Latest updates from the Dutch government:
- Lockdown measures tightened in response to concerns about new variants of virus - Wednesday, January 20, 2021
- Netherlands to remain in lockdown until at least 9 February inclusive - Tuesday, January 12, 2021
- Lockdown in order to minimise contact between people - Monday, December 14, 2020
- Partial lockdown needed to bring down infections - Tuesday, October 13, 2020
- Additional measures to combat the spread of coronavirus - Monday, September 28, 2020
- Government takes stock of measures to combat spread of coronavirus - Tuesday, September 8, 2020
- Regaining control over coronavirus with local measures - Thursday, August 6, 2020
- From 1 July: staying 1.5 metres apart remains the norm - Wednesday, June 24, 2020
- Tackling coronavirus: the next steps - Tuesday, May 19, 2020
- Avoid busy places and stay 1.5 metres away from others - Wednesday, May 6, 2020
- Measures to stop the spread of coronavirus extended - Tuesday, April 20, 2020
- Measures to combat coronavirus extended - Tuesday, March 31, 2020
- Stricter measures to control coronavirus - Monday, March 23, 2020
UPDATE: THURSDAY, MARCH 26, 2020
UPDATE: FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2020
UPDATE: SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020
Dear ASH Community:
We all had hoped that primary schools would be allowed to open again on January 25, but the Ministry of Education recently announced this is not possible. The conversations that took place at government level about this possibility cited concern about the new variants of the virus that are in circulation. These variants appear to be more contagious and spread more quickly, which poses a risk to the health care system. It does not appear that children are at any more risk with this variant, and it was clear from the conversation that keeping schools closed is more about keeping parents home and healthy than about a greater threat to young students. This gives us hope that on-campus learning will be able to resume relatively soon.
The next target date for the reopening of primary and secondary campuses both is February 8. This now appears to be somewhat contingent on the virus numbers heading in the right direction, which seems to be a new development. We expect to learn more about the February 8 reopening possibility on February 2. In the meantime, as we have done previously, we will plan for the near date and fall back if necessary. I know these challenges and contingencies are equally frustrating for students, parents, and staff in equal measure. Thank you for your support.
Should we be able to return to on-campus learning on February 8, one thing we need to remind you of is the February 10 half-day professional development (PD) day that has been on the calendar since 2019. Though we use PD days to create better learning experiences for our students, it would of course not make sense to welcome students back to campus and then two days later send them back home for half a day. We want to be in-person with your children. Therefore, if we do return to campus on February 8, we will reschedule the PD half-day to a day later in the year that will also honor parents and families and the sacrifices of time and energy this crisis has demanded of all of us.
As the pandemic continues to affect our lives, I feel I would be remiss if I did not again comment on the fact we are among the lucky ones. For all our struggles and inconveniences, so many around the world have lost colleagues, friends, loved ones, and even their own lives to this terrible pandemic. Let us be grateful for what we have and continue to support each other even as we all work to maintain a sense of normalcy for ourselves and our children.
Dear ASH Community:
Tuesday night’s press conference about the extension of the current lockdown will no doubt be followed up with more specifics about what it means exactly for schools. Dutch schools expect to get this guidance today, after which we will also receive more detailed information. In the meantime, however, we do know some specifics about what is possible, and we would like to update you on our current planning.
Please remember we have re-tooled our schedules and most staffing in such a way that we can, when necessary, align with the Dutch school system for which the regulations are made. This means references to “primary schools'' in Dutch can be made to apply to grades preschool through 6 at ASH. References to “secondary schools” can be made to apply to grades 7 through 12. This splits the middle school in half and puts extra burden on those staff members, but we have accounted for that as much as possible in our plans.
As previously reported, it seems possible primary schools will be allowed to return to campus before secondary schools. This could happen as early as January 25, and we have plans in place to move forward immediately should it be confirmed. The government has announced that reopening primary schools would take place if on-going research indicates it is safe to do so with younger students, with particular research interest in the newer variants of the virus. We should know more next week.
At the moment, there is a provision for Dutch “examination candidates” to attend school in-person. For ASH, we can interpret this to mean students in second year IB courses and students in AP courses. This means we should be able to bring these students on campus as previously announced, starting January 18. The only new condition mentioned last Tuesday is that these students should keep a distance of 1.5 meters “as a precaution and where possible.”
