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Archive for the "Communiqués" Category

HOS Statement: Robb Elementary School (Uvalde, Texas)

May 24, 2022
By Jacques A. Weber

Head of School Statement
Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas
Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 | 6:35pm

As an educational community built on the attributes of respect, empathy, and kindness, we were horrified to learn about the tragic loss of life at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas just a few hours ago. At last report, eighteen elementary school aged children and at least one teacher have lost their lives in this senseless and heinous attack. There are no words that can accurately or adequately express our grief for the families of those whose lives have been taken. The Austin International School community offers its heartfelt condolences to the families and staff of Robb Elementary School, as well as to the entire Uvalde community.

School plays an undeniably essential role in society; tomorrow’s leaders, activists, team members, and inventors walk our halls every day. At its core, school is and must always be a safe place to learn and grow—personally, socially, and academically. Staff, students, and families alike must feel and be safe when they come to campus each day. Families must be confident that the most important people in their lives are safe at school. Teachers, staff members, and school leaders, we must be able to come to school knowing that we are safe when working toward our vision and through our mission to serve our students every day. Our community—we—must support one another each day, every day. We must do this through empathy, kindness, and respect.

At Austin International School, we take school safety seriously. Our last safety report from the Austin Police Department gave our school and its practices an “A-rating” for school safety. As a recommitment to ensuring a safe and secure campus, we will host Austin Police Department for a new security audit of our campus in light of a number of our new practices put into place since the start of the pandemic. Our staff training has and will include active shooter responses as well as trauma response training.

It is a sad and sobering reality that such training forms part of teacher in-service. Violence has no place in society and certainly not in school. We call on civic leaders to end bickering and in-fighting that hinder society’s ability to address these shameful acts of violence. It must stop. And it must stop now.

As a community and as a society, we are stronger together—when we take care of each other and when we look out for one another. We call on all people to act with empathy by actively listening to one another. We encourage everyone to seek help when needed, to offer it when requested, and to bring concerns to the attention of those who can offer additional support.

Today, our hearts were shattered once again. A las familias de Uvalde: les acompañamos en el inmenso dolor que supone la pérdida incomprensible de su maestro, de sus hijas y de sus hijos.

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

Updates to Health and Safety Protocols

March 04, 2022
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

We were very pleased to learn today that Austin has moved to Stage 2 of risk-based guidelines for COVID-19. Our school has seen a precipitous and sustained drop in the number of cases and close contacts over the past three weeks. Based on reduced risk and new guidance from APH and CDC, AIS will move to Level 1 protocols based on our adaptive protocols listed in our 2021-2022 Campus Opening Guide:

  • Face coverings. Masks recommended indoors. Masks optional outdoors.
  • Physical distancing. At least 3’ distance, where feasible, when masks are not used indoors. There is no physical distancing requirement outdoors.
  • Cohorting. Reduced contact between cycle-level cohorts.

With these adjustments, it is very important that all families and staff members abide by the requirements outlined in our Health and Safety Protocol form—namely, that no person exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 is permitted on campus until recovered from illness. Our staff will continue to monitor for symptoms and families will be asked to collect any potentially ill children from school.

Updates to Mask Usage Recommendations
During this morning’s meeting with public health authorities, it was explained that city will continue to recommend indoor masking through the end of the spring festival season, which is March 20th. APH encourages school communities to wear masks indoors through that period.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has offered new masking recommendations for families following updated CDC guidance. AAP advises families to consider the following factors in making a decision to wear masks:

  • if their child is between ages 2 and 5 and currently ineligible for COVID-19 vaccine;
  • if their child is immunocompromised and may not have a protective immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine, or is at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness;
  • if their child is not immunized;
  • if other members of their family are at higher risk of severe disease or are not immunized; and/or
  • if they live in a community with “high” COVID-19 transmission.

The choice or whether or not to wear a mask will be left to families and/or students. Making this decision with your child is an important part of fostering independence and autonomous decision-making. With mask usage moving to recommended indoors, it is critically important that students and their families fully respect other students’ and families’ decisions to wear a mask or to not wear a mask. It is neither acceptable nor permissible for any AIS community member to make another school community member feel bad about their choice to wear a mask or not wear a mask. We thank you in advance for talking with your children about the essential elements of respect, empathy, autonomy, inclusiveness, and kindness that form the bedrock of our community.

PS/MS Mask Usage Strongly Recommended
With Level 1 face covering protocols in place, masks are now recommended indoors and optional outdoors. Because children under the age of 5 are currently ineligible for vaccination, it is highly recommended that students in PS/MS continue to wear a mask while indoors. This strong recommendation is in place until your child is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and/or if they have recovered from COVID-19 within the last 90 days.

Future Mask Requirements
We have received requests from some families about mask requirements in the 2022-2023 school year. Though it is too early to give insight into what the global health situation will look like in August 2022, there are several important elements that apply not only to next year, but the remainder of this year as well:

  • AIS may return to requiring masks if the COVID-19 situation worsens.
  • Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have had symptom onset in the last 10 days will be required to wear a mask anytime they are on campus (i.e., under our current test-to-stay protocol).
  • Individuals who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 will be required to wear a mask following exposure for at least 10 days.
  • Choosing to wear a mask is always an option; it is a family and/or student decision.
  • During times when masks are optional or recommended, all AIS community members will be required to respect others’ individual choices to wear a mask or not wear a mask; any form of disrespect or bullying of another community member’s choice will not be tolerated by the school.

Any changes to mask requirements or safety protocols will be communicated via the Friday Flash and/or through a Head of School eCommuniqué.

