An Introduction from the Headmaster
Following a successful return to live classroom instruction for the entire 2020–2021 academic year and two safe and productive sessions for our Summer Programs, we are excited to welcome our full student body back to campus in just a few weeks! Although we understand that the ongoing pandemic will continue to pose challenges, we remain determined to provide our students with a signature TASIS experience this year.
In the presentation that follows this letter, you will find an overview of the following topics:
- The current situation in Switzerland
- Our quarantine, testing, and tracing plan
- Safety measures on campus
- Visitors to campus
- Hybrid instruction
- Important early dates
- Frequently asked questions
As was the case heading into the 2020-2021 academic year, all of our safety plans are designed to keep our community safe and healthy while maintaining live classroom instruction and keeping our boarding program fully operational. With that in mind, we are pleased to report that all members of our community who are 12 or older will have the opportunity to take the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at no cost (see more details in the Vaccination section below). We strongly encourage everyone to do so.
We ask that you carefully review all of the information in this presentation, 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 thank you in advance for your continued resilience and flexibility as we embark on a new academic year at TASIS The American School in Switzerland.
The Current Situation in Switzerland
Covid-19 infections in Switzerland peaked at around 10,000 new cases per day in November 2020 and slowly declined throughout the winter. After a short-lived spike in April (around 2000 new cases per day), the infection rate bottomed out in June before slowly ticking back up to around 1500 new cases per day in early August.
Track the latest Covid-19 statistics for Switzerland here.According to the Federal Office of Public Health, 50 percent of the Swiss population is fully vaccinated and 55.6 percent have had at least one dose (as of August 16).
On June 23, the Swiss Federal Council announced that, effective June 26, it would be taking wide-ranging steps to reopen the country and relax entry requirements.
Requirements to work from home and to wear masks outdoors have been lifted, restaurants are now allowed to seat as many people as they wish, and large-scale events are allowed to take place without restrictions on capacity, provided that all guests are able to present a Covid vaccination certificate.
Health-related measures at the border are now focused on visitors arriving from countries with worrying variants of the virus. People entering from the Schengen area are no longer required to quarantine, and testing is only required for those who arrive by plane and have not been vaccinated or have not already recovered from Covid-19.
With the Delta variant largely responsible for the recent uptick in cases, the Federal Council is careful to point out that “personal responsibility is still the way forward,” urging citizens to to continue to follow the rules on hygiene and social distancing and relevant precautionary measures, to get vaccinated if at all possible, and to stay at home and get tested if they exhibit any symptoms—even if they have been vaccinated or have recovered from an earlier Covid-19 infection.
For the latest updates about the Covid-19 situation in Switzerland, consult the Federal Office of Public Health’s website.
Our Quarantine, Testing, and Contact Tracing Plan
Each year we welcome students from approximately 60 nations, and this year a small number of students may be arriving from a country with a variant of concern. In accordance with the current entry requirements, these students will be subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine upon their arrival in Switzerland, which they will serve comfortably at a location a short distance from the main TASIS campus.
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 10-day period prior to entering Switzerland. Students who have spent any time in a country with a variant of concern in the 10 days prior to their arrival in Switzerland must observe the quarantine. Students who have spent the previous 10 days in countries not on the list are exempt from the quarantine—regardless of what their home country is.
The chart below provides an overview of the current health-related measures at the border:
Because Swiss Covid-19 regulations are subject to change, we strongly encourage all families to see which rules apply to their particular situation by consulting Travelcheck, a service provided by the Federal Office of Public Health.
As always, families are also encouraged to contact our Admissions Office with any questions.
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.
Testing for Boarding Students
All boarding students will be tested for Covid-19 upon their arrival to campus. They will be administered a rapid antigen test at our on-campus testing facility in accordance with a plan developed for TASIS by Dr. Vincenzo Liguori of LuganoCare. Test results will be available within 15–30 minutes.
Testing for Day Students
All day students will be required to submit a negative test certificate (either a rapid antigen test that is not older than 48 hours or a PCR test that is not older than 72 hours) when they arrive for orientation (August 29 for High School students and September 1 for Elementary and Middle School students).
