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AIS Communiqué #7 Regarding COVID-19

March 25, 2020
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

We are writing to you today regarding the evolution of COVID-19 and how our school is adjusting to it. This is a follow-up from the COVID-19 Communiqué #6 sent on March 20th, 2020.

STAY HOME – WORK SAFE
As you are likely aware, Austin Mayor Steve Adler signed order 2020324-007 into law yesterday with it coming into effect at 11:59pm last night. Under this new order, all employees of non-essential businesses are required to stay at home in order to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Austin International School is designated as an Essential Business under §6.f.xxiv of this order, since as an Educational Institution, we provide distance learning to our students. While we are strongly encouraging our staff to work remotely – and most are – we have a strict campus access protocol for members of staff who may need to come to campus to retrieve material or use a designated workspace for a limited amount of time. Above all, health and safety are our priority and our strict campus access and daily disinfection protocols work to ensure maximum protection for limited staff who are on campus to ensure distance learning continues to run smoothly for our students.

EXTENSION OF CAMPUS CLOSURE
Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s order 20200324-007 is in effect until April 13th, 2020. Consequently, our campus closed through to all non-essential personnel and community members (including weekend schools) through at least Sunday, April 12th, 2020. We will continue to monitor executive orders from the federal, state, and local governments in order to evaluate how they impact our operations. As we have done over the past several weeks, we will keep you informed of any of these developments via email and through the COVID-19 Information and Updates page on our website.

A MESSAGE FROM MLF TO FAMILIES
AIS is fortunate to count on a strong network of organizations that support our school’s programs. I have attached for you a letter from Mr. Jean-Christophe Deberre, Director-General of the Mission Laïque Française (MLF) addressed to families of students in MLF schools. This letter is also accompanied by a video from Mr. Deberre. Though the content is only available in French, Mr. Deberre wishes to reassure families of students in MLF schools that their children’s learning is in good hands. His letter and video message explain that many resources are being made available to teachers (in four languages), that distance learning must allow for social interactions in addition to academics, and that while the format of teachers’ work is changing, learning remains at the core of what we do. Though all our staff is on spring break and learning to adjust to a new lifestyle of quarantine and physical distancing, many of us have attended numerous trainings offered by the MLF and other partner organizations. This has been invaluable in preparing us for the best possible launch of our AIS Distance Learning program!

SHIFT TO DISTANCE LEARNING
AIS’s Distance Learning program will begin on Wednesday, April 1st. As we have all seen, a pandemic can arrive suddenly and turn our lives upside down without much warning, leaving people to scramble to make decisions. In Austin, we were fortunate for this to hit during spring break; AIS is doubly fortunate to benefit from a two-week spring break. During this time, our Pedagogical Leadership Team has worked every day to refine our AIS Distance Learning program so that it keeps both students’ academic and socioemotional development at the forefront of what we do. You will shortly receive more details from our team that will outline what students’ days will look like starting one week from today. I know that our entire team is very excited to reconnect with our young AIS Owls next week!

EVENT CHANGES
As you can imagine, our campus closure means reshaping a lot of our events and key dates. We will roll those changes out to you as they come up. That said, we want to provide you a heads-up about a couple of key dates on our calendar that are on the near horizon:

  • Progress Reports. We were originally scheduled to send progress reports to families on Wednesday, April 1st. Because our team needed to shift our focus to preparing for AIS Distance Learning, it means that we have had to move progress reports to the back burner for a bit. We still have some proofreading and grade checks to do, so these will be sent at a later date. We will send you an email as soon as we have the new date for the issuance of progress reports.
  • Parent-Teacher Conferences. Our Parent-Teacher Conferences originally scheduled for April 9th and 10th will no longer take place as planned. Our team is in the process of preparing an alternate format for the PTCs that be scheduled on new dates. Again, we will communicate the details and dates of the new PTCs once we have finalized them. 

Thank you again for your kind emails and words of encouragement. Our sense of community is an invaluable element of the social support network that allows us to overcome difficulties such as these.

We look forward to reconnecting with you all virtually next week!

Sincerely,

Jacques

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

Posted in Communiqués

AIS Communiqué #6 Regarding COVID-19

March 20, 2020
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

We are writing to you today regarding the evolution of COVID-19 and how our school is adjusting to it. This is a follow-up from the COVID-19 Communiqué #5 sent on March 16th, 2020.