Bringing only certain students back on campus is more complicated at ASH than at a typical Dutch school, and this 1.5 meter recommendation can also complicate matters, but high school is confident we can make a return as safe as possible. The relevant families will be receiving details shortly. Please also remember that our long-standing protocols, including the universal wearing of masks and exemplary ventilation, have already contributed to an excellent health record for our students and staff. We expect they will continue to do so, and we will constantly monitor and enhance school safety as much as possible.
We await word on secondary schooling at large resuming on campus. It is currently expected the soonest this would be allowed is February 8.
Following New Developments
We are aware there is much speculation about the new variants of the virus that are in circulation. It is also understandable that this will make some people nervous about venturing out of their homes again. We will continue to monitor the health of our community vigilantly.
Please remember that our protocols have so far resulted in a school community that is significantly less affected than the population at large. Wearing masks, enhancing our ventilation, thorough hygiene measures in all buildings, and strict observation of self-isolation practices have proven very effective in keeping our people healthy. We will continue to pursue these stringent measures as long as the virus poses a threat. Thank you for your cooperation and support.
For more information on our virtual learning model, or to view our situation updates and FAQs, visit our website here.
First and foremost, a happy new year wish to one and all. Let’s hope 2021 brings us fewer surprises, or at least more welcome surprises, than 2020.
Virtual Learning for all grades on January 11
As we near the end of the Winter Break, I wanted to be in touch again and share that we now have government confirmation that all Dutch schools will remain closed to on-campus learning until at least January 18, 2021. This means that they chose not to implement an earlier return for primary schools, as we had hoped they would. Due to the sustained high infection rate and associated pressures on the Dutch healthcare system, on-campus learning in primary and secondary schools is prohibited until at least January 18, 2021. We will still look for ways to bring our students to campus as quickly and safely as possible.
Therefore, as we announced before the break, ASH will reconvene after our Winter Break on January 11, 2021 with virtual learning at all grade levels. Your divisional principal(s) will be in touch this week with further information regarding your child’s virtual learning program. Parents of student-athletes can expect to hear from our athletics director about the winter sports program plans. For more information on our virtual learning model, or to view our situation updates and FAQs, visit our website here.
New COVID-19 virus strain
As you may be aware, a coronavirus variant has emerged, including in the Netherlands. This virus mutant reportedly behaves like earlier versions using the same route of transmission, yet it may be more easily communicable according to initial epidemiological observations (and pending stringent laboratory testing to confirm these reports). This means strict adherence to our rigorous community health measures is more important than ever, especially since many of our families did venture abroad during the holidays.
During the Winter Break, six students and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Though these are mostly cases that developed when school was out, they may indicate a possible acceleration of infection compared to the very low monthly infection rate averages we’ve seen at ASH so far. This tally includes GGD confirmed cases only, excluding travelers who may have contracted the virus abroad and did not self-report.
This week, we expect to hear further details around the government advice to add testing for children under 12 who are exhibiting COVID symptoms. This was, up until now, deemed unnecessary except in cases of direct contact in homes. However, there has in the recent past been an uptick in infections among young people in particular. In short, we remain in the midst of a changeable health crisis, and we must remain committed to the strong measures that have kept our students and staff so remarkably safe.
ASH expects all students of all ages who have traveled to “orange” or “red” coded countries over the Winter Break to have completed the required 10 days of quarantine before returning to campus. This means that, should we resume on-campus learning on January 18 as planned, your child must be back and in self-isolation in the Netherlands by January 7. This is to absolutely minimize any threat to the health of the entire community. This should be easier to comply with since we will begin with online learning for the first week.
The list of countries indicated by the Dutch government as “orange” or “red” coded countries can be found in the database of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The latest exemptions and additions to virus-related travel advice can be found here.
We expect to receive further government guidance regarding school reopenings on January 12. We will be in touch around that time to share further details about the learning roadmap at ASH. We are all sharing the load in this concerning and stressful time, and we look forward to returning to normalcy as soon as we can.
In these times, the one constant seems to be that there will always be uncertainty. As we enter the Winter Break, there is still plenty of uncertainty and a lot of national and international discussion about COVID and, in particular, its impact on schooling. While ASH is not a Dutch school, we look for guidance in the various directives to local schools for what is allowed and what is not. We would like to share with you what we know for certain and what is still being discussed in the Netherlands in this regard.
What We Know for Certain
Barring any significant government changes, ASH will reconvene after our Winter Break on January 11, 2021 with virtual learning at all grade levels.