COVID-19 Testing after Spring Break
AIS will require all students and staff to complete a rapid antigen test on March 27th or the morning of March 28th, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection. Any person who tests positive will be required to isolate per our current protocols. Families may choose to test by:

  • Completing an at-home test: Write the name of your child, date, and time of sample collection on the test, snap a photo, and email it to our records@ address;
  • Completing a test at a testing center: After completing a test at a testing location near you, forward your negative test result to our records@ address; OR
  • Completing testing at AIS: Testing by appointment will be made available on the morning of Monday, March 28th. To request an appointment, send an email to our COVIDtesting@ address..

If you have any questions about this post-vacation test-to-return requirement, please don’t hesitate to reach outto me via email.

Merci ! ¡Gracias! Thank you!
We truly appreciate and value your collective support of one another. At its most basic level, a community is simply a group of people who share something in common, such as being part of AIS. A true community, however, is composed of individuals who care about what we have in common, care about each other, interact with one another, are passionate about our common purposes, have shared core values, and care about our community as a whole. I am proud to be part of such a strong and supportive community.

Thank you for all that you have done thus far to keep each other safe and all that you will do in the future to protect the health and safety of AIS community members and their families.

I wish you a pleasant, restful, and safe weekend!

Sincerely,

Jacques

Posted in Communiqués

Updates to COVID-19 Testing at AIS (PCR and Antigen)

January 29, 2022
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

Thank you for your continued diligence with our health and safety protocols at school. This week, we have seen a sharp decline in COVID cases and close contacts--specifically, there have been 25% fewer contact traces and 58% fewer COVID-positive cases reported. Your support of our biosecurity measures in the coming weeks will help us successfully move past this wave of the pandemic.

In today's edition of the Friday Flash, you may have seen that we are continuing to beef up our COVID testing processes at school. Last week, we ran our first ever batch of pooled PCR tests and were very happy to see that all 42 participants had negative COVID results returned the very next day. Today we finally received our shipment of 200 rapid antigen test kits which will allow us to quickly diagnose any suspected cases of COVID on campus. This email will provide you with important details about those two types of tests, including details to sign-up for them. Please note that all tests are opt-in only and parents/guardians must complete a consent form prior to any testing. All COVID-19 testing at AIS is open to staff and students, and it is free of charge.
 

Pooled PCR Testing

What is this test?
PCR tests are highly sensitive diagnostic tests that detect viral RNA. As a regular screening tool, they are good at detecting early infection with COVID-19, often before a person becomes contagious. Specimens are sent to a lab for analysis and results typically come back within one day. The test uses a shallow anterior nasal swab and causes very little to no discomfort; this test does not use a nasopharyngeal swab. Most individuals can swab their nostrils themselves, and assistance can be provided by trained personnel when needed.

When is this test performed?
This is a screening test that is performed at the start of each week, typically on Monday mornings. Personnel trained in conducting the PCR tests will visit classes at times to minimize disruption to learning. Once all samples are collected from students and staff, they will be packaged and mailed to our assigned laboratory in Massachusetts.

How do I sign-up my child to participate in the pooled PCR testing program?
These tests are opt-in only, and families must complete an on-line consent form if they would like for their child(ren) to participate in the testing. To indicate your consent, go to the on-line consent form and enter the access code AUSTINIS to register your child. If you need to enter consent for more than one child, please complete the form again for each child. You only need to sign-up one time to be included in weekly testing. The sign-up cutoff time is 8am each Monday.

Where can I find more information about pooled PCR testing at AIS?
Please visit this page of our website. There, you will find many frequently asked questions as well as the full contents of the consent form.
 

Rapid Antigen Testing

What is this test?
Antigen tests, also called rapid diagnostic tests, detect specific proteins on the surface of the coronavirus. Antigen test results are ready within 15 minutes. They are good at rapidly diagnosing suspected cases of COVID-19. The test uses a shallow anterior nasal swab and causes very little to no discomfort; this test does not use a nasopharyngeal swab. Most individuals can swab their nostrils themselves, and assistance can be provided by trained personnel when needed. 

When is this test performed?
This test can be performed on an as-needed basis. Simply reach out to our COVIDtesting email address to schedule a test. To aid in contact tracing, it is requested that any established close contacts perform a rapid test as soon as possible. Rapid tests are also typically used when a student is returning to school after an isolation or quarantine, or through the test-to-stay protocol.

How to I sign-up my child to participate in the rapid antigen testing program?
To sign your child up for rapid antigen testing, please complete this online sign-up form. After signing up, parents/guardians will receive a digital consent form at the email address on file with the school. The email will come from CrisisGo with the subject line "Register Now for COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing at AIS." A signed digital consent form must be on file before a test can be performed. You only need to submit the digital consent form one time in order to be enrolled in the program.

Where can I find more information about rapid antigen testing at AIS?
Please visit this page of our website. There, you will find many frequently asked questions as well as the full contents of the consent form.
 


We are pleased to support our community with these important biosecurity measures. If you have any questions about these testing programs after you have consulted the information pages on our website, then please don't hesitate to reach out to me directly.

Have a safe, pleasant, and restful weekend!

Sincerely,

Jacques

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

AIS HoS eCommuniqué – COVID-19 Reminders & Updates

January 07, 2022
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

We have received several reports of AIS community members who have contracted COVID-19 during the break as well as some this week. First and foremost, we wish those who have come down with the illness a very speedy recovery. These cases are a reminder that each member of the Austin International School community has a critical role to play in protecting the health and safety of all our community members.