WE’RE DOING WELL… MAIS VOUS NOUS MANQUEZ !
It would certainly be an understatement to say that this past week is not the week any of us had planned. We know you’ve been keeping up to date with everything that has been going on in the world, so we wanted to take a moment to let you know that our faculty and staff are doing well. Though we have been keeping physical distance, we have found comfort in making connections with one another. Living through a moment like this serves as important reminder of the value of the social and community connections we all have. Reach out and connect to your fellow AIS community members to see how they are doing and to let them know what new quarantine-time activities you’ve discovered! I know that I, for one, truly value the messages and calls that I have received during the past week from friends, family, and members of the AIS community.

CAMPUS ENTRY RESTRICTIONS
Yesterday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued executive order GA 08, which – among other things – orders school closures through at least April 3rd. As mentioned in our previous communiqué, our campus will remain closed to students, families, and members of the wider Austin community through at least April 5th, 2020. We will keep you updated about closure extensions and will post them on our website.

MOVE TO RISK LEVEL 4
Based on a number of indicators, we have decided to move AIS to a Risk Level 4 (High risk) according to our Crisis Management Matrix for Contagious Diseases. As a result, our students and teachers will shift to full distance learning until we are able to reopen our campus. Our extracurricular activities, community events, and field trips will be cancelled until further notice. Though Austin Public Health is now at a Phase 5 and has reported sustained person-to-person spread in the city of Austin, we are thankful that there are currently no reports of confirmed COVID-19 cases in our school’s community. Should this change, you will receive a health notice.

DISTANCE LEARNING: GETTING STARTED
Our Pedagogical Leadership Team has been working -- and will continue to work -- very hard through Spring Break to prepare for a shift to distance learning. The extra time afforded to us by the break has allowed us to build a robust plan to support students, teachers, and families during this shift. Our teachers will be attending a virtual training session with our Pedagogical Leadership Team on Monday, March 30th. In order to allow teachers to prepare lessons and collaborate virtually, Monday, March 30th and Tuesday, March 31st will be teacher work days. The AIS Distance Learning program will begin for students on the morning of Wednesday, April 1st. Next week, our Pedagogical Leadership Team will be in touch with you to provide more details about what students’ days will look like. The most important thing to know right now is that we are here – and will be here – to support you during this shift. I just want to take this early opportunity to say thank you for your understanding, flexibility, and support!

DISTANCE LEARNING: GETTING HELP
For students in Cycles 1 and 2 (PS through CE2), your point-of-contact for distance learning matters will be Ms. Audrey, the Lower School Principal. For students in Cycles 3 and 4 (CM1 through 4e), your point-of-contact will be Ms. Emily, the Upper School Principal. For any questions regarding the general functioning of the school during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may feel free to reach out to me directly.

CAMPUS DEEP CLEAN
Our cleaning crew has been coming each day during the break to complete a thorough deep clean and disinfection of the campus, spending nearly an hour in each classroom cleaning all surfaces, resources, nooks, and crannies. Our cleaning crew will also be washing all carpets during the break. We take the cleanliness of our campus seriously and, as such, I have personally been on-site with the cleaning crew each day, supervising the work that they are doing. Today, before they left, my heart was warmed by the crew sharing with me how important it is to them that all of our students our safe.  They want the same level of safety for your families as their own families.

Again, thank you for your words of support during these trying times. Our school is here and ready to support our families. We are part of a strong network and benefit from daily briefings and support from entities around the globe. We are proud to provide support to other schools and are thankful for the support their provide us. L'union fait la force... unity makes strength!

We wish you a healthy, safe, and happy weekend full of connections with family and friends, near and far.

Sincerely,

Jacques

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

Posted in Communiqués

AIS Communiqué #5 Regarding COVID-19

March 16, 2020
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

We are writing to you today regarding the evolution of COVID-19. This is a follow-up from the COVID-19 Communiqué #4 sent on March 13th, 2020. Our leadership team is continuing to monitor this event closely in order to support our students, families, and staff in the weeks ahead. We are here for you!

CAMPUS CLOSURE TO STUDENTS AND FAMILIES. Today, Austin ISD, Round Rock ISD, and numerous other school districts in our area announced that campuses will be closed to students through at least April 3rd, 2020. In line with our local districts and based on guidance provided by the Texas Education Agency, Austin International School’s campus will be closed to students and families through at least April 5th, 2020. We will continue to monitor the evolution of this situation to determine if it is necessary to restrict campus access beyond this date.

