The return to on-site classes in September 2020 was a huge challenge due to the security measures required to limit the impact of COVID-19. American School of Valencia, with more than 800 students, rearranged groups in several divisions, hired additional staff and prepared new spaces for safe learning. With all this ready, one question was unanswered: How would students feel at school after six months off-campus?
According to Dr. Yolanda Murphy-Barrena, Principal in Preschool and Elementary School, “we anticipated difficulties but they have been fewer than our first estimation.” Dr. Murphy-Barrena is really satisfied with “the new arrival protocol that includes separate itineraries and temperature checks, the increased security in the afternoon departure, and the way students have become familiar with the hygiene and safety measures”, she describes.
Emotional impacts among younger students were also expected, and that is why the PS-ES leadership team aligned the reopening with the idea “Rebuilding the community”. Mr. Richard Albiñana, the school counselor in Preschool and Grades 1-2, remarks how coronavirus has been present in their lives: “It was every day in the news but children may have felt it closer if they had a relative sick or if the health emergency affected mom and dad’s jobs”, he comments. “Keeping in mind all this, I adjusted the Personal and Social Education lesson plan, and this first month we have been working around the idea of security provided by the relationships with other students and teachers, and the enriching bonds we all have at ASV”, describes.
Hygiene and safety have not been a big deal for students, Mr. Albiñana remarked: “Children usually remind to each other the use of a mask and hand washing, parents have done a good job at home.” Regarding the stable or bubble groups, structured activities during breaks are being helpful to “avoid interactions outside the group and teach how to manage free time.” Aligned with the ASV philosophy of positive support, students get individual or group rewards when they make responsible choices.
Five weeks after the school opened, this strategy has been a success, and, most important, teachers “are thankful for being able again to develop face to face learning”, Dr. Murphy-Barrena says in conclusion.