I continue to meet with health authorities on a weekly basis so that we can operate in the most informed and prudent manner possible. In light of the City of Austin’s move to Stage 5 and the continued spread of COVID-19 in our community, I am writing to you today with some important reminders and updates regarding school operations during the ongoing pandemic.

REMINDER: DO NOT SEND SYMPTOMATIC STUDENTS TO SCHOOL
At the beginning of the school year, we required all families to carefully read and sign the Health and Safety Protocol Family Acknowledgement Form. It is important that parents and guardians not send children to school who are showing any symptoms listed in this document, including:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • New loss of smell or taste
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0°F (37.8°C)
  • Shaking or exaggerated shivering
  • Significant muscle pain or ache

Sending a child to school who is exhibiting any of the above symptoms places other members of the AIS community at risk, which is unacceptable. Please ensure that you speak to your child's pediatrician and that you get a doctor's note with a clear return-to-school date indicated. Any student who arrives to school without a doctor's note and who is exhibiting any of the above symptoms will be separated from the class and should be picked up within 30 minutes (but no later than 1 hour). 

UPDATE: REVISED CDC GUIDELINES
Yesterday evening, the CDC updated guidance for K-12 schools, which includes changes to isolation (for individuals who are COVID-positive) and quarantine (for individuals who have close contact with a COVID-positive person). I have spent a large part of the day working with our local health authorities to revise the new operational policies for the school. Ultimately, my goal will always be to find the most appropriate balance between minimizing disruption to in-person learning and prioritizing the health and safety of all community members.

UPDATE: ISOLATION FOR COVID-POSITIVE INDIVIDUALS
If a member of the community has a positive viral test (antigen or PCR), regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, they MUST isolate. Community members with symptoms of COVID-19, including people who are awaiting test results, MUST isolate; people with symptoms should isolate even if they do not know if they have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

Any COVID-positive individual must isolate for AT LEAST 5 full days. Day 0 is the day symptoms began or the day of the positive test result (for asymptomatic individuals).

For individuals with no symptoms of COVID-19:

  • If they continue to have no symptoms, they can end isolation after at least 5 days. A report of a negative viral test (antigen or PCR) AND a doctor’s note is required to return to school.
  • They must continue to wear a well-fitting mask AT ALL TIMES when around others on days 6-10. If a masked is removed to eat or drink, then the individual must be at least 6’ away from others. If the individual is unable to wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others, then they must complete a 10-day isolation.
  • If they develop symptoms, the 5-day isolation period will start over; day 0 will be the first day of symptoms.

 For individuals with symptoms of COVID-19:

  • They can end isolation after 5 full days if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation). A viral test (antigen or PCR) AND a doctor’s note is required to return to school.
  • They must continue to wear a well-fitting mask AT ALL TIMES when around others on days 6-10. If a masked is removed to eat or drink, then the individual must be at least 6’ away from others. If the individual is unable to wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others, then they must complete a 10-day isolation.
  • If they continue to have fever or other symptoms have not improved after 5 days of isolation, they should wait to end isolation until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their other symptoms have improved.

UPDATE: QUARANTINE FOR CLOSE CONTACTS
Our school will work carefully to conduct contact tracing for confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 on campus. The CDC definitions of close contacts in the K-12 setting are presented in this APH infographic.

In the case of an established close contact, no quarantine is required for individuals:

  • ages 18 or older who have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters
  • ages 5-17 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines
  • who had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (i.e., tested positive using a viral test).

Quarantine is required for individuals:

  • ages 18 or older who completed the primary series of recommended vaccine, but have not received a recommended booster shot when eligible
  • who are not vaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series.

If a community member has a close contact and must quarantine, the following is required:

  • Seek a viral test (PCR or antigen) as soon as possible (preferably the same day they are notified) and provide the report of the test to the school to assist with contact tracing.
  • Stay home and away from other people for at least 5 days (day 0 through day 5) after their last close contact with a person who has COVID-19. The date of exposure is considered day 0.
  • For 10 days after their last close contact to someone with COVID-19, watch for fever (100.4°F or greater), cough, shortness of breath, or other COVID-19 symptoms.
  • If they develop symptoms, get tested immediately and isolate until they receive their test results. If they test positive, follow isolation recommendations listed above.
  • If they do not develop symptoms, then they will be able to return to school through a Test to Stay (TTS) protocol. To do this, they must get tested at least 5 days after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
    • If they test negative, they may return to school by providing the report of the negative viral test. As part of the TTS requirements, a second negative viral test report is required two days later the last test; without this, the individual will not be permitted to return to school. During the TTS period, the individual must continue to wear a well-fitting mask AT ALL TIMES when around others until 10 days after their last close contact with someone with COVID-19. If a mask is removed to eat or drink, then the individual must be at least 6’ away from others. If the individual is unable to wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others, then they must complete a full, 10-day quarantine.
    • If they test positive, they should isolate for at least 5 days from the date of their positive test. Follow recommendations in the isolation section above.

UPDATE: TESTING AT SCHOOL
Unfortunately, after a change to the state's testing program, our school has been impacted by the national shortage of tests, and we have been unable to provide testing to the broader community. Today, we were connected with a new list of third-party providers who will be able to help us restock our tests in the coming weeks. We appreciate your patience as we work to replenish our supply so that we can provide quick and easy rapid testing on campus.

