September 14, 2020

Fall Reopening Update: August 21, 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff,

There have been a number of communications that have gone out to our school community recently regarding the reopening of school. This communication is specifically for the faculty and staff to make certain that we are all aware of how the different grade levels will be reopening.

PRESCHOOL AND KINDERGARTEN – IN PERSON

Earlier this week, we shared with Preschool and Kindergarten families that we will be able to welcome their children back to campus on September 1. While we had already planned on opening for in-person PreK and LowK, the Oregon Early Learning Division (ELD) has notified us that we can also open our Kindergarten under their license.

The move of Kindergarten to an ELD license would have little if any impact on our regular kindergarten programming during the beginning of the year, because so much of the early months are focused on relationship-building, social-emotional development, and establishing routines. The play-based approach used in our kindergarten classes enables our students to actively explore their learning environments, build relationships, pursue big ideas, and manipulate and experiment with different materials and objects through playful  interactions, all while acquiring the target  language. Moreover, Kindergarten at The International School has traditionally been a part of our Early Childhood program, as it is aligned more with PreK/LowK than with the Elementary grades.

GRADES 1-5

While the rate of infections in Multnomah County has decreased over the past two weeks, we would have needed to have reached its COVID-19 infection and case positivity metric by this week in order to open our Elementary grades to in-person learning. We therefore must announce that school will operate in Continuous Learning mode for 1st through 5th grades until October 1, 2020.

While at-home learning can be stressful for both teachers and families, we have made several enhancements to our Continuous Learning program to improve the experience for both students and parents.  These include individual Chromebooks per student and Continuous Learning Kits. More improvements can be found here.

With your help, we are confident that we will be able to provide a high-quality education to our students, regardless of whether campus is closed or open.

REOPENING PLANS for ELD and ODE 

All schools must submit reopening plans to state and local authorities prior to starting this year. TIS must submit plans to both ELD and ODE. The plan for ODE is called an Operational Blueprint. Our Operational Blueprint for Reopening is the required plan that we need to submit to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and the Multnomah County Health Authority prior to opening. We have submitted our plan to open using Continuous Learning. We are now finalizing our plan based on the most recent updates from ODE. Once submitted, it will allow us to open our campus for in-person classes for Grades 1-5 when the metrics have been met.

Although much of this Operational Blueprint will be applied to PreK, LowK, and Kindergarten, they will also have specific conditions that are required for those age groups through the ELD. Please note that we are designated a Certified Center (CC) and are subject to the ratios page 28, Table 2.

It is important to note that childcares have been safely operating in Oregon – and around the country – throughout this pandemic. Much has been learned about safety and risk mitigation over the last few months.  Please see pages 7-11 of the above ELD document for more information.

Social distancing at these age groups  is not expected or required. It is simply not realistic – or developmentally beneficial – to force young children to stay away from one another. The key to mitigating risk in this age group is enforcing stable cohorts (keeping children together in one group), handwashing, and regular disinfection of classroom and communal materials. However, we are preparing the classrooms with new individual tables to accommodate social distancing during meal times and nap times. Masks will be required for Kindergarten students per state law.

MEET THE TEACHER UPDATE

As you may have seen in The Owl, on Monday, August 31, we will have a Meet the Teacher Event.  This a variation of the traditional Meet the Teacher event that we hold on the day before school. Due to social distancing requirements, there will be time slots offered throughout the day instead of the usual 90-minute period in the morning.

PREK, LOWK, KINDER, & JAPANESE 1ST GRADE

Homeroom teachers will meet their Prek, LowK, Kinder, and Japanese 1st grade students in their classrooms  in-person. Every family will have a 15-minute timeslot (with at least a 5-minute break in between each slot). This time will also include parents walking through the morning check in and handwashing process with their children. One parent per student can attend during their time slot.  No more than two families will be allowed to come per time slot.

Parents have begun signing up for slots by grade and language track. Some grades (such as in Spanish track) will have more than two teachers. Homeroom teachers will be given these draft schedules shortly.

GRADES 1-5 (except Japanese Grade 1)

Homeroom teachers will meet their 1st – 5th grade students and their families virtually. Each family will be able to sign up for a 10 minute meeting slot (with at least a 5-minute break in between each slot).

Parents have begun signing up for slots by grade and language track. Some grades (such as in Spanish track) will have more than two teachers. Homeroom teachers will be given these draft schedules shortly.

Due to large and rapidly changing enrollment shifts this year, class lists will not be finalized until late next week, and thus your meeting time schedules will likely change.

We know that this year is one like none we have seen. We are grateful for your patience, flexibility, and dedication to your students.

Stay Well,

Robert