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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