REMINDER: YES, IT’S ALL CONFUSING! BUT WE’RE HERE TO HELP!
If you’re feeling confused by all the above, then you’re in a big boat with a lot of people! As health experts collect more data, they will revise guidance and protocols for schools. I am committed to working closely with our teams of experts to seek clarification and operate through the most prudent measures that allow us to keep in-person learning for our students. In the event of a COVID-positive case or a close contact, a member of my team or I will reach out to you to go over the isolation/quarantine requirements, including specific dates.

MERCI, THANK YOU, and GRACIAS for your continued commitment to the health and safety of our entire AIS community. If I can be of any additional support, please don’t hesitate to reach out at any time.

Have a safe and wonderful weekend!

Sincerely,

Jacques

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

École des Loisirs Book Subscription through AIS (2021-2022)

September 10, 2021
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Families,

AIS is pleased to once again offer families preferential group rates for École des Loisirs (EDL) books through their French-language book club called École des Max!

Through a subscription to EDL, children receive one book in French per month during the school year, for a total of eight French books by the end of the academic year. Starting in November 2021, students will receive the first book of the series and then one book per month for the remaining seven months of the school year. EDL carefully curates its list of books to ensure appropriate reading for native and non-native children at different grade levels. For families whose native language is not French, readings of the stories are also available online through the EDL website (click on the “Listen to the stories 2021-2022” section).

Through its subscription program, EDL is offering the following series for the 2021-2022 school year (click on the links for specific details regarding each subscription, including titles and descriptions of each book):

  • BÉBÉMAX [$62/year] (native: PS; non-native: PS/MS/GS) -- Bright and colorful books with simple, funny sentences that stimulate curiosity
  • TITOUMAX [$63/year] (native: PS/MS; non-native: PS/MS/GS) -- Little stories about daily life that use familiar words about heroes who have lots of imagination
  • MINIMAX [$64/year] (native: GS; non-native: CP) -- Slightly longer stories though still with heroes ready for big adventures
  • KILIMAX [$65/year] (native: CP/CE1; non-native: CE1/CE2) -- More complex storytelling where images and text are strongly linked. They're lovely stories to read aloud.
  • ANIMAX [$66/year] (native: CE1/CE2; non-native: CM1/CM2) -- Illustrated novels, albums, and comics built around fantastic worlds and exciting story-telling
  • MAXIMAX [$67/year] (native: CM1/CM2; non-native: CM1/CM2) -- For kids who love adventure! These stories embody diverse points of view on discovering the world around us.
  • SUPERMAX [$69/year] (native: Middle School; non-native: Middle School) -- Novels and comics that unlock children's curiosity as they set out on a journey of self-discovery through amazing adventures
  • MÉDIUM MAX [$70/year] (native: Teenagers; non-native: Teenagers) -- Stories aimed directly at adolescents. The heroes are amazing and the themes are universal.

If you would like to subscribe to one of the above series for this school year, please complete the attached registration form and submit it with full payment in the correct amount made payable to "L'École des Loisirs." Payment may be made by personal check, cashier's check, money order, credit card, or PayPal (details on the attached form). Please turn in your completed forms during morning drop-off to staff under the portico on or before Friday, September 24th in order to take advantage of our school's discounted subscription rates. Books will be delivered to the school each month beginning in November and will be distributed to students through their classes.

By organizing École des Max subscriptions, Austin International School will receive 8 new books for our AIS library for every ten subscriptions organized through the school. Our goal this year is to have 80 subscriptions organized through AIS so that we can 64 amazing new titles to our library. At under $9 per book, this is a great way to not only support your child(ren)'s French literacy skills, but to also support the school. Thank you in advance for your support and for spreading the word with other families!

For more information about EDL's École des Max book subscription service, please visit their website (version française) or contact me via return email.

Bonne lecture and warm regards,

Jacques

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

An Informed, Prepared, and Safe Start to 2021-2022!

August 04, 2021
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

I hope you have all had a wonderfully relaxing, engaging, and fun summer break full of personal connections and new learnings. Work at AIS continues throughout the year and our team has been working hard to prepare a fantastic 2021-2022 school year for our students and our community.

Today, I had the pleasure of working with a new group of fantastic educators who will be working with our AIS students to support them in their academic and personal growth, seeking to push their academic and intercultural skills. Our program has grown steadily and impressively over our 20 years of serving the Austin community, and I am excited to kick off a new school year, standing on those many years of success.

It’s hard to believe it, but this means that the first day of school is now only two weeks away on Wednesday, August 18th! We have, of course, been closely monitoring the health situation impacting the globe, with a close focus on data and trends here in Austin. I continue to meet regularly with officials from Austin Public Health, including their Senior Epidemiologist, and a group of volunteer medical professionals who offer their interpretations, expertise, and recommendations to our team. Because we continue to operate within the pandemic context, we will continue with our commitment to be informed, prepared, and safe throughout the school year.

Attached to this email, you will find our 2021-2022 Campus Opening Guide. In it, there are many details regarding the adaptive protocols that will be in place this year. Based on informed guidance from medical professionals, we will be open for in-person learning throughout the school year and, when needed, we will have layered mitigation strategies in place to reduce the risk of viral spread in our school community. Last year, we were very successful at holding in-person classes with no cases of COVID-19 on campus, and it will again be our goal to engage students in our rigorous academic program as safely as possible.

