Frequently Asked Questions
We've received a lot of great questions from the ISD community. Continue below for answers to the most common questions. They are organized by answers from the ISD Board of Trustees, Administration, Secondary Leadership, and Elementary Leadership. Click the buttons below to navigate to a particular section. Have a question not listed here? Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ISD Board of Trustees
Why did the Board of Trustees initially decide to close the school campus during Spring Break?
The Board of Trustees (BoT) closed ISD based on the decree by the Senegalese Government on March 14th that all schools should be closed due to COVID-19 until April 6th.
Why did the Board of Trustees choose to not reopen on-campus education for the remainder of the 2019 - 2020 school year and continue with online learning until June 10th, 2020?
Based on the information we had available in late March, it did not appear that the situation with COVID-19 was going to stabilize in time for on-campus classes and we could not reopen before June 10th. As positive COVID-19 cases increased in Senegal, it became evident that we could not ensure the health and safety of our staff and students on campus without extensive protocols in places. As for other international schools in West Africa, all schools are now closed.
Will school reopen in August 2020?
At this point, it is nearly impossible to know what the future will hold. The ISD leadership team and the BoT are creating a number of scenarios for the opening of the 2020-2021 school year. We are currently operating under the assumption that there will be an August 2020 re-opening. However, we do have scenarios with a later start date than August for future consideration.
As the information around COVID-19’s future impact on Senegal and ISD operations becomes more clear, the leadership team and Board will continue to meet regularly to discuss scenarios for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. These options may include distant, online learning, a hybrid version of distant and in-class learning, or in-class learning. The BoT and the leadership team will take into account key factors such as recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the management of COVID-19 in Senegal and the Government of Senegal’s official positions on school openings nationwide. Re-opening of the airport to commercial flights will also be a determining factor on whether ISD can re-open.
Will parents be reimbursed for their tuition for the rest of the school year as the school went to virtual learning with fewer expenses?
There were some limited savings with expenses when the school went to online learning. These expenses are mostly with electric and water usage, estimated at $58 per student. However, there were also additional, unforeseen unbudgeted costs to implement ISD’s anti-COVID-19 emergency plan and which makes up the vast majority of the school expenses. All staff continues to be fully paid.
Why did the ISD Director leave Dakar and return home to the US?
“We left Dakar for family reasons as our children needed to be back in the United States. We considered sending our children back without us, but given the extreme circumstances and uncertainty, it was important that we stay together as a family.
My ability to lead the school is the same whether I am working from my home in Dakar or my home in the United States. I am in daily contact with our Operations Manager, the principals, and ISD Board Chair Thiaba Camara Sy.
I still approve all expenditures in advance and virtually all of our financial expenditures were moved to online banking earlier this year and, so we are following our regular financial controls.” - Dr. Alan Knobloch
Why did the majority of the administration leave Senegal? Who is now managing the school?
The United States Department of State gave all of the employees worldwide the option to return to the United States. As ISD follows the guidance of the U.S. Government for security and safety matters, the school gave all employees the choice of leaving Senegal. Some members of the administration chose to leave Senegal for family or medical reasons.
Three members of the Administrative team were out of the country for Spring Break and could not return to Dakar due to the government closing the Dakar airport.
The Director continues to manage the school. The Operations Manager is in Dakar and is responsible for the security and maintenance of the campus. The Finance Manager is also in Dakar and continues to manage the school’s finances in conjunction with the school Director.
In terms of faculty, how many teachers are now working from outside of Senegal, and what are the plans for this faculty to return or for the newly hired teachers who are to start in the 2020 - 2021 school year.
About 60% of the teachers are currently outside of Senegal. Once the airport in Dakar is reopened to international flights, we will set a date for the returning and newly hired teachers to come to Senegal.
Will the yearbook be finalized?
Yes, the yearbook will be completed and printed in the next month.
Will there be any cultural day celebrations or studies?
We have been discussing some possibilities, but the focus right now is on continuing to develop online teaching and learning to develop students’ skills. We will revisit a cultural day celebration or integration into the online learning program later in the year.
What is the role of faculty who do not teach in the classroom directly during virtual learning such as the librarian, the service-learning coordinator?
The librarian continues to support classroom teachers by providing resources for the online learning program. Non-teaching staff is working to support students, particularly those who are not engaging in the online learning program.
What is happening with ASAs and what is the role of the Athletics/Activities Director?
Curricular programming (i.e. traditional classroom subjects) took a priority in the first weeks of our transition to online learning. We’re happy to say that we launched our Elementary Online ASA Program, in partnership with Sunu Thiossane, on April 27. Additionally, we were able to coordinate with a number of our coaches and teachers to offer a dynamic Secondary Online ASA program that launched May 4. These activities are designed to foster engagement, activity, and joy among student participants and their instructors.
