Starting the school year 2020-21

Dear parents, dear colleagues,

While we are working hard to be ready to welcome you next week, to guarantee everyone, – students and staff alike – may return safely, I would like to inform you that the formulation of the protocols necessary for the return of children, pupils and students to our association, has taken place after a careful analysis of the numerous regulations, in compliance with the guidelines in force. In recent months as well as currently we have been having continued constructive exchanges with other RISA headteachers, considering the particularity of the start of this school year, which is different from any other that has been planned and previously experienced by all of us.

 

We are aware that the children will be returning to school after a difficult period in their lives, having had reduced socialisation and stimuli, due to the measures imposed to minimise the risk of contagion. We also know that other families may have sought to return to normality as soon as the lockdown was over, enjoying the summer holidays in a way that has allowed them to put the pandemic behind them. Indeed, there will be many differences in reactions, opinions, expectations and emotions both from teachers and parents, as well as from children and pupils who, curious or dubious, frightened or light-hearted, will arrive at our gates next Thursday.

 

This year will be different from previous ones. We will make new acquaintances and acquire new skills in many circumstances, entering uncharted territory. It has been a period not without tension, due to the barrage of information (often provisional, contradictory, unclear or even contradictory) that we have been overloaded with.

 

The action we take as an educational institution must be formulated to prioritise, above all, the emotional serenity of everyone: pupils, parents and staff. We must give the children a place to grow, experience new things and interact together by promoting a sense of belonging within the class group, albeit in a manner different to that which they may be accustomed to, and appreciating this chance we have of being able to give them back a sense of place. Even though there is uncertainty of how long this will be the case, we will learn to appreciate the moment. We will learn the flexibility that is necessary in order to manage an uncertain year, and we will learn that, even if we do so in different ways, we will be capable of reaching our goals.

 

We return after having lived through a period of discontinuity. It is therefore essential to use strategies aimed at building a new way of being together with our pupils, dedicating the first period to listening, then to reflecting and lastly to constructing, together with them, the new world that surrounds us. This new world will keep many of its old rules, but will require new ones for some of your children, although some will be familiar to those who have already practised them over the summer. We will learn to be emotionally close to each other and to work and play in new and different ways. The great challenge is to succeed without being burdened by a sense of something lost, and to show ourselves capable of seizing the moment as an opportunity for growth and enrichment. Changes can be scary, but changes are also moments full of energy. From energy comes our strength.

 

As well as the children, the adult protagonists of this journey – educators, teachers, parents –  will have to connect, build close relationships, share educational messages, build trust, as never before, and position themselves in such a way as to achieve the common goal: serenity.

 

Having finished with the premises above, which I consider important for us to reconnect our dialogue before the beginning of this unforgettable school year, I provide you with some practical information that I hope will help you visualise our near future together through this first list, which will be followed in the coming days by a set of images that will help you see, even if you will not be able to physically enter, the places where we will welcome the children and pupils:

 

  • We have divided the children of the EY and also those of Reception into four distinct small groups and assigned them a comfortable and well-equipped space with a bathroom dedicated to each group. Each group will work with specific and distinct educators, with a total number of eight small groups and eight teachers.

  • We have divided the children of Year 1 into two groups with two distinct educators, a common welcome place, a specific space for each group, making sure that there are bathrooms dedicated to each group.

  • We have hired additional staff, including five assistants who will help in the entry and exit operations, and to provide cover during outdoor playtime. They will be familiar with the classes and the methodologies of teachers and will support their work during the time of outdoor teaching, so if needed they will be able to replace any sick colleague in the EYFS department, Year 1 and Primary.

  • We have divided the Year 2 children into four small groups, each of whom will be accommodated in environments that are compliant with the distance relative to the space/ attendance indicated in the legislation, in the rooms of the Villa in Via D’Avack and the additional area we have organised.

  • We have divided all the remaining Primary classes into two groups with a maximum of 10 to 16 children respectively, placing them in environments that are compliant with the spacing indicated in the legislation.

  • We have rented a neighbouring villa overlooking Via Veientana, immediately after the intersection with Via D’Avack, where we have moved the Middle School department. The spaces in this building, consisting of just one floor, within a large garden, are such as to allow the preservation of Year 7 – 8 – 9 groups, without having to divide them, respecting the distance between students, highlighted in the guidelines at reopening, issued by the authorities.

  • We have proceeded to connect the three sites, to enhance the drive that contains our work system and to implement the safety and management of possible interventions, purchasing a telephone switchboard, positioning cordless phones in all the staff rooms and in the kitchens of the three sites, providing the entire staff community with an app that allows them to be connected from the classrooms or outdoor space to the front office, in order to manage any emergencies.

  • We have enlarged our devices fleet that will allow us to offer an ICT programme integrated with the work done in some class projects. This will give us the opportunity to orchestrate tools that interact with each other and enhance the training.