There is an important balance to be found between best practices in teaching and learning, and the health and safety of all community members. These are parallel priorities for us. As the situation improves, we will be able to adapt our protocols by de-escalating some elements such as face coverings, distancing, and cohorting; conversely, we will be able to increase some of these measures of the situation dictates. To have a clearer picture of what this will look like, please see the details for these adaptive protocols on page 9 of the attached guide. Though it will be confirmed before the start of school, I do anticipate that we will be operating at Level 3 for all three elements when we kick off the new school year. We will communicate changes to families as soon as we have made a decision to de-escalate some or all of these elements, based on available data and advice from our group of medical experts.

Some other important elements that I would like to call out for families are the following:

  • Last school year, we suspended our Wednesday early release for students. In the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, we will resume Wednesday early release for students in PS-CM2. Though regular pick-up (Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri) should be no later than 3:45pm, students must be picked-up by 2:45pm on Wednesdays, unless they are registered for afterschool care. Please note that due to related staffing and protocol constraints, no complimentary afterschool care is available on Wednesdays between 2:45pm and 3:45pm. Because our unique academic program requires a high degree of collaborative work, Wednesday afternoons are used for our teaching teams to meet and work on important curricular matters.
  • Students in PS-GS will enter their classrooms directly from external doors. Students in CP-CM2 will have a reduced number of entrances and will only be using either the upstairs or downstairs entrance on the side of the building. Middle School students will continue to use their own entrance. Please see the map on page 4 of the guide for details about entrance points for students.
  • Families will be asked to complete health screening questionnaires at home, via the PikMyKid app, before heading to school each morning. Students will not be permitted to enter campus if they exhibit any symptoms of illness indicated in the attached Health and Safety Protocol Family Acknowledgement Form. Thank you for ensuring that you complete this quick and easy questionnaire each morning before you leave your home. Note: If you are new to PikMyKid, you will receive log-in details in the coming weeks.
  • Students must not come to school in the event of illness. Bringing a sick child to school places other students and our staff members at unnecessary and unacceptable risk for contagious illness. In the event that a child is out ill, they will generally need a note from a doctor with a clearly indicated return-to-school date. We strongly recommend using the attached COVID-19 Physician Letter for Students published by the Texas Medical Association to avoid having to return to the doctor for a revised note with a return-to-school date.
  • We will resume the coordinated use of some shared spaces such as the library and auditorium. Scheduling of these spaces will happen internally and frequency of use will be informed by current health conditions.
  • We have continued to suspend our limited catering service. Please ensure that your children bring school to lunch each day.
  • We will resume and phase back in the offering of afterschool activities. Based on health guidance and potential mixing of students from different cohorts in certain activities, it may be necessary for some activities to operate using face coverings. Stay tuned for more details.
  • Though the state has mandated that public schools may not require quarantines for close contacts, as an independent school, we will continue our policy of requiring absences for illness and testing/quarantine after close contacts. Our goal is to get kids back in classes as quickly as possible, so we will reach out on a case-by-case basis to guide you to a quick return to class. Please remember that all COVID-related absences are considered excused. As such, teachers will send any material for students who are out on those days.
  • AIS is a private COVID-19 testing center and we are able to conduct rapid antigen tests with results available in 15 minutes. Families who wish to do testing (one time or periodically) should reach out to via email for more details. Tests for any person under the age of 18 require a parent permission form to be on file.
  • At the recommendation of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and numerous other organizations, we will prioritize in-person learning this year. As such, there will be no off-campus learning option available to individual students. Our whole-school Distance Learning program will only be re-launched in the event that we are compelled to do so, either by a government entity or in situations of imminent danger.

Because I care deeply for the academic and personal wellbeing of every member of our community, as Head of School, I will strictly hold all of us to the required protocols in force at different times of the year. As such, you will find attached to this email a Health and Safety Protocol Family Acknowledgement Form. Please read this carefully, sign it, and bring it with you to the first day of school. Students are only permitted to attend school once they have a signed form on file. Extra forms will be on hand at the parking lot entrance on the first day of school in case families have lost or misplaced a form.

Finally, in our efforts to be informed, prepared, and safe, we are requesting that all families complete the attached Household COVID-19 Vaccination Status Form. Through this survey, we would like to collect vaccination data to help us have a better understanding of the AIS community context. You may also bring this form with you to drop-off on the first day of school. We appreciate your support in providing this information, as it will at times play an important part in making adjustments to our adaptive protocols during the school year. Please note that state law does not currently permit schools—public or private—to require vaccinations of eligible students; this is an important decision to be made by families in consultation with your child’s pediatrician.

While we had been hoping for a “normal” return to the new school year, I anticipate that there will be more normalcy to the start of this year when compared to last year. An important part of this year’s planning is the ability to dial back some of our protocols when local health conditions permit. There is light at the end of—what has been—a very long tunnel! As we work steadily as a community toward the end of that tunnel, I will reiterate my commitment to you that we will remain informed, prepared, and safe throughout the school year.

I will also be organizing some Family Information Sessions around COVID planning and protocols and will send the dates and times of these meeting in the coming days. You may of course, feel free to reach out to me by email or telephone with any questions you may have in the coming days. Thank you for your commitment to the health and safety of our community. Merci pour votre soutien ! ¡Y muchísmias gracias por ser parte de nuestra comunidad!

Sincerely,

Jacques

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

AIS Head of School eCommuniqué - Le 14 juillet 2021

July 14, 2021
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

I hope that this message finds you all safe, healthy, and above all happy during this well-deserved summer break! In this mid-summer Head of School eCommuniqué, I would like to share some important summer highlights for our community.

