School Reopening Strategies at MIS

Along with all elements of life, uncertainty pervades the current educational life of our children. Will we return to school in September? Will it be online learning again?  What will happen in examinations next year?  Will there be sport? How will schools make education a safe and viable option? In this update, we will answer as many questions as possible, giving the scenarios we can anticipate along with the latest guidance from the Ministry of Education.

When will school recommence?

As things stand, we are planning for a restart on August 30th.  As you would expect, this is subject to approval from the Supreme Committee.  Some schools have suggested that we may return a week earlier.  If that is the case, we will notify you as soon as possible.

What will the return to school look like?

There are currently three scenarios. 

  • Blended education enabling a rotating 50% student population in school and 50% online
  • 100% Distance Learning
  • Normal Resumption of School

We will examine them in order of the most to least probable.

  1. Blended education enabling a rotating 50% student population in school and 50% online

How would this work? Muscat International School has created a 10 day timetable to enable a rotating cohort to attend school.  See Fig 1 below:

Fig 1 Rotating 50% Cohort Model

 Day 1Day 2 Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9Day 10
SchoolABABABABAB
OnlineBABABABABA

The benefits of this model are many:

  • Enables social distancing in the classroom
  • Enables staggered break-times to ensure social distance
  • Reduced numbers enable close monitoring of sanitization
  • Reduced numbers on school transportation
  • High-quality ‘live’, synchronous online learning direct from the classroom to the home
  • Assessments will take place in school in socially distanced conditions
  • Students will have a semblance of return to normality and will be prepared for the challenges of living with the pandemic

Questions and Answers related to this model

What precautions will the school have in place?

Fig 2 A translation of MoE scenario advice

  • Provide sterilizers
  • Provide masks and gloves (parents)
  • Provide a thermometer while students enter school
  • Providing a sterilization device at the school gate upon entry and exit
  • Replace the school bag with sterile plastic bags as a precaution 
  • Take into account students with special needs and those with health conditions

To expand upon this, MIS has invested heavily on all of these precautionary measures.  Sterilisers and sanitisers will be available at all necessary points. Further to this, classrooms and facilities will be thoroughly disinfected at the end of each session.  MIS has purchased thermal cameras for an enhanced monitoring system upon entry and exit.  We are exploring the options and effectiveness of sterilizing tunnels at the school entrances.  Students with health issues will be advised on a case-by-case basis to consider their individual needs.

How will Cohort A and B be selected?

As much as possible, this will be a gender-mixed division keeping in the co-educational spirit of MIS.  An interesting question is do we arrange siblings to come in on the same day for transport convenience or do we rotate them to maximize the use of internet enabled devices at home? One of the concerns raised by a number of you is the fact that your children did not have access to enough devices in the same household. This is an area on which we will consult you.

How will social distancing work?

Each class will form a ‘bubble’ which will remain together throughout the day. For example, a Grade 3 class will have all of their lessons in the same room and will be escorted to break-times as a single group. Within the class, desks and chairs will be sufficiently spaced to enable social distancing.  Social distance markers will be placed on the floor to prevent children from clustering.  Physical interaction at break-times will be prevented by the duty teachers who will encourage non-contact play.

How will school transportation enable social distancing?

Fig 3 A Translation of MoE scenario advice

  • transportation only for faraway students only  
  • increase the number of bus trips to enable social distancing on the buses   
  • provide hand sanitizers  in the bus and following-up with the students to use it before and after getting in the bus   
  • sterilize the bus from the inside  before and after use by students  
  • open bus windows while students are inside as possible 
  • open the bus windows after students leave
  • students to put on their masks and gloves during the time they are inside the bus 

This year, MIS significantly reduced the transportation costs for parents in an effort to encourage more students to take the bus. Given the current concerns, the question is how many of you would want school transportation? Please refer to the questionnaire.

How will the students be educated at home on the days that they do not attend?

