4 February 2022

Covid-19 updates (2021-22)

Dear NOVA community,

Update as of February 4th:

  • Starting from Monday, February 7th, the Secondary School’s timetable will change, extending the class time by 10 minutes, and lengthening the day to 2:35 pm. The changes to students’ schedules should be reflected on everyones’ Alma accounts

  • After School Activities and SuperNOVA programs will officially commence on Monday, February 21st. (sign upHERE)(Schedule  HERE) We don’t anticipate any further delays 

  • ES recess bubbles will be observed for the next two weeks, until Monday, February 21st

  • We’re going to continue rapid antigen testing all students attending in-person schooling on Monday (SS) and Tuesday (ES)

Update as of January 28th:

  • In light of the current epidemiological situation, the HSC has decided to temporarily extend rapid antigen testing (RAT)to all students from grades PK3 to grade 12 on a weekly basis. It plans to discontinue the practice once epidemiological conditions provide for it. 

    • Monday, Secondary students (grades 6-12) in the Upper Secondary building

      • Performed the same as the last three weeks

    • Tuesday, Elementary students (grades PK3-5) in the Elementary School building

      • Students will initially go through the arrival process (temperature check) after which they’ll proceed to their classrooms 

      • Homeroom teachers will check their health booklets, and accompany their students to the nurses’ office for their RAT

        • The HSC has prepared detailed instructions for ES teachers convenience, please review them in anticipation of Tuesday’s testing

      • Families that have not provided RAT consent should do so before their child is tested. If your child has tested at school before, you’ve likely already submitted one. If not, please do so to nurse@nova.edu.mk, or have the form brought in physical copy 

    • Students that don’t test on either of those days will be tested on their first day back to school for the week

Update as of January 21st:

  • All students are invited to return to in-person schooling, with Upper Secondary students not required to follow their assigned cohorts 
    • All secondary students (6-12) will be required to undergo a rapid antigen test (RAT) at the beginning of each week in attendance, first thing in the morning in the HS building
    • Families that have not provided a RAT consent should do so before their child is tested. Please submit to nurse@nova.edu.mk, or have the form brought in physical copy 
    • When making the decision for Upper Secondary students (grades 9-12) we considered the length of time they’ve spent in distance learning, in relation to all other grade levels, and the demanding end-of-year tasks and examinations that await, which for the most part will be in-person. 
    • Students that have not picked-up their new health booklet for semester 2, can do so on Monday, January 24th. From Tuesday onwards, we would require them to be filled out by all students.
  • All families that wish for their children to be in, or remain in DL can do so by reaching out to Elementary administration (irina.stamenkovska@nova.edu.mk) or by filling out the Lower Secondary (grade 6-8) DL or Upper Secondary (grades 9-12) DL forms, if they’ve not done so already
    • We’re going to reevaluate the need for DL going forward in two week intervals
  • We are postponing the start of SuperNOVA and ASA programs for the first two weeks of the second semester. We are planning for them to commence from Monday, February 7th

Update as of January 8th:

After today’s Crisis Management Team meeting, I would like to report on the school’s reopening plan after the winter break.

  • Early Education Center and Elementary School students (grades PK3-5) will be invited back for in-person schooling

    • For any returning students: Should any of the questions in the Student Health Booklet have an answer of “YES”, parents will need to have their child tested before returning to school with either a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) or a PCR test.

    • Families would need to be extra vigilant in the next two weeks, especially if they have traveled, socialised, or spent time in crowded indoor settings. 

  • Lower Secondary School students (grades 6-8) will be invited back for in-person schooling

    • All students will be required to undergo a rapid antigen test (RAT), on Tuesday, January 11th

      • Upon arrival students should initially go to the HS building to get tested, before proceeding to their first period class

      • Families that have not provided a RAT consent for their Lower School students should do so before their child returns to campus to nurse@nova.edu.mk, or have the form sent in physical copy with their child.

  • Upper Secondary School students (grades 9-12) will be invited back in two cohorts (YELLOW and GREY), under the blended learning model, for the first two weeks of school (last two weeks of Semester 1)

    • Cohorting information will be shared by division principals on Monday morning (January 11th), and in-line with the cohorting model (YELLOW/GREY) followed at the beginning of the school year

    • All returning students will be required to undergo a rapid antigen test (RAT). On Tuesday, January 11th the YELLOW cohort is invited for in-person learning and will receive a RAT test. Likewise, on Monday, January 17th when the GREY cohort arrives for in-person schooling, they too will all be RAT tested

      • During the first two weeks of school ONLY (January 11th-21st), immunisation and covid 19 warrior status will not be taken into consideration for cohorting or testing, therefore all students will be required to cohort in their specific group and test upon their return to campus. 