Since the reign of Charlemagne in the 8th century, France has placed an importance on academia and the provision of rigorous education for its populace—a value that continues to ring true today. While there have been many iterations of educational institutions in France over the centuries, the French Revolution of 1789 marked an important philosophical turning point in education in France. As a result of educational reforms in the years following the popular uprising, education in France became secular, free, and compulsory for all children.

French schools have existed around the world for centuries (e.g., Berlin since 1689, New York since 1817, and London since 1915). As the world has grown smaller, the need for strong intercultural communicators has become larger. So too has the demand for rigorous academics that develop not only strong students, but kind, empathic, autonomous, and creative people who can confront the challenges of today and tomorrow. Since July 1990, the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) has ensured the support of academic excellence in nearly 500 French curriculum schools around the globe, continuing the revolutionary tradition of bringing open, engaging, and challenging academics to all people. As an AEFE accredited institution since 2007, AIS has been fortunate to benefit from this support.

Today is July 14th, the day of our Fête Nationale in France. It is a day to pause and recognize the many accomplishments of the French Republic over the centuries, including our commitment to educated, enlightened, and enriched individuals. I can think of no better occasion than today than to share with our AIS community that after many years in the making, AIS has been awarded final and full accreditation for its middle school program by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE)! Accreditation (homologation) of 7th and 8th grades (5e et 4e) marks the culmination of five years of dedicated work by our fantastic team of educators, administrators, and board members. After establishing itself as the only accredited French elementary school in Central Texas in 2007, AIS now adds to its accolades as the only accredited French middle school in the region. In fact, we are only the third French school in the State of Texas to have achieved this great feat.

The start of next school year (la rentrée) will mark another important year at AIS—a record year for enrollment and the launch of a new program. In August 2021, we will be welcoming over sixty new students to our campus. In fact, we were pleased to welcome many new AIS families through a Bastille Day event on campus today, during which we met new faces, established new connections, and made new friendships. Several of our incoming students have joined AIS through our new Français Langue Étrangère (FLE) program in Cycle 2. Through FLE, new 1st through 3rd grade students with little to no French will be able to work with a specialist teacher as they ramp up their language skills and adjust to learning in full French immersion. We are excited to join the ranks of other top French schools with the addition of FLE in Cycle 2. More importantly, however, we proud to better serve the Austin community through our vision, mission, and core values by opening access to our unique academic program to children ages 6 through 8!

While accreditation carries many responsibilities for schools, it also provides many benefits. As a result of our status as an accredited school, AIS was able to successfully navigate last year—a year that was difficult for all institutions. Our work was supported by local, state, and federal agencies, as well as multiple agencies from overseas. In addition to substantive grants from the City of Austin and the Agency for French Education Abroad, AIS was recently awarded a very significant grant through the US federal government’s Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) program. This grant will go a very long way to helping AIS successfully manage continued adjustments during the pandemic and will support our ongoing commitment of being informed, prepared, and safe as we navigate this global event together. Of course, none of this support would have been possible without our status as a fully accredited institution.

Our past has been bright and our future us even brighter. Over the past year, members of our community connected to discuss and review our vision, mission, and core values, and from this emanated our revised profile of graduates. We will continue our celebration of two decades of excellence to the Austin community as we use our revised vision, mission, and values as a launchpad into an exciting strategic planning year led by our school's governing body. It is my continued pleasure and honor to serve as Head of School as we embark together on our 21st year of service to the Austin community. Thank you, as always, for your ongoing support and commitment to our community!

It’s hard to believe it, but if you check the school calendar, we are only five weeks away from the first day of the new school year! Until then, please remember to relax, read, learn, and above all, have fun. I wish you a wonderful rest of the summer break!

Warm regards,

Jacques

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

Head of School eCommuniqué: COVID Protocol Reminders

May 07, 2021
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

It’s a busy time on campus! We have been able to keep our campus open for our students in large part due to the incredible efforts of our teachers, our staff members, our students and, of course, our incredibly supportive parents and guardians. Thank you for all that you have done this year to keep our community safe!

As we approach the end of the year, I would like to remind everyone of the importance of adhering to our health and safety protocols and procedures, which will remain in full effect through the end of the year. It’s hard to believe, but that is only four and a half weeks away!

If your child is exhibiting any of the symptoms on our Health and Safety Protocol Family Acknowledgement Form, they are not permitted to enter the campus. These symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • New loss of smell or taste
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit (i.e., 37.8 degrees Celsius)
  • Shaking or exaggerated shivering
  • Significant muscle pain or ache

If your child arrives with any of these symptoms or begins to develop these symptoms while on campus, we will request parents/guardians to pick up the child and to schedule an appointment with their pediatrician. Please note that fever is not a required symptom to be denied entry from campus; having just one of the above symptoms will require a doctor’s note and/or completion of an isolation period.

We recognize that students may exhibit these symptoms due to other illnesses or situations (e.g., common cold, allergies, stomach bug, etc.). Regardless of the nature of the illness, we must receive a doctor’s note with a return-to-school date. We strongly advise you take the COVID-19 Physician Letter for Students form with you to the doctor’s office. Your doctor’s office may choose to write a note on their own letterhead, but it must indicate a return-to-school date; without this date, your child will need to stay off campus until a new or corrected note is received. Please note that a negative COVID-19 test result alone is not sufficient evidence to return to campus.

If you do not wish for your child to visit a doctor’s office, then they may only return to campus only when all three of the following criteria are met:

  • at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (for fever, this means resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications);
  • the child has improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
  • at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

We recognize that some of these procedures may be inconvenient to families, especially with doctors’ offices being busier than normal at this time of year. We appreciate your patience and—above all—your continued efforts to keep all members of our community safe and healthy.

