After a successful campus reopening for our Elementary and Middle School day students to finish the 2019–2020 academic year, we are eager to have our entire student body back on campus and very much look forward to a safe and productive fall semester. Although the ongoing pandemic will continue to pose challenges for schools around the world, we are thankful for our ideal location and are determined to provide our students with a signature TASIS experience throughout the 2020–2021 academic year.
In the presentation that follows this letter, you will find an overview of how we plan to address the following aspects of our fall opening:
- The current situation in Switzerland
- Quarantining, testing, and tracing
- Safety measures on campus
- Academic calendar
- Hybrid instruction and distance learning (if necessary)
The presentation begins with an executive summary and then provides a more detailed look at each of these topics before addressing a number of frequently asked questions. We ask that you carefully review all of this information, and please understand that we may need to make adjustments to our plans as conditions in Switzerland and around the world continue to evolve.
I also invite you to visit the Coronavirus Information page on our website to gain a better understanding of how we addressed the challenges our community faced throughout the spring. There you will find an archive of all our announcements, a list of the protocols and policies we had in place, and a collection of links to expert resources.
Our Administration and Board of Directors have had many discussions this summer with leading health experts and cantonal authorities as we strive to reopen in the safest way possible this fall. Please know that all of our planning is centered on two essential questions:
- How do we keep our students, teachers, and staff members as safe as possible?
- How do we continue to fulfill our mission as an international school that welcomes young people from all nationalities to an educational community that fosters a passion for excellence along with mutual respect and understanding?
It is imperative that we follow all federal regulations as we reopen, and one challenge we will face at the start of the year stems from the Swiss government’s recent announcement that anyone who travels to Switzerland from a country with a high risk of infection must observe a 10-day quarantine period upon arrival. The most effective way to meet this requirement is to have all boarding students who are subject to the quarantine arrive earlier than expected—and to have all other boarding students arrive later than originally planned. We understand that this necessary adjustment is not ideal for our boarding families, but as you will see in the “Quarantine, Testing, and Tracing” section of this presentation, we believe it is the safest path forward.
Arrival Dates for Boarding Students
Boarding students who must observe the 10-day quarantine:
Boarding students who do not need to observe the 10-day quarantine:
It is important to note that the quarantine requirement is based solely upon where a student has been during the two-week period prior to entering Switzerland and is not determined by his or her passport or nationality. Students who spend at least two weeks in a country not on the high-risk list directly before they come to Switzerland will be exempt from the quarantine. Please also note that the specific countries are subject to change and that the current list can always be found on the Federal Office of Public Heath’s website.
2020 has indeed been an extraordinary year, and we understand that more challenges lie ahead. But we are determined to push forward and know that with the support of our amazing community we can make the 2020–2021 academic year a great one. I thank you in advance for your collective resilience and flexibility as we confront this next chapter together.
The Current Situation in Switzerland
The Covid-19 situation has improved dramatically since infections peaked in late March, and a comprehensive report published by the non-profit Deep Knowledge Group in June identified Switzerland as the “world’s safest country” for the coronavirus.
The Swiss federal government nonetheless urges citizens to remain vigilant, and a number of prohibitions and obligations currently apply throughout the country.
We have made some adjustments to our 2020–2021 academic year calendar—including the decision to alter the structure of our Fall Academic Travel trips—but we intend to have a regular school year and to largely adhere to our original calendar.
Live classes will commence on Thursday, September 3, for all Elementary and Middle School students. In order to have the safest quarantine possible and to prevent the mixing of day and boarding students, the High School will open the year with two days of distance learning on September 3–4 and will transition to live classroom instruction on Monday, September 7.
Hybrid Instruction and Distance Learning
We understand that we must be prepared to deliver instruction remotely, and our outstanding faculty will be ready to transition to a hybrid teaching model or full distance learning if necessary. We have invested significant time and resources into enhancing the remote learning experience for our students.
Quarantining, Testing, and Tracing
Our top priority is to keep our community safe and healthy as we welcome students from around the world back to campus this fall. Based on their location prior to arrival in Switzerland, many of our boarding students will need to observe a mandatory 10-day quarantine, and we are asking these students to arrive on August 24 or August 25. Boarding students who do not require quarantine are expected to arrive on September 5 or September 6.
All boarding students who need to observe the quarantine will be housed in single rooms in our dormitories for the duration of the quarantine period and will have no interaction with other students while they await the results of their Covid-19 test. Results will be available within the same day of testing in most cases.
Once students have been confirmed negative for Covid-19, our intention is that they will be able to enjoy supervised access to our campus facilities. We are currently in conversation with cantonal health authorities and are optimistic that this will be the case.
To facilitate our tracking and tracing processes, students will be separated into identifiable groups throughout the quarantine period and will only interact with fellow members of their group, always following the current federal guidelines for social distancing and mask usage.
