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Reflections on this week and thinking ahead

Posted: November 15, 2019

This week has been an extremely difficult week and I would like to start by saying thank you to all the members of our community who have coped with the situation with patience, perseverance and understanding. We know that different parts of our community are affected by what is happening in many different ways. 

As a staff it matters to us that the whole community knows we are working hard on every aspect of this situation and the operations of our school. We are accountable to you, and I wanted to reflect some of the main focus points that the team has been concentrating on in the last few days:

  • Setting up daily home learning
  • Managing the staff travel situation, as we have had our staff attempting to make it into work but affected by safety and transport issues in unpredictable ways
  • Supporting members of the community who are particularly affected by what is happening
  • Keeping a number of our regular processes going, such as recruitment – where we remain in a competitive situation with schools across the world and so we need to proceed according to our intended timescale in order to ensure the best possible staff are working with our young people in the future
  • Monitoring and managing the situation with ESF colleagues, the EDB and other relevant authorities
  • Preparing for No Boundaries week, putting the necessary safety protocols and contingencies in place to support the activities that are happening and ensuring our staff are fully briefed. We have a dedicated team of staff who are in many cases leaving their own family members in Hong Kong during this time of uncertainty and I want to credit their work and commitment for making sure No Boundaries is a success once again.

As I have been walking through different parts of the school this week the efforts of staff to make it onto campus if they can, and to make sure the school is ready for our students when we can welcome them back, has really come home to me. Once example came when I visited the 5/F and spoke to two colleagues in our support staff who had both had roughly 3 hour journeys to get to school, and the same to get home again, given some of the disruption to transport. Both colleagues had come in despite the difficulties because they knew that a student project is due to happen on Monday and they had to make sure the right equipment is in place, and when I spoke to them they were working tirelessly to do this. These colleagues and their actions capture the feeling we all have in this situation – that it is difficult, and terribly sad, but that we are all looking forward to that point at which we can re-open and welcome our young people back to their school, and we are working intensively towards that goal.

We have also been engaging in medium-term planning in case the current situation extends beyond the weekend. Clearly there are a large number of variables, and with such a complex organisation there are many considerations. We do not know what will happen next week and beyond, but we feel it is prudent to explore alternative ways to facilitate learning in two main possible scenarios:

If classes remain suspended under EDB / ESF-wide decisions:

If classes remain suspended for a longer time, as a minimum benchmark we anticipate utilising our home learning processes as have been employed over the last few days. However, we are exploring how we could utilise remote teaching to facilitate learning, where teachers use technology such as Google Hangouts to run classes online, supported by Virtual Learning Environments such as Google Classroom and Ding!. Remote teaching may only be able to apply to certain yeargroups, or certain parts of the curriculum. For Secondary students in particular it may be dependent on a revised timetable so that students and teachers know when and how to engage in remote teaching for different parts of the curriculum. 

If classes can resume in part, but the ongoing situation in the city prevents sections of our staff and/or student community from being able to access the campus safely:

If classes can resume in part but with some students and/or staff still experiencing issues getting to DC, we are exploring a limited opening model which involves offering a smaller number of classes at any one time for students assured to make it to campus safely, staffed by teachers who can also be assured to make it to campus but who may not be the teachers regularly assigned to a particular group. On Wednesday this week we did in fact have a draft limited opening model planned out, prior to being notified of the EDB suspension of classes, so we have retained this planning for if we are able to utilise it later. The model would only be relevant to us if the EDB discontinue the suspension of classes, as while this remains in place we are not able to offer classes on campus.

We hope it is useful for us to share our initial thinking with you at this stage. We are not able to say what will happen on future days, but we want to assure you that we are planning for as many different eventualities as we can and are absolutely committed to trying, whenever it proves possible, to continue learning as intended and to welcoming your child back to the College. If any of the scenarios above are invoked, one thing that is certain is that it will take time for us to implement the necessary structures and for teachers to plan and adapt their teaching. Consequently, we ask for your continued patience and will communicate with you further as the situation develops. 

DC is what it is because of the people who make up our community. Consequently, underpinning all our work at the moment is the strong hope that we will be able to re-open in full as soon as possible and continue our work together – staff, students, and parents – here at the College.

Best wishes,

James Smith