Like many of you, I have spent the past few days processing my disappointment and indeed sense of loss that we will not be going back to school next month. I think all of us certainly understand the reasoning behind the government’s decision. At the same time, I very much miss the opportunities every day to greet our students when they arrive at school, to visit classrooms, to engage with colleagues, and to feel the sense of energy, vibrancy, and joy that normally radiates throughout our campus.
I know many of our students and teachers are going through that same sense of loss. It is important for us as parents to acknowledge that loss and sense of grief. And, it is equally important to reassure our kids that this loss is not permanent. It is temporary. We will get through this, and we certainly look forward to celebrating in person with our students when we do get to see them again.
Even as we deal with this sense of loss, I also think it is important that we acknowledge our gratitude for the many gifts that we are fortunate to have—our health, our families, the hard work of our teachers and our parents in supporting students’ learning, and the way our kids have adapted during this time of adversity. I had the opportunity to host a virtual lunch with several sixth grade students today, and I was struck by their optimism and ability to balance positive as well as negative impacts of distance learning.
They spoke of missing their friends, the chance to work together in groups, and opportunities for hands-on learning like science labs. They said it was sometimes hard for all students to stay motivated and on-task. And, at the same time, they emphasized how much they appreciate the learning opportunities they do have, the progress they are making, and the sense of ownership they have in driving their learning. They built on each others’ comments and navigated the Zoom platform with confidence. One of them ended the meeting by saying: “Overall, you guys are doing a really good job, and we really appreciate it.”
These are certainly not easy times, and I do want to thank our parents for all you are doing at home to support your kids. We know this has added stress to parents’ lives already complicated by work-based challenges, and we are grateful for your partnership.
We have received many questions from you with regard to the extension of distance learning, and we attempt to answer the ones we have heard most frequently below. Please also refer to our FAQ page for additional answers, which we update as new questions come in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will we come back to school the first week in June?
We very much hope that we will be able to come back to campus for that last week. That will depend in large part on decisions made by the government. If able to do so, we would plan that last week to focus on social and emotional support for our kids—to celebrate their relationships, spend time together, and in many instances find closure at the end of a challenging semester. We will not have regular classes that week.
Depending on social distancing requirements in place at the time, we would hope to bring students back for part of that week—potentially in staggered fashion—to engage in activities focused on giving them social and emotional closure and a sense of wholeness. We will be able to share more about our plans for this last week when the government communicates next steps with regard to the circuit breaker.
Has the school considered following the newly announced change by the Ministry of Education to take May as a vacation month and then go back to school in June?
We do certainly appreciate the advantages of in-person learning compared to home-based learning. We have discussed the possibility of such a schedule question at some length. At the end of the day, we believe that in our situation the cons of such a change significantly outweigh the pros. Much of this is because the MOE schools are on a calendar year schedule, and the May break for them represents a mid-year break.
For us, by contrast, our school year ends in early June. Everything from teacher contracts (for existing and new teachers) to the curriculum taught in each class to tests such as Advanced Placement exams all revolve around that early August to early June calendar. For example, our high school students will be taking AP tests in the middle of May, and it is essential that we support them. Likewise, our departing teachers are planning to leave Singapore in early June to return to their home countries. Finally, if travel restrictions lift this summer (which is very hard to predict), many of our families and teachers will head overseas in June. As such, we do not think it is feasible to take May as a vacation month and push back the end of the school year until the beginning of July.
I am worried about a possible performance gap in my child’s education. How can I address that?
Teachers have determined what is most important for students to know and be able to do by the end of the year, and that is what they are targeting in their distance learning lessons. Additionally, we recognize that students will come to us from all over the world at the beginning of next year, and most will not have had the distance learning opportunities that our students have had this spring. We will spend time in August determining where each child is in their learning journey and will adjust our instruction accordingly. With targeted instruction, any “gaps” will be addressed quickly and your child will be right where they need to be for a successful school year.
Will there be any type of tuition rebate for the early learning center or the school more broadly?
In light of the Singapore government’s announcement this week extending the circuit breaker and the economic impact of that decision, we will be making recommendations to the School Board on this issue at our meeting next week.
Will SAS offer summer semester? Will there be any type of discount for SAS families?
We know that many families have altered their summer plans and intend to stay in Singapore. At the same time, there are still many unknowns about what a summer program might look like, including whether distance learning will still be required or what kind of social distancing requirements would be in place for in-person learning. We are still looking at different scenarios and how those might impact our summer offerings. We will communicate more about potential summer opportunities next month.
With the extension of the circuit breaker, our family has decided to go back to our home country until the start of the fall semester—will my child still be supported?
We will continue with our distance learning plan until Friday, May 29. We are currently offering synchronous learning to our students, which means they would need to be available for classes during their regularly scheduled times. Students would certainly have the opportunity to continue with the asynchronous aspects of distance learning.
Will there be rebates for bus fees for April/May?
As mentioned in a previous letter, Yeap transport has authorized a 60 percent refund for fees dating back to March 30. Yeap Transport will reach out to families directly with further information about how to claim their rebates.
If you have additional questions, ideas, or feedback, please share them with Dr. Leigh Martin, our head of community engagement.