The last thing I want to write about today is Covid. Two years ago today the whole thing kicked off and my school in Jakarta closed and began online learning, never to return to campus through the remainder of the year. Who would have thought this would still dominate our lives after two years?!?
I ended up moving schools and countries, and I’ve been working in Jeju, South Korea since August of 2020. We’ve been extremely fortunate in Korea with Covid, especially in Jeju, and in the over a year and a half that I’ve been at the school, we’ve have fewer than 10 cases in the entire school of over 1,000 students and over 200 faculty and staff. We’ve been on campus for face-to-face learning the majority of the time I’ve been here, only going online a couple of times when there’s been a case in the Junior School last year. Until recently, no one had been online all of this school year.
While the rest of the world (or at least most of it) has decided to get on with Covid after the virus running rampant through schools, we’ve watched from afar, wondering if it had somehow passed us by. Unfortunately it hadn’t passed us by, it was just delayed. Covid has now infiltrated Korean schools and is rapidly spreading around the Junior School. Luckily for them, it hasn’t hit the Middle or Senior Schools, as the vast majority of their students are fully vaccinated. But with the youngest age able to be vaccinated still 12 in Korea, our youngest learners have been hit the hardest.
What started as a slow burn three weeks ago has rapidly progressed to a fast-spreading fire. The protocol here is that whenever a student or teacher tests positive on a rapid antigen test, the entire class and all teachers who have taught them are tested with rapid antigen tests and sent home for the rest of the day. If we find out about a positive case before school begins, the class doesn’t come to school, tests at home, and begins online learning. After a confirmed case is found in a class (PCR positive), that class quarantines at home for 5 days and is taught online. The number of spreadsheets we have going at the moment is incredible. Keeping track of each student who tests positive, the date they can return to school, who their close contacts were, etc. is literally a full-time job at this point.
As of tomorrow, we have 7 classes (out of a total of 21) who will be online learning, and 4 of those were added just today! I can’t imagine finding out late in the day (or in the case of one class today, at 9:00pm!) that you’ll be teaching online tomorrow. The worst part is that it’s hitting our littlest ones the most at the moment, which means we have most of our 3-5 year olds learning online (synchronously with their normal daily schedule). In the case of a couple of classes, the teacher is home sick too and cannot teach online, so we have pulled other teachers and interns in to cover classes and grade levels they have never taught. It’s an all hands on desk situation at the moment. I taught our preschool students online on Monday and let me tell you, it’s not the easiest task.
All of this happening every day makes it difficult to do my “normal” job, as so much time and energy is spent on this situation. If I’m not meeting to discuss who can be on campus/who can’t, finding cover for missing teachers, rearranging schedules, contact tracing (who did you sit by at lunch?), giving pep talks and hugs to students getting Covid tests done in the make-shift testing center in the office, calming down teachers who are stressed to the max, or writing parent communications, then I’m able to work on my other duties (that continue to pile up each day).
I keep wondering when this wave will go through us and we can get back to face-to-face learning for all classes again. This piecemeal thing is killing us!