inconvenient for some families. Arranging cohorts around carpool requests for close to 500 students is simply not possible—we’ve modeled it. Therefore, if you truly have no alternative to carpooling with students from different cohorts, the SFDPH has developed guidance (on page 11 of this SFDPH PDF) for managing the risk of doing so. It is the expectation of the school that families will follow this and all SFDPH guidance:

  • Advise staff and families to carpool with the same stable group of people.
  • Open windows and maximize outdoor air circulation when feasible.
  • Everyone in the vehicle should wear a face covering.

If You Are Returning from Outside the Bay Area
We have received many questions from and about families who will be returning to the Bay Area for in-person school. As with carpooling, this is an issue that the school does not have the resources to manage or the ability to control, so I again appeal to your duty to the community to follow SFDPH guidance around safe travel and quarantine—it is the school’s expectation that you do so. It’s not about me, it’s about us. The guidance, which was updated just this afternoon, is as follows:

To the extent possible, limit your nonessential travel during this pandemic. The more people travel, the more interactions people have. The more interactions people have with people outside their household, the greater the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you must travel outside the Bay Area, make sure you wear a face covering and maintain at least 6 feet of distance from people outside your household at all times. If you can, travel by private vehicle with only members of your household. Avoid indoor interactions to the extent possible and keep the number of people you interact with small.

DPH recommends you quarantine for 14 days upon return to San Francisco if during your travels you interacted within 6 feet of individuals outside your household when you or those around you were not wearing face coverings at all times. The more interactions that were indoors, the larger the number of people involved, and the longer the duration of such interactions, the greater the risk. In addition, DPH recommends that you quarantine for 14 days upon return if you traveled on planes, buses, trains, or other forms of group/public transportation where face coverings were not worn at all times by you and those around you while in these enclosed spaces.

Stay Focused, Stay Vigilant
Throughout the pandemic my colleagues and I at CAIS have maintained a laser focus on student health, safety and learning. Like all of you, we’ve experienced okay days and not-so-okay days, but we have not lost our focus. In the relative scheme of things, the news that DPH is permitting CAIS to reopen school is a pretty okay day, and we should feel gratified that our work to clear that hurdle has been successful. Self congratulations, however, will not get us through the next eight-and-a-half months, or even the next month. The metric by which we are now measured is not a DPH inspection, but keeping our children healthy and ensuring that they continue to learn and grow. I can tell you with 100% confidence that we will do our part at CAIS. I need you—our families—to reflect on the difference between being responsible for the health and safety of your family’s own small circle and now being an important link in the health and safety of all our students, teachers, staff and families. This is a weak-link sport: our community will only be as healthy and safe as our weakest link, and we are all depending on one another. For many of us this will mean upping our games as the stakes are much higher. We need to do this together, for each other. You can count on us, and I know we can count on you. It’s not about me, it’s about us.