  • All students returning for in-person learning are reminded to bring with them the following:

    • Several appropriate masks (KN95 or double layered)

    • NOVA ID card

    • Student Health Bookletready upon campus entry and filled out for the day (all questions answered and the temperature taken from home.)

  • All staff will return to school on Monday, January 10th, and will be RATed regardless of their immunisation or covid-19 warrior status

    • Testing will commence from 7:45am and be conducted on a first-come first-serve basis in the HS building before staff enter their classrooms/work spaces

  • All families that wish for their children to be in, or remain in, DL upon returning can verify their choice (for all divisions) using this FORM. Any student sign-ed up for DL will need to remain in this learning set-up for at least two weeks. 

Update as of October 29th:

We are finally beginning to quantify the loss of learning due to covid-19, as well as, the impact on students’ overall wellness. The American Academy of Pediatrics has termed the impact a national emergency in children’s mental health. With students’ return on campus, we’ve witnessed it firsthand, how it has translated into our students' emotional and social wellbeing, and in their academic progress.

Our approach as a school is to address these issues through the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) workshops offered, along with grade level assemblies addressing topics such as bullying and cyberbullying, and lastly through upcoming parent workshops. Parents should be on the lookout for further information in my messages, pertaining to training and helpful resources provided by the school when seeking effective and greater tools for raising children within our current reality.

Update as of October 22nd:

It was great to welcome everyone back to school at what was a sun filled week of learning, especially after a damp and rainy fall break. We celebrated the end of another week of in-person learning for all students, while keeping a watchful eye on the epidemiological developments both at home and in neighbouring countries and the wider European region. Some countries are in the midst of a very strong fall pandemic wave, and we’re receiving reports of some of our partner international schools closing down, either as a result of internal spread or government mandate. We remain cautious and hopeful that we could avoid a similar outcome, by remaining vigilant, upholding our covid-19 protocols, and not being complacent.

Update as of October 1st:

Starting from Monday, October 18th and throughout the first semester, our school schedule for Secondary will undergo a change, in order to integrate a few necessary components. In Lower Secondary (grades 6-8), we'll be able to integrate the Advisory class within the school day; while for Upper Secondary (grade 9-12), we'll implement two lunch/recess breaks, to allow students a better use of the indoor facilities. In turn, this change will allow for the integration of Advisory within the structure of the day, and remove for the better part the synchronous DL component. Diploma Program students with Higher Level (HL) classes will have access to additional class time built into the school day, initially rolled out for grade 12 students, followed by grade 11 students. 

Update as of September 24th:

It’s been an exciting week with all students back on campus, a hopeful step forward in our return to normality. Although our full campus has made us optimistic for the future, we have to remember the challenges that await. We are right at the beginning of what could potentially be the fall/winter pandemic wave, which requires us to increase our vigilance.

For this reason, we want to remind families of expectations in regards to filling out the Health Screening questionnaire on a daily basis, with the most up-to-date information. In addition, carrying an ID card is important as we only allow campus access to students we’ve health screened. The importance of wearing the appropriate type of a mask at all times when indoors cannot be underscored, and we therefore have to remind families of the appropriate type of face masks for students, with single layered/loose fitting masks, such as the surgical ones, not approved for campus use. We’ve now had five weeks of schooling and therefore should have established certain minimal expectations. Please know that we would be contacting parents of students who don’t uphold our protocols on a continuous basis. 

Update as of September 17th:

I’m happy to report that at yesterday's CMT meeting we were able to reach a consensus on the school's preparedness to welcome all grade 9-12 students back on campus for in-person learning, starting from this Monday, September 20th. We believe in light of how the first four weeks of schooling have been conducted and the currently declining covid-19 numbers, we’re provided with a window of opportunity to bring all students back on campus. At the same time, we plan to remain vigilant and closely track both the epidemiological situation in our wider community and in our school in order to decide on next steps. As we invite all Upper Secondary students back on campus, we would like to hear from those families that plan on keeping their children in DL. If you are one of those families whose children will continue with DL, please fill out the following FORM, so we know in what classes faculty would need to continue streaming their class to students remaining home. 

Update as of September 10th:

We’ve seen a further improvement in epidemiological numbers in the last week, which warrants the Crisis Management Team (CMT) to consider bringing all grade 9-12 students back to school for continuous in-person learning. The CMT will meet next Thursday, September 16th, to consider extending this invitation as early as Monday, September 20th. The final decision will be shared in next Friday's communication. 