If you have any questions or concerns about our health and safety protocols and procedures, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss them with you.

Sincerely,

Jacques

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

AIS Classes to Resume on Monday, February 22nd, 2021

February 22, 2021
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

I hope you have been enjoying the warmer weather and have had the ability to move more toward a sense of normalcy. Thank you to everyone for your feedback through the status check survey and offers of support to your fellow AIS community members.

This morning, Koetter Fire Protection of Austin was able to complete necessary repairs to our fire sprinkler system; these now bring us back up to code with the Austin Fire Department. After updating AFD about the completed repairs, we received the all-clear from the Fire Marshall’s Office a few minutes ago to resume operations. I would like to acknowledge the dedicated work of April O’Quinn who was able to coordinate emergency repair services so quickly for our school.

With our campus now ready to welcome staff and students back to classrooms, please be advised that classes will resume tomorrow, Monday, February 22nd. We recognize that some of our community members may still be adversely impacted by the events of the last week. As such, please note that all student absences related to winter storm recovery will be considered excused for the remainder of this week.

We recognize the disruption this historical winter event has had on the personal and academic lives of our students. As mentioned in previous emails, our team will be meeting to discuss the impact on academics and plans to ensure the complete delivery of our rigorous and unique academic program during the remainder of the second semester.

Thank you once again for looking out for us and for each other this past week. If you are still in need of any help—whether it be in the form of water, food, or just a place to shower—please don’t hesitate to reach out. We have received many offers of support from fellow AIS families and staff members, and I am happy to pass those along.

I wish you a warm and restful remainder of your day.

Best regards,

Jacques

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

AIS Distance Learning post Spring Break (March 29-April 2)

February 12, 2021
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

I hope that this message finds you safe, sound, and warm on this unusually chilly day! Our campus is covered in an impressive layer of ice and though power and internet were knocked out at the school today, things are up and running again.

Thank you to the over 125 community members who responded to our Spring Break quick survey! Through these data, we were able to get a better understanding of our community’s plans during spring break. This is an important time near the middle of the second semester for AIS families and staff members to reconnect with friends and family. During such a busy and difficult year, I believe that it is more important than ever for our community members to enjoy the full break so that they can recharge for the latter half of the semester.

After carefully studying the survey information and discussing it with Austin Public Health this morning, we have made the decision to move AIS to our distance learning protocol from Monday, March 29th through Friday, April 2nd. This temporary shift to distance learning is similar to the period of distance learning after the Winter Break. We are providing six weeks of advance notice to help families plan for arrangements at that time.

As was the case in January, it is important to understand that this move to distance learning must not be considered an extension of the Spring Break holiday. To keep our community healthy and safe and in line with CDC, APH, and TEA guidelines, all AIS community members are expected to be back from any Spring Break travel and to begin a quarantine and/or testing no later than Sunday, March 28th, based on the information below.

In order for our community to return fully to in-person learning on Monday, April 5th, AIS community members who have had close contacts or who are presumed to have had close contact with COVID-19 (e.g., through airplane travel, attending crowded events, etc.) must complete quarantine and testing no later than the following dates:

  • on or before Sunday, March 21st if you had close contact without wearing a mask (regardless of whether you will do testing)
  • on or before Thursday, March 25th if you were wearing a mask, are asymptomatic, and you choose not to test
  • on or before Sunday, March 28th if you were wearing a mask, are asymptomatic, and you do choose to test; testing must be completed on or after Friday, April 2nd.

Please remember that close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of another person for 15+ cumulative minutes during a 24-hour period. Test may be PCR or antigen and individuals may not return to campus before receiving test results. As a reminder, all COVID-related absences are considered excused this year.

To help AIS community members prepare for a safe return to campus, I am attaching for you a COVID-19 Quarantine and Testing Reference Sheet. If you have any questions specific to your Spring Break arrangements, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Thank you for your continued support of the health and safety of our school community. We have done an exceptional job thus far of respecting the guidelines that are keeping our students, staff, and their families healthy. I appreciate everyone’s efforts!

I wish you a restful and—above all—warm weekend!

Sincerely,

Jacques

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

AIS eCommuniqué: Preparations for the 2020-2021 School Year

July 17, 2020
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

I hope that this message finds you all safe, happy, and—above all—healthy.

As I am sure many of you have seen in the news, there has been a lot happening at the local, state, and national levels. A number of these events and decisions have impacted and informed our planning for the 2020-2021 school year. Our school’s leadership team has worked diligently through the summer to ensure we have an excellent start to the 2020-2021 school year. In today’s eCommuniqué, I will be sharing with you a number of important details regarding the upcoming academic year.

School will Start via Distance Learning on August 19th, 2020
Up until a few days ago, our team had been planning and preparing for an informed, prepared, and safe re-opening of our campus on August 19th, 2020. On Tuesday of this week, however, a health authority order was issued for Travis County mandating the closure of all public and private school campuses through at least September 7th, 2020. As we continue to monitor the health situation in our city and keep in close contact with local and state authorities, we will keep our AIS families informed about any potential changes to this date.

In order to minimize disruption to our students’ education, la rentrée (back to school) will be on Wednesday, August 19th, 2020 as planned. To facilitate this and be in compliance with the local health authority order, we will be launching an enhanced version of our AIS Distance Learning program that will provide students the avenues and tools to engage in our rigorous, trilingual, academic curriculum for as long as is required by the local and/or state authorities.

