Just because…HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
- Veggie Seeds
- PVC Pipes for watering system
- Flowering Plants
- Fruit Trees
- Stones for Pathways
- Peat Moss
What a great CAC Talk we recently had with Carey Harris, Counselor and Parent Educator. We cannot say THANK YOU enough for sharing her knowledge and educating her very own PTO Community!
And if you couldn’t make the LIVE event, the recordings are now available straight from the PTO Archives. Please click on the applicable link for access — to login you must use your CAC account information (similar to your Dashboard login):
- Recording: “Finding Balance in a Digital World” – Carey Harris, November 10, 2020: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Zuhsun-d5p5VLpm9Zf4laDQQHzTnhg_Y/view?usp=sharing
- Powerpoint Slideshow: https://drive.google.com/file/d/13Zsw4-AT1yCjy6O4S7pL_vIwliqa_M9g/view?usp=sharing
- List of Resources: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zLYUB33JbCRqCQ_cGbXz30KHgEwMuUrGXHSFxyW00MU/edit?usp=sharing
Join us for our PTO Monthly Meeting for November as we talk through the latest happenings in our PTO Community. For this meeting, we will also set aside some time for discussion, in which we’d love to hear suggestions, thoughts, or concerns from our PTO members at large (that’s you!).
Meeting will be held virtually via Zoom on Nov 29, 2020 at 05:00 PM (Cairo Time). Zoom Meeting Link: https://zoom.us/j/99506497883?pwd=d2NxNDFML25VQ01aM25vTitNeU9LQT09
Meeting ID: 995 0649 7883
You don’t have to miss out on the latest if you couldn’t make it to our recent PTO Monthly Meeting – held VIRTUALLY on the last Sunday of each month @5pm. We would love to see YOU at our next one!
LOOK AHEAD: next meeting on November 29th
Please take a moment to read the minutes to see what’s happening in the life of the PTO. We had some reports from our committees as well as a round of THANKS to give to so many who are working hard to make our CAC Community thrive!
Click on the link to access the meeting minutes: PTO October Meeting 10-25-20
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Moderator: Good evening. My name is Ivana Lawrence, and this school year I happily serve as PTO President.
Welcome CAC family to the Second Q and A Session organized by our PTO. Please know that this session will be recorded for the purposes of creating a transcript, and that the recording will never be shared with anyone.
Welcome to our Head of School, Dr. Jared Harris, to the Elementary School Principal, Ms. Julie Jackson-Jin, to the Middle School Principal, Mr. Courtney Bailey, and to the High School Principal, Mr. Jerry Duggan. Thank you so much for coming here tonight to answer all of our questions.
We come together as one big family, keeping our children: their education, and their health and well-beeing, at the core of everything we do, everything we decide.
We come together as one thankful family: thankful for this amazing opportunity our school has created for us. I have to say just yesterday I was looking over a long thread online where fellow expat families are reporting from international schools around the world, and a vast majority is saying the same thing: 100% online with no end in sight… And it’s sad to read it, but at the same time it reminds us to be grateful for what we have here.
At CAC, we have had an exceptional opportunity to work in partnership with the school Admin, to support the re-opening and learn together as we meander through the unknowns presented to us by this pandemic. One thing is for sure: none of us will ever forget this period. We will be re-telling the story of unity, of this togetherness we have created and experienced against all odds.
With those thoughts in minds and hearts, I’d like to invite our Head of School to tell us a few words about the state of CAC right now, and share some insights that are good for us to know. And after that we will move to questions and answers. Dr. Harris the floor is yours.
HoS: Thank you, Ivana and thank you to the PTO for your wonderful organisation and making an opportunity like this available for all of us. One of the unfortunate realities of the pandemic is I have not had the opportunity to speak normally like I would to the parent community and give updates about the other aspects of the children’s and students’ journey that is very important. I’m going to take a few moments and start us out this evening by giving an update on some of the school-wide priorities that we have, and some of the other strategic objectives that we have going into the school year in addition to the pandemic. The four topics I will go through briefly and somewhat rapidly, you can ask questions later: the strategic priorities for 20-21; information about self-study; the strategic planning process that will be starting next semester; and 5-year strategic plan and update on the High School renovation.
The number one priority is, as everyone knows was reopening the school safely. I am happy we have been able to do that in line with our calendar. It’s not as difficult to open a school safely, it’s much more complicated and difficult to remain open during the pandemic and when the obvious positive cases of Covid-19 will impact the community as we’ve seen over the past few months. All of our decisions during the reopening and moving through the phases of reopening and based on information from infectious diseases experts, the CDC and WHO guidelines, and the reopening Task force members. We are trying to keep the balance with health and safety and trying to move us forward towards normalcy that we will be having after the pandemic.
One of the very exciting strategic priorities this year that you will have heard about in the ES will be the implementation of the PYP. CAC has been doing the international Baccalaureate Diploma program since 1993, so over 25 years, we have a long very successful history with the diploma program. The one thing that we did not have is the vertical alignment of the whole curricular framework of the school. Elementary school is very very happy to be implementing the PYP, and in addition we are working on making our own version of IB alignment within the Middle School program too. We are pacing it very carefully and the MS is making sure it’s done in a manageable way. PYP is a multi-year process and in addition remembering that as an American school, we are grounded by a US standards-based curriculum.