At present, on-campus learning is prohibited in primary and secondary schools until at least January 18, 2021. Since we offer both primary and secondary education, this applies throughout ASH. We have spent the last few days in preparation for a successful, robust launch of virtual learning when our Winter Break ends. Virtual learning takes a lot more effort and planning for teachers, students, and parents and we would all far prefer to be back on campus as soon as possible. Since we have also seen that ASH maintains a remarkably healthy in-person environment, we are closely monitoring the discussion about the potential for an earlier return to on-campus learning as discussed below.
What is Being Discussed in the Netherlands
At the moment, the Dutch government is considering whether or not daycare centers and primary schools can reopen for in-person on-campus learning on January 11 instead of on January 18, 2021. Should this be decided, we expect to hear more details around January 3 or 4 and we will be in touch to provide further guidance. This decision will partly hinge on the spread of the virus in the Netherlands.
What/When We Will Decide at ASH
If Dutch primary schools get the green light to reopen on January 11, ASH will also reopen for on-campus learning on that day to all students in Preschool through grade 6. This is because our grade 6 corresponds to the end of Dutch primary school age. For those grade levels, we will follow our on-campus learning protocols. Please watch for email notification and an announcement on our Website for the final outcome of these discussions and anything else that may suddenly arise during the break. At the very least, we expect to be able to share about primary school around January 3 or 4.
There is already a specific provision for the equivalent of grade 12 students in Dutch schools to come back on campus when their holidays end to continue their study to prepare for national exams. While we don’t have students taking these exams, we are in the process of determining what, if anything, this would allow us to do at ASH in the interest of maximizing opportunities for on-campus learning. We will also be in touch as this understanding develops.
Should primary, or primary and some portion of secondary schools reopen on January 11, ASH expects all students of all ages who are traveling to “orange” or “red” coded countries over the Winter Break to have completed the required 10 days of quarantine before returning to campus. This is to absolutely minimize any threat to the health of the community. The list of countries indicated by the Dutch government as “orange” or “red” coded countries can be found in the database of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The latest exemptions and additions to virus-related travel advice can be found here.
Prepare to hear back from us in early January as we receive further clarity around the topics discussed above. Until then, I wish you a restful and healthy Winter Break and an enjoyable holiday celebration for those who celebrate holidays during this time.
It has just been confirmed that the government of the Netherlands is requiring schools to close their doors to on-campus learning beginning Wednesday, December 16, 2020 until at least Monday, January 18, 2021. ASH needs to comply with this hard lockdown regulation.
As such, tomorrow, Tuesday, December 15 will be our last day on campus before Winter Break. Division principals will shortly be sending specific guidance on tomorrow's schedule and activities. We will use the time to ensure all staff and students are ready and able to engage in virtual learning as from Monday, January 11, 2021, when our break ends.
We will not be running virtual classes from this Wednesday, December 16, until this Friday, December 18, as it is likely quite disruptive to have three days of virtual learning followed immediately by three weeks of holiday. Staff will be using these days to get ready for virtual learning after the break. It can also be used to troubleshoot any technology issues between home and school, so please know we are ready to support this sudden change.
As we have experienced, things can change at any moment. We stand ready to support our learners throughout this tumultuous time. As and when things change, we will share our plans. Recall that we do so only after we have received official word. We do not make decisions based on leaks or rumors.
Have a restful (locked-down) holiday. We will be in touch and see each other in January.
We would like to provide a brief schoolwide update and a few reminders as we return from October break.
Masks in grades 5 and 6
In middle school, we find ourselves in an unusual situation: Half of our school is considered primary and half secondary by the ages represented in Dutch schools. At the same time and unlike the Dutch schools, our grade 5 and 6 students:
- Learn in mixed-grade classes,
- Share public spaces like the cafeteria, hallways, sports hall, and various classrooms(including band and choir) with grades 7-12 students, and
- Walk and mix in close proximity with the older students in those shared spaces.
While at a lower risk, we know that our younger students are not exempt from contracting the virus. In an effort to add as many protection layers as possible and help us maintain on-campus learning, beginning Monday, October 26, we are asking that all grade 5 and 6 students bring and wear a mask at school. At ASH, we have been proactive about the pandemic from the beginning and believe this is another measure we can take to level up safety for everyone.