Are the administrative offices open on campus?
Our administrative staff is currently working from home. For assistance email the staff directly or Ibrahima Fall (email@example.com), our Finance Manager.
Will the physical grounds of the school open prior to the end of the 2019 - 2020 school year in June for ISD student and family use (i.e. the field, playground, and pool) even if virtual learning continues and also during the summer? Is there any option to open the library?
The current government regulations do not allow for gatherings on public or private property. The campus will be opened to ISD families as soon as the government lifts these restrictions.
What is the leadership of Secondary School doing to actively engage students?
The Secondary School admin team has put in place a framework for online learning based upon standards set by the vast majority of other international schools that would (a) initially allow an easy transition for teachers and students and (b) allow for the addition of complexity over time. The key, in the beginning, was to get students and faculty acclimatized with accessing work online. The goal was to allow maximum flexibility for students to engage with kids. Throughout this time, faculty were also open to individual sessions with students to ensure maximum engagement. The second phase of the framework increased Office Hours and set them in place according to the classes. Times were set to ensure access of Secondary Students across all time zones they were in and paved the way for optional synchronous lessons to be offered. This second phase also coincided with the school bringing JAG Connect back, as well as beginning the launch of modified ASA’s.
How are teachers in secondary school coordinating and being actively supported and supervised by the Secondary School administration?
Faculty in the Secondary School are being coordinated and supported through the same systems that we have in place when we are on campus, except on an increased basis as we need to gather information much quicker so that we can adjust more rapidly. The structures and systems we have in place are:
Secondary Leadership Team Meetings - three times per week
Secondary Faculty Meetings (entire faculty) - once per week
Department Meetings - once per week
Grade Level Team Meetings - once per week
Student Care and Concern Meetings - review student progress for each grade level every second week
Counselor Meetings - once per week
Daily monitoring of Google Classroom Posts
We have continued to develop protocols, systems and expectations based on the delivery of content online. To this end, we have adjusted our assessment practices, our Student Care and Concern process, as well as Google Classroom expectations. We expect to see increased coherence and alignment of this work in the coming weeks to systemize a coherent cross secondary approach as we become more conversant with the nuances of this unprecedented methodology for the delivery of a world-class international education.
What is the role of faculty who do not teach in the classroom directly during virtual learning such as the Dean of Students? MYP Coordinators?
The IB Coordinators and Dean of Students continue with their same roles, leading various systems associated with their positions before we went to online learning. The IB Coordinators have the prime responsibility of ensuring the delivery and access of teaching and learning in their respective IB program, just the same as when we are on campus. The Dean of Students has the prime responsibility of tracking all of our students to ensure their engagement in our community (in class and out) that best reflects our academic and behavioral expectations. We have made modifications to how often we are meeting with respective teams in order to better track student progress and better ensure engagement.
What is the role of advisory during virtual learning?
During the second phase of the online learning framework, we brought JAG Connect into the lives of the students. Connecting with students, finding out what they are anxious about and what we can do to help serve key foci for JAG Connect. Further, the counselors have been leading sessions with students. A key focus for Grade 11 has had the counselors working with the Grade 11 students and they have begun 1-1 family meetings. A key focus for Grade 12 has been (a) designing a transition program for students and parents to engage in and (b) designing and implementing a transition program that they will lead students through.
Why are video/online classes not possible?
We have designed a scalable framework that will allow faculty to engage in synchronous learning sessions when, and as, appropriate. We have purposefully not jumped fully into a model of video lecturing - both students and faculty need time to grow into this new paradigm, and a key premise is the need to build a framework that allows flexibility. We have not jumped into such a model as it does not fit with best practice, nor with our internal expectations, nor with the foundational principles of the IB.
Can students be more engaged with each other as well as with teachers? Why are the teachers not assigning and supporting group work now?
There have been numerous examples of students collaborating online in their assignments to date. The use of Google Suite facilitates this in many ways - from Google Docs, and Hangouts, to the use of other video conferencing platforms and software programs like FlipGrid. Students are working in small groups on collaborative projects and as we progress with the implementation of our plan to enhance the teaching and learning framework more and more opportunities for engagement and group work are emerging.
How is the school helping teachers who do not seem to have the IT equipment/internet coverage needed to connect and support students?
The school is supporting teachers' technical needs, being in constant contact with faculty to field any issues with connectivity to the best of her ability. From moving forward with the installation of fiber optic internet where possible in Dakar to purchasing needed equipment, the school has responded well to issues that are solvable.
Will teachers only meet individually with students during office hours?
The faculty will meet with students and parents individually whenever requested. Further, there will be times when teachers will mandate this of a student.
Why is there no longer communication from the Teranga Center?
