Back to School …. Already?

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of International Schools plans to reopen as early as this week, some by choice, others by government order. ISR Asks: What will this early return to the classroom look like for students & teachers?
  • Will teachers & students all wear masks?
  • Will social distancing be achieved through reduced class size & staggered lunches?
  • Will a percentage of students stay on virtual learning to reduce class size?
  • Will everyone entering school grounds be temperature-tested daily?
  • Would you comply with a return order if your school called you back today?
ISR Member and Site Visitors Comment:
I’m not comfortable with it (an early return). I think I will be wearing a mask. I really miss the kids and they miss me, but I am more interested in first seeing the numbers in a week or two when those who traveled have symptoms appear. If a parent asked my opinion, I would tell them to keep their kids home if it’s possible or if they were worried. I would also encourage them to use a mask if possible. But that is not the school’s position.
There are a ton of guidelines to follow, many of which are near-impossible to enforce, but we’ll give it a shot. The government has mandated an opening so we have no choice. The only kids who won’t return are those with family members who are sick. If kids show symptoms at school, even mild ones, we are to send them home for 48 hours. Teachers are to also follow this rule.
My school in China is reopening for grades 9 and 12. I am not in-country but they sent out a video to all high school students on the requirements and it looks like a prison! I would not want my kid going back and do not understand the value of going back compared to online. Also, since 1/2 our staff is out of country many classes are still distance-learning and the teachers that did go back are getting an increased workload without compensation. For example, I was directed to find a teacher on campus to remove all items besides desks and computers from my classroom and make sure all desks are 1.5 meters apart.
Schools in Shanghai are opening in grade-stages. April 27, 2 high school grades return. Other grades will return staggered by grades, upper grades first. We have been told to be prepared to return after May 6 but nothing is confirmed yet. This is direct information from the Shanghai Education Bureau. Kindergartens open last.
When I see how the school has prepared, I’ll determine then how comfortable I am going back. Lots of people here are roaming around without masks and it makes me very uncomfortable!

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(Note:  Previous comments are from ISR Open Forum)

7 thoughts on “Back to School …. Already?

  1. In Beijing at a boarding school.

    Our grade 12 students return for one day next week to pack up their rooms. We are an IB school, so the grade 12s are finished with school. We hope to have a graduation ceremony when crowds are allowed, but who knows when that will be.

    Our grade 9s return on May 11. No word yet when the remaining grades will return. I don’t know how many grade 9 teachers are out of China and not allowed to return yet, but it is sure to be a good percentage of them. None of this has been communicated to us directly, but we’ve heard through the grapevine that when we are not teaching our non-grade-9 groups, we will likely be asked to sit in on lessons for teachers out of the country who will be delivering them remotely. We will not plan or mark. We will just be a supervising body in the classroom. I do not have a problem with this. This is no one’s fault and we all have our hardships. I will be teaching in realtime.

    There is also no word yet from the school about the procedures, but I’ve picked up through statements here and there as well as the 30 policies and practices the local ministry of education published some weeks ago that schools would have to implement when classes resumed, what to expect. Our school wants things to be as “normal” as possible. I think that is a big mistake, but it’s out of my hands. I think the school should have responded in innovative ways to this extraordinary situation, but the admin thinks it’s better for the students to get back to “normal” after this disruption. Meanwhile, trying to stick to the “normal” schedule, routines, and expectations in what will not be the least bit normal circumstances will just underscore how much things are not “normal.”

    Even if the school didn’t want to return to “normal” we would probably not have shortened our day since we are a boarding school, and our grade 9s will be remaining on campus 5 days a week. It would not be any more beneficial to them to have a shorter day since they will not be allowed to play contact sports or sit near each other.

    There is some talk of us doing after school activities, but still, no communication with the teachers about this. I guess they will spring it on us next week or the following week. And, of course, we don’t know yet if our school year will be extended.

    I feel our admin has been supportive and appreciative of everything we are doing and they are trying to meet the needs of the students, staff, faculty, and parents. It’s a hard job. And I think they think they are being communicative because they send us updates about students returning, etc., but I don’t know what keeps them from telling us the details about the return to school that they have already determined. For example, I read in an email to students, not teachers, that students will be going to their regular classrooms. Some of us had suggested that students stay put and teachers go to them. We’ve not been officially told that isn’t what is going to happen, but the students have been. I don’t think they are trying to keep that information from us. I guess they just assume we know or that we don’t care.