Situation in the Netherlands
Many of the schools around us have had much higher numbers of students and staff infected. I believe it is very important to thank everyone at ASH for watching themselves and their children very closely and staying home if any symptoms are present. Through the cooperative efforts of parents, students, and staff, we have maintained a remarkably healthy atmosphere at ASH; however, it is clear the number of COVID-19 cases, from mild to severe, is increasing across Europe and in the Netherlands. The government is continually monitoring the effectiveness of the measures put in place and debating next steps. It is entirely conceivable that we may have to enact one of the other scenarios in our roadmap: partial on-campus learning or completely virtual learning, depending on the outcome of those debates and government decisions.
As we learned last school year, we do not get advanced notice about any actions that might be taken, but we will continue to monitor and be ready to respond accordingly. We may hear something as early as this Tuesday, should there be another press conference. Many possibilities have been discussed by the government, including different scenarios for primary and secondary schools. When we know officially of any plans to alter attendance at schools, we will move to share any information as quickly as possible.
Finally, please remember to adhere strictly to the quarantine requirements stemming from any travel you may have undertaken during the holiday or any symptoms present in your household. The entire community depends on us all doing the right thing, and we thank each other for doing so.
We would like to provide a brief schoolwide update and a few reminders as we go into the Autumn.
We are fortunate at ASH, as we have had only one case of a student receiving a positive test, as reported earlier this month. We have had zero positive tests among staff to this date. We track student and staff tests, of which there have been many, very carefully. There is a lot of global publicity around transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the school environment. While it is important to remember that the majority of cases of transmission happen in people’s homes, schools and workplaces are by no means immune. This is why we take measures very seriously while maintaining a pleasant learning environment.
We know we have had great success in keeping the campus healthy through some of the measures mentioned below, but also due to the discipline of all our families in the community. Looking out for each other allows us to stay on campus for the best learning possible during this time. Our attendance rates are high, our absence rates low, and our health indicators overall very strong. Thank you for remaining vigilant, following our protocols and being cautious above all else. Especially now as we head into the traditional cold and flu season, we need to monitor our health carefully.
Our health and safety measures remain strong at ASH. Students and staff continue to make regular use of our hand disinfection stations, and staff continue to wear masks indoors when they are not behind the plexiglass shields we have installed in classrooms. Students in grade 7 and above wear masks indoors when they are not eating or drinking, and our choir and music classes follow all the guidelines of the relevant associations and health authorities to ensure everyone can participate without putting their health at risk.
Beyond the activity of the staff and students, the day-to-day operations and structure of our buildings are important elements for staying healthy. Our professional cleaning crews continue their extra rotations of disinfecting high-touch and high-traffic areas throughout the day, and they do thorough cleaning when the buildings are empty of students and staff.
We reported earlier that we would be carrying out a professional audit of our ventilation system to ensure we met the requirements for healthy fresh air circulation necessary to limit possible infections. At present, all rooms meet requirements with windows and doors constantly open. The audit, ascertaining the air exchange when windows and doors are closed, is in the final stages of completion. We have discovered a small handful of classrooms that need infrastructure changes to meet ventilation requirements, and we have begun making those adjustments now. All rooms will have the proper ventilation by the end of the October holiday.
Speaking of holidays, this is a good time to remind us all once again to pay attention to the disruption any travel could bring to our daily routine. There are a great number of travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements involved with travel outside of the Netherlands. This is especially important to keep in mind as the October break and Winter Holidays approach. Please plan carefully to ensure your children are able to return to school on time. We have also reinforced for staff that we all must take the personal responsibility to be ready to work together with your children according to schedule.
In the News
The latest press conference with information from the government Outbreak Management Team did not contain any information about the operation of schools. Since that time, there is news that secondary school students will have urgent advice to wear face masks in the hallways starting this coming Monday, October 5. We will maintain our current practice as described above in light of this announcement, since it already exceeds this advice and is in line with World Health Organization advice. For Dutch schools, secondary school begins for students at age 13, which is why we instituted our policy for grade 7 and up, since this is the grade at which we have 13-year-olds.
As always, we will continue to regularly monitor the health of the school community and adjust our practices and policies as needed. Continuing to look out for each other is the best way forward to study and learn in a healthy environment on campus. Thank you for all your efforts in what continues to be a trying time across the planet.
