Updated March 12
The International School of the Peninsula, in Palo Alto, is the first French school in the Bay to announce its closure for preventive reasons. No cases of coronavirus have been reported in the community, but to prevent the spread of the disease, the doors will remain closed from March 12 to 27. Reopening scheduled for March 30. Until then, distance education plans will provide learning.
It must be said that panic is gaining ground in San Francisco Bay, where there are more than half of the COVID-19 cases recorded in California. Some American establishments had already closed their doors following the contamination of members from families or staff, such as Lowell High School in San Francisco or Aspire Monarch Academy in Oakland. The prestigious universities of Stanford at Palo Alto or UC Berkeley have canceled face-to-face courses, as well as all trips planned by their teachers. No Covid-19 identified at the moment, just preventive measures.
Faced with this observation, the French schools in the region are of course on the alert. " We follow very very closely the recommendations from the various health authorities, French or the District. We really hope not to close, but we follow a very strict protocol. And in case of coronavirus in the community, the closure will be immediate "Explains Sébastien Robert, director of the primary school of the Berkeley Bilingual School.
A position that is unanimous. " There are four levels of emergency and we are in stage 2 (cases reported in the region, but not in the school community). At the next level, we are forced to close. The problem is, we don't know when we will reopen. It is therefore necessary to set up transitional education plans Said Philippe Dietz principal of the International School of the Peninsula in Palo Alto, two days before his campus closed.
Maintain social ties
Schools have thus set up "crisis cells" to define distance education strategies. " There is a lot of preparation beforehand to ensure continuity at the educational, technical and social level. We do this on campus and on a daily basis. We decided to use our website and we will add functions, with Zoom for example to allow students to talk to each other and communicate with their teachers Explains Agnès Hogan, director of communication and marketing at the Lycée Français de San Francisco.
Human contact remains at the heart of concerns and schools are thus refining the choice of tools they think they will use. " The challenge, vs'is to manage to continue learning while keeping the link within the groups, that the students do not pick up without spending too much time in front of a screen… It's all a question of balance and alternation between platforms, between asynchronous and synchro " says Sébastien Robert of the Bilingual School.
Google Suite, Hangout, Zearn, Reading A to Z, CNED, Khan Academy… It's a question of mixing formulas, online and offline tasks in order to adapt to different levels and needs. “For the little ones in kindergarten, we will send more videos and books read. For college students, we will try to stick to the models of the school day with more sync and Google tools "Said Philippe Dietz of ISTP. And to add: "We created a fluid plan to adjust to the results. "
Communication and prevention
Access to equipment, to the Internet, mastery of the language, individualized feedback, maintenance of a routine, parental investment, teacher training … the challenges to be met are great. So many points to anticipate. " We try to think of everything, not to panic and to manage serenely. It evolves every day so we communicate very regularly and transparently on the subject with our community. So far no one has given in to anxiety Explains Agnès Hogan of the Lycée Français de San Francisco.
Parents' questionnaires, provision of reliable resources on the coronavirus, FAQs, the communication of establishments is an essential link in the management of this unique crisis. " We remain realistic and rational "Confides Philippe Dietz, whose establishment announced its closure last night
All are equally attentive to the development of the situation. Pending possible developments, they follow the recommendations to the letter and take maximum preventive precautions. Reinforced hygiene practices, thorough cleaning, cancellation of outings or school trips. " Like a photo shoot or an earthquake, this is a new preparation. We have considered hundreds of scenarios and if we were to close we are ready ! "Concludes Sébastien Robert. What reassure parents worried by the surrounding environment and potential closings.