Dear Alto Community, 

It is an understatement to say that we are experiencing challenging and  'unusual times.' Before I update you about our preparations for launching our distance learning program, I would like to take a moment and thank everyone who reached out to express their support and also their concerns. We should all take comfort in knowing that we are in this together as we 'shelter in place' in the days and weeks ahead. We will keep the lines of communication open and you will be updated frequently about our plans and actions.

How long will the campus be closed?
The official response to the spread of COVID-19 has been swift and aggressive in the past few days, including today's announcement to 'shelter in place.' After my announcement on Thursday, many schools in the area and nationwide have decided to close, and public gatherings have been canceled. Even though my announcement last week indicated that the school would be physically closed to students and families for two weeks and then re-evaluated on a weekly basis thereafter, the initial closure has now been extended to three weeks and then re-evaluated on a weekly basis. This change is due to the fact that subsequent to Alto's announcement, the San Mateo County Health Officer closed the San Mateo schools for three weeks, re-opening on Monday, April 6. The  Health Officer has the final say and all schools, public and private, must abide by his directions. With the most recent announcement, it now appears that reopening can happen no sooner that Tuesday, April 7.  

What is next?
Today and tomorrow we are making final preparations for distance learning. All staff have worked diligently to prepare lesson plans and to review the online platforms we will be using. The transition to distance learning will not be without its hiccups, but the purpose of today and tomorrow is to try to resolve as many of those issues as possible so that we can serve our students to the best of our ability in the coming weeks.

Besides SeeSaw, Google Classroom, and ManageBac, three tools Alto is already using, we will utilize Zoom for video conferences. If you haven't used Zoom before, you can find a short online tutorial on how to join a Zoom video conference here.
Once the lesson preparations are completed, teachers will reach out to students and parents to provide more detailed information on how we will conduct distance learning. You can expect to hear from your child's teachers by Wednesday. Based on the guidelines from CAIS, the assigned workload is dependent upon the grade:
  • PS through Grade 1 - Teachers will communicate directly with parents, providing parents with resources and 'lesson plans' (if you will), for parents/caregivers to work with their children for a minimum of one hour per day.
  • Grades 2 through 12 - Teachers will provide students with enough schoolwork to fill a minimum of 3.5 hours per day. 
Throughout the closure, we intend to communicate with you openly and frequently. The divisional leaders and your child's teachers will stay in contact with you and you are also encouraged to contact them with any questions. Additionally, I will be sending out weekly updates, will be available via email, and will have a weekly "Virtual Open Meeting " for all parents via Zoom at 10:00 a.m. on Fridays. A Zoom link will be sent out on Thursdays.

The school phone will continue to be answered every day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with inquiries directed to the appropriate individual. All recorded messages left after hours will be responded to as soon as possible.   

Recommendations and Expectations
In light of all of the recommendations and orders put forth by the state and local governments,  I'm sure you will take all precautions seriously and follow their instructions. Helping to "flatten the curve" and allow our medical institutions and professionals to be able to better respond to the spread of COVID-19 is the smartest thing we all can do.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Alto International School at this time, but it is only a matter of 'when' this will happen, not 'if.' In that case, you can expect to receive an email from me to inform the community about any diagnosed cases, but please understand that we will not disclose any personal details. Only families of students who have been in direct contact, e.g., they have been in the same class with the diagnosed student, will receive additional notifications about potential exposure to the virus. Again, Alto will follow the direction of the County Health Officer in our response.  

I'm sure you know that during this unprecedented event, Alto is committed to doing its best for our students and entire community. There will be a few bumps along the way, but we are learners and will make appropriate adjustments.  
In my short time here, I have quickly come to realize the strength, resiliency and compassion of our community. I eagerly anticipate a post COVID-19 community celebration!  

In partnership, 

Drew Alexander