Our goal at ASH is for our students to enjoy an on-campus learning experience as long as possible, ideally for the entire school year. To support this goal, we must be vigilant and follow the measures currently in place at ASH. Click here to view Dr. Lowe's video message discussing five key measures:
1/ Frequent use of our hand sanitation stations across our campuses
2/ One-way traffic throughout all buildings to help manage congregation density
3/ Optimal year-long room ventilation
4/ Masks for everyone at ASH in grade 7 and above, also on the bus
5/ Anyone with cold symptoms must stay home
For a comprehensive overview of our school protocols, visit our Learning Roadmap page. If you have questions, you may post them on the portal community pin board here. Thank you for your support and please continue to encourage your children to be vigilant and follow the measures.
To maximize the on-campus health and educational experience for all at ASH, we wish to go above and beyond the current Dutch guidelines concerning face masks, room ventilation, and quarantine requirements. Click here to view Dr. Lowe's video message discussing the following six key topics:
1/ Masks for everyone at ASH in grade 7 and above
2/ Masks for all ASH bus riders in grade 7 and above
3/ Optimal ventilation on campus
4/ Prescribed quarantine requirements for all ages
5/ Anyone with cold symptoms must stay home
6/ No parent spectators at sport events
From our Director, Dr. Lowe; I hope you have enjoyed a restful and relaxing summer and that everyone in your family is healthy and happy. We look forward to welcoming your children to the new school year soon. Adhering strictly to Dutch guidelines, we still have the green light to open fully on-campus on August 19 and we are well-equipped and ready to respond if and when conditions change. Global conditions and government responses are dynamic with frequent changes. At ASH, we will continue to follow the guidelines of the Dutch government and prioritize the health and safety of our community.
Academic and logistical preparations for the 2020-2021 school year are in full swing. We are pleased to share that our new faculty members are settling in well, including our new high school Principal David Munro and our new Director of Student Support Donna Chuula. All our new staff have arrived in the country and have completed the appropriate self-isolation protocols assuring their health and readiness to begin work. Our existing staff have likewise been required strictly to follow health guidelines.
It is absolutely critical that all families also follow all health guidelines, including the prescribed periods of self-isolation in preparation for your children to return to campus. Please faithfully monitor health in your family and stay in close touch with us at school through the various division offices to protect the health and safety of everyone in the community. Every single person must do his or her part in order to ensure we all continue to have access to our facilities and an outstanding education.
Like last year, we will maintain high quality health and safety standards. Distancing measures between adults will still be in place, as will walking traffic guidance, sanitation stations and supplies, and physical barriers to make sure children and adults are safe and healthy. Parent and visitor campus access is by invitation only from the school leadership, in accordance with government health regulations. In the coming days, we will share all the regulations, our facilities preparations, and channels for communication about health.
Concurrently, throughout the 2020-2021 school year, we will remain agile to readily adopt one of three stances on our Learning Roadmap: on-campus, blended and virtual. As the circumstances mandate, we are ready to flexibly pivot across these models ensuring the continuity of engaging and flexible learning that is responsive to the current pandemic. Each is a separate model. To be absolutely clear, we are operating with the on-campus model at this time. Each model comes with adapted social-emotional programs and child protection policies to support the mental and physical well-being of our students as they learn at school or at home. Please familiarize yourself with our Learning Roadmap here.
Once again, welcome to a new year at ASH. We remain at your service, and we look forward to an outstanding time of learning ahead. As always, thank you for the support and work together that enables us to remain strong and focused on learning even through times of uncertainty.
Last night, the Dutch government announced further easing of the COVID-19 restrictions for schools as of August. This is provided the situation remains stable and schools follow the prescribed health and safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. After the summer break, similar to the elementary schools, secondary schools in the Netherlands will fully resume on-campus learning, five days per week. Starting this August, secondary school students will no longer be required to practice social distancing between themselves, only with their teachers. After such announcements, we have typically been receiving further guidelines about how exactly this should be implemented; however, at present, we will immediately begin planning accordingly for the new school year.
Concretely, at ASH, this means that we will be able to maximize the use of our learning spaces and resume a complete on-campus learning experience on August 19. Concurrently, throughout the 2020-2021 school year, we will remain agile to readily adopt one of three stances on our ASH Learning Roadmap: on-campus, blended and virtual. As the circumstances mandate, we are ready to flexibly pivot across these models ensuring the continuity of engaging and flexible learning that is responsive to the current pandemic. Each model comes with adapted social-emotional programs and child protection policies to support the mental and physical well-being of our students as they learn at school or at home.
