Dear AISL Community,
Thank you for responding to last week’s survey; it was welcome to hear from so many of you. The survey results showed a high level of confidence in the school’s COVID-19 mitigation measures. Not surprisingly, there was also a general preference to have students return to campus. We share the desire to reopen the campus as soon as possible; however, after extensive review of the current COVID-19 situation and discussion with health experts, the Board of Directors has decided to extend distance learning for an additional two (2) weeks. We know this decision may not be popular with everyone, but we believe it is in the best interest of the health of our entire AISL community.
Studies continue to show that transmission in schools tends to mirror transmission in the community. While we have measures in place – and 97% of you have confidence in those measures according to the survey responses – the current level of community transmission is worrying (see graph, below). Compared to the first wave, there are now significantly more cases and deaths and many members of the AISL community have been personally affected with friends and family members testing positive. Just in the past month Zambia has seen a ten-fold increase in the weekly number of new cases, with the more transmissible South African variant seen in a majority of cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) indicators for school decision-making indicates that this level of community transmission puts us at high risk of transmission at school, even with our health and safety protocols firmly in place.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) reported this morning that hospitals are filling up, oxygen supplies are limited, and test kits are increasingly scarce. Beyond our concerns about health and safety on campus, we also believe we have a moral responsibility to avoid steps that carry a risk - however small - of exacerbating this situation.
The extension is not intended to be indefinite. While the number of cases show a downward trend, we believe they have not reached a level where we feel comfortable reopening and feel it is prudent to wait until that downward trend stabilizes. We will continue to review the data on a weekly basis, guided by the MOH, World Health Organization (WHO), and the CDC.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. These are incredibly difficult decisions that the entire education community is grappling with around the world. While this may not be your preferred decision, we hope you understand that the safety of our school community will always be our primary concern.
In the meantime, during this time of heightened transmission, please continue to remain vigilant and do not take your good health for granted. Consider limiting your exposure by only socializing within a small social bubble and minimizing errands. Wear your masks faithfully, wash your hands, and always keep a safe distance when you are outside your home.
Chairperson, on behalf of the AISL Board of Directors
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