Rapid antigen tests carried out in Switzerland will be subsidized by the Swiss government until at least October 1, 2021. For the time being, all rapid antigen tests administered at LuganoCare will be free for those who have Swiss health insurance and will cost CHF 47 for those who do not. The cost for a rapid antigen test administered at our on-campus facility will be approximately CHF 83 for those who have Swiss health insurance and CHF 130 for those who do not.
Any students who test positive with a rapid antigen test will be administered a PCR test by LuganoCare to confirm the result. There will be no charge for these tests if the student has Swiss health insurance, and the cost will be CHF 153.50 if the student does not.
If a student wishes to have a PCR test for another reason (e.g. if one is needed for independent travel) at any point in the school year, the cost will be CHF 153.50 if the test is administered at LuganoCare and CHF 200 if it is administered on campus.
Serology rapid tests, which identify the type of antibodies and antigens present in the blood and determine the type of infection a patient may have or may have had in the past, will also be available throughout the year both at LuganoCare or on campus. The cost is CHF 80 at either location and is not covered by Swiss health insurance.
Any costs not covered by Swiss health insurance for all Covid-related tests administered to students will be charged to the student’s family. Please contact our Business Office with any further questions regarding the costs associated with Covid-19 testing.
* Please note that this section was modified on August 20 based on new information provided by LuganoCare.
Medical Care for Boarding Students
Our on-campus Health Center is staffed with three full-time health professionals, and we will once again make use of an isolation facility adjacent to campus for any students who test positive for the virus at any point during the school year. (Note that any students who test positive with a rapid antigen test will be administered a PCR test by LuganoCare to confirm the result.)
The isolation facility will have 24-hour care provided by our Health Center and InterNursing, a respected Swiss organization that specializes in selecting and placing healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and senior residences. Students who test positive will remain in this facility until they are cleared to return by medical authorities. (As noted above, any students who test positive with a rapid antigen test will be administered a PCR test by LuganoCare to confirm the result.)
As was the case for all of last year, our nurses will contact all impacted families and employees each time we have a positive case and will seek counsel from local authorities and our school doctor to determine the next steps in the contact tracing process.
For each positive case of Covid-19, close contacts who were near the positive person within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms will be contacted by the Canton medical office, which will implement other necessary measures. To ensure that we have comprehensive knowledge of close contacts, we will keep detailed lists of where students are and who they are with for every school activity, including classes, meals, and events.
We are pleased to announce that Dr. Vincenzo Liguori of LuganoCare has received authorization from the Canton to administer Covid-19 vaccines to any students age 12 and older. Because this is part of the Canton’s vaccination program, there will be no charge for the vaccines. Please note that only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved in Switzerland for adolescents at this time. LuganoCare will be administering the Moderna vaccine, and the Pfizer vaccine can only be obtained at the Canton's vaccination center in Giubiasco.
All TASIS students who are 12 and older are eligible to receive their vaccines through LuganoCare. In mid-September, our Health Center will begin working with boarding families who are interested in obtaining the vaccine for their children. Day student families are free to make their own arrangements either through LuganoCare or their family doctor.
We strongly encourage all eligible members of our community to get vaccinated as soon as possible if they have not already done so.
Safety Measures on Campus
We have once again spent the summer reviewing all aspects of the School for safety and quality. We continue to closely monitor local and federal guidelines as we refine our 2021–2022 Campus Safety Plan with the aim of meeting or exceeding all safety requirements related to Covid-19. With the understanding that we will continue to fine-tune our safety protocols as conditions change in the fall and beyond, below is a summary of the key safety measures that will be in place at the start of the school year.
Our current mask policy, which was developed in conjunction with LuganoCare, states that masks must be worn indoors by all students in grades 2–12, all employees, and all visitors to campus. Masks can be removed when outdoors.
Masks can also be removed indoors in the following scenarios:
- When seated for dining
- While participating in sporting and cultural activities
- Students in grades 2–5 can remove their masks when seated at their desks inside a classroom with proper ventilation and distance.
- At the discretion of the teacher, students in grades 6–12 can take five-minute mask breaks when seated inside a classroom with proper ventilation and distance.
Students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 1 are only required to wear masks on TASIS shuttle buses and other transport organized by the School.