Global conditions and government responses remain dynamic with ongoing changes. At ASH, we will continue to follow the guidelines of the Dutch government and prioritize the health and safety of our community. Please keep an eye out for updates via email and on our website; we will be in touch should we have to change our approach.
Please also continue to be mindful of the Dutch government guidelines regarding travel and ensure the completion of the mandatory 2 weeks of self-isolation upon return from non-EU countries, which remains in effect. If you will be traveling back from the USA or Canada, for example, for your child to be able to attend the first day of school at ASH on August 19, under current regulations, you will have to arrive back in the Netherlands on or before August 5.
Wishing you all a healthful and refreshing continuation of your summer.
As we end a unique school year, I wish you all rest and rejuvenation, even as we know this is likely to be an atypical summer in the regular rhythm of expat life. Many will be unable to visit their home countries in the same way, and travel changes and restrictions are very much the norm now. Nonetheless, please do make sure to take time out for yourself and your family to gather energy as we move into an uncertain future. This summer, ASH will be a busy nucleus for learning, thinking and preparing for that future, even as it appears to be a moving target, even more than it usually is.
Our Summer Experience program will offer a variety of activities and learning opportunities facilitated by members of our staff across our campuses and sports fields. It’s a small way to give more opportunities to learn and interact after a season of being indoors a great deal. Further, our newly launched think tank groups will serve as innovation centers for re-thinking schools and education in light of our previous conversations about being future-ready, and also tied to our response to COVID-19 and the events currently taking place on a global scale. We are also planning campus upgrade projects, including the rehabilitation of our sports fields.
Our ASH Learning Roadmap offers an overview of what school at ASH might look like in the new school year. For the Fall 2020 semester, we will continue to provide engaging and flexible learning that is responsive to the pandemic with adapted social-emotional programs and child protection policies to support the mental and physical well-being of our students as they learn at school or at home. We are preparing to bring a blended learning experience assuming the current regulations apply, but we will be ready to adopt one of three stances: on-campus, blended, virtual.
Global conditions and government responses are dynamic with frequent changes and we will continue to follow the guidelines of the Dutch government and prioritize the health and safety of our community. We will keep everyone updated through email and our Website as developments dictate.
Projects and Strategies
Our community-developed strategy and project work initiated this past Fall has already resulted in our new mission and vision statements. Though our strategies and project publications have been delayed due to our emergency learning work, we will continue to work out the details of projects to be shared and begin next year. Well-being, mentorships, and community involvement will once again be front and center as we continually adapt to the conditions in which we must work. We look forward to the journey together.
As a community, we’ve stood strong and positive during this highly unusual year. Let’s enjoy a restful summer, stay healthy, and recharge our batteries. We look forward to seeing everyone in the new school year and wish you the very best. Let’s help each other remember that times of trial need not overwhelm us; they can also inspire us to new horizons.
Last Tuesday, we welcomed back our middle and high school students who opted to resume learning on campus through our blended learning model. The mayor of Wassenaar visited ASH that same morning and hand-delivered a cake as a token of appreciation for our staff and a gesture of gratitude for our membership in the community. “Over the past few weeks, you have put tremendous effort into preparing for the responsible ‘one and a half meter education’,” offered Mayor De Lange. “We would like to express our great appreciation and admiration for all of you who, from mid-March onwards, have pulled out all the stops to keep in touch with the students and in particular to keep teaching going remotely or via written assignments.”
This Saturday, June 6, the ASH Class of 2020 will graduate like no other class of seniors before in the history of our school. This year’s graduation ceremony will lean on the virtual elements that have served our community well during this time and will ensure that our graduating students are honored and celebrated as per tradition. Our seniors will attend their graduation ceremony in groups of up to 30 students seated across four different locations on campus and different parts of the ceremony will be hosted in each of the four spaces and live-streamed to all four locations as well as on our website for families and friends to watch.
We will also continue other end-of-year transitions unique to our ASH experience in a virtual format: grade 4 bridge crossing, grade 8 promotion, yearbook hand-outs and leavers ceremonies. And on June 8, we will be able to open the rest of our ECC and upper elementary classrooms for on-campus learning with a full schedule. There are still several government-mandated regulations in place about which activities are permitted and which are not.
