From the Director
The Current Message to Parents - August 10, 2020
Dear Parents and Students:
I write today to share our plan for SY 20-21. I am well aware that we are probably the last school in Kuwait to do so, and that has been intentional. Over the last weeks and months our administrative team has engaged deeply in analysis, scenario planning, and consultation, with the goal of defining how to reopen AUS in the safest manner possible. With the education landscape as we know it continuing to change due to the coronavirus pandemic, I have been hesitant to provide a plan that our team has formulated because of changes in response to the evolution of this pandemic, especially in the past few weeks. Leadership in COVID-times does not mean announcing the first plan, rather it requires taking the time to assess the dynamics of the pandemic to define the most responsible plan. I have no doubt what we have in place now will probably change based on the unpredictability of COVID-19. We must therefore remain nimble in our ability to shift course at any moment.
The Ministry of Education has indicated private schools will begin the school year using an on-line platform until further notice. Although we understand the safety and well-being of the school community must be the driving force in the decisions of whether to allow students and staff to return to direct instruction, it is problematic for the education of students, especially early childhood. However we recognize the priority of the government of Kuwait is to keep us safe and as long as community spread of COVID-19 is evident it is unlikely we will fully open school.
The moment we are granted permission to return to our facility our plan for implementation of our Flexible Hybrid Model will be gradually applied beginning with grades Pre-K – 1st grade and our seniors. Specifics of how this could work will be provided once Ministry approval is granted.
Many of you are aware of the human sacrifices this pandemic has caused on all aspects of society and our school staffing has not gone unscathed. Travel restrictions continue to impact the return of school personnel. Additionally, the reduction of personnel means the on-line platform will be different from last year’s digital experience, but it will be engaging and effective. Our priority will be to concentrate on the core curriculum to guarantee and eliminate any gaps in learning for Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. A focus on achievable and time-limited on-line sessions is critical to student success and their on-line experience. What teachers present must be quality instruction and not just a large quantity of miscellaneous work. We anticipate MOE waivers for some graduation/credit requirements due to the pandemic and accreditation agencies
are re-thinking what constitutes a full-time learning experience for students. The research is clear that meaningful on-line instruction for students is not sustainable for more than 3.5 – 4 hours daily. The number of hours decreases significantly for early childhood and elementary students. Our leadership team used data from the student, parent and teacher surveys conducted at the end of last school year to drive many of our academic decisions for meaningful on-line instruction. Building level administrators will provide specifics prior to the start of school.
Our administrators, along with selected teachers returned August 9th to work with students that did not complete on-line learning last school year. This MOE mandatory intensive learning session is a 5- week instructional period for AUS. Beginning September 14th all AUS students will begin the MOE mandated review of curriculum materials from the previous school year for a 2-week period. This review period is calculated as part of the new school year and will allow assessment of student retention of last year materials, plus gives us additional evaluative data for each student. The new school year will officially start with a digital open house on September 29th & 30th, and introduction of new materials/instruction begins October 4th. The updated school calendar is now available @ www.aus.edu.kw .
As stated earlier with the travel restrictions (PCR test, 14-day quarantine upon arrival), plus a large majority of our North American educators traveling from outside of Kuwait, returning has presented some obstacles. The date for return of educators is the 23rd of August but with the added quarantine and the need for teacher orientation and professional development it was imperative we move our start date for this year. Currently our newly hired educators are not allowed to enter Kuwait as we cannot obtain visas for them.
Each school in Kuwait must make the best decisions for their entire school community and thus there will be different start dates and approaches to on-line learning. The method of delivering education will look dramatically different at every school this fall. You might remember we did not end last year at the same time as other schools, and our digital/e-learning platform was altered several times to meet the needs of our students.
The faculty and staff are eager to return to the rewarding work of teaching, learning, and engaging with students. Our unwavering devotion to excellence and to our school community remains our purpose to be “A Better Choice.”
Updates to follow
Jennifer J. Beckwith, Ph.D.
“AUS…A Better Choice”
Dr. Beckwith joins AAIE Board of Trustees