We’ve all been holding our breaths, anxiously awaiting the start of the 2020/21 school year. Will classes really be held on-site? What happens if someone at the school is infected with Coronavirus? Will we have another lockdown? Will my children enjoy any kind of a “normal” school life? How much will the Corona measures disrupt their learning? Will the teachers still be able to give my child the individual attention they need?
I’m not going to lie, we did get off to a bit of a bumpy start. First, we had to reorganize our buildings, offices and classrooms due to the new construction on our campus the city of Cologne decided to start mid-summer break. Next, induction week was held almost completely online, making it quite a challenge to get new offices and classrooms set up. Our welcome events for new families were successful, yet bittersweet to not have returning students welcome their new peers on their first days of school. Lastly, in the second round of testing for all teachers and staff, it turned out that one Coronavirus test came back “lightly positive”, turning everything upside down as we shut down the primary school after only one day back, frantically traced contacts to the infected staff member and discussed all interactions and possible scenarios with the Cologne health office. Thankfully, the infection was contained, only two colleagues and no students were in close contact and we could reopen our primary school on day three.
Now, starting our first full week of school – with all classes back on-site – we know that we are fully prepared to handle whatever may come. We can confidently say we have a system in place to safely offer positive learning programs for all of our students. Our small learning groups and ideal teacher-student ratios enable us to uphold social distancing measures in the classrooms, while our sizeable campus allows for separation of classes and school forms, different entrances and break spaces as well as one-way traffic. If an infection occurs, it can easily be contained to one class or school form. Our full integration of technology in the classroom, with iPads, computers and smart boards used on a daily basis in each class, means all of our teachers, staff and students are able to switch online for blended or full e-learning programs if a temporary quarantine or another lock-down is necessary. We made that experience at the end of last school year and received only positive feedback from our entire school community.
Yes, Corona measures will distract from our children’s learning and no, we cannot offer the full range of exciting activities we’d like to. However, during these precarious times, we can stay positive knowing that our children will still be receiving the excellent, carefully thought-through, individualized and uninterrupted education they signed up for.