The other strategic priority which is so important this year is the well-being of our community. We adopted two years ago and spent much time last year on the positive education model which is grounded in positive psychology; the model that we’ve been moving through our journey with well-being is to learn it, to live it, to teach it and to eventually embed it into the curriculum. The past year and a half have been primarily focused on learning and living well-being, studying the science of well-being within our faculty and staff, while also embracing optimism and happiness within our school. The next steps are to teach well-being to our students and embed into our curricula.
The third strategic priority is child protection and safeguarding. Even though this topic is a strategic priority we are speaking about and focusing again this year. Child protection and safeguarding is a process that never goes away because the health and safety of our children, students here at CAC is what is most important. We are working very hard on developing student agency for our students, so they feel safe, and that they have the confidence to speak to someone who they trust and respect on campus. That continual PD – professional development – is in place for our faculty and staff here at CAC, with the ultimate goal of always keeping our community as safe as possible.
Another strategic priority which is also in line with the work being done by the PTO is in the area of diversity, equity, inclusion. The chaos we’ve seen around the world in the past 6 to 8 months has really highlighted the critical importance of this issue and not just in the United States, but also in countries around the world. We are very ambitious about the approach to this topic and we hope to be one of the leaders in the international school community by addressing issues, talking about issues, to critically examine and improve the practices, systems and structures that we currently have in place. To ensure opportunities for meaningful reflection and conversations on topics like racism, and in the working with the Board of Trustees to develop, review and then publish a policy statement on diversity equity and inclusion.
Another major undertaking for the staff, faculty and the administration this year is the CIS/MSA self- study. CAC has alrady completed the preparatory visit last May, and I’ll give you just a second to look through the timeline of the process that we’re currently in. The initial work started last year in May when we had the preparatory visit from the foundation team which went very well, and in August the leadership team reviewed that report. Thank you to everyone who has completed the community surveys, and thank you to Mr Williams for his hours and hours of work on this important topic and task for this school year. We will be working through this entire school year and into the first semester the next school year, and the self-study will culminate in November 2021 with an evaluation team visit.
Another very important point about the self-study process – it will provide information, data and reflection to be used moving into the strategic planning process the second semester. The latest strategic plan was from 2015 to 2020. Currently we are guided by the strategic priorities that I had previously mentioned in this transition year, and we’re doing the self-study and preparing to move into the strategic planning process at the start of the next semester. Some of the most common areas of focus during strategic planning is: teaching and learning, engaging the community, facilities and resources, innovation, and financial sustainability.
A little bit about the strategic planning process which is fairly complex and one of the most important points for us as I’d mentioned is to make sure that we stay closely aligned to the feedback information and data that were receiving in the re-accreditation process and self- study with CIS and MSA. This alignment ensures that the entire school community which includes students, faculty, staff, parents and administration are engaged in the process either as part of the strategic task force, or with working groups that will be established throughout the process of Strategic planning. The school wants to maintain transparency to our different constituencies, and ensure that the next strategic plan is done in a manner that is scalable, and that we’re able to get to the objectives in a timely manner as we move through the years.
The timeline: we will be working with the strategic plan starting next semester in January to identify the target areas, in February to develop the specific goals for the target areas, ensuring that there’s metrics in place for the objectives and milestones, drafting the plan in April, presenting the plan to the Board of Trustees in May, also they are involved in the process of course, to then construct the final strategic plan, share that with the school community,
and and then to launch that at the start of August of the next school year.
Finally, a quick update on the renovation of the High School Building. This has been a very long and complicated process that started in 2015, that involved moving through different consultants, different contractors, and different project managers. We have been very excited and pleased to see the substantial progress that has been made over the last 18 months with the new contractor that took over the project, and we are still on track with the completion date being in the end of December/early January. We will be able to transition back into the high school building during the second semester. Typically, the transition back into a building can be done in a paced-out and methodological manner, to ensure that it doesn’t disrupt the operation of school, as we will be back in class during the second semester. For example, one department, for example the math department, or the humanities department will move first, then some time will pass, and another department will move to make sure the process is smooth.
That is the conclusion of my update for this for this evening, and we can now shift, Ivana, back to you.
Moderator: Thank you so much, this was wonderful and you have touched on a few items that the parents are wondering about, such as the completion of the high school building and we will get to that. We will be monitoring the chat and seeing when questions come up, and if we have time, we will get to them as well. Let’s start with ES questions.
Question: With nests combined in ES, will the schedule for the specialists change in any significant way?
ES Principal: Thank you, Ivana, and good evening everybody, it’s lovely to have this opportunity. In relation to the specialist’s schedules when nests combine: no, they will remain as they are, going through the week and the teachers teaching to those nests and also now to some of the classes.
Question for HS Principal: Many parents had questions about the progress of the new HS building and whether it is still on track for January opening. Is there anything you would like to specify in terms of HS, as parents are really, especially parents of seniors and juniors very worried. We have heard a short presentation by our Head of School, anything you’d like to add?
HS Principal: First of all, thank you for your relentless support throughout this entire year, it really does mean a lot and thank you also for the organising these days thank you for the lunches you’re organizing for the teachers, and the gift certificates. Teachers really do appreciate that. Ken, I know you are out there, and thank you for organizing it all.
As for this question, I don’t have much to add, except that when we move in there, and by golly we will move in there, it would not be by grade level, but by department. I don’t know exactly what the pace of that would be, I was going to visit the building today, and unfortunately that got postponed till Sunday, so I don’t know, I haven’t seen the progress upclose myself recently. They are making progress and we are looking forward to being there, and that would give us more room and we could also help the other divisions.