Communication from the Teranga Centre comes out in the JAG Journal as it did before we moved to online learning. To help ensure key messages are delivered to the community, Notes from the Teranga Centre will also be emailed home to parents directly every Wednesday.
How will IB scores be awarded? Please explain.
On March 27, 2020, we heard from the Director General of the IB, Dr. Siva Kumari, who outlined how IB scores would be awarded for the May 2020 exam session. This year, “all schools are required to upload all internal assessments (IA’s) for every candidate enrolled in the May 2020 session by April 20, 2020.” The other directive from the IB is that all schools should enter predicted grades by April 20, 2020. ISD’s internal deadline for entering predicted grades had been April 10, 2020, which means we are on track.
As quoted from the Director General:
“We will be using vast historical assessment data to ensure that we follow a rigorous process of due diligence in what is a truly unprecedented situation. We will be undertaking significant data analysis from previous exam sessions, individual school data, subject data as well as comparative data of schools who have already completed uploading requirements and those who have not.”
The IBO has not given us detail as to how they will use these three data points to calculate final grades. We do know that DP results will be published by the IBO on July 6th, but we cannot guarantee that the predicted grades we have sent will translate directly into the final grades students will receive.
How is the school supporting Seniors in this very difficult time?
As a group, we are most concerned about our Seniors and their loss of their culmination of their High School career, as well as the loss of their graduation. We are concerned about our Seniors’ transition at the best of times, and the current situation exacerbates this.
Our initial focus was to collect and collate all of the Internal Assessment work as requested by the IBO in lieu of exams being canceled for this year. We prioritized this as we had to ensure students earned their IB Diplomas. Now that all of the work is complete on that front, we are developing a full transition program through the counseling office as well as engaging students in plans for graduation. In any normal year, students would be finished with classes now and revising for exams. This year the work is with helping us all come to terms with the different requirements for celebrating and transitioning our Senior Class. For the first time, the HS Counselors have prepared a bespoke transitions curriculum that has been shared out for parents to work through with their children. The Counselors have also complemented this with a transitions program they will deliver.
What will happen with graduation?
We will celebrate our Seniors, their success, and our success like we do every year - just online. We are in the midst of planning a virtual ceremony and many other virtual ways of celebrating our Class of 2020. We will follow the structure of graduation brought into the HS two years ago but will do this online. Given the government regulations in Senegal, we are unable to bring to life any element on campus.
We will also plan to have a Graduation banquet, face to face when we are able to return to Dakar. Our Senior students, Mr. Cartlidge, and our Counseling team are taking a lead with all of this work and are already beginning to reach out to parents with information and requests for certain support in providing information to help us celebrate the Class of 2020 in style.
How can parents of seniors actively engage their children academically even though there are no IB exams?
Classes ended for Seniors on Friday, April 24. While we will continue to engage the students in transition activities, wrapping up the year, celebrating their successes and keeping all connected as well as the aforementioned transition work ‘from School to College and beyond’, it is an excellent time for students to pursue academic passions they may not have been able to pursue due to the demands of our curriculum. To this end, it is the perfect time for students to engage in online classes offered through Coursera, Khan Academy, or Master Class. Small groups could take such classes together, hold discussion groups. Or, it may be the perfect time for students to pursue a skill or hobby they may not have had time to pursue given their previous academic demands.
How are guidance counselors working with students?
Our guidance counselors are:
Checking in with each and every student across the Secondary School on a regular basis to ensure they are meeting baseline expectations for social and emotional well being
Supporting students through the loss of a former ISD HS student
Following up with their regular caseload of students in need of acute social and emotional needs.
Following up with the many students who have identified as now having acute social and emotional needs based upon the current crisis
Engaging students in weekly well-being surveys and then following up with individual students based upon the results, as well as following up with grade-level concerns based upon the results
Meeting with each grade 11 student in preparation for the college application process
Designing JAG Connect content for teacher delivery
Engaging students in lunchtime meetings
Engaging in multiple, weekly Student Care and Concern meetings with the Grade Level Teams
There is a lot of online learning. Could there be a more balanced approach between online and non-online work, i.e. hand-writing in journals, math workbooks, reading offline and writing about it, etc?
We agree that a balanced approach is essential to students’ continued academic growth and well being and across many of the grades, students are given the choice to write in their journal or respond on Seesaw with a provided form. Many students were able to go home with their math workbooks, but due to the timing of the shutdowns, not all students were able to leave Dakar with their Bridges workbooks. ISD students are fortunate that the Bridges workbooks are accessible online, and the sheets can be printed (this is convenient for those who can print but we understand that parents typically do not have printers in their homes). All assignments are optional; we simply ask that you do what you are able to do.
