In a few days, the threat of the coronavirus changed its face in New York, with the closure announced Sunday evening of Columbia University for two days, and of several public schools in Westchester for a week. In French schools, as in others, the time is ripe for precautions and preparations.
The main concrete measure has most often been the cancellation of all trips abroad, as is the case at the Lycée Français in New York. “This is a precaution for the health of our students of course, but also to ensure that they are not stranded abroad in the event that restrictions on entry to the territory are decided ”, explains Elisabeth King, director of communications for the establishment. The School has chosen not to follow up on planned events, such as teachers' seminars and local outings with children. Nevertheless,“As long as the threat does not hang over our establishment, we wish to keep a certain balance so as not to upset the school system put in place. We remain very careful and attentive to the situation. ” Explains Philippe Roux, director of The Ecole.
The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) nursery school invites parents and teachers to regulate their travel abroad. "At this time, we are not planning to close the establishment, and hope not to get there. We closely follow the recommendations of the Department of Health ” explains Sandrine Nguyen-Ba, director of the nursery school. For the rest, it's time for cleaning “Reinforced”: more in-depth and more frequent, as is the case with all of the schools contacted, including Saint John and Paul School in Westchester ("We re-explain the basics of hygiene, frequent hand washing, etc."), the VHG Group (Arc-en-Ciel and Petits-Poussins schools in particular), The Ecole, the Lyceum Kennedy, or Science Language & Arts International School (SLA). In New Jersey, Tessa International School innovates by producing an animated series: "The goal is to educate students in a fun way by teaching them basic hygienic rules."
More than anything, the schools take care to communicate with the families, by informing them by email of the information available, of the recommendations of the New York authorities. “Above all, the priority is to communicate clearly with students and families, underlines Elisabeth King. It is essential that everyone knows what we are planning ”.
At this time, New York City has no plans to close the schools. “If there are closings, said Mayor Bill de Blasio, it would be for specific reasons and for the shortest possible time ”, adding that the children so far seem little affected by the virus and that "Schools are not the priority places to target to control the epidemic." In contrast, in Westchester, a northern suburb of the city, with the highest concentration of known cases, the city of Scarsdale decided to close its public schools for the week after a college professor was diagnosed as COVID-19 carrier
The prospect of a closure is on everyone's mind. The French Lycée is preparing for example with a plan that would allow students to "Continue to learn even if they can no longer come to school". To do this, the school relies on the distance learning experience of certain teachers. “We want things to be as little disrupted as possible if we have to close, especially by respecting the timetable of the pupils. " In addition to the online tools already used by students on a daily basis (for homework at home), teachers will also be trained this week in the use of Zoom software so that they can teach by video. At Tessa, New Jersey, we plan to “set up distance courses if necessary. The important thing is to protect the health of our students and educational staff as much as possible. " The School also knew how to adapt to the situation: "If necessary, we are already ready to move immediately to distance education, with a detailed and already established plan on which our administration and teachers have worked diligently." explains Philippe Roux.
More difficult to consider for nursery schools, the choice of online courses is however also considered by the FIAF which, as a cultural institution, also has to manage other effects of the coronavirus. “We are very dependent on France and its travel cancellations”, explains Marie-Monique Steckel. Laure Adler who was to speak during the tribute to Chantal Ackerman, for example, was not allowed to travel, by Radio France. "Right now, people are coming to events and there is no psychosis" she concludes.
(Article by Manon Seguin with Paulino Lopez)