Moderator: Back to ES. What exactly is the expected role of parents on Seesaw? We notice teachers liking homework, but at times the homework is done incorrectly – should we engage, or just work on it at home with our child?
ES Principal: The Seesaw platform is for the teacher and the student to be communicating together. If any parent has questions regarding their child’s homework and the interaction I’d ask them to direct their questions to the teacher of the children. We’ll be having opportunities as we have parent conferences coming up as well, so it is interaction for the students and the teachers together.
Moderator: We have had several days to prepare for this session as PTO, and we have asked all of our parents and teachers to send us questions ahead of time, and we have come up with a grand total of 0 questions for Middle School. So Mr. Bailey, whatever magic you’re doing, it’s working. The communication with the parents has been, apparently, very very good and satisfactory, so that gave us an idea to not only ask the parents to give us questions, but also comments. We have noticed that as parents, as human beings, to be honest, we only raise our voices and speak our truth when something is not good. And we feel that in this pandemic and under present circumstances, it would be so good and to raise our voices and say when things are going really well. So through the questions tonight I will also read the comments that came in.
Question for HoS. Due to the shorter winter daylight hours is it possible to push the open track and field sign up times to start at 5 and then go to 6 and from 6 to 7 etc. When will lights on the track be turned on again?
HoS: The lights on the track should be coming on in the next couple of days. As we just shared out in the email, there is a very large transformer project on campus. Due to noise complaints in the evening hours we had to suspend the generator operation that resulted in no power for the track lights after dark. The information I’ve received this morning is the transformer project may even be complete tomorrow which means lights would be up tomorrow night if not then likely the following day. To the question about the daylight hours, I absolutely agree with that and we’ve been talking about that and other adjustments that CAC would make moving into phase 1.5 and phase 2 and those will be shifted as stated to start at 5 p.m and that should be sometime around the start of the first week of November.
Moderator: Comment from elementary school: “Elementary school has been doing a fantastic job. Beyond my expectations. My kids are happy, learning, enjoying their friends in a safe environment and not complaining about wearing masks all day long. We are very privileged to have this opportunity compared to the rest of the world.”
It’s just a little comment, it’s nice to hear some feedback whether it is good or bad, I think we need to share both.
Comment for Middle School: “Parent Teacher Conferences went ok. There was some time wasted with some technical issues but that is to be expected with such a busy schedule and internet quality.” I heard this comment and I was wondering, is this something that Mr. Bailey you see might continue past all the phases of reopening? All these online conferences for parents who might be working and don’t always have the time to come on campus for the conferences. Are we seeing something that is new, introduced due to COVID, but we might want to do it even after we are fully opened?
MS Principal: Good afternoon everyone and thank you Ivana. Sometimes in the midst of things when it’s dark there is always a silver lining. And I think this is a great opportunity for us to take a look at the parent teacher conferences being virtual because in reality it does help parents. They are not running from classroom to classroom. They can be at work and still get involved in the conferences and I think it’s a win-win the more parents we can get involved. And you know something, the faculty shared with me yesterday that they saw more moms and dads in the conferences and I thought that was encouraging. It was really encouraging to hear that. I think it is something that we are gonna lean towards doing more in the future once we get out of this COVID pandemic situation we’re in.
Moderator: Question for Elementary School: Will there be any plans aside from what we have in place right now in the school preventing the spread of the virus after we combine the nests and after the holiday season starts?
ES: So the plans are to continue with the mitigation strategies in place to ensure that we’re wearing a mask, that we socially distance, that we’re washing our hands, and if we continue this both in school and outside of school that’s how we’re going to continue to be safe together as a community.
Moderator: Comment for High School: “I think they are doing great. I think we have wonderful protocols. And I like that they are opening up more and more safely. I do wish there were more initiatives from the Admin to make the kids feel welcomed on their own campus. What the Booster Club did was amazing. The kids were low on school spirit.”
HS Principal: Thank you so much to the Booster Club for doing that. That was really a great thing they did for the seniors presenting them with some balloon arches and some presents including some very nice Class of 2021 masks that they received today. And the Booster Club is also planning something in conjunction with STUCO. I keep asking if this is going to happen but I am confident that it will. We’re going to have a little Halloween pageant on campus during lunches next week. We’re continuing to try to provide some positivity for the students. It has been very hard for them, they come in and we’re constantly having to remind them because they are teenagers, to do what they are supposed to do: to social distance, to keep their masks on. We do get tired of saying that, but we are also out there everyday talking to them and getting a feel for things. I think generally there has been an improvement in the mood, especially now that the quarter has gone by. As the semester goes on, there is going to be some stresses of course, but yes, we will keep trying to make it fun. And that includes also continuing with the pre-season conditioning. Hopefully we actually have a season of some sort with some intramural competitions and that kind of thing.
Moderator: Just to give a fair warning to everyone we are at 107 participants right now. You will notice from the questions directed to the elementary school principal that there are parents who are very much for everyone wearing the masks and wearing them constantly even during PE, and then there are parents who are very much opposed to our youngest learners in PreK and KG wearing the masks everyday. As we move through the questions you will notice how they show this reality that we are facing.
Question for Elementary School: If the students in their nests are sitting at their individual nests that are two meters apart from each other and the ventilation in the classroom is insured, why can’t the students remove their mask while being seated? This would follow WHO recommendations.