All boarding students—regardless of whether they need to observe the quarantine—will be tested for Covid-19 soon after their arrival on campus. Any students who test positive or display symptoms will be isolated in a facility adjacent to campus, where they will receive excellent care from InterNursing and sCuDo, highly respected Swiss organizations that specialize in selecting and placing healthcare workers.
In place of Fall Academic Travel, we will offer students a variety of safe and invigorating weekend trips around Switzerland throughout the fall that will be chaperoned by faculty members and dorm parents. Both day and boarding students will be free to attend these trips at no additional cost.
We will continue to monitor the Federal Office of Public Health’s “Information for Travelers” page, which includes the latest guidelines and regulations from the federal government.
Safety Measures on Campus
We have spent the summer reviewing all aspects of the School for safety and quality. Our Administration and Board of Directors continue to closely monitor all local and federal guidelines and work with consultants and local authorities as we refine the safety plans we had in place when we reopened in May, including the use of thermal cameras for immediate temperature checks of all students, staff, and guests when they enter campus; the use of masks throughout the day for students in grades 2–12; and the elimination of large-scale gatherings on campus.
We will ask all members of our community to sign a pledge to uphold our safety measures.
We intend to offer sports at TASIS this fall and to compete at athletic contests within Switzerland and adjacent countries. All competitions will be within driving distance, and we will follow all federal guidelines when teams use coach buses or TASIS vans to travel to athletic facilities away from campus.
Following local guidelines, masks will not be required for students during sports practices or Physical Education (PE) classes, but all teachers, coaches, or supervisors are required to wear a mask during these sessions. Masks are also required for all students and adults on any transportation taken to and from off-campus destinations.
Covid-19 infections in Switzerland peaked in late March and began to steadily decline by the second week of April. The infection rate has remained very low since late April, and by early June Switzerland was cited as the “world’s safest country” in a comprehensive study published by the non-profit Deep Knowledge Group.
“Switzerland and Germany achieve the #1 and #2 positions in this new special case study specifically because of their economy’s resilience, and due to the careful ways in which they are attempting to relax lockdown and economic freezing mandates in a fact and science-based manner, without sacrificing public health and safety,” said the study.
Track the latest Covid-19 statistics for Switzerland here.
The Swiss federal government urges citizens to remain vigilant despite the improved situation, and the following prohibitions and obligations currently apply throughout the country:
- Masks are compulsory on public transport and at demonstrations.
- Gatherings of more than 1000 people are banned.
- Quarantines are required for travelers from countries with a high risk of infection
- Businesses, public buildings, and gatherings are subject to precautionary measures.
The federal government has also made the following recommendations to prevent the further spread of the virus:
- Observe a distance of at least 1.5 meters whenever possible.
- Wear a mask if this distance cannot be observed.
- Practice good hand hygiene.
- Get tested if you have any symptoms. (The federal government assumes all testing costs as long as the Federal Office of Public Health’s criteria are met.)
- Provide contact data to allow for tracing.
- Observe the rules on isolation or quarantine.
For the latest updates about the Covid-19 situation in Switzerland, consult the Federal Office of Public Health’s website.
We have developed a plan to keep our community safe and healthy while also keeping our boarding program fully operational during the continuing pandemic. Each year we welcome students from approximately 60 nations, and this year many students will be arriving from countries or regions that the Swiss government has designated as being “at high-risk.” These students will be subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine upon their arrival in Switzerland, and we are now asking them to arrive on August 24 or August 25. All other boarding students are expected to arrive on September 5 or September 6.
All of our quarantine, testing, and tracing plans have been designed with two broad goals in mind:
- It is imperative that all our students arrive to a safe campus.
- We have a responsibility to our school community and to the local Swiss community that we do not import cases of the virus to Ticino.
All boarding students will be tested for Covid-19 soon after their arrival to campus. They will be administered both a nasopharyngeal test (RT-PCR) and a serology test at our on-campus testing facility in accordance with a plan developed for TASIS by Dr. Vincenzo Liguori with input from the Swiss Medical Network. Test results will be available within the same day in most cases, and we will inform families of the results immediately.
Our on-campus Health Center will be staffed with three full-time health professionals throughout the entire quarantine period, and we will have an isolation facility adjacent to campus for any students showing symptoms or testing positive for the virus.
The isolation facility will have 24-hour care provided by InterNursing and sCuDo, highly respected Swiss organizations that specialize in selecting and placing healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and senior residences.
As mentioned above, boarding students coming from high-risk countries* are asked to arrive in Switzerland on August 24 or August 25. We will assist them with safe transport from their arrival point, and they will then be quarantined on our spacious campus for a 10-day period. All meals and daily activities will take place on the main TASIS campus, which will be reserved exclusively for students observing the quarantine from August 24–September 4. Boarding students who do not require quarantine are expected to arrive on September 5 or September 6.