This summer, MIS has invested in further technology to enhance or online platform. We will continue to make use of the Google suite as the central platform but with a key difference in response to your input. See below:

Fig 4 The online element of blended learning

StrategiesBenefits
All lessons will be live-streamed from the classroomThis will enable ‘real-time’ interaction between students and teachers at home and in the classroom simultaneously. This will also ensure that there is continuity in their learning (e.g. Cohort A will begin a Maths topic on Day 1 at school and attend the next lesson online on Day 2).
Live lessons will be recordedThis will give students the opportunity to review the learning at a later time.  It will also ensure that online behaviour can be monitored.  This will also add a layer of safeguarding and eSafety.
All lessons will be mandatory and an attendance record will be used to ensure students do not miss valuable learningOne of the most difficult issues that our children have faced is a loss of structure. It is imperative that students begin their school day (online) on time and ‘attend’ all lessons.
Lessons will follow a consistent pattern See BelowThis consistency of approach will ensure high quality in all lessons and add to the ease of navigating the online classroom
Support Materials will be pre-preparedIn order to ensure high levels of differentiation for all ability levels, support materials will be prepared and uploaded to the students’ Google Classroom for use during the ‘live lesson’.
Enhanced technologyThrough the investment in high-quality webcams and digital ‘white board’ tablets, teachers can simultaneously conduct ‘live’ board demonstrations to students at school and at home

Exemplar Lesson Format for Blended Learning

• Online register for 50% at home
• Teacher Introduction-Housekeeping- 5 mins max
• Learning concept demonstration/learning stimulus- 10 min approx
• Student ‘try’ activity to demonstrate learning- 10 min approx.
• Teacher checks learning of all students and gives live guidance-10 mins approx.
• Students apply learning in differentiated activity-15 mins approx.
• Final plenary Q and A with teacher checking learning
• All Homework to be set on Google classroom following the MIS HW Timetable

End of lesson/5 mins to the beginning of the next lesson

How will assessments be carried out?

If the rotating 50% model goes ahead, assessments will be carried out as normal.  External examinations in November have yet to be planned and we await guidance from Cambridge International Examination Board in this regard. However, with the 50% model, examinations can take place ensuring social distancing.  Reports would be issued online.

How do I know about my child’s progress?

If there is one positive area of growth during all of this, it is the online meeting learning curve. We will schedule online meetings between parents and teachers to discuss your child’s individual progress.

How is Muscat International School going to help my child make up for lost time?

It’s about recovery not catch-up: that’s the key.

Increasingly, the onus of global education has shifted from ‘what we learn’ to ‘how we learn’.  Let’s face it. The content of our learning as children is not entirely important, is it? We can argue that religion, social/moral skills and moments of historical importance are 100% necessary but so much of what we are taught is arbitrary- perhaps based on the whim of an educationalist decades ago. How important is it, for example, that I know that the Saxon King, Alfred the Great was scolded by an old lady when he fell asleep and let her cakes burn? Recently, the Indian examination boards revealed that they may reduce their curriculum by 30%.  How can this be? Well, it’s because how we learn is more important than what we learn when we are young. If a student develops the independent, interdependent study skills necessary to be a success, they will learn everything they need for examinations without a problem.

The key to the successful reintroduction to education is to ensure that our students are supported as they readjust to the new normal. In supporting the well-being of children growing up in such a limiting time, we will use language like resilience, adaptability and emotional intelligence as the cornerstones of our educational philosophy.  We will gear everything we do towards preparing them for whatever comes next, to being excellent 21st century learners.  Under no circumstances we will add to the burden they have inherited by using terms like ‘catch-up’ and ‘pressure’. Like all good teachers, we will give them the benevolent nurture that they need along with the key skills that typify successful life-long learners.

2. 100% Distance Learning

This model will mean that 100% of students are taught online. See Fig 6.