SHIFT TO DISTANCE LEARNING. Our team is highly committed to our students’ continued engagement in our academic program. Starting Tuesday, March 31st, it is planned that students will move to a distance learning model that will allow them to continue their academic progress from home. Our teachers were briefed about the potential move to this model before leaving for Spring Break; throughout the break, our leadership team will continue to work on preparing for this shift. We will be rolling out more information regarding the specifics of our distance learning program next week. Knowing that we are in a time of rapid change and adaptation, we thank you for your patience, flexibility, and support as we move to this new model.

MARCH 30TH: STAFF WORK DAY. Monday, March 30th will be a staff work day and as such, no classes will take place. On this day, our teaching teams will be collaborating to prepare for the shift to distance learning on Tuesday, March 31st.

EXTRACURRICULAR PROGRAM. All extracurricular activities will be cancelled through at least April 3rd, 2020. As we continue to monitor the evolution of this situation, this cancellation may be extended. After the Spring Break, our Extracurricular Coordinator, Jhino Medrano, will be in touch with families impacted by these cancellations.

REPORTING ILLNESS. If you or a member of your household contract COVID-19, we request that you inform us by email. Knowing that there are cases of contagious disease in our community helps us make informed decisions related to ongoing risk level assessment for AIS. We are not permitted by law to share the names of anyone who has fallen ill with the community at large.

We truly appreciate the words of encouragement and support we have received from all the members of our community. Mutual support and solidarity will be the driving forces behind our ability to navigate this together. I, for one, wouldn’t want to be part of any other community as we work to overcome this global pandemic. Merci à vous tous… y muchímsimas gracias.

Sincerely,

Jacques

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

Posted in Communiqués

AIS Communiqué #4 Regarding COVID-19

March 13, 2020
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

We are writing to you today regarding the continuing evolution of COVID-19. This is a follow-up from the COVID-19 communiqué #3 sent earlier today.

COVID-19 RISK LEVEL. Based on current indicators, AIS has moved to a Risk Level 2 (moderate risk). We have published a COVID-19 Information and Updates page on our website. This page is accessible from our AIS homepage and will be updated periodically.

EXTRACURRICULAR PROGRAM CANCELED. Please be advised that all afterschool activities and afterschool care will be canceled today. Please pick-up your child(ren) from school by 3:45pm today. Faculty/Staff will be unable to meet at that time, as we will be holding an emergency staff meeting.

BAKE SALE CANCELED. Please be advised that today’s bake sale has been canceled. Families who have made any pre-orders will be refunded.

SPRING CAMP CANCELED. Out of an abundance of caution and because of the evolving nature of COVID-19, please be advised that Spring Camp originally scheduled for the week of March 23rd-27th has been canceled. Families of registered attendees will receive a separate email with more details.

COMMUNICATION. We will continue to communicate regularly with families via email and through our website. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly with your questions or concerns.

Best regards,

Jacques

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

Posted in Communiqués

AIS Communiqué #3 Regarding COVID-19

March 13, 2020
By Jacques A, Weber

Dear AIS Community,

AIS will operate today as usual. 

Given this morning’s news of two cases of presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Austin, we understand that some families may choose to keep their children home today. Please make the best decision for your family. Any absences today will be considered excused. Please simply send an email to the reception

We will be sending a follow-up email during the day.

Warm regards,

Jacques

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

Posted in Communiqués

AIS Communiqué #2 Regarding COVID-19

March 12, 2020
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

We continue to closely monitor the rapidly evolving COVID-19 health pandemic, including its impact on daily life for millions around the globe. This is an update from our March 4th Communiqué regarding COVID-19.

SPRING BREAK TRAVEL. In the March 6th edition of the Friday Flash, we shared the Centers for Disease Control's list of countries with current travel advisories. We also shared with you a very important policy that we are enforcing with immediate effect: If, during this course of the global COVID-19 pandemic, you or a member of your household (including visitors from abroad) travels to a country that has a CDC Level 2 or 3 Health Notice, then you and/or any individuals that share the same household will NOT be permitted on the AIS campus until 14 days have passed since the traveler's return to the United States. With the health and safety of our community in mind, we will enforce this rule without exception. As of this morning, the CDC's list of countries with Level 2-3 Health Notices now includes "Most of Europe." The complete list is as follows (click links to open the CDC's official Health Notice): ChinaIranMost of Europe (specifically: Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City), South Korea. This list is subject to rapid change, so we recommend that you check it thoroughly before considering any overseas travel. In light of the U.S. President’s announcement last night to suspend travel from Europe to the US starting tomorrow, along with the U.S. Department of State's March 11th Global Level 3 Health Advisorywe recommend that you cancel any non-essential trips abroad for at least the next 30 days.