    I would like to know in detail which classes I’ll be covering and when and where. Will I be able to return to my apartment immediately after school dismisses or will I have to hang around in my classroom for two hours like we had to do before the shutdown. I would like to know how many after school duties I am likely to have, how often a week, and for how long my duties will last. When can I expect to do planning, prepping, and marking? Will my common planning times with other teachers be canceled because I need to cover a teacher’s class? Will we be having class meetings? And if so, who will run them? Will I have to take on that duty as well for students I don’t normally teach?


  2. Our rapidly defunct little school in China has re-opened with half the teachers sitting overseas and contributing little or nothing except collecting a fat paycheck. Few students have returned. Those of us risking our health here are expected to work Saturdays and an extra two weeks at the end of the year without adequate compensation. The director is a clueless Bozo. Not coming back.


  3. Our school in China reopened about three weeks ago. All of secondary is back, plus some elementary. The original ISR article asked the following questions:
    1) Will teachers & students all wear masks? Yes, everyone on campus must wear a mask at all times.
    2) Will social distancing be achieved through reduced class size & staggered lunches? We have staggered lunches but have not changed class sizes. The rooms have been reconfigured so that students aren’t sitting as close as normal.
    3) Will a percentage of students stay on virtual learning to reduce class size? Not for us. We have about 20% of students still not here for various reasons (and a lot of teachers too), so online learning continues for those who can’t make it back in the building.
    4) Will everyone entering school grounds be temperature-tested daily? Yes. Everyone is tested when entering the campus, then again at two other times during the day.


  4. We’re going back next week (school’s in Beiing) and the government/school are doing a good job. Only grade 12’s will be allowed back. Grade 8’s return May 11. All of us have been doing daily temperature taking for two weeks and have to login to the local health app. Teachers are going today to get some kind of bloodtest. Temperatures taken twice a day, have to wear a mask and bring a back up. Maintain social distancing inside the school. No food service. Security and cleaning staff have marked out distances for seating. Shortened school day. Students and teachers assigned to a room. Once you leave campus, you can’t return that day. School building preparation inspected and improved by government.


  5. This is a giant mess! There is no way we can be “careful” enough. My hope is that a significant number of our students have already been exposed, were asymptomatic, and now have antibodies against COVID-19. My school is in Mainland China. School is making everyone who enters sign a waiver (in Chinese). We have not been told what that waiver is for. Teachers required to wear surgical masks and change them at lunch for a new mask. Teachers told to avoid public transport. School used to provide transport one way for teachers to school but now due to not enough time to sterilise busses, this will be discontinued. School will give masks to students but it is unclear if school will provide masks for teachers. Many teachers still unable to return to China due to ban on incoming foreigners. So the teachers who are left in China may be reassigned where ever needed around the school. This may include Preschool teachers being asked to teach high school since most likely preschool will not restart before July holiday. We will all have many extra duties, related to increased supervision of students, so we can police the 1 meter rule, hand washing rule, no contact rule, etc. There are plenty of rules about 1 meter space at all times, no shared equipment, staying with your own class, etc. So they are trying but this is a giant mess as spaces are very small. My personal opinion is since this is a pandemic, we will ALL be exposed. The BIG question is– were we already exposed and developed antibodies. Things can’t stay on lockdown forever. This situation is a reminder that ebola is still out there, etc. As easily as we can travel, deadly pathogens can travel too. For me, I have changed my hair so it is pulled back off of my face and I am NOT touching my face period. I will not eat, drink, or use the toilet at school, My classroom windows will be open. (sad due to toxic air) but ventilation is critical to reduce viral load in air. What else can we do? Our school is trying its best to provide safety in a brave new world that is most certainly NOT safe.


  6. I wouldn’t return to my school in Mongolia for any money, ever, because they’ve made a complete hash of the online program by offering 0 tech support. That’s because they were so stingy they never hired any IT person. Additionally the country is in complete lockdown (no flights out) and the teachers who stayed there (I took advantage, just in time, of admin telling us we could work from our home countries) are now being blackmailed into signing contracts for August or losing their apartments over the summer. But would I be right in thinking these schools obliging a return to work are mostly in China? They will have hell trying to recruit for Fall if so.


  7. We have been conducting online classes on the Google Classroom and Zoom platforms since the beginning of April at my international school in Uzbekistan. The nice thing is sleeping in every morning, but my workload has increased immeasurably. I’m at my PC round the clock from mid-morning to late evening with all the responsibilities to deal with. And what’s tiring and irritating is having to stare at a PC monitor for about six hours a day including the time spent having to mark and return large numbers of assignments on a daily basis. I teach Grade 2 primary kids and most of the time I don’t use the textbooks because these must be stretched to completing at the end of the year. Initially, all schools in UZ were to open by May 10 at the earliest, but today the authorities publicly declared that all schools shall remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.


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