International Schools to Switch to Remote Learning as 6 Parents of Students Test Positive for COVID-19

Shabnam Muzammil

The Singapore American School (SAS) and the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA), have both reported that three parents of children who attend the schools have tested positive for COVID-19.

Of the 6 parents infected with coronavirus, none had personally visited the school.

Parents infected with coronavirus

SAS on spring break: utilising holiday to deep-clean premises

“In all cases, the parents and their family members have fully followed Ministry of Health restrictions, including staying home immediately upon learning of the family member’s confirmed case,” said SAS’ superintendent Tom Boasberg, who further confirmed that the parents are all currently hospitalised and in good condition. 

Addressing rumours circulating online about the presence of one of the parents who is a confirmed case, at a recent gathering attended by SAS students, Mr Boasberg clarified that the individual was found to have the virus on March 15, and that he had been labelled an imported case.

He had travelled alone and had contracted the virus while in a European country, which did not carry a travel advisory from Singapore at the time. He had initially been sent home after seeking medical help for a mild fever upon reaching Singapore on March 13, but upon further swab testing performed the next day, it was confirmed that the parent had COVID-19 and he was hospitalised. 

Prior to his diagnosis, one of his children had been in the company of several other SAS students, at an event. 

However, “as soon as the father was diagnosed, this student stayed home and had no contact with other students,” Mr Boasberg added.

Located in Woodlands, the school which has a student population of 4000 is currently utilising its routine holiday that will last until Sunday (March 29), to conduct deep cleaning of its premises. 

The school has been conducting deep-cleaning of its premises during the spring break that it is currently on. Photo: iStock

SAS had started home-based learning last week prior to the holiday, with students staying at home while teachers went to school to give virtual lessons.

The school will enforce distance learning for another week after the holiday ended and subject to circumstances, classes will resume at the school’s premises on April 6.

“We are aware that local schools in Singapore resumed classes on Monday, March 23. We normally are consistent with Singapore schools with regard to school openings and closings, and we respect the careful thought and analysis by the Singapore Government in making these decisions,” Mr Boasberg. 

“In this instance, however, we believe the different travel patterns of our community members require us to wait this extra week before we resume school to allow the new Singapore Government travel restrictions to take effect for a full two weeks,” he added. 

As per MOE regulations, all students who have family who travelled overseas recently will serve a 14-day Leave of Absence notice. 


UWCSEA to go ahead with reopening of the school; lessons either via remote-learning or on campus

UWCSEA has also switched to remote learning and had previously closed school earlier than usual for their routine holiday. 

The school which has campuses in Dover and Tampines, further reported that none of its students and staff have the virus so far,  apart from the 3 parents who tested positive for COVID-19.

“None of these parents came to campus or attended a school event in the weeks before they were diagnosed with Covid-19,” a spokesman reported, speaking to media.

The school will go ahead with reopening of its premises after the scheduled holiday, on April 6.

“The decision as to whether this is in the classrooms on campus, or via remote learning will be made closer to the date and communicated to our community directly,” the spokesman for UWCSEA noted.

“We are fully prepared for either eventuality and are currently working to support students and families impacted by announcements made by external examining bodies.”

International schools have, within its community, a large number of people who have returned to Singapore from countries with a high rate of infection. Image source: Changi Airport

International schools switch to distance-learning; ramped up precautionary measures 

Several other schools have also switched to distance-learning, despite not having any exposure to confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

Tom Evans, Director of marketing and communications at Tanglin Trust School, which has a student body of 2800, noted that a large number of people within the extended network at the school returned to Singapore from overseas in mid-March, mainly from Britain. 

“The inability to be certain of people’s travel histories within households was a significant factor in our deliberations,” he noted, adding that the school will continue to observe the current situation. 

However, some international schools are following national schools and continuing lessons as per normal, while stepping up precautionary measures.

Students are regularly reminded to practise good personal hygiene habits and social distancing. All extra-curricular activities have been postponed and large events and overseas trips, as well as day trips and excursions, have been cancelled,” noted Christian Soulard, principal of International French School, while adding that the school did not plan to close at this point in time and have simply ramped up measures like twice-daily temperature-taking, and added cleansing and disinfecting of school premises. 

Additionally, several examinations taken by students of international schools, such as exams held by the International Baccalaureate and the  International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams,  have been cancelled because of worldwide school closures.

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