COMMUNITY TRUST. As caring members of our tight-knit community, we trust that all families will openly and honestly abide by our policy to not return to campus in the event that a member of the household has traveled to a Level 2 or 3 Health Notice country. If you are unsure about whether or not this temporary exclusion will apply to you, please contact me to inquire directly. If you travel and are subsequently subject to a 14-day exclusion, we request that you inform the school by sending en email to our receptionist who will mark these as excused absences.

SCHOOL CLOSURE. We are in constant daily contact with numerous government agencies, associations, and partner schools to help inform our decision to close our campus to families and outside community members. For more information about the process used to inform this type of decision, please consult our Crisis Management Matrix for Contagious Diseases. With no active confirmed cases currently reported in Travis county or in the Austin area, our school is at a Risk Level 1. That said, with yesterday's declaration of a global pandemic by the WHO's Director-General and early propagation of COVID-19 in other areas of Texas, there is a strong likelihood of moving to a Risk Level 2 in the coming weeks or even days. Though our community will be on Spring Break over the next two weeks, our Leadership Team will continue to monitor this situation closely and will communicate any changes to AIS's Risk Levels as necessary.

DISTANCE LEARNING. In the event of elevation to a Risk Level 3, we will begin to roll out to families more information about our AIS Distance Learning, which will allow students to continue to engage in our academic program in the event of a school closure. A shift to distance learning requires patience, adaptability, and flexibility. Our faculty and staff is committed to supporting our students and families during such an adjustment, and we will be on hand to support families through this shift as needed.

HEALTH AND HYGIENE. We are pleased to see improved handwashing practices from many of our students in school; please continue to reinforce this with your children at home. As we stated above, any travel to Level 2 or 3 Health Notice areas will require 14 days of exclusion from campus. With this in mind, we also remind you that it is imperative that students and their household members not come to campus if they are sick. Any AIS community member who has contracted a contagious illness must be symptom-free and fever-free, without medication for 24 hours before returning to school. If your child will be absent due to illness, please send an email to our receptionist who will mark your child with an excused absence for the day. Individuals who arrive ill to campus will be asked to leave and return only when cleared to do so.  

HEALTH SUPPLIES. As many of you will have noticed, stocks of health and cleaning supplies (e.g., disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, and cleaning liquids) are now depleted in many local and online stores; this situation is also compounded by the increased use of these products in daily life. In order to help our AIS Owl community ensure a continuous supply of these materials, we ask that you keep an eye out for available supplies and send your child to school with one bottle of disinfectant wipes and/or hand sanitizer if possible. We appreciate your support with this effort.

IN SUMMARY:

  • AIS recommends that you cancel any trips abroad planned for at least the next 30 days.
  • Should you travel to any countries with CDC Level 2 or 3 Health Notices during Spring Break, we require you to stay home for 14 days upon return to the U.S. 
  • Please contact reception to notify us if your child will be absent after the break due to trips taken to an affected area. These absences will be excused.
  • Per our school handbooks, please keep students at home if they are ill until they are symptom-free and fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours.
  • Please continue to encourage, discuss, and practice proper hand-washing and hygiene practices. 
  • We would appreciate you sending your child to school with a canister of disinfectant wipes and/or a bottle of hand sanitizer if possible to help us maintain our supply.
  • We will be in touch regarding any school closures and any consequential distance learning due to closure.

Our AIS family so very much appreciates your words and gestures of support at this time. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Jacques

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

Posted in Communiqués

AIS Communiqué Regarding COVID-19

March 04, 2020
By Jacques A. Weber

Dear AIS Community,

In the January 31st issue of our Friday Flash, we shared with you preliminary information about our monitoring of the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-2019). In that message, we included a link to our Crisis Management Matrix for Contagious Diseases. I am writing to you today to provide an update on our continued monitoring of the situation and preparations for a potential outbreak in Austin. The links in this email will take you to numerous resources related to COVID-19.

WHAT WE KNOW. As explained by the CDC, “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.” The vast majority of reported cases are overseas and a limited number are present in the United States. The CDC has explained that current evidence indicates that, “there is no evidence that children are more susceptible [to COVID-19, and that] most confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from China have occurred in adults.” For more information, please consult the most recent COVID-19 factsheet published by the CDC.