ES Principal: As we came back to school and over this summer, our phased reopening rubric that we followed was following CDC recommendations. And they were very much on the conservative end, which we were in support of, as we were getting to know how COVID-19 was impacting schools. And so we continue to follow CDC, and we are then moving in next phases to move to WHO recommendations and we completely understand and we’re aware of the different regulations that are put forward by CDC and World Health Organization. And also every parent’s perspective coming from different places around the world and coming from different environments of what they’ve experienced as well and what they would like to see. So we are aware of the differences as a school, and in reference to masks at this time and in this phase, we will continue to require masks at school for our youngest learners and some of our older learners too in Elementary and I’m sure Middle and High School and also as adults. The children do have mask breaks. For Elementary we eat outdoors. All the children are eating outdoors, whether it is in corridors or outside and they are not wearing masks. And then when the children need a break they can take a break from their masks. And so we individually are working with individual children and I really want to thank the parents who have reached out to teachers, if their child is having a hard time with that, or there is anything that socially emotionally connected to their children having a challenge with that, I really invite parents to reach out to teachers. We will do everything we can to make sure the children feel safe, and they do appreciate the purpose of why we are all wearing our masks as a school community.
Moderator: We will have a few other questions that are related to the same topic so we will try not to duplicate the answers as we go, but a lot of parents were raising this question.
Question for Head of School: Are community campus hours still only usable for parents, teachers and students or have you opened these booked slots for the broader community, including alumni and other community ID card holders?
HoS: Yeah, we added the alumni some time ago, the alumni can use their portal to book appointment time for using the green space, the swimming pool and the weight room too. At this time we are still not allowing the broader community who may hold an ID to come to campus due to mitigation, but we are carefully reviewing that, and hopefully we can get to that point soon. Still really important with the pandemic and the school trying to keep those who come on to our campus within the larger bubble of our school community and students and who we communicate with regularly and we know their pandemic habits if you will. It becomes much more difficult when you reach out beyond our school community to those who have IDs but we are not in touch with them as frequently as we are with the rest of the members of our community. So at this time, yes alumni can come on campus and book appointments. Parents, students, staff too, but not the broader community.
Moderator: Thank you very much. I want to acknowledge that we are receiving quite a bit of questions on the chat and I see them and I will try to get to them when we have exhausted the questions that were sent to us and shared with our speakers ahead of time. That said, I would like to read another comment from Middle School.
Comment for Middle School: We all wish that things were normal and everyone went to school everyday, but given our current challenges we believe that Middle School is delivering a true hybrid and synchronized learning or blended learning environment. The Middle School team also came into the school year with a strong philosophy that guided their design of all deliverables, academic, social, emotional, mental and physical. As parents of a 6th grader, we were concerned. In a normal year the transition from elementary school to Middle School is already challenging. How much more during a pandemic! We are very impressed with how much our child’s needs were considered and met with the thoughtfulness and dedication of true educators. We cannot thank you enough for caring for the overall well being of our children. Thank you.”
Question for Elementary School: Many parents were wondering about after school activities. “I would like to know whether any after school activities or sports will be starting for Elementary School soon. If not would it be possible to provide any sort of after school care or library time for those ES students who have siblings in Middle and High School and the siblings are doing sports or conditioning sessions? It is very difficult for a parent from a logistical perspective to pick up at 3:15 and then again at 4:15 while there is nothing for the elementary student to do for that hour.” Some also add “It might be safer for our community having the kids in the same place and amongst themselves with CAC mitigation measurements in place.”
ES Principal: I can certainly appreciate that parents who have children in Middle and High school signed up for the activities after school that it would be a challenge to commute back and forth. Currently, after school activities program in Elementary School just like in Middle and High school, it is largely supported by the classroom teachers. And apparently I would have to say, and the teachers as you have commented, are working very very hard and adding now, or asking them to do an activity program after school would be a lot on their plate. And not one that, at the moment, we are going to move towards. I did understand from the school that there are opportunities I know for the community to sign up to the campus and hope that parents can take them. And I’d also say that CAC is such a supportive community that if families were really struggling with that pick-up between I know when parents were wanting some arrival and dismissal times, looking at those, if any of the Middle School or High School parents are really struggling with after school, if they can reach out to other members of the school community too. We are such a supportive community beyond just the teachers. I think as parents together also looking at what are some options for the children as well. But at the moment we’re not looking at putting on after school activity programs for Elementary School but in terms of the Middle and High school students with siblings and if any parent really has a major problem please don’t hesitate to reach out and send me an email.
Moderator: Thank you and I’m sure that being a supportive community we are, that would really work out seeking other parents’ help.
ES Principal: And just to add, the library is open on the weekends. It’s not open after school currently.
Moderator: A question for head of school, will the flu shot be mandatory?
HoS: Flu shots will not be mandatory. It’s a personal decision and I don’t think it’s a decision that is appropriate for a school to mandate on the faculty, staff, parents, or students, in my opinion. A related question is this: what will the CDC and WHO will recommend once there is a COVID-19 vaccine? There’s lots of rumors/speculation about this topic about requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, for example countries requiring, kind of like the yellow fever vaccine card, to enter countries. So we are watching carefully about how countries and how the infectious disease experts are approaching required vaccines when there is a Covid-19 vaccine and what kind of restrictions and requirements for travel will be put in place. We currently have the flu vaccine at CAC, and we had about 140 individuals who did sign up to have the flu shot.
Moderator: Perfect, thank you for that update. High school question, Mr. Duggan, high school exams are listed as ending on December 16th, but winter break starts on the 18th. Can high school families travel on the 17th or not?
HS Principal: High school exams are scheduled to finish on the 16th. And high school students may travel after their last exam.