Fig 6 100% Distance Learning*

StrategiesBenefits
All lessons will be live-streamed from the classroomThis will enable ‘real-time’ interaction between students and teachers.
Live lessons will be recordedThis will give students the opportunity to review the learning at a later time.  It will also ensure that online behaviour can be monitored.  This will also add a layer of safeguarding and eSafety.
All lessons will be mandatory and an attendance record will be used to ensure students do not miss valuable learningOne of the most difficult issues that our children have faced is a loss of structure. It is imperative that students begin their school day (online) on time and ‘attend’ all lessons.
Lessons will follow a consistent pattern See Fig 5 aboveThis consistency of approach will ensure high quality in all lessons and add to the ease of navigating the online classroom
Support Materials will be pre-preparedIn order to ensure high levels of differentiation for all ability levels, support materials will be prepared and uploaded to the students’ Google Classroom for use during the ‘live lesson’.
Enhanced technologyThrough the investment in high-quality webcams and digital ‘white board’ tablets, teachers can simultaneously conduct ‘live’ board demonstrations to students at school and at home

*The main difference between this style and the previous MIS style is the ‘live’ element. 

Questions and Answers related to this model

What if we do not have enough electronic devices in the house for our children?

This has been raised as a very real problem. The one thing that we can do is ensure that all ‘live-streamed’ lessons are also recorded so children can take it in turns to use devices. Further to this, the advice we have received from the MoE suggests that the school should enter into partnership with a company specializing in electronic devices and make arrangements for parents to pay in installments for extra devices if needed.

What if our children do not attend the online lessons?

This is a major point and can be answered by considering the lessons learnt last term.  The school will support parents by taking complete in loco parentis responsibility during the school day. This means that lateness to lessons and poor learning behaviour will be addressed by the teacher and the parent will be informed. By the same token, we can reward the positives and the progress our children make. Together, school and home, we can make this work.

How will assessments take place?

External examinations will be dictated by the Ministry of Education for GED and by Cambridge and Edexcel for international examinations. In school assessments will take place online.  We have experience of managing this through the organization of the final mock examinations which was highly proficient. It may be that, by the time of assessment, small groups are allowed to attend examinations in a socially distanced setting.

3. Normal resumption of school

At the time of writing this is highly unlikely for August 30th 2020. However, Fig 7 represents the current recommendations when this scenario becomes a reality.

Fig 7 Normal Resumption of School Recommendations from the MoE*

 AreaStrategyBenefit
1Organisation of school day and at the beginning and end of the dayReduction of lesson time     Provide sterilizers     Students wear masks and gloves (provided by parents)   Provide a thermometer while students enter school

Providing a sterilization device at the school gate upon entry and out Replace school bags with sterile plastic bags   Take into account students with special needs and those with health conditions 
To enable staggered TT and enhance social distancing. To monitor all staff, students and visitors prior to entry to the school.   To protect those at most risk from infection  
2Organisation of break-timeDistribution of break-time to different periods to allows students to go for their break time in smaller groups   Record student’s food orders before sufficient time and carefully pack them and hand to the student  to reduce overcrowding*
 