  • We are organising outdoor spaces, dedicated to each section/group of the EYFS, Year 1 and Primary departments to take lessons outdoors when the weather allows.

  • We have planned the use of some areas of our four hectares of land between the two complexes (Veientana and D’Avack) in order to support and encourage the development of the imaginative and manipulative play of children, including in our programme a space for a Forest School.

  • We have planned and are organising specific play areas to imagine and to interpret role-playing games. These areas will take shape over the next few weeks, now that finally we are about to finish all the structural work.

  • We are completing a welcome area at the entrance as additional space.

  • We have purchased machines that allow quick and functional sanitation and a daily sanitation of the environment.

  • We have purchased and installed “UV-Fan” air sanitizing equipment in each classroom.

  • We have organised six spaces to ensure that each department and subgroup of teachers has a dedicated staff room to significantly reduce staff travel and interaction.

  • We have bought lunch boxes, cutlery and compostable glasses with which to serve lunches and snacks to children and staff. We confirm that they will continue to be prepared by our two chefs Monica and Stefano, who this year will be joined by Rocco Cavadini, a young chef de rang who graduated from the prestigious university of Lyon, Ecole de Paul Bocuse. The attention to the choice of foods, their quality and variety, and the preparation of meals and snacks will remain the same.

  • To our Safety Manager we have entrusted the determination of spacing in the classroom to discuss the best layout of school desks in compliance with the safety regulations of the law decrees and the guidelines recently shared by the competent authorities (shared with you on the website of the Association).

This allows us to confirm that the learning will take place in presence for everyone. This implies that there will be no variations in the delivery of our teaching programme: EYFS, Year 1 and Primary & Middle school departments will continue to develop their programme respectively during 35 hours and 40 hours per week.

 

Like the other international schools belonging to RISA, we too will proceed according to our usual calendar. We therefore confirm that we will reopen to children, pupils and students on the 3rd of September 2020.

 

The detailed organisational methods will be communicated to you next week during the class meeting with the teachers. The safety protocols will be illustrated to you during the meeting preceding the opening.

 

Based on their initial responses to the insertion period of the EY, the afternoons and the canteen will be gradually introduced for EY pupils.

 

This will also allow us to fine-tune all the entry and exit procedures and to adequately train pupils and parents in the perspective of renewing and making the Educational Co-Responsibility Pact even more significant.

 

The entrances and exits from the three complexes will be divided into eight rows, respectively in front of 5 gates, three of which are suitable for vehicles, to guarantee a rapid influx of pupils, while avoiding outside gatherings of students and parents.

 

Our students will therefore come back to school by attending every lesson, an aspect we particularly care about. This does not mean that the positive use of the technologies developed during the DAD in the third quarter of the last school year will be archived and put aside; despite the discomfort of the distance between students and teachers, we have learnt to appreciate some of the alternative teaching methods we used, whose potential and functionality can also be considered valid and functional in face-to-face teaching. This also means that if a new lockdown were to occur, they would obviously also be used for the seamless delivery of the DAD, as is confirmed in the recent document “Guidelines for Integrated Digital Didactics” Law Decree 89 of 07/08/.

 

All staff will be equipped with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment specific for each sector and every different competence, and the sanitation methods expected for the return date will be guaranteed. As soon as possible, specific training will be provided to all personnel directly involved with specific responsibilities involved in managing emergencies, while the cleaning staff has already received training.

 

Finally, it is important to inform you that in order to return safely, we have offered all ATA staff members and teachers of the association the opportunity to take advantage of nasopharyngeal swabs with results incoming in the following 24/48 hours. We chose a diagnostic test that is currently considered to be the most functional in revealing the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in an infected individual, and can confirm the possibility of being able to repeat them up to three times a month. We are happy that this service was greatly appreciated by the staff members who embraced the initiative and would also like to take this opportunity to thank one of our parents – Dr Antonio Capalbo – for having followed and guided us in the implementation of this important service for the protection of the health of the whole community.  Please note that in light of the actual safety norms and guidelines for returning to school, in case of positive feedback to prevention tests of pupils/students or teachers and ATA staff, return to the association would be possible only after an isolation period and presenting certification attesting the actual recovery.

 

In this regard, for the health of the community and a greater guarantee of safety for each family, we are sure that all members of our community (staff, faculty and families) will follow national and regional indications on the execution of swabs or any prevention test, quarantine if you have been or will be on holidays or for work in places that requires it.

 

In the hope of having summarised the actions and procedures (the finer details of which you will find within the documents to follow in the upcoming week) and of having helped you to better picture how this year’s return to school will be, I thank you for your support and send you my most cordial greetings and best wishes for a welcome return!

 

Sincerely,

Michaela Diena

Head Of School