18 September 2020

Update on the Covid-19 pandemic

Dear NOVA community,

Update as of September 18th:

We are happy to report at the end of another successful week. We were finally able to welcome our grade 4 and 5 learners, and with that have all of our Elementary students on campus, an important achievement. We’re now setting our focus on the Secondary division. By the end of next week you can expect a decision by the Crisis Management Team in regards to bringing grades 6 through 8 on campus. In the meantime, we will continue our distance learning support for Elementary School students that have remained home, and the whole grade 6-12 cohort. We’ve already began collecting feedback as to how our first three weeks of learning have gone, in the hopes we can learn and adapt. Should you receive a survey request, please make sure you respond, so your feedback is taken into consideration.

On the Elementary School side, our arrival and dismissal procedures have proven very effective. We can report that families have followed through on our screening requirements, and students on campus on safety protocols. This has allowed teachers to direct their primary focus on learning, instead of enforcing protocols. 

In the Secondary School the advisory support at the beginning of the day has served as an anchor to a student's day. We just had our first Community meet to underscore this important role for grades 6-8, helping parents understand how they can better utilize this important resource. This last Wednesday’s Community day was all about movement - celebrating a heart/mind connection, in line with our mission statement. On the following link you can see how the day unfolded. Starting from next week, we’re excited to introduce our Math Enrichment classes, to further build on student numeracy skills.

Update as of September 4th:

Our initial plan for inviting PreK 3 – grade 5 students back to campus, was stalled due to new Government regulations and approvals. Yesterday we hosted representatives from the newly formed Commission on the reopening of schools, who toured our facilities and verified our overall preparedness. We received very positive feedback, and were complemented on the work we’ve done to ensure we can reopen safely for our students. Today in the afternoon hours we received our second formal approval. Based on this outcome, we are going to be welcoming our PreK3, PreK4 and K grade students on campus from Wednesday, September 9th, and plan to welcome our grade 4 and 5 students on campus from Monday, September 14th. Once we reach these reopening thresholds, we will begin to consider including higher grade levels. We will make every effort to provide you with a timely notification of these decisions.

Update as of August 28th:

On August 27th, in the evening hours, we were contacted by a high representative of the Ministry of Education in regards to our issued Government approval from August 20th for the reopening of our school for face-to-face instruction for all grade levels (original Macedonian version and translated English version). We were informed that a new decision-making body, a Commission for the review of reopening requests for schools has been formed by the Government with ultimate oversight. The Commission was formed at the Government’s last session on Wednesday, August 26th (the official decision in Macedonian and English). According to the Ministry representative the creation of this new decision-making body had in effect voided the previous Government approval, for any grade levels outside of grades 1-3, and that we as a school are required to submit an additional request for the reopening of all other grade levels, subject to a new review at an upcoming session of this newly formed Commission. 

 

In light of the new circumstances, the CMT held an emergency meeting and decided to proceed with the reopening for grades 1,2,3 only, while seeking a second Government approval for all other grade levels. Although we were provided a verbal promise of a date, we are deciding not to make time predictions as to when this decision will be reached but to duly inform you once we have it in our possession. We hope it would be a matter of days versus weeks. We therefore will only be able to welcome students from grades 1-3 starting from August 31st. We’re also proceeding with student orientations as originally planned for our Secondary students, as this doesn’t constitute an actual commencement of school.

 

Update as of August 21st:

We are happy to report that the Government has reached a decision in regards to public schools’ reopening, and we’ve also received our formal reopening approval, independently of the public school system. We’ve also processed the parent and staff survey results, are completing our staff PCR testing, and have held our Crisis Management Team (CMT) meeting today, in which we formalized our initial school reopening model. Provided the current epidemiological situation, the Government's decision on school reopening, and our own school preparedness, we will commence the school year under the following models: 

  • Early Education Center and Elementary School (grades Pk3-5) under the blended learning model, with an opportunity for distance learning for families not yet in Skopje or not ready to send their children to school

  • Secondary School (grades 6-12) under the distance learning model 

As a CMT we would have a two-week revision cycle of this decision. In case of no local school transmission of the virus, and an improved local epidemiological situation, we will consider including more grade levels under the blended learning model. Should there be a worsening of the epidemiological situation, or local school transmission, we would consider reducing the number of grade levels allowed on campus under the blended learning or potentially have the whole school switch to distance learning. We would then again assess the situation in a two-week period, deciding how to proceed.

Update as of August 13th:

 The decision for reopening is based on our decision matrix, currently at medium risk, taking into account the following three important conditions:

  • the current epidemiological situation
  • our community’s view on reopening (families and staff)
  • and the formal decision and approval for reopening by authorities

Our epidemiological situation has remained relatively stable over the last couple of weeks. Our reopening parent survey returned results where 20% of our families were hesitant about having their children return for on-campus learning, and 10% of families were unable to return in time for the school’s commencement on August 24th. We are also in anticipation of the decisions and approval by the Government in regards to reopening. As of today this has not happened. In conclusion, the Crisis Management Team (CMT) at the meeting on August 13th, decided to delay the school's reopening for a week, with the school year starting from Monday, August 31st. 

We remain optimistic about our ability to reopen in the blended learning setting for at least some of our students. However, NOVA's CMT has decided to postpone the final determination on the commencement of the blended learning model. We have determined the further need to base our decision on the input of the full NOVA parent and faculty/staff community, as well as to await for a formal decision by the Government in regards to NOVA’s Reopening plan and the public schools’ reopening. What we can say with certainty at this point is that we plan to bring students to campus to introduce them to the new protocols, beginning on Monday August 31st and continuing to September 2nd. In anticipation of the decision, each division has determined a course of action to introduce the new safety protocols to students under carefully controlled conditions. We plan to lead the students through all of the new safety procedures, while also providing an opportunity for students to re/connect with their school and classmates. These connections will be especially important for our first-time NOVA students.