2020 has been a strange and unpredicted year where everyone transitioned to a new way of life, this has been particularly challenging for the Tenby families.
When Malaysia announced the Movement Control Order (MCO) back in March, our school was ready to launch Distance Learning on the very first day of the MCO. Our Teachers went above and beyond in ensuring Amazing Learning is delivered effectively. The Distance Learning was a success with many positive testimonials from parents and students. The reopening of Year 10 – 12 and Form 5s in June, Early Years in July, Sekolah Sri Tenby in August and finally the entire campus in September was the next challenge.
With everyone back in school now for a month, we have had a quick chat with our Campus Principal, Mr Iain Sallis, on how we ensure learning in school is safe post MCO.
How did Tenby Schools Setia Eco Park prepare for school reopening?
We reformed the COVID 19 Team who supported the closing with the new focus on how we reopen safely? Our COVID 19 Team did a wonderful job with ensuring learning occurred online within 24 hours of the announcement, we wanted the same level of excellence when we reopened.
Compared to most other schools we have reopened in 4 phases. Due to the nature of the late July term finish, we opened when the MCO was lifted in June for Form 5, Year 10, Year 11 and Year 12. Our Phase 2 reopen added the Early Years Centre in July. Phase 3 included the whole National School return on 3rd August 2020 and then the International followed on 1st September 2020. The COVID 19 team met for many hours to discuss several key factors including Health and Safety, communication schedules, HR, finance, learning, IT, cleaning plans and the impact on new admissions. We spent many hours locked in our boardroom (obviously a metre apart and wearing face masks) ensuring we meet all SOP’s. Our operating procedures came from a variety of sources including the MOE and MOH. Being part of a regional and global group was great because we met on Microsoft Team calls daily. Principals and regional leads supported each other and shared their best practices. The regional team supports the schools with expertise from our regional teams that include lawyers, IT, HR, facilities and learning specialists.
What is the biggest challenge to get students back in?
Our biggest challenge was ensuring we are all safe, happy and eventually learning. We put many thoughts together to design the safest drop-off and pick-up, movement schedules and the use of canteens. Our classrooms are big enough to fit 25 students safely, so this was relatively easy. In such a fast-moving situation there is always the challenge of being able to communicate our new SOP’s with the pace needed to keep all stakeholders informed. Enabling the whole community to understand how we would create the “new norm” without parents, teachers and students involved with the planning was a challenge. How can they understand how and why decisions were made? The parents and staff received Tenby specific SOP information packs. The “New Norm” which we are all now accustomed to creates anxiety and uncertainty, so we need to ensure that we are doing the right things all of the time. We were lucky in the fact that we learnt to be better across the 4 phases of opening which meant a better experience to the next set of students who entered. The fact we have almost 2300 people on site everyday means we are very good at logistics. The success of organising the 4 reopenings with differing needs is something we are very proud of. We are very happy with the way the first month has gone so far. It really has been a superb community effort.
How does the school cater to SOP with 2,000 students being on campus?
We have staggered breaks and lunches, staggered finishes, adapted drop off and pick up arrangements, added tents and new seating spaces. We are better as a result of the experience and MCO has enabled us to review not only areas related to COVID 19 but all areas of school operations. Due to the new detail and depth of thought needed to reopen, this led us to better systems of how to be safer and more efficient across several functions. One great thing about Tenby Schools Setia Eco Park is that we are lucky to have 20 acres of space with enough classrooms and specialist spaces to ensure learning occurs effectively. Many International and Private schools do not have the green field space we are lucky to have at SEP. Using timetables and information management systems to ensure we maximise space is vital at this time.
We have built in review processes across the calendar so we can adapt immediately to support an improved learning experience to stakeholders. We have changed the pick-up process over 4 times in the first 2 weeks. Parents, staff and students receive regular questionnaires to support improvement strategies and we have provided online consultation to stakeholders throughout the process.
Learning is different under the post MCO conditions and secondary students have adopted a bring-your-own-device culture. We love learning at Tenby SEP, but it is slightly different, we have all become experts in Microsoft Teams and Goggle Classroom and added a host of new apps to support our “Amazing Learning” concept. We have upgraded IT systems over the MCO period including WIFI points so we could cope with new needs and demands.
What did the school do to assure parents that it’s a safe learning environment for their children?
We created a Tenby Safe 7 and used our social media to ensure parents and students were aware of the new safety rules. We used posters, videos, signages and several other communication channels to ensure we all could understand and follow safe procedures. We have worked with the cleaning company to ensure they change schedules to ensure touch point cleaning and deep cleaning happens more frequently. Teaching staff have been trained and given cleaning equipment to support with cleaning classrooms. We have a COVID 19 isolation room with 2 full time nurses onsite to support. Every person is checked on arrival and students are rechecked in class at the start of every day. We have QR codes to ensure all visitors are recorded upon entrance.
We have held regular feedback and forum sessions for parents so they can ask questions regularly to ensure students feel safe coming to school. It has been testing times for schools, however at Tenby SEP we have returned with amazing levels of safety and learning. I am very proud and privileged to lead a great team of people.
Check out the video below as we get our younger kids back on the very first day.