*Whether schools prepare food on site is a significant question in our view
Enable controlled social distancing.     
As above
3Students number in classrooms Take advantage of extra classrooms to reduce students numbers inside a classroom. Take advantage of other school facilities to reduce students’ number inside a classroom. Take all the learning resources out of the classroom to allow more space   Install a device that modifies and sterilizes the atmosphereEnable controlled social distancing                
To minimize the threat of infection  
4Student numbers inside school buses  Transportation only for students who live far away; distribution of students on buses (15 students) for the large capacity bus (30 passengers)and 8 students for the bus 15 passengers and so on Increase the bus trips depending on the student numbers.   Provide hand sanitizers  in the bus For student it before and after the journey   Bus drivers must sterilize the bus inside before and after use by   Students to masks and gloves during the time they are inside the bus To enable social distancing                
To minimize the threat of infection        
5Precautionary procedure to prevent infectionProvide sterilizers for each classroom Students must wash their hands with soap at regular intervals– monitor students’ social distancing Wearing masks is mandatory all of the time Lessen free time to guarantee social distancing School facilities and contents to be sterilized continuously by the cleaning company Students are not allowed to share things Establish awareness raising materials about the prevention of COVID 19.To minimize the threat of infection.       
To raise awareness regarding hygiene and staying safe  
6Teaching and learning methods and mechanisms  Not to use teaching methods that make students gathering close to each other To work on more individual teaching methods Do not assign sharing activities and projects to students  To minimize the threat of infection  
7Student assessment processes  Continuous assessment should depend more on homework Increase projects and research tasks Final assessment- a number of assessment rather than one exam.Raise levels of independent learning skills  
8Mechanism for teaching subjects of individual skills (PE, music and arts)To suspend teaching these subjects for G10 and below* – for G11 and G12 they will be having the lessons of these subjects in multi classrooms to keep social distancing *iGCSE PE and Art should continueTo be confirmed.
9Laboratory use Science/ ComputersWill be used in accordance with numbers conforming to social distancing and sterilized every time directly after use. To minimize the threat of infection  
11Extra-Curricular activitiesSuspendedTo minimize the threat of infection
12Parents/ teachers meetings  OnlineTo maintain an individual dialogue with parents related to their children’s progress    

*Please note that this is at present advice and subject to change

Questions and Answers related to this model

How likely is it that normal school will resume on August 30th?

This is unlikely. However, it is the manner in which school resume even after the pandemic has peaked in Oman.

What will happen if schools are closed again in the event of another peak?

Having established the 50% rotation and 100% online model, the school will be ready to continue in the required format with immediate effect.

What will happen if there is a case of COVID 19 at the school?

We will immediately consult the Ministry of Education and health authorities. Parents of students who may have come into contact will be informed immediately and be advised to carry out tests in accordance with health guidance.

Can I choose to keep my children at home even if schools have opened normally?

Given the fact that some parents may choose to do this, we can create an online contingency plan to enable learning to continue. This answer to this question will be clarified by the authorities in the event of schools reopening.

…………………………………………………….

Thank you for taking the time to read this long document.  The objective of writing in such detail was to answer as many questions that you may have as possible and give you an insight into our preparations. If you have any further questions, please write to principal@mis.edu.om.

We wish you the best of health and happiness during this challenging time.

Nicholas Bennett, Principal of MIS                                                                                              July 2020

Carnival at MIS 7th March

Dear Parents,

I hope that you are all well. I am writing in regard of the upcoming Charity carnival on March 7th.  We anticipate an excellent event. Many thanks to those of you who have already donated gifts, vouchers and a host of other well-appreciated ideas.

Donations for Lucky Envelope Gifts

We are still collecting and urge you to consider making a donation if you have not done so already. As I write, we are at approximately 400 gifts for this excellent part of our Carnival.  We need 600 gifts if we are to get close to our desired target.   This is all for charity. Therefore, I make one final, humble request to you.

Parents’ International Food Stall

A highly successful part of our Carnival has always been the International Food stall.  MIS parents have in the past donated an array of healthy and delicious dishes to be sold on the day. The opportunity for sharing cultural cuisine with fellow members of our community is a very special part of our Carnival. Please see the information attached for details.

Once again, I thank you all as we work together to make this Carnival a celebration of our school community. Have a great day.

Kind regards,

Nicholas Bennett, Principal

Carnival at MIS 2019

Dear Parents,

COUNTDOWN TO MIS CHARITY CARNIVAL  Thursday 7th March 4-7pm.

Thank you so much to those few who have already donated. Let us all make a GREAT effort to gather items to donate to our 2019 Charity Carnival.  Our collection needs a BIG boost to compared with last year.

Please check those cupboards for unwanted gifts and we look forward to receipt at school – children’s toys, games, company promotional gifts, etc. You might have a favourite restaurant who will donate a Voucher?? Consider picking up a few small gifts to donate when you are next shopping – candles, sweets, chocolates, ornaments, perfumes, key rings, glassware, kitchenware, etc. etc.  the list is endless!!

– Every little bit helps.

Many thanks and regards

Principal