Heigh-Ho Heigh-Ho, it’s off to school we go… – Beer Chronicles Part 6 (started on 1st May and finished 9 May 2020)

And so school has reopened (by the time I finished this blog – we have been open for 2 weeks!). But only for year 13 and year 12. Year 13 boarders returned on Sunday 26th April 2020 in order to get up on Monday 27th April and step inside the school building for the first time since January 17th. Year 12 boarding students arrived back in the afternoon of Monday 27th April and they stepped into school on Tuesday 28th. For Year 10s and 11s there is still no opening date, but on Wednesday 29th April the teaching staff of these year groups started live on-line lessons. They followed their timetable, registration was taken and a class delivered. 

For Life Skills, the class up take of activities while asynchronous was poor (for one year group), so I was pleasantly surprised when I had a 100% attendance in both of the classes for the same year group. In fact out of the 5 classes that I “taught” live online everyone attended. Which was a surprise given that over the 12 weeks of online asynchronous teaching not many of my 200 odd students did all the work.

It certainly wasn’t excellent teaching on my part. They all logged in and then I showed them where all the work was from previous weeks and told them to choose a topic and complete the work. For those who had done the work they had to complete a reflection. Many of the few who had completed all the assignments chose to reflect on the nutrition topic that we had covered confirming that it was the most useful part of their life skills course since during their period of isolation at home none of them had kept a particularly good diet. It resonated with me too. 

The past week we have had the year 11 students working in groups and that has been better. Though one year 11 student commented that being online all day in lessons was exhausting. I couldn’t have put it better! And this coming week, 11 May 2020… we will finally have every student back in the school building. (Yes I started drafting this blog over a week ago!) But not every student who was in boarding pre Chinese New Year is eligible to return to boarding. Having a Yuanqu (SIP) address means that the students are technically able to commute from their home to school as they live close enough to school that they don’t need to board. 

In the boarding house that I am co-responsible for, we have had about 160 year 12 and 13 boarders since 28 April 2020. Every morning, the floor tutors take the temperatures of each student, if below 37.3 they get a coloured sticker. That sticker allows them fast track access to school through the back entrance. Any student/staff member arriving by the front gate or anyone who has lost their sticker between boarding and that back entrance must then walk around the school building to the front entrance and have their temperature checked by walking through our thermal temperature scanner. 

Once in school, all non-specialist classrooms are open early so as to avoid students congregating in the corridors (although currently these are the coolest places in school as the air conditioning has been allowed on here). All classrooms are set up as if the students are permanently taking exams. In rows 1m apart in any direction. A sign on the door states the maximum number permitted in the room. 

The period before lunch, temperatures are taken again. At lunch time, queues are split between the Chinese option – queuing inside the building, and the Western option – queuing outside the building – thankfully it hasn’t yet rained, nor have we had many students as the Year 13s are permitted to leave campus at lunch. That maybe about to change on Thursday this week when the rest of the student body returns. Queueing is of course 1m apart, washing hands obligatory and wearing masks mandatory except when eating,

The school building closes at 6pm. This has had an effect on study hall for our boarders. Study hall is no longer in classrooms, it is in the students’ rooms. Students who have friends on different floors can not go and see them, nor should they be congregating in one room. Before lights out, temperatures are again taken and recorded by the tutors. The students are not permitted to leave the boarding house after 6pm. No use of the gym, no walking around campus, or using the outdoor pitches. We all hope that these restrictions can be lifted soon. 

While the external examinations are cancelled, we are having end of year assessments for each year group. Year 13 have their assessment week on 18th May, their last day will be 15th May with a leavers assembly. An assembly that had to be approved by the Education Bureau. No shirts can be signed because we would be touching other people’s belongings, we will have to social distance which means it will be in the gym, rather than in the more intimate social setting of the lecture theatre, but hopefully their last day will be meaningful for them and hold special memories. Graduation will still occur without parent attendance, as to how it looks for the class of 2020, is still unknown. Yearbook staff photos are being taken with masks on. 

I change my surgical mask every 4 hours, I am finding that I have more headaches despite the fact that I am drinking more water. I put that down to wearing the mask. It is a relief walking in the door in the afternoon and removing my mask. So I am in awe of medical staff who wear their masks for a lot longer than our school day.