Moderator: Perfect thank you. Back to Head of School. Would it be possible to open the pool for additional numbers, or consider having the two outside lanes be for family use? Right now, one family can take up the entire pool session on a weekend, but they usually end up sharing just one lane anyways. This could help alleviate the small amount of slots available for the pool.
HoS: Yes in short, but I can answer several questions with that. We plan on increasing the capacity for the green space, for the weight room and the pool, around 25% additional capacity. I’ve spoken to Mr. Fitzgerald who monitors that as the activities director.
Moderator: That is wonderful news for all of us, for a happy weekend. Thank you.
HoS: To clarify Ivana, per the chat message that came up, this would be in the phase 1.5 moving into phase II.
Moderator: Yes, thank you. So I have a question here from elementary school, if it’s impossible to organize after school activities is it possible to just let the children play in the daylight hours and without limited booking? So I don’t know if you would like to add anything to your previous response.
ES Principal: So, as I said after school, even before COVID, elementary parents needed to supervise the children after school. So if the parents are making the booking and we have 25% increase, of course they are more than welcome to come and play with their families and enjoy the beautiful green space, as well as this wonderful Halloween patches that the Booster Club has set up, so I hope families take that opportunity and sign up.
Moderator: High school comment from a high school parent, I think the teachers are doing an amazing job this year. These are challenging times, but all my daughter’s teachers are always willing to communicate and answer any questions she has. They prepare great lesson plans that can accommodate any questions and the online assignments are always beneficial. My one concern would be that tutorial Tuesdays my daughter has expressed that she would prefer to have all four full online classes, A day one week, E day the next, instead of the 8 block system. Mr. Duggan if you would like to speak to this comment please do.
HS Principal: Well what’s going to happen when we go into Phase 1.5 or whatever we happen to be calling it, the week of November 1st the tutorial Tuesdays will really change anyway, because we’ll be bringing back the ninth and tenth graders by group. The reason we are able to do that is because we’ll still be under, we’ll be under 50% capacity, actually a lot less, with the 9th and 10th graders coming on those Tuesdays. So group one, 9th and 10th grade will come on November 3rd. Group 2 on November 10th, and then so on for however long we are in that phase. And we felt that it was important to give those students another face-to-face interaction in classes with each other and with their teachers as opposed to adding an online session and we are going to have all A blocks on those Tuesdays so that they have equal instructional time with all of their classes. So I understand the question and I understand the concern but once we go forward with our phased reopening it will really no longer be relevant, unless we have to take a step backward. And then we would take a look at it.
Moderator: Great, a comment from elementary school: I think the elementary school has done surprisingly well. I was reluctant to send the kids back to school, because I wasn’t sure how the school would manage to keep the kids safe during this Covid epidemic. But I think the school has taken a very organized and well thought out approach, and I actually feel safer having my kids in school then when they’re out and about with me.
And another comment I would like to read comes from a parent of Elementary, of sorry, Middle School: A huge thank you to all the staff in Middle School for making these difficult times easier for us. I am amazed at how well it is going so far. Especially with the academic aspect. The students miss the social part, but the cross country activities helped a lot. And we are looking forward to adding one more day every second week. The kids are used to the new normal, even though they do miss the good old times.
And just if anybody is wondering, I really asked parents to give me all of your comments, good and bad, and I’m reading them all as they came. I know there are a lot of positives here but really, that’s what I’ve received. So that speaks to the truth of the reality that we have.
Question for the Head of school, what is the school waiting for to open as clearly the number of cases are much less than when we started school. Is it the vaccine?
HoS: No, we are not waiting for the vaccine. We hopefully won’t have to wait too much longer to safely transition into the next phase. We’re following the plan that we put into place from the summer with our phased reopening. As Ms. Jackson-Jin shared with her response as to the mask wearing, the development of our phase reopening was purposeful and strategic. The way that we are using the recommendations from both the CDC and the WHO and also realising that the CDC recommendations typically are a bit more conservative than the WHO for reasons explained on their websites and in their research.
This CDC and WHO approach was really important for us because you remember going into the start of the school year, there was a lot of very realistic fear going on around the world about whether schools would be super spreader locations. So at CAC we thought it was of critical importance to take a more conservative approach. As we’re moving through the phases and as we know more about the viral transmission, we feel more confident and comfortable with moving towards the safe WHO recommendations. And again, none of us should think that the WHO recommendations are not safe. They’re absolutely safe too, but we are transitioning through those phases in a well-paced out and thoughtful manner that is putting health and safety as a priority.
The community feedback has been very appreciative hearing we’re moving to phase 1.5 at this time and things have already been implemented that would go into Phase 2. November 1st the Task Force meets again to review the viral transmission and qualitative and quantitative data about CAC, about Maadi, about Cairo, and greater Egypt. If the viral transmission and other indicators remain stable with normal fluctuations, the recommendation could be to move to Phase 2 at that time. Moving to phase 2 at that time, there are two different considerations. It’s complicated and difficult for school divisions to pivot to the modified density/spacing restrictions moving into Phase 2. It is much much easier to pivot toward some of the questions we’ve been receiving about campus access and increasing capacity for our facilities than the shifts that are required in the educational program. Going to phase 2, and then to phase 3 requires a couple weeks or so to make the changes once approved and communicated to the community.
Moderator: Thank you very much, and also please note on the chat our PTO outreach Margaret has posted the link to the reopening plan and phases so if you would like to quickly review that please check out the chat and there is a link there.
