As we start the second week of the term, it is time to look back and reflect on how “Operation Return to Campus” went. Leaving aside the logistics of having students and staff travel all over the world, keeping our community as protected as possible was the priority of our plan, while also adapting to the new circumstances with the changing coronavirus and being very much aware of the cumulative impact of all the measures implemented so far leading to pandemic-tiredness.
Over the winter break we have been monitoring the pandemic situation, staying in regular contact with other schools and the epidemiologists who have been helping us. Informed by all of these, we have moved to a strategy of living with the coronavirus. A key factor here is that our student community is now significantly more protected. Below I share with you a snapshot of our communities’ immunisation rates:
You can see in the graph above how the number of vaccinated members of our community has not changed in the last week, but will change again from the end of this week (the horizontal bar indicates dates in January) as we are having a nurse from the local hospital coming to our campus to continue vaccinating those who want to do so.
The pandemic has shown us the importance of planning… and being ready to disregard the plans as it is not uncommon for reality to hit from unexpected angles.
Another measure we are implementing is giving our students the possibility to leave our campus unsupervised in 3-hour slots that we have identified throughout the week. They will have to request a leave permission via REACH Boarding, our dedicated residential life software application, and will be restricted to Dilijan only. In parallel, we continue to offer supervised activities, including our snow sports programme from this week onwards.
As with so many issues nowadays, this move to allow our students to leave the campus has elicited both positive and negative responses. Positive as many students believe that this will provide much-needed relief and the opportunity to simply go for a walk, shopping to a local supermarket or to a restaurant for a meal with friends. At the same time, others believe that we have kept the community safe thanks to the lockdown that started back in February 2020 and are worried that this opening up of the campus may result in further cases. There are those who think that there should be no restrictions whatsoever!
We believe that given the evolution of the pandemic strategies of total avoidance of the virus are unsustainable, not guaranteeing complete success anyway and with significant costs at many levels. This does not mean that we can decide to just stop taking any measures washing our hands off (pun intended).
We will, of course, monitor the situation in Dilijan and Armenia and implement any changes as needed and continue to work as part of the UWC Coronavirus Steering Group, for which I volunteered. As countries change their policies and frameworks, our schools, which operate in very different contexts, find themselves with very different practices ranging from those that have to test every member of the community several times a week to those that have been advised to move to a model of no testing and just dealing with symptomatic cases.