Other Areas of Emphasis
- Thermal cameras will again be used for immediate temperature checks of all students, staff, and guests when they enter campus.
- Safe distancing of at least 1.5 meters will be maintained between students in classrooms, dormitories, dining halls, common areas, and playgrounds whenever possible.
- Plexiglass will again be used in classrooms and dining halls to further reduce the risk of infection.
- Students will have assigned seating in classrooms and in the dining hall to help with contact tracing.
- Education campaigns and campus signage will be used to reinforce proper hygiene and safe distancing.
In general, most of the safety measures that were in effect for all of last year will remain in place to start the 2021–2022 academic year, and we will once again ask all members of our community to sign a pledge to uphold our safety measures. Depending on how the pandemic evolves, we may be able to relax some of these measures as the year progresses.
Visitors to Campus
We are excited to see lots of parents on campus when we hold our orientation for High School day students on August 29 and our orientation for Elementary and Middle School day students on September 1, and we know many parents of boarding students are eager to accompany their children to campus on August 30 and help them move into their dormitories. We greatly value our parent community, but in an effort to keep our students as safe as possible, we respectfully ask all parents to please take note of the following rules:
- All visitors to campus must have their temperature checked with the thermal camera at the main entrance to campus.
- All visitors must wear masks in any indoor spaces on campus.
- Parents of boarding students who would like to enter their child’s dormitory and/or eat in the De Nobili dining hall on the day their child arrives may do so, with the understanding that masks must be worn indoors.
We intend to once again have a regular school year on campus and adhere to our academic calendar. But as we have learned from experience, it is important to be prepared to deliver instruction remotely in case there are Covid-related disruptions for a single student or a group of students. We have invested significant time and resources into technology and professional development in order to enhance the remote learning experience for our students, and our first-rate faculty will be prepared to transition to a hybrid teaching model as needed.
Hybrid instruction consists of a combination of live and distance learning. In a hybrid model, school is still in session, but students who need to are able to access their classes remotely through video conferencing or recording sessions.
Please note that hybrid instruction will only be used in instances where students are forced to miss live classes for reasons related to Covid-19 but still feel well enough to attend remotely. When students are experiencing symptoms (from Covid or other illnesses), we want them to rest at home until they feel well enough to return to the classroom.
We plan to offer our restructured Academic Travel Program to all High School and Middle School students this year. Provided that conditions allow, these students will have the option to attend cultural and outdoor education trips over the course of four-day weekends in early November and late February, and they will also have ample opportunities to go on weekend skiing/snowboarding trips in world-class locations such as Andermatt, Davos, and Engelberg throughout the winter. Our faculty members and dorm parents provide additional travel opportunities through our robust Weekend Activities Program on a regular basis.
We continue to monitor the Federal Office of Public Health’s Travel page, which includes the latest guidelines and regulations from the federal government, and the same safety measures that are in effect on campus will apply for all off-campus trips sponsored by the School.
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.
We very much look forward to a return to athletic competitions this year and plan to follow the Swiss federal guidelines for sports. These guidelines currently allow for training sessions and competitions for all the sports we currently offer. During all practices and competitions, masks will be provided to all athletes for any situations in which a social distance of 1.5 meters cannot be maintained.
Our hope is to maintain the current structure for our competitive teams that travel within Switzerland and to neighboring countries. For the time being, all competitions will be within driving distance, and we will follow the guidelines linked to above when teams use coach buses or TASIS vans to travel to athletic facilities away from campus.
Important Early Dates
Orientation for High School day students and their families
Boarding students arrive
August 30–September 1
Orientation and activities for boarding students
Orientation for Elementary and Middle School day students and their families
First day of classes
Please note that we have every intention of following our full 2021–2022 academic year calendar as originally planned. Our Admissions Office will send detailed information about the upcoming orientation days very soon.
Frequently Asked Questions
We have prepared a list of frequently asked questions and responses below. Please do not hesitate to contact our Admissions Office with any other questions.
- Does the mask policy apply to students and faculty members who are vaccinated?
- What will you do if a faculty or staff member tests positive for Covid-19?
- What changes have you made to your dormitories?
- Will class sizes be reduced this year?
- What has been 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 social events this fall?