HoS: A comment on that Ivana if you will, we’ve been working hard on revisions and updates based on the data that we’re getting from the CDC and the WHO and other research. Both the reopening phase rubric, and COVID-19 reopening manual that we have at the school, I had wanted to actually share those out with our faculty today. We’re a little bit behind. I want to share those with the Board of Trustees on Monday night, before moving to share that with the community. But the community can expect on Monday or Tuesday of next week, the updated phased reopening rubric.
Moderator: That’s good to know, thank you. So next week we’ll hopefully see the updated versions. Thank you. A question from an elementary parent, a parent shares that he or she feels upset and anxious after learning that CAC has had a few positive cases of COVID-19 and yet the elementary school was announcing pretty much at the same time combining certain nests during PE and some recess. The parent goes on to say even though the data from the newspaper can support the plan to combine, I believe there must be some discrepancies between it and the real condition. So I would like to know if you would reconsider this plan and keep those kids separated in each one of their nests and better not to take off the masks even in PE class.
ES Principal: Thank you, yes and as you can see we really appreciate the diverse perspectives we have from our parent community about what we should and shouldn’t do as a school. And we do very very carefully look at each situation and as we move and as we’ve been conservatively with the CDC we’re moving towards the WHO, we do look at all information that I received and make decisions strategically as a group together with the children’s safety and the faculty and staff and our community safety at the forefront. The children moving in terms of recess, playing outdoors together. They’re playing safely. They’re playing in certain locations. We know who they are playing with, what time they’re playing, when they’re playing, so if we ever do need to do any contract tracing we’ve got all that information. So it is done in a safe manner.
Moderator: Thank you. A question for the Head of School. Is there any possibility we could get the Spirit Cafe to open in some fashion soon?
HoS: Two problematic reasons that it won’t be opening anytime soon, this semester. Number one is the interior area of the Spirit Cafe is very small and it would not be feasible for those working inside to socially distance in that small space. Also of concern is it would be the students who come to the Spirit Cafe and those who’ve been around for some years, we know how much the students love the Spirit Cafe, it is terrific, but managing the mitigation requirements in front of the Cafe would be too difficult to do it safely at this time. In speaking with the Booster Club I think it could be possible at the start of the second semester, depending on the pandemic and whether we will be starting the second semester or earlier in phase 3.
Moderator: Perfect, thank you. High school, Mr. Duggan, a parent feels that the online program is ineffective. The online program is not structured or effective at all, because they only see kids once face-to-face. They leave so much material for the kids to learn on their own. Could you please comment?
HS Principal: Well, there are a variety of opinions on that, and many of the students have thrived in that and actually preferred it, because they can manage their own time. But we do recognise that not every student learns equally well in the program, which is one of the reasons that we’ve taken the steps we have to bring back the seniors, to bring back the juniors and then bring back the 9th and 10th graders on alternating Tuesdays. We also, we’ve had a lot of conversations about how to provide those students who need a little more structure on the online time because some of them have not yet developed the self-discipline and learning habits that they need to be successful with it. But I do think in the long term it’s actually beneficial for them precisely because they need to develop those learning habits. This will carry with them in positive ways as well as possible negative ways as they become university students in the future and are much more capable of learning independently. But I do understand the points, and the point is well taken. And we are working to provide ways to have more structure such as perhaps, particularly with those students who are struggling with it, more regular check-ins during the course of their online days. As I said, some students are doing very well with it, and we don’t want to change the entire system for those students who are not doing as well with it, but we do want to help those students who are not doing as well with it. And I don’t know of course which parent asked that question but I hope they reached out to the teachers during parent-teacher conferences to ask specifically what those teachers are doing, and to make sure teachers are aware of those concerns. And if they did not, or have not yet done that, I encourage them to reach out to their child’s teachers to make sure they are all clear on what the teachers’ procedures are and what’s expected of the student.
Moderator: Thank you, so now let’s dive into these mask questions with elementary. I have several questions I’d like to read so these parents have their questions heard loud and clear and then Ms. Jackson-Jin if you have anything to add, please do. These questions have been asked several different ways. One parent asks, “Why is it mandatory for pre-K students who are four years old to wear face masks indoors and outdoors when it’s clearly against WHO recommendation for children aged five and under? Why is CAC choosing to ignore WHO recommendations and choosing to be stricter than other international schools in Cairo who do not recommend kids under five to wear the mask in class such as MBIS, Malvern, French Lycee, etc.?” Another parent says, “I am wondering why young kids’ masks are mandatory in school when it’s likely to have a negative impact on their social and emotional well being? Is childrens’ stress and anxiety around this time not of concern to CAC?” And a third one is, “Kids five and under are not recommended to wear masks according to the WHO and other schools globally are supporting this, why is CAC not?”
ES Principal: Thank you, Ivana. I suppose in addition to what has already been commented on regarding mask wearing, correct, the WHO says five years of age, the CDC – two years of age. We’ve talked about that shift for CAC and once again, any parent who feels that their child has any social or emotional concerns that are negative around anything whether it’s mask wearing, whether it’s entrances at the gates, anything to do with their schooling, I would ask that those parents contact the class teacher as soon as possible so that we can have a conversation together and see what we can do to move forward to insure that the children feel safe and comfortable at school. But also knowing that we have rules and regulations at this school and we are in this global pandemic as a community and we are trying to do what we feel is best for the school community.
Moderator: Thank you. A comment and question from high school, “My freshman is in a couple of classes with students in other grades, including seniors. As the upper classes return to class on both one and two days, how does CAC plan to ensure that students who are not back in the classroom yet don’t fall behind their counterparts in higher grades?”