The quarantined students will be housed in single rooms in our dormitories for the duration of the quarantine period and will remain isolated while they await the results of their Covid-19 test. Once they have been confirmed negative for Covid-19, our intention is that they will be able to enjoy supervised access to our campus facilities. We are currently in conversation with cantonal health authorities and are optimistic that this will be the case. Assuming that we receive approval from the canton, students will eat their meals in the Villa de Nobili dining hall and participate in safe and fun activities on campus that will be coordinated by our dedicated Residential Life team. While stringent safety measures will of course be in place, we are certain these students will be very comfortable.
All quarantined students will move from their temporary single rooms to their permanent rooms over the weekend of September 5–6, as our remaining boarding students arrive. There will be a maximum of two students per room for the duration of the 2020–2021 academic year.
* The list of high-risk countries is subject to change, and we will notify any affected families if new countries are added. Please also note that we will continue to observe all Swiss safety guidelines and may need to make adjustments to our quarantine protocols as the current situation evolves.
A Safe and Comfortable Arrival
We understand that travel restrictions and the 10-day quarantine requirement will make it difficult for some parents to accompany their children to Switzerland. Please know that we will make sure these students are safely transported from their arrival point to campus, practicing appropriate distancing and mask usage en route. Our Admissions Office will be in touch with each boarding family in the coming weeks to confirm travel plans.
Our in loco parentis responsibilities remain our highest priority, and we will of course make sure that all students receive an exceptional level of care from the moment they arrive.
Tracking and Tracing
As noted above, all activities and meals for all quarantined students will be limited to our main campus. Students observing the quarantine will have limited contact with one another, always following the current federal guidelines for social distancing and mask usage. To facilitate our tracking and tracing processes, students will be separated into identifiable groups and will only interact with fellow members of their group.
It is important to reiterate that our quarantined students will not have any contact with boarding students who are not quarantining or with members of our day student population for the duration of the quarantine period. Quarantined students will have limited contact with members of the TASIS staff, who will model proper social distancing and mask usage as necessary.
To complement our tracking and tracing efforts, all TASIS students and employees will be strongly encouraged to download the Swiss Covid-19 App upon their arrival. We will rely upon the Canton medical office to take the lead in all contact tracing efforts as the year progresses.
Clarification of Who Needs to Quarantine
It is important to note that the quarantine requirement is not determined by a student’s passport or nationality—it is based solely upon where he or she has been during the two-week period prior to entering Switzerland. Students who have spent any time in a high-risk country in the two weeks prior to their arrival in Switzerland must observe the quarantine. Students who have spent the previous two weeks in countries not on the high-risk list are exempt from the quarantine—regardless of what their home country is.
We have spent the summer reviewing all aspects of the School for safety and quality. We are closely monitoring local and federal guidelines and working with consultants and local authorities as we refine the safety plans we had in place when we reopened in May. With the understanding that we will continue to fine-tune our safety protocols as conditions change in the fall and beyond, below are several areas of emphasis:
- Use of thermal cameras for immediate temperature checks of all students, staff, and guests when they enter campus
- Use of masks throughout the day for all students in grades 2–12
- Procedures to ensure safe distancing of at least 1.5 meters between students when entering and exiting classrooms, dining areas, and other common spaces
- Use of plexiglass in classrooms and dining halls to further reduce the risk of infection
- Classroom windows left open at all times for ventilation (rooms must be ventilated regularly in the case that windows must be closed because of bad weather)
- Assigned seating in classrooms and in the dining hall for contact tracing
- Eliminating large-scale gatherings such as assemblies for the time being
- Use of the Swiss Covid-19 App to help with contact tracing
- Restricted access to campus and dormitories
- Regulations to ensure more privacy, assigned bathrooms, and enhanced cleaning procedures in dormitories
- Education campaigns and campus signage to reinforce proper hygiene and safe distancing
We shared more detailed protocols with all students and their families in advance of our opening and asked all members of our community to sign a pledge to uphold our safety measures.
As we have explained above and due to the mandatory 10-day quarantine imposed by Switzerland, we will begin the year with many of our boarding students in quarantine. In order to have the safest quarantine possible and to prevent the mixing of day and boarding students, the High School will begin the year with distance learning for the first two days of school: September 3–4. Live classroom instruction for the High School will begin on Monday, September 7. This will ensure that all students needing to quarantine will be cleared before the High School goes live with all day and boarding students.
The Elementary School and Middle School will begin live classes on campus on Thursday, September 3, as planned. These students will have no contact with any boarding students who are finishing up their quarantine.