SCHOOL CLOSURES. Our school is in contact with a number of organizations that provide guidance support to schools during pandemics, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), and Austin Public Health (APH). In addition to these agencies, we rely on the support of French government entities including the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These agencies are providing regular updates to schools, including AIS. As outlined in our Crisis Management Matrix for Contagious Diseases, school will close in the event that we reach a risk level 4. AIS also typically aligns itself with the Austin Independent School District with regard to school closures.

ONLINE LEARNING. Over the past two months, we have seen a number of mandated school closures in the international school network. In the event of mandated school closures in Austin, AIS will continue to deliver its academic program through online learning platforms. We are currently testing the online learning platforms available to us and documenting the process by which teachers, students, and families would engage in online learning. In addition to the organizations listed above, our school receives support through its accreditation by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), and membership in the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the Texas Private Schools Association (TPSA). Our online learning protocols are also supported by our association with International School Services (ISS) and the Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE), among others.

SPRING BREAK TRAVEL. Currently, the CDC recommends travelers avoid all non-essential travel to Level 3 countries, which currently include China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. The CDC also recommends precautionary travel in Japan and Hong Kong. If you will be traveling to any of these destinations during the upcoming Spring Break, we ask that you and any family members that share the same household not return to campus until 14 days have passed since your return to the US. Any absences in this category will be marked as excused in attendance records.

SCHOOL TRIPS. Currently, AIS has not planned to cancel any of its local field trips, but is prepared to do so at the direction of local health authorities (i.e., CDC, DSHS, and APH). Our CM2 (5th grade) trip to France is scheduled for the dates of April 21st through May 2nd. Our trip is registered with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education who send us regular, daily, updates about travel to and within France. Both ministries have asked schools to postpone trips planned for the month of March 2020 and will provide updates regarding April trips as the situation evolves. CM2 families will receive direct updates about travel as they become available.

STAYING HOME WHEN ILLIt is imperative that students and their household members not come to campus if they are sick. Any AIS community member who has contracted a contagious illness must be symptom-free, without medication for 24 hours before returning to school. If your child will be absent due to illness, please send an email to our receptionist who will mark your child with an excused absence for the day. Individuals who arrive ill to campus will be asked to leave and return only when cleared to do so.

GOOD HYGIENE. Please remember that the best way to combat the spread of illness is through simple, preventive measures. The CDC suggests a few simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

We will continue to remind our students of good hygiene practices in school. Please reinforce this at home by discussing and practicing good handwashing techniques with your children.

HAND SANITIZERS. While soap and water should be your first line of defense, hand sanitizers may help to kill some germs on your hands. AIS is coordinating a generous donation of hand sanitizer stations from the Strüb Family, which will be deployed at key points on campus once they are received from the supplier. Once available, we encourage you to use these as needed to disinfect your hands. For more guidance and information about good hand hygiene, please consult the CDC’s Handwashing and Hand Sanitizer Use at Home, at Play and Out and About Factsheet.

DISCUSSING COVID-19 WITH YOUR CHILDREN. There is understandably increased anxiety related to the emergence of this new strain of novel coronavirus. It is important to remain calm and fact-based in your discussions with your children in order to not induce further stress or anxiety. In order to minimize anxiety, help students remain focused on learning, and avoid misinformation (including stigmas), our faculty and staff will only provide fact-based, non-speculative responses to coronavirus-related inquiries. NPR recently published a resource called Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus, which you may wish to use if and when discussing COVID-19 with your children.

ONGOING TRAINING. The evolution of COVID-19 means that the situation is fluid and changes daily. In 2012, I was a school leader in a region (Saudi Arabia) and school community directly affected by the 2012 novel coronavirus MERS, and in 2009, I worked as a leader in a school in India that was closed by the H1N1 swine flu pandemic. These experiences provided good insight and on-the-ground training for leading a community through an epidemic, including managing the many moving parts during such an event. That said, I am impressed with how much more exchange of information and resources there are in 2020 as compared to years past. Members of our staff and I are not only in regular communication with the organizations and authorities listed above, but we have already taken part in several training opportunities to help deepen our understanding of this evolving event.

Thank you, as always, for your care and commitment to our AIS Owl community. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly.

Sincerely,

Jacques

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

Posted in Communiqués

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