HS Principal: That’s a great question. Teachers are very aware of the difficulties we will have in mixed classes, which tend to be world language classes or electives. There’s a couple ways we would deal with that. One would be for learning activities that the seniors and juniors are doing in the class when the 10th graders are online would be different so they would not necessarily fall behind their peers in the upper grades. Another possibility would be depending on the class and particularly depending on the size of the class, the 9th or 10th grade student could come specifically to that class on that day. That could be an option we could offer to parents if it were feasible to maintain social distancing in the classroom. We’ll deal with that on a class by class basis and possibly a case by case basis. I would encourage the parent to reach out to the teacher and to me in particular if they have further questions about that.
Moderator: Thank you. Head of School question again about the masks and a little bit more. Currently the phased plan shows that mask wearing will not be required as we turn to phase two. This is concerning for many parents. Even schools in the US with a less detailed plan still require masks wearing. Can the school please reconsider and change this policy?
HoS: Masks will be required in phase two.
Moderator: A comment from an elementary parent: “The elementary school is doing an amazing job in this pandemic. I feel very grateful for every week that ends and that our kids are able to attend school. All of this has been possible because of the hard work and dedication of the principal, the administration and the teachers and support staff. The day to day work is making school feel as normal as possible. The detailed information along with the videos and photos provided in the blogs makes us, the parents, informed about our kids’ days at school. It’s so nice to see that the blog provides so much up to date psychological support with the well being and positive psychology information for families. This has been a great resource along with the online workshops and online talks about important topics now.”
So we move on to high school, there is a comment from a parent: “Our family was not able to return from the start of the school year. Mr. Dugan was happy to meet with us about our senior and was very honest about the pros and cons of the options we were considering. His comments were simply based on what was best for our child. He also reached out to me when the first couple weeks of online school wasn’t appearing so successful. I appreciated the responsiveness of our counselor, Mr. KC Semmler, to help make needed schedule adjustments and sort out college application issues. Equally, many teachers have been so responsive and compassionate while holding our child to a high standard of work. We truly have been blessed by the high school.” Very nice to hear this feedback that there is case by case attention given even during the pandemic.
We go back to elementary school for a second. Parents feel that teachers are overworked so it does resonate with what you’ve been saying Ms. Jackson-Jin about the teachers and burdening them additionally now with after school activities. The question is, what is CAC doing to help teachers during this time?
ES Principal: Kudos to the teachers and their dedication and their passion and for the work that they do each day. Given that we are moving with some nests coming together, this will also help some of the teachers in terms of their planning and also being able to have some more prep time. We are meeting with different grade levels and teams and asking them for feedback as well. I think someone in the chat had written “When will the children that need support be able to receive the support?” Some of our teachers in the upper grade nests are the learning support and ELL teachers and so we are able to be able to release them a little bit more and they’re going to be able to support the students, but I would say any student who needs learning support or ELL or has any identified needs, though the students have been supported since day one by the teachers who are their case teachers, communicating with their class teachers or their nest teachers about the plans for those students and they are always checking in with the students and also for the parents. We really appreciate that parents are seeing what teachers are doing and also we’re making adjustments to ensure that we are giving them you know making sure that they have down time and that they have their time during the day, plus they have opportunities for collaboration and planning time with their colleagues.
Moderator: Yes, we are very appreciative. We see how much work is going into all of this. I need to read the question although I think it has been answered, it was for the Head of School. “Is there any way CAC can increase the number of people allowed on campus during community hours?” And you have said that as we move forward hopefully November we can get those numbers up. There is a parent who says, “I will not be able to attend the meeting but I would like to bring to your attention the opportunity and the potential that our campus has. It is a safe haven if not the safest place in Maadi for our community thanks to the great attention and security measures in place. But during the afternoon hours it is hardly accessible.” And again a nice comment and it just goes to say we are going to see those numbers in the slots increase.
And the last question I have here that was submitted ahead of time, “I want to know if CAC plans to allow us to spend more time in the campus before taking my children to the lessons?” So I think the parent is talking about the morning, the drop off. “We now have to spend time in a crowded cafe but hopefully want to spend some time only on certain days quietly at the outside tables at CAC.” So as you are reconsidering the phases maybe you could reconsider also the dropoff time. It is something the parents sorely miss, the connection that we used to have when dropping off our children just staying there, getting a little coffee and connecting and troubleshooting really, also helping new families, etc. So, if you could take that into consideration in some safe way that does not disrupt everything you have been doing, that would be wonderful. And now, if our speakers are ok – I know we’re going a little bit over time here, it is already 6 o’clock but would you be ok with us going through some of the questions that came up on the chat?
Does CAC have a plan to apply for the Middle Years Program of IB Curriculum?
HoS: At this time, we do not. We’re focusing on the implementation of the primary years program at this time. However, and I’m sure Mr. Dugan and Mr. Bailey could speak to this, the high school and middle school have been vertically aligning the approaches to teaching and learning, the assessment styles, the vertical alignment of the command terms in grade 10, grade 9 and grade 8 over the past few years. In addition, the middle school has recently added a course called World Views which is specifically a course that is a bit like the Theory of Knowledge course in the high school that the IB diploma students take in grade 11 and 12.
Moderator: Another question for elementary school, “My teacher said that grades 4 and 5 won’t be combining nests in phase 1.5. Is that correct?” I believe it is. “And if so, when will they combine and when will the support for 4th grade begin?” I know you’ve talked about the support but when do you expect the grades 4 and 5 to combine the nests?
