Some of you might be wondering what life is like now at House on the Hill, post COVID-19 Circuit Breaker. It has been quite a journey for all of us, getting used to new routines, new way of learning and new way of life! However, we know that this is the only way to reduce the risk of transmission and keep everybody in school safe, healthy and happy. The good news is that the children have taken to the new measures well – and we would like to thank parents for helping to prepare them for making the transition back to school.
Before coming to school, parents have been asked to prepare and pack their child’s school bag together. Every student is required to have a mask (for all children above 2 years old) and a little pouch/ container / zipped plastic bag to keep the mask in during lunch or naptime. They can bring a face shield along if they have one as well! We’ve given out comfortable cotton child-sized face masks to all our children as well – and we decorated our mask holders so that we know where to keep them safe!
If your child is not feeling well, and we cannot emphasise this enough, let them stay home. Any child or staff who is unwell will not be allowed into school. Those who become unwell during the course of the day will be immediately isolated and parents will be asked to come take them home. The same goes if any of your adult household members have fever and/or flu-like symptoms such as cough, runny nose, sore throat, shortness of breath. Parents are also advised to seek medical attention promptly if their child is unwell and avoid clinic hopping. Children should stay at home to rest and return to the preschool only when fully recovered.
Before we restarted school, all the House on the Hill staff came back to have a deep clean and reset of all the schools and spaces. Everything was thoroughly wiped down and disinfected. Our many hand-sanitiser stations were refilled to the brim!
In between classes and during down time, our teachers and cleaning staff are constantly wiping down and cleaning commonly used areas and equipment.
Every day is different, regardless of the safety measures, but here’s a break-down of a day is like at House on the Hill at present.
Our focus is to try and keep good social distancing, as well as constantly washing our hands and keeping clean and tidy at all times.
The children arrive around 8 – 8.30am. Parents say goodbye and the children follow the marked lines (for safe distancing!) to the stations for a physical check, get their hands sanitised and their temperature checked. The health checks will look for general signs of children feeling unwell, beyond fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and shortness of breath.
We have purchased new temperature scanners for all schools – they help to reduce contact between us and help speed up the process!
Parents! Don’t forget to sign in at the computer after saying goodbye!
Most staff arrive before the children. Everybody must check in, have their temperatures taken, get a physical check (just like the children) and sanitise their hands. All day long, we do and remind each other to wash our hands regularly and keep our masks and face shields on. The temperatures of the children and staff are taken multiple times a day.
Outdoor Time is now scheduled accordingly in small teacher groups in different areas and at a different time on their regular designated days. The children love getting to go out and play in the sunshine.
In the Classroom
Classrooms are now divided into cosy sections for each teacher group.
Children will remain in their small teacher groups within their class for all activities throughout the day (including snack, lunch, outdoor time). Children are not allowed to switch between groups including activities in the afternoons.
Thematic group lessons are conducted with a teacher presenting while children are still seated within their designated areas in their small groups.
Speaking of which, teachers are now wearing face masks and face shields in class. Sometimes, for example, during circle time, the children need to see how the teacher is speaking or enunciating some words, so teachers use face shields and ensure that safe distancing is maintained.
Each child is assigned to a seat which is spaced out accordingly. Materials and work equipment are disinfected after every use. We have been able to maintain the principles of Montessori practice to continue the practice of freedom of movement, within their area of the classroom. The areas are demarcated with low shelves to ensure visibility for teachers to work together as a team to help oversee other teacher group, if necessary. In larger group settings, there are assistant teachers to help in routine care needs, if necessary.
Mandarin lessons continue! Our Mandarin teachers are conducting the regular lessons on schedule in the assigned small teacher groups. These will be conducted in safe distancing manner and all regular lessons can still be continued.
Sadly, Mandarin small group learning in the mornings and Mandarin Speech & Drama and Cultural lessons conducted by our laoshis, will be suspended till further notice, as these lessons require closer interaction among the children and laoshi.
Meal Times are staggered to ensure the children follow through with their (mealtime) routine with minimal contact in the common area while washing their hands, and getting their food. After lunch, we still wash up and wash our hands!
We talk about handwashing all the time, making it fun for the children by singing songs like Washy Washy and practising our good hand washing technique. In fact, if there is a positive to be taken out of this experience, it is that the children are very aware of how to wash their hands, and to do it well! We stock the bathrooms with lots of handwashing soap and cleaning paper.
We are still continuing with our traditional Montessori Birthday Walk to celebrate birthdays at school! As always, it always ends with a birthday song and good cheer from their friends for the birthday child!
Now we nap in the classroom in quiet sections if we have a nap routine! Other friends who have shorter or no nap time have quiet activities in another section of class.
Our classes now have assigned departure times for Half Day dismissal. We line up socially distanced to get picked up – but distance is no barrier for saying goodbye! We simply wave and say “See you tomorrow!”
Parents can rest assured that we are vigorously and aggressively working to keep everybody safe and healthy. Let us continue to work together as a community because as #SGUnited, we can beat the virus together, and ensure a safe environment for children and staff!