Bright Learners Private School Principal Adrianna Chestnut discusses getting kids back to school after the global pandemic.
As we start to emerge from this unsettling time of the past months, one of the biggest steps in achieving a “new normal” will be sending children back to school when the new academic year begins. May parents will be feeling apprehensive, and students who have adapted to a new way of life at home will surely feel disorientated when arriving back to the classroom. And school life as they knew it before will be no more. Extra safety measures will be in place in all schools and students will have to adhere to new social distancing guidelines – this may be difficult for young people who in many cases haven’t seen their friends or teachers for a really long time.
One school who is more than ready for the challenge is Bright Learners Private School in Dubai. This brand new institution will open its doors for the first time this September. In many ways, this sets them above the rest as safety measures will be put in place from the day the school opens, but it also leads to extra worry from students and parents going into unfamiliar territory. So an element of trust and reassurance is sure to be needed. School Principal Adrianna Chestnut is doing just that. She is working to provide parents and students with all the knowledge they need and welcome them like part of the family. Here we talk to Chesnut on some of the changes that are being done in the UAE’s schools, and how parents and children can start to adapt to a new way of school life.
What can you tell us about Bright Learners Private School and what makes it different?
Bright Learners Private School is an American Curriculum school opening in the heart of Rashidiya, just minutes away from Mirdif. I believe the thing that sets us apart is our commitment to families and the community. In being a new school, we will work alongside families to truly build something that caters to the needs of our students and their families. We have an amazing team of teachers that are ready to go above and beyond the call of duty.
How have you been handling the lockdown time and what is a lesson you have learnt?
The lockdown has not been easy, as we had to quickly adjust our way of life as we knew it. However, in the stillness and the silence whilst in the midst of confusion I have been able to acknowledge the collateral beauty. During this time, we have learned that life as we know it is not promised. As a result, we became more intentional about our time and relationships. This for me, meant communicating more with those I loved. COVID had a chance to remove many of the things that were previously distractions to assist us with focusing on what matters, our family, friends and health. I have learned to keep the things near and dear to me sacred and not allow outside distractions to prevent me from the things, people and priorities that I hold dear.
This coming academic year will mark your opening year – what changes have you put into place at the school in order to ensure the safety of the children?
One advantage of being a new school is that we have the ability to shape and easily adapt to the changing times. Following the latest announcement from KHDA, Bright Learners will be open this academic year, with the highest level of safety measures in place. At Bright Learners we are privileged to have a spacious campus that will allow us to effectively social distance. Thus, we have been working around the clock to ensure our school is a welcoming and safe space for students. Some of the measures we are taking include: the complete sanitisation of the entire campus, classrooms and common areas are being arranged to ensure maximum safety for our students keeping social distance in mind, entrances are being fitted with thermal monitoring equipment that will allow us to properly track all people entering the school. Our school has added an isolation room equipped with full PPE in the event that there is a potential positive case on the campus. Our team has thoroughly planned in order to keep our students safe while allowing them to enjoy their return to school.
How will children need to change their behaviour in order to abide by social distancing rules?
One thing about students around the globe is they are resilient, and they have adapted to the many changes with a high level of maturity. As we know, the beginning of the school year will be yet another change, that follows several months of distance learning. Our team is prepared to teach and guide the students to ensure high levels of safety. We believe a part of this process is explaining the purpose behind what we are doing, as much of this will be difficult for students to understand. Students will need to effectively practice social distancing by remaining in their spaces and using safe movement. This requires them to be thoughtful and mindful about their movements and actions in and outside the classroom. As a school, we will work extensively to ensure that while they are distanced and that they have connected and collaborative schooling experience.
What are you planning to do with the children when they first arrive in order to ensure they understand the guidelines and their safety?
We have to meet our students where they are. We know that with the returning to school and the opening of a new school, this will be coupled with excitement. We will meet with all families and students prior to the opening to ensure they understand our safety precautions. We also want the opportunity for the students to familiarise themselves with our campus and their new learning space. With this personalised approach, we can ensure parents and students are our partners in ensuring the safety of everyone who enters the doors of Bright Learners.
Throughout the school, we will have visual reminders that will help guide students and assist them in making the right choices. Our job is to consistently guide and support our students.
What about protecting the teachers – what are the guidelines in place?
Each person at Bright Learners is a vital part of our school family. Thus, we will protect the safety of all teachers with increased safety measures and support. We will fit all classrooms with sanitation stations and ensure that all learning spaces are regularly disinfected. We will support the physical and emotional wellbeing of our teachers, ensuring there are measures in place. All teachers will participate in COVID testing prior to reporting to school.
What advice would you give to parents who are apprehensive about sending their kids to school after such a long time?
I would tell parents to partner with a school that makes them feel safe. Ensure that there is effective communication and take their time. We have to understand that the students level of comfort will be greatly affected by the parents and as a school, we have to help ease those fears. I would assure parents that I understand their apprehension as we have all been through something, unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime. We understand that a parent’s child is their pride and joy, we will do all we can to protect that.
How will you integrate kids back into school life after such a long time?
Integration back into the school will take time, patience and empathy. We have to ensure that as a team we have solid plans and procedures to guide our students and families through the process. We have to ensure we have effective streams of communication, so all families are aware of any pertinent news. We will provide ongoing education and support specifically as it related to the health and safety standards.
How do you think the distance learning kids have been doing for such a long time will affect them when going back into a classroom?
I think with the increase in distance learning students have become more comfortable with technology and have become more independent learners. This will impact their ability to critically think allowing them to comfortably take on more complex tasks. Their accessibility and comfortability with technology also has the ability to enhance their educational experience.
What do you think is something positive that will come from this terrible situation?
I think the positive thing that has emerged in the midst of this pandemic is the overwhelming message of togetherness and support. We have seen this country come together to support and encourage all people. We have seen innovation and creativity to assist us in the navigation of our new normal. Sometimes we have to slow down and appreciate the beauty in life, I believe we were offered that opportunity. How we move forward from this is up to us.
What is a message you would like to share with all UAE parents at this time?
We are here to support you! We know that this time is difficult, and we will do all that we can to calm your fears while we support your student. Please know you are not in this alone.
What is the motto that your living by during this time?
There is strength in unity.