How will teachers teach new lessons? A lot of the focus has been on reinforcing previous learnings but not on new teaching.
Yes, it’s true that we are focused on reinforcing important skills at the beginning of our online journey. We wanted to give everyone a chance to get online and to get comfortable with the online procedures. Now, our teachers are sharing new content regularly. All grade levels have started their 6th and final unit of inquiry, which will be new for all students. Core skills such as reading, writing, and math, are being reinforced to ensure daily practice and gradual growth. Even in the classroom, these will appear repetitive.
What happens if the parents cannot be working at the same pace as the teachers in completing the work? Will students be penalized?
Students will not be penalized for not being able to keep up with the work, nor will they be penalized for not doing the work. We understand that some families have limited access to wifi and/or limited access to devices. We appreciate all families simply doing what they can to engage in online learning. At a minimum, we are hopeful that ISD students can read daily, engage in meaningful conversations with their family members about their reading, and find joy in the shared time together.
There hasn’t been Art or SEL for a while. Will those classes still happen?
Initially, all specials (Art, Music, and PE) were offered daily; however, we received considerable feedback from parents that the daily special classes were overwhelming. With complete understanding, we made some shifts, and we are now offering Art on Monday and Thursdays, Music on Tuesdays and Fridays, and PE remains daily.
At the start of our distance learning, our school counselor focused on supporting parent’s transition with various resources (click here) and Zoom discussions, offering grade-level student meetings, and reaching out to specific students. Currently, synchronous Zoom-based SEL classes are offered weekly and biweekly (based on age), and the schedule can be found on the previously linked site.
There hasn’t been a lot of face time with the teachers and students. Can there be more?
This current situation, which is an emergency response to a global pandemic, is not ideal for most learners or educators. Student and teacher grief is a prominent concern that our administration, counselor, and teaching team is actively working to identify and support.
With that being said, our goal is for students to have the opportunity to see their teacher once a day either through all-class Zoom sessions or voluntary individual student sessions. Teachers provide these opportunities and the rest depends on the students’ ability/desire to connect. We will continue to offer more as we become more efficient in our practices.
Our leadership team is also available to students and parents. Our school counselor has shared a website that allows all students and parents to sign up for individual meetings.
Elementary online learning demands a lot of parent involvement for reading mails, helping the kids in understanding and working with them. For working parents, it is difficult to spare much time. Can assistant teachers help? Have face-to-face time with kids 2-3 times a week?
Our teaching assistants are meeting regularly and they have daily office hours during which they are available to support students and families. Our learning support and ELL team also support many students through daily check-ins during which they walk the students through the expectations for the day, support them with SeeSaw and offer English, math, and literacy support. If a parent is unaware of the teaching assistant’s schedule, the parent is encouraged to contact the homeroom teacher.
Is it possible for teachers to have Zoom meetings two to three times a week with kids, especially for French, PE, Art teachers?
Classroom teachers do meet with students regularly. French teachers and specialists also meet with students regularly. We continue to increase the number of Zoom meetings as we become more efficient in our work.
Please be cognizant of the time needed by parents - more Zoom meetings will also require more time for parents.
This question is valuable on many levels. The contradiction here to questions 5 and 7 shows the challenges in meeting the needs of every single family. It also demonstrates that “balance” is not universal; rather, it is a personal experience.
We fully understand that internet connection, access to multiple devices, navigating multiple zoom schedules, and that the majority of elementary students are not equipped with the executive functioning and technological skills to simultaneously manage their schedule (possibly across time zones) and log into a zoom call are all huge inconveniences and challenges to parents! And, many of our parents have their own jobs that are probably taking more time than usual due to their being remote as well.
If your child cannot make a Zoom meeting, there will be understanding, not a penalty. In fact, it is our expectation that all students will progress to the next grade level in August; as has always been the case, if there are any perceived gaps or deficits at that point, our amazingly talented and committed teachers will work to reconcile them.
For a more detailed response to the elementary questions, please check the Parent Page of The ISD ES Online Learning Site.
From Ms. Kelly: If we could only focus on one thing, what would it be?
The well-being of the members of your family. We are responding to an emergency situation. Time and time again, research has shown us that children do best in stable, predictable environments. Our current situation is not stable or predictable. School has shifted, and most family systems have shifted (e.g., parents working remotely from home, house help is no longer coming, there is no socializing), and this will likely cause some stress in you and your child.
When we look back and process this experience (hopefully sooner than later), and your only two choices were to either reminisce about how close your family became but recognize your child did not excel much academically or that your child stayed on top of their work but it required you to stay up until the night to complete your work and there was friction between all of you, what would you choose? Every choice you face, ask yourself what is better for the emotional well-being of me, my child, and my family. And, always remember that play is the work of children.