By Dan Mullen Ed.D., Director at The American School of Kinshasa (TASOK), Democratic Republic of Congo
Some of us are finally getting a chance to stop for a minute and reflect on the whirlwind of quick decisions involving early breaks, campus closure, travel restrictions, and planning for Virtual Learning that has consumed our world. As discussions now change from ‘What is Virtual Learning?’ and ‘How quickly can we implement?’, parents and Boards now realize the influence that long-term campus closure has on uneasiness related to tuition refunds or extension of the school year.
The language we use as international leaders influences this conversation and should give assurance to the community that the mission and vision of the school guide the decisions we make as a Board. Since the first inkling of campus closure, I have carefully been "training" my Board (and the school community) not to use the term ‘closing school’. We are shifting the style and instructional process to a virtual platform, and only ‘closing campus’. This is something very apparent in all of my communications with the TASOK community and ongoing updates on COVID-19.
Students at TASOK may check out “as many books as they can carry!” for Spring Break and for virtual learning at home.
Once this language becomes commonplace, and value is placed on virtual learning, the conversation shifts away from normal ‘school closure’ discussions about making up days (like snow days), or potential tuition refunds. Teachers are expected to continue to give 100% to their students virtually, and students/families are expected to continue to work through the virtual learning opportunities that everyone in the world is currently putting together. I have made it very clear that we have every intention of finishing the school year with successful student learning taking place, near or far.
The conversation of calendar changes depends on which path you are going as a Board, ‘closing school’ or ‘closing campus’. In our international community, extending the school year would be extremely difficult as many families (teachers and parents) are naturally relocating to new posts, new countries, and new opportunities, all of which include travel plans that are already in place.
Like all difficult situations, someday we will look back and realize the decisions we made as a Board always kept student learning in the forefront.