Starting from this week we were informed of Covid-19 protocol changes initiated by the Center for Public Health. In what we believe is a positive development, in order to minimise the amount of in-person learning disruption, students and staff considered close contacts, will not automatically be sent into quarantine, and instead a risk assessment will be performed by the Health and Safety Committee (HSC), which will include considerations such as: masks (including the type and fit), distance, disinfection, high risk contacts (handshakes, hugs, eating/drinking), and type of indoor space including quality of ventilation. When even one of the criteria is not fully met, the student/staff member would be considered a high risk close contact and would need to be sent into a 14 day quarantine. 

All students and staff considered low risk close contacts, will not be placed in quarantine, and will be required to undergo a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) at school, 3 to 5 days from their last exposure, except for fully immunised students and staff, in order to be able to continue schooling/working in-person. We are, however, going to quarantine all students and staff sharing an indoor space, when we see that a second infected individual is registered within the cohort, potentially as a result of the initial positive case. We plan to communicate each case of a positive individual to parents of affected students, and staff considered close contacts, when occurring within an office or classroom setting, even if it doesn’t result in a quarantine recommendation for any students or staff members.

Update as of September 3rd:

Another successful school week is behind us. We’re now fully transitioned from summer break with school in full swing. Faculty has delved into their curriculum, while students have developed routines, with our campus beginning to resemble its pre-pandemic version. We try to celebrate the positive steps forward, while being reminded of the challenges that lie ahead. This week we had to quarantine our first groups of students, and expect with the current epidemiological numbers that we’re going to see other such cases in the coming weeks. We intend to communicate  timely and transparently when such developments occur to those directly impacted, while continuing to depend on all community stakeholders to also report any developments of concern.

We’ve been encouraged by the continually growing immunisation rates, with 30% of our Secondary student body having been at least partially immunised. As a result, many students in the Upper Secondary School (grades 9-12) have opted to benefit from continuously attending in-person classes. At the same time, we’ve received inquiries as to when we intend to invite the remainder of students back. We’re closely monitoring the current transmission rates, and their declining trend, with the hope we can do away with the cohort system in the coming weeks. Our current conservative approach is based on our goal to limit the number of learning interruptions and ensure that we limit any potential internal viral spread. 

Update as of August 27th:

On Wednesday, August 25th, we held our first town hall meeting of the year, with the Health and Safety Committee (HSC) presenting the school’s latest protocols, and also responding to parent inquiries. We wanted to thank all families that took an active part, and hope others will join us on future such occasions. For the ones unable to attend, we're including the video of the meeting, and a link to the actual presentation. We will also encourage you to visit our covid-19 resource page, where you can find the latest information related to the school’s response in regards to the pandemic, inclusive of the school’s current risk level, in addition to many other useful resources.  

Update as of August 20th:

I’m happy to report that the Crisis Management team confirmed our previously shared plan, to  commence the school year on Monday, August 23rd, for all grade levels PK3 - 12 for continuous in-person learning, with the exception of Upper Secondary students (grade 9-12) who are initially invited back in cohorts (yellow and grey). Our newly updated Covid-19 Procedures and Protocols have been formally approved by the Commision on Infectious diseases, and we also received the Ministry of Education's green light to go ahead as planned. We’re happy to learn that public schools are planned to reopen on September 1st, with most students invited back on campus. We support this decision, although we are taking a more cautious initial approach, before ultimately transitioning to a similar model. 

Update as of August 13th:

Per our published calendar, we’re looking forward to welcoming students from Monday, August 23rd, provided Government approval. Should there be any changes to the school’s start date we will inform you accordingly. We’re happy to invite all grade levels PK3 - 12 back on campus, for the full school week (Monday through Friday) and an extended school day:

  • Grade PK3-5 from 8am to 2:20pm 

  • Grade 6-8 from 8:15am to 1:35pm

  • Grade 9-12 from 8:15am to 1pm and synchronous DL from 2pm to 2:30pm

  • After School Activities and SuperNOVA sports from 2:40pm to 4pm

We’re closely following the developing epidemiological situation, but based on our current assessment we are planning to invite all grade PK3-8 students on campus for continuous in-person learning, while grade 9-12 students will initially be invited back in cohorts (yellow and grey), with the plan to soon transition them all back on campus for in-person learning. The Crisis Management Team  will meet next week to either confirm or modify this decision, an update you’ll receive before the official start of the school year.