Enhanced Distance Learning
At the conclusion of last school year, we collected feedback from families about their experiences with our distance learning offering. While the overall responses were very positive, we identified a number of opportunities and received several suggestions that have allowed us to enhance the AIS Distance Learning experience for students and families. Having been in regular conversations with our educators throughout last semester, we were also able to incorporate feedback from the teachers’ perspectives as well. In additional to using feedback from multiple stakeholders, the practices outlined in the Distance Learning Guides are based off of sound educational, psychological, and brain-based research.

Attached to this message, you fill find the AIS Distance Learning Guides for the 2020-2021 school year. While these guides comprehensive outlines of our program, I would like to highlight some of the key enhancements to our offerings when compared to last year:

  • In maternelle (PS, MS, GS), we have improved flexibility for families within a structure that provides routine for children. The school day will start earlier, and families will be invited to sign-up for learning slots in the morning and in the afternoon. Students will not engage in academics through whole class sessions, but rather focus on learning in multiple small group settings with their teachers and assistant teacher each day. Teachers will provide additional asynchronous practice, reinforcement, and review activities in SeeSaw for students to complete with families.
  • In elementary school (CP to CM2), there will be no merged classes for grade levels that have multiple sections. Each section of a grade level will have its own schedule, which will result in smaller whole group meetings and lower numbers in small group learning as well. Our revised AIS Distance Learning schedules work to maximize student-teacher interaction throughout the day, while also providing students an appropriate amount of time to complete individual tasks. The day will start slightly earlier and the schedule for distance learning is almost identical to the revised on-campus schedule, with the purpose of minimizing disruption in the event that future campus closures are needed. This year’s schedules will have more check-ins throughout the day to hold students accountable for their work and to provide them the opportunity to seek additional support if needed.
  • In middle school (6e-4e), student schedules will be identical to on-campus learning, except for a difference of one hour in Spanish. The purpose of maintaining consistent schedules is to minimize disruptions to routines in the event of future campus closures. The middle school Distance Learning schedule is designed to maximizing synchronous learning time dedicated to core subjects. Short breaks will be incorporated into the school day and flexibility will be provided to students by offering specials classes asynchronously. In addition to flexibility in learning times, asynchronous classes will allow students some freedom of choice in the assignments that they submit.

Though we much prefer to be learning on-campus with all of our AIS students, we are excited that the enhanced Distance Learning program will allow students to continue to thoroughly engage in our rigorous, trilingual, academic program. Moreover, by closely aligning the schedules of our on-campus and Distance Learning offerings, once back on-campus, students should experience little to no interruption to their academics while learning new daily routines that keep themselves and each other safe while on campus.

Campus Opening: Informed. Prepared. Safe.
Our number one priority is the health and safety of all of our students, their families, our educators, and other non-instructional team members. Though it is our primary goal to return to on-campus learning, we are only able to bring students and educators back once it is safe to do so and permitted by law. In preparation for this, the AIS leadership team has spent considerable time over the last several months studying every element of our school day—from drop-off to class time, from lunch to restroom breaks, from map time to afterschool care, and more.

Attached to this message, you will find our AIS Campus Opening Guide, which we will ask all families to read thoroughly before returning to on-campus learning. All elements of this guide have been reviewed by a team of medical professionals who have generously donated their time and expertise to our community. While we may need to make additions or adjustments to these practices once we are back on-campus, we are committed to making all decisions based on the most sound medical and scientific data available to us. I commit to you that we will remain informed, that we will be prepared, and that we will keep safe.

Off-Campus Learning
We care deeply about each one of students and their families. When the time comes to re-open our campus, some families with heightened risks associated with COVID-19 may not yet be ready to send their children to campus. In order to support these students in their learning at AIS, we will be offering an Off-Campus Learning option that will allow students to engage in their academics from home until families are prepared to send their children to campus.

The Off-Campus Learning option will allow for limited, synchronous, small group learning meetings with teachers and will be supplemented by asynchronous activities that will continuously engage students in our Seamless Curriculum. Off-Campus Learning requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis and families interested in this option will be invited to reach out to the Pedagogical Leadership Team with Off-Campus Learning requests prior to a shift to on-campus learning.

Modernized Pickup Process
In order to facilitate traffic flow on campus and provide pickup convenience for families, AIS will be shifting to a safe, secure, and modern pickup application that you will be able to use directly from any smart phone. Once you are within a certain distance from the campus, the application will allow families—with the tap of a button—to notify the school about their arrival. A message will be sent to the classroom to notify the student and teacher so that the child is ready for pickup once the parent, guardian, or other authorized pick-up person arrives. What’s more, parents and guardians will have the option to receive a notification once a child is picked-up. While more details about this enhanced service will be forthcoming, we wanted to share this early news with our community so that you to be on the lookout for a new pickup app.

Merci, Thank You, and Gracias
In times such as these, it is important for us to acknowledge the great flexibility, understanding, and support you provide to our AIS community. Our team is dedicated to our vision, mission, and core values, which call on us to be a key source of academic and personal growth for every one of our students. Parents are the first teachers, and teachers are the second parents. Thank you so much for your partnership, trust, and engagement.

We will be in touch in the weeks ahead with many more details as we prepare to launch our 2020-2021 school year. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of the leadership team.

Have a safe and relaxing rest of your summer break!

Sincerely,

Jacques

Mr. Jacques A. Weber, M.Ed.
Head of School/Chef d'Établissement

Posted in Communiqués

Head of School eCommuniqué: Progress Reports

April 22, 2020
By Jacques A. Weber

Posted in Communiqués

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