Due to the unpredictable nature of this extraordinary and ever-changing pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to restructure Fall Academic Travel, which was originally scheduled for October 26–30. We have determined that it will not be prudent to send our students and faculty members on trips around the world just over three months from now. We also believe that due to the challenges we will face at the start of the year, it is in the best interests of our students to restructure our academic calendar in a way that maximizes classroom instruction. The net result is that each division will now have 2–3 more instructional days than originally planned.
Please take note of the following changes to our 2020–2021 academic year calendar:
- There will now be no classes on Monday, October 12, for the Elementary School, which will align all divisions for that three-day weekend.
- All three divisions will hold regular classes on Monday, October 26–Wednesday, October 28, in lieu of Fall Academic Travel.
- All three divisions will have no classes on Thursday, October 29, and Friday, October 30.
Aside from the changes discussed above, we intend to have a regular school year on campus and to adhere to our original calendar. But as we have learned from experience, we need to be prepared to deliver instruction remotely in case the academic year is interrupted for a single student, a group of students, or the whole school. Depending on the circumstances, our first-rate faculty will be prepared to transition to a hybrid teaching model or return to full distance learning. We have invested significant time and resources into enhancing the remote learning experience for our students.
Hybrid instruction consists of a combination of live and distance learning. In a hybrid model, school is still in session, but some students may need to access the classes remotely through video conferencing. For instance, if a student needs to arrive on campus later in the year or temporarily remain in isolation, he or she will be able to follow the live classes through video conferencing or recording sessions.
In the unlikely event of a campus closure, we will be prepared to deploy a full distance learning model—as we did this spring but with ongoing refinements and improvements.
As noted above, we have restructured the Fall Academic Travel period in order to minimize risk and maximize our classroom instruction days. We will instead be offering students a variety of safe and invigorating weekend trips around Switzerland throughout the fall. At this time we are aiming to offer two or three weekend trips to our High School students and one weekend trip to our Middle School students. These trips will be chaperoned by faculty members and dorm parents.
We continue to monitor the Federal Office of Public Health’s Information for Travelers page, which includes the latest guidelines and regulations from the federal government. All passengers on public transportation are now required to wear masks, and we will require all students and drivers in TASIS vans to wear masks.
Independent student travel on non-closed weekends may be permitted if a student’s parents make all the arrangements with respect to all current federal regulations. Our Deans’ Office will review requests with families on a case-by-case basis.
With regard to our Athletics Program, we plan to follow the Swiss federal guidelines for sports. These guidelines currently allow training sessions and competitions for all the sports we currently offer.
Our hope is to maintain the current structure for our competitive teams that travel within Switzerland and to adjacent countries. All competitions will be within driving distance, and we will follow the guidelines discussed above when teams use coach buses or TASIS vans to travel to athletic facilities away from campus. We will also have a waiver/permission form that must be signed by each parent and student at the beginning of the fall season if students wish to travel to the different tournament destinations.
Following local guidelines, masks are not required for students during sports practices or Physical Education (PE) classes, but all teachers, coaches, or supervisors are required to wear a mask during these sessions. Masks are also required for all students and adults on any transportation taken to and from off-campus destinations.
Athletes on competitive teams are required to wear masks when they are not directly participating in the athletic competition (e.g. watching from the bench). If the school hosting the competition has a stricter mask policy, all TASIS athletes will abide by its requirements.
We will observe a space requirement of 10m² per person for all of our own athletic facilities, including the Palestra, Palestrina, Fitness Room, and Dance Studio. All equipment will be sanitized before and after each use, and all facilities will be ventilated at least once every hour.
Boarding students coming from countries on the high-risk list arrive.
High School Orientation and Uniform Pick-Up for Day Students
Middle School Orientation and Uniform Pick-Up for Day Students
Elementary School Orientation and Uniform Pick-Up for Day Students
The Elementary School and Middle School begin live classroom instruction.
The High School has two days of distance learning (all classes held remotely).
All other boarding students arrive.
The High School begins live classroom instruction.
All three divisions do not have classes.
All three divisions have regular classes.
All three divisions do not have classes.
- Do students have to remain in quarantine even after they test negative for Covid-19?
- What will you do if a student tests positive for Covid-19?
- What will you do if a faculty or staff member tests positive for Covid-19?
- Will you also test day students, faculty and staff members, and non-quarantined boarding students for Covid-19?
- Will you still hold Family Weekend this fall?
- Will families be able to visit their children on campus?
- What changes are you making to your dormitories this year?
- Will any adjustments be made to this year’s tuition or room and board fees?
- Will class sizes be reduced this year?
- What will be done to enhance safety measures in dining areas?
- How will you support your students’ social and emotional well-being?
- Will students be allowed to have dances and other social events this fall?