A look ahead - Our ASH Roadmap
The conditions around COVID-19 and the response from the government are dynamic, and changes are frequent. We will keep you updated when substantive changes mean we must change our approach. The health and safety of our community is our top priority, and we will continue to follow the guidelines of Dutch government health and educational authorities. We will prepare for the Fall 2020 semester assuming the current regulations apply, but ready to adopt one of three stances:
1. On-campus school experience
Should the COVID-19 situation improve over the summer, and all grade and age levels are able to return to school full-time, we will do so. This is already the case for ECC and elementary school from June 8.
2. Blended learning experience
Should the current regulations continue to apply (1.5 meter distancing, for example), we will maximize the number of middle and high school students who can safely attend school in-person and continue to offer virtual learning for those who are not attending on a particular day. Elementary school students would continue to be on campus full-time. At present, this appears to be the most likely scenario; however, we will keep you updated if and when conditions change.
3. Virtual school experience
Should the COVID-19 situation deteriorate and schools be closed again, we will shift all learning to virtual, taking into account feedback we have gathered from students, staff, and families to create an even better experience than we offered this Spring.
Finally, as you prepare your summer travels, please be mindful of the Dutch government guidelines regarding travel and ensure the completion of the mandatory 2 weeks of self-isolation upon return from non-EU countries. If you will be traveling back from the USA or Canada, for example, for your child to be able to attend the first day of school at ASH on August 19, under current regulations, you will have to arrive back in the Netherlands on or before August 3.
As always, regardless of what the Fall brings, we will be in a strong position to provide rigorous learning and activity while at the same time safeguarding the health and well-being of our students and staff. Thank you for your patience, support, and on-going collaboration as we stride forward together.
We are so excited to be able to welcome about 55 percent of our Elementary School students back on campus this week. The buildings are set up with one-way directional markers, and cleaning supplies and reminders are set up throughout the UES (Upper Elementary School) and the ECC (Early Childhood Center).
Most importantly, staff members have planned fun activities to get back into the swing of things for the last few weeks of school. As some staff said to me this morning, “It’s exciting: It feels like the first day of school all over again.” We can’t wait to see kids’ smiling faces. We have also been able to meet the needs for decreased traffic, while at the same time, accommodate families who live further afield by reactivating our bus service. Buses and drivers will have special safety equipment in place, but our Elementary School learners will continue to have friendly service.
Because we saw a roughly 50 percent split between the on- and off-campus choice for the youngest learners in our survey, Elementary School was also able to add Pre-school and Transition Kindergarten students to the mix earlier than we thought. Both campuses also got special welcome back messages from the PTO in the form of beautiful chalk drawings at the entrance and exit points to add to the festivity and show gratitude to our ASH staff. We look forward to the time when we can all be on-campus together again. Elementary School leadership and staff will be constantly fine-tuning the on-campus and VLE experiences as we all learn how to bounce back from a global challenge like no other in our lifetimes. Our children will need to see us all happy and positive.
The Dutch government plans to assess the COVID-19 situation closely in light of the easing of various restrictions including the partial opening of primary schools before they make a decision about the partial opening of secondary schools. The school associations have started to release guidelines designed to protect the well-being of students and staff, and we have begun physical preparations in case they do move forward with their plans. You will hear more about this from Middle School and High School leadership and staff when the government plan is clearer. We are also examining how we can give students athletic opportunities by learning from the health and safety protocols applied to sports clubs. Though these are not specifically designed for schools, we feel many are helpful and instructive in our approach. Stay tuned for more on that.
As we have learned with the primary schools opening this week, regulations and guidelines change continuously, and every school applies them somewhat differently in their context. We thank you for your continuous support and flexibility as we endeavor to create a positive learning environment in every place we interact with students.
This has been an extraordinary school year for all of us with our families, in our workplaces, and most definitely in places of learning. Add on top of this that most in our ASH community are experiencing this in a country that is not our own, and the layers of information and emotion around this global pandemic can feel immense. The impact is even more concrete when we consider the fact some in our ASH community have lost relatives to the virus. We have been working around the clock, in regards to the best way forward given the most recent government updates and announcements, including how to accommodate the government guidelines laid out for reopening schools.
At ASH, we know our primary objective is to educate our students; however, we also know we play an important role in the life of our community, including the social and economic goals at which the Dutch school re-opening is aimed. Our teachers and administrators have, in short order, created a virtual learning model that is working better than any I have ever seen in my 30 years of working in international schools and three previous bouts of virtual schooling. The rapid turnaround to a new way of working with students has gone well. For the purposes of keeping effective, engaging learning going, we as educators have no doubt our virtual leaning environment is the clear choice of venue, in the absence of on-campus in-person instruction we think of as the “normal” situation. Add to this the fact we still have large discrepancies between groups who feel comfortable on campus and those who do not, and it is clear we must keep our virtual learning platform operating for the 25.5 school days remaining for elementary school students from May 11.
