School of the Nations has begun a new phase of educational services with the launching of our Blended/Hybrid Program at the Early Childhood campus on September 28. We will continue to bring in students in staggered stages, following official guidelines and rigorous measures of hygiene and health protocols. On Monday, October 5, our first groups (pods) of Elementary students will begin their return to campus, and on October 20, we will welcome our first Middle School cohort groups.
Let us pause briefly to recap all we have been through together in such a short time. During the first months of 2020, we were hearing about a new virus afflicting Asia. As it appeared to be heading toward the Americas, we began to study options of online learning programs. We had just finished our first of three versions of a Distance Learning Manual with guidelines for our program when, on March 12, schools were required to close. We were ready to offer an online program the following day.
As the Pandemic unfolded, we had to learn and relearn about its characteristics. At first, masks were considered irrelevant. Later, we learned that they are essential. At first, it seemed like the simple flu. Later, it displayed a persistent pattern of spreading worldwide that could be controlled only through strategies aligned with epidemiological science. It forced us to isolate ourselves from one another for months and has brought us to new heights of collaboration and connection online. Together we have explored uncharted regions and built new educational scenarios. We have been on a journey that tests the core of our beings, and we have faced it with true grit, courage, and strong bonds of solidarity.
Now, as we begin to offer our optional Blended-Learning Program, we will be expanding our capacity to provide two programs for students at all grade levels simultaneously—Distance Learning online and Blended-Learning (a mix of face-to-face learning on campus and distance learning from home). Blended-Learning is the second milestone of change in eight months. Together, students, teachers, and parents will experience a new and unprecedented Blended-Learning Program for the first time. We have been preparing for this for months.
The School has invested in its facilities and equipment to ensure students’ and staff’s safety and health when campuses reopen. The School has increased the number of tables and chairs in the cafeteria to ensure social distancing and acquired cameras for classrooms to broadcast classes during the distance and blended-learning phases of reopening. Other investments include Covid-19 tests, digital thermometers, personal protective equipment for students and staff, and physical barriers, such as those installed on tables in the cafeteria to minimize infection risk. We have also invested in hand sanitation stations, shoe sanitation mats, door handles, adaptations to bathroom sinks, alcohol and paper towel dispensers, face masks, and face shields, among others.
Parents have been significant supporters and collaborators in our shift from face-to-face to distance learning, giving valuable and insightful feedback that has helped us improve online learning processes. As we enter this new phase, we ask for your continued and much-appreciated partnership and collaboration as we implement our hybrid system. The Blended-Learning Program required us to make significant changes and modifications on campus and, on the part of teachers, design methods and approaches to work simultaneously with approximately half of students on campus and the other half at a distance. We are confident we are prepared to rise to meet these new challenges. However, we must be realistic in our expectations as we advance into this new format of schooling.
We also must consider the marathon nature of this Pandemic. In doing so, we must appropriately pace ourselves as a school community to maintain our mental, emotional, and physical health first while never losing sight of our dedication to students and the acquisition of knowledge. We will strive for excellence in all we do, but it takes time to monitor and adjust any system for optimal results. We are committed, as always, to ongoing observations and feedback.
We can do this. A cheer for the Nations’ Community!