ES Principal: So, in phase 3 is when all the classes would go back to being classes.
Moderator: “It was great dedication but was very difficult to take an appointment with all the teachers about Middle School Parent Teacher Conferences.” So for Mr. Bailey – more thought of as a feedback.
MS Principal: And that’s been a common concern and unless we go back to the old way of doing it where we actually have parents come on a certain time during the day based on their last name, you’re going to continue to have that problem. My advice is as soon as we send the sign up sheet out, usually 10 days ahead of time, you can’t delay. It’s kind of a first come first serve basis. I really wish there was a better way to do it but there isn’t at this time, but I’m also gonna add that our teachers are here to support parents in case they missed the conference teachers are willing to do it outside of the conference time, due to the fact that it’s done virtually. So you can set an appointment with a teacher and have a conference outside of the regular conference time.
HS Principal: May I add to that Ivana, as the high school did the exact same schedule that the middle school did, so everyone is aware. We actually shortened our conference time precisely so that there could be more slots because we anticipated correctly that because people could attend virtually, more of them would attend than would normally attend face to face. That was really tiring for the teachers. Some of them had 40 online meetings over the course of one day in an hour and a half of an afternoon. That’s really really tiring. So because there were technical glitches and because some people did not schedule appointments on time, I’ve encouraged them to write to the teachers and schedule those outside of the conference days, which they have in fact been doing.
Moderator: Well thank you for that clarification. Often times, we as parents only see our perspective and we forget that one teacher has actually already seen 40 families that day. And just as human beings we need to hear that and maybe be reminded to have some compassion also. Yes, it’s very important to hear it all and I’m glad we have this forum where we can really speak about this. Thank you. Next question is, “Do we have any prospects for prime trips during this academic year?”
MS Principal: Honestly, not at this point in time. However, we are looking at other options that we could implement when we move to phase 3.
Moderator: Thank you. “As some of our community members are testing positive for COVID-19, we hope they can recover soon. Related kids are required to quarantine for 14 days as asymptomatic patients are still highly contagious. We highly suggest requiring negative proof from them before allowing them to return on campus.” And then that parent sent another message saying, “but then including the elementary student.”
HoS: Yes, that is correct. They are all required to submit a negative PCR molecular test before they come to campus.
Moderator: Thank you. Can you please give us more information when grades 4 and 5 can combine nests. I think that has been answered. I’m sorry for the repeat but I’m going through them as we get them. “Would age group swimming happen this semester? I understand that this would be applicable for elementary school as there will be no ASAs.” So the question is for middle and high school.
HS Principal: Courtney, would you like to address that?
Bailey: We will once we move to phase 3. We’d love to have the age group swimming back on campus.
Moderator: Phase 3. Thank you. And then the last question we are getting here on the chat is, “When will we know the average scores for the PSATs and will we know if it is more or less the same average in normal school years?”
HS Principal: We don’t typically release the average score. What the counselors usually do is that they talk to the individual student about their score and then the student has an idea of how they’re – because they get a percentile score so they know how they stacked up against other people who took the test that day. Particularly for PSAT would be college bound juniors would be the metric you would look at. So we would look at that data though and we would certainly know whether that average went up or down and that might inform some conversations we might have about how we would implement online learning should we be forced to in the future and what changes we might make.
Moderator: And then the same parent added, “Will you share it with us?”
HS Principal: We typically do not share that information. We could do that, I suppose, but we haven’t in years past. If there was something alarming to report or some good news to report, yes, I think we would let you know that but typically, those results are geared more toward individual students than we use as a metric as a whole. We do look at the average though and the average scores are always quite good.
HoS: The SAT averages and the IB averages are on the school profile.
HS Principal: But not the PSATs, correct, Dr. Harris?
HoS: I don’t remember, sorry, Jerry.
HS Principal: I don’t recall either.
Moderator: It seems like the parent is really eager to see these, would you be willing to work with those parents who say that they would like to have those shared. If they individually reach out to you?
HoS: They want to see the entire grade 11 – are you just referring to your child’s scores?
Parent: Hi everybody, thank you for doing this, I just want to know how the average of the scores – are the kids under these circumstances really on track? Is this the normal percentage? Or are we below? Are we ok? You know what I mean? Just to know what’s happening in these unusual circumstances. If it were a normal year, I wouldn’t have asked.
HS Principal: The tests are themselves normed, right, so everyone in the world has also faced difficult circumstances so that would affect – if there were an effect on average PSAT scores you would also see that globally, not just limited to CAC. So, but that’s a really great question and that is data I would like to look at and I would discuss it.
Parent: Thank you.
Moderator: Well, with that, I thank everyone for sending questions before this session, during the chat, for engaging, for thinking together freely in this nice, open forum. PTO volunteers will work over this weekend on creating a good transcript and we will share it with our CAC family on the blog. The links will be available on the CAC app and on our Facebook page. If you have not, please go ahead and download the CAC app, it is a fabulous resource for all of us and it is growing every day and getting better and better. So please, do download that. We’ll see the transcript shared with us so give us just a few days to get the transcript in good shape. If you have any other questions, any ideas, anything where you think the PTO can support you further please, our virtual door is always open. We can put our email address once again on this chat for everyone. And with that I thank you, I thank you our dear admin for your time and your patience answering our questions, guiding us through and allowing us a voice in your decision making.
Thank you CAC family and have a wonderful evening, everyone. Bye!
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