This is where the details of reopening primary schools come into play. The restrictions are considerable, yet they would still allow for students to spend some time on campus. We have been working to review feasibility for providing an on-campus experience including resource capacity and space allocations, among other considerations. We are not there yet. We have also begun preparations to procure protective equipment which, though not required, would serve to alleviate some safety concerns. We don’t yet know which regulations would apply to middle and high school, except we have been told to anticipate at least one additional stipulation: that students also must maintain 1.5 meters between them at all times.
We are currently working on the feasibility of a plan that would allow for elementary students who are comfortable in this environment to get support for their virtual learning on campus. Once we come to a conclusion on elementary, we can start to turn our attention to the last 11.5 days of middle and high school students’ school year. The government has indicated they will give further guidance to Dutch schools once they assess the impact of the gradual re-opening period of primary schools.
We want to be able to provide meaningful time at school and the chance for students to see each other. We will continue to plan and proceed with caution, knowing there are multiple considerations and people’s feelings involved. Crises bring these differences more to the surface, yet we must also remember that we can overcome when we work together. As Prime Minister Rutte said last week, we are in a phase of this pandemic in which there are more uncertainties than certainties, and being careful now is better than being sorry later. To the extent we play an important role in the life of the community, we are taking these words to heart
Following the Dutch government's latest announcement (Tuesday, April 20) regarding the re-opening of primary schools on May 11, the ASH COVID-19 response team has been working non-stop processing the on-going guidance given by the Dutch government, school associations and unions. The re-opening would affect our ECC campus and Upper Elementary through Grade 4. We have received regulations since Tuesday night about health and safety including, for example, alternating days for half a class at one time, no adults other than staff on campuses, 1.5-meter social distancing requirements, no staff in high-risk categories on campus, etc. All these guidelines require significant restructuring of our on-campus experiences. Like our Dutch school colleagues, we are working diligently to figure out the nature of the programs we would be able to offer under these conditions, aiming for a program of the highest quality, though Dutch guidelines call for a reduced educational offering.
Given a student population with some eighty nationalities, there are a number of things and factors to also consider and we are committed to providing our students, families, staff and community the best options possible at this time. We remain agile and ready to respond in the best interests of our community’s health, safety, and continued learning. Further updates on how ASH will be proceeding will be given later this week.
On March 31, schools received further guidance from the Dutch government about the timeline for campus closures. They have extended the closure of physical school campuses up to and including May 3, 2020. The government will host a press conference in the week before April 28, at which they will share more guidance on the opening of campuses.
In light of this official confirmation, ASH will offer continued learning through our virtual learning environment accordingly. As previously shared, we will continue to provide exclusively online learning until the Dutch authorities announce that school campuses in the Netherlands should re-open, and we will resume classes on campus only in concert with guidelines for public health.
On Tuesday, March 31, schools expect to receive further guidance from the Dutch government about the current measures and school closures timeline. ASH will continue to provide only online learning until the Dutch authorities announce that schools in the Netherlands should re-open, and we will resume classes on campus only in concert with guidelines for public health. For now, our Virtual Learning Environment remains active through April 6, pending further government guidance
We’re All in This Together
We know governments are changing their guidance, travel restrictions, and border situations regularly, and you may be following this news about your home country. This can cause additional stress beyond simply safeguarding one’s health. Changing travel restrictions can create a sense of urgency and indecision. This is normal. Try to remember that COVID-19 is now a global pandemic, which calls for a different response than fleeing a localized natural disaster, for example. Staying put, staying unified, and bolstering your confidence and resilience is crucial. One sure way to make yourself feel better is to do something good for someone else. Humans are wired in such a way this will help lift your own spirits too.
Following this evening’s announcement from the Dutch Government that all schools and daycares will be closed starting March 16 through April 6, tomorrow will no longer be a preparatory school day, as initially planned. Buses will not run to collect and return your child. There will be no after-school activities, athletics and private tutoring. TeddyKids, CrocoClub and the cafeteria will also be closed.
We have a well-planned strategy for online learning and we will all collaborate to make this a positive, strong learning experience as we build resilience together. Thank you for your ongoing support.