Responding to COVID-19

This page documents The School for Ethics and Global Leadership’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  It includes information for both accepted and current students.

[Above: Spring 2020 students speak with Sherri Berger, Chief Operating Officer of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about COVID-19 on March 10, 2020.]

Information for Accepted DC Students

Congratulations on your acceptance! We are excited to welcome you into the SEGL community.  You are at the beginning of an extraordinary journey.

We live in challenging times.  As you know, the COVID-19 virus has made many schools’ 2020-21 operating status uncertain.

We anticipate remaining open for the full 2020-21 academic year, and we believe our curriculum and health protocols are uniquely suited to current events.  However, there is the possibility that events will mandate a change in plans.  And, as is the case everywhere, despite our state-of-the-art precautions students attending SEGL may contract COVID-19.

We will not make the decision to open for the 2020-21 school year without certainty that we are able to provide a safe, healthy experience for all participants.

At this point, we do not anticipate extending our enrollment and deposit deadline for our DC program.  However, we plan to hold your deposit “in escrow” (that is, we will not spend the funds) until your semester begins.  We plan to return deposits in full should SEGL decide to close before your semester begins.

We understand that this may mean making two schedules for next year: one if SEGL remains open, and one if SEGL were to suspend operations.  We are happy to facilitate this planning in any way we can.

Thank you for your partnership and patience.  If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Information for Accepted South Africa Students

Congratulations on your acceptance! We are excited to welcome you into the SEGL community.  You are at the beginning of an extraordinary journey.

As you know, the 2020-21 operating status of many schools is uncertain due to the COVID-19 virus.  On Sunday, March 15 (the day after we mailed your acceptance letter) South African President Cyril Ramphosa announced the suspension of all visas from the United States.  This means that were SEGL at ALA to begin today, we would not be able to welcome students.  For this reason, we are monitoring the situation carefully and considering whether to suspend SEGL at ALA for the fall 2020 semester or the full 2020-21 school year.

Though we are not extending our enrollment deadline, we have postponed indefinitely the due date for enrollment deposits.  This means we are asking all accepted students to notify us of their intent to join us in South Africa, but that families may delay sending in deposit funds until further notice without jeopardizing their children’s place at SEGL.

We understand that this may mean making two schedules for next year: one if SEGL remains open, and one if SEGL were to suspend operations.  We are happy to facilitate this planning in any way we can.

We will not make the decision to open for the 2020-21 school year without certainty that we are able to provide a safe, healthy experience for all participants.

If we do decide to suspend SEGL at ALA for the fall and/or spring semester, accepted students will receive priority in admissions should they choose to apply for the 2021-22 school year.

Thank you for your partnership and patience.  If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Information for Accepted London Students

Congratulations on your acceptance! We are excited to welcome you into the SEGL community.  You are at the beginning of an extraordinary journey.

We live in challenging times.  As you know, the operating status of many Summer 2020 international programs is uncertain.

We currently anticipate remaining open for the full summer 2020 semester, and we believe our curriculum and health protocols are uniquely suited to current events.  However, there is the possibility that events will mandate a change in plans.  And, as is the case everywhere, despite our state-of-the-art precautions students attending SEGL may contract COVID-19.

We will not make the decision to open for the summer 2020 semester without certainty that we are able to provide a safe, healthy experience for all participants.

At this point, we do not anticipate extending our enrollment and deposit deadline for our London program.  However, we plan to hold your deposit “in escrow” (that is, we will not spend the funds) until your semester begins.  We plan to return deposits in full should SEGL decide to close before your semester begins.

Thank you for your partnership and patience.  If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Information for Current DC Students

SEGL’s top priority is the health and safety of its students.  We are also fully committed to ensuring all students earn full academic credit the semester.  These priorities, along with SEGL’s mission statement and advice from reliable experts, inform our decision making.

SEGL’s DC campus plans to reopen, with additional enhanced precautions, at the end of its scheduled two-week Spring Break.

Previous communications with families
Distance learning overview (this link will go live if needed)

Information for Current South Africa Students

SEGL at ALA is sending students home on Friday, March 20; the program will continue online.  All students will have the opportunity to earn full academic credit for the semester through our distance learning platform.

Previous communications with families
Distance learning overview (this link will go live soon!)

Previous Communications with Families: DC Campus

March 12, 2020
Head of School Letter

Spring Break begins tomorrow!  I am writing to share our plans for Family Day, Spring Break, and the balance of the Spring 2020 semester.

Please note that these plans represent our current thinking, given the best information and advice we have.  I will continue to update you as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves; our plans may change in the days ahead.

We hope these plans (and any subsequent updates) will allow your family maximum flexibility to make choices that reflect your values and tolerance for risk.  

Family Day

Family Day will proceed tomorrow morning with an amended schedule and enhanced precautions.  Attendance is optional for both students and families.   (If you would prefer that your child not attend, please contact your child’s advisor.)  We are also currently working on a plan to allow family members who cannot attend to videoconference in to the gathering; I will send out an email (likely early tomorrow) if we are able to arrange something.

SEGL and our hosts have taken a number of added precautions to help ensure health and safety.  Our event size is well below the limits set by the DC government and CDC.  Despite this, there may be some risk that the COVID-19 virus will be transmitted during Family Day.  We encourage you to make the best choice for your family.

Our updated schedule is below (please note our additional guest speaker!):

8:45am
Breakfast (provided with enhanced precautions)
Location: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (1155 F Street, NW, Suite 1200)

Transportation: Use DC Metro Red Line to “Metro Center” station, taxi/rideshare, or use the building’s parking garage (information and rates here).
Health and Safety: Please do not join us if you are sick or believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19.  Be prepared to practice social distancing standards (no handshakes, etc).  We will ask you to wash hands upon entering Suite 1200 (bathrooms will be available throughout the morning).  Our meeting room is large enough to provide for air circulation and some spacing of chairs; it will be deep-cleaned before the meeting.  The BHFS offices will be largely empty tomorrow; most of the people you will encounter there will be members of our community.

9:00am
Model English Class with Christian Starling
Location: Same as above
Health and Safety: Same as above

10:15am
Main Program with Guest Experts Nadeam A. Elshami (Former Chief of Staff to Nancy Pelosi) and the Hon. Ed Royce (Former Chairman, U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee)
Location: Same as above
Health and Safety: Same as above

12:00pm
Lunch (served with enhanced precautions)
Location: Same as above
Health and Safety: Same as above

12:30pm
Travel back to residences
Location: 202/204 East Capitol St.
Health and Safety: Please wait outside our dormitories for students.

Important reminders:

RSVP and photo identification are required (send a note to rsvp@schoolforethics.org if you have not already done so)

-Please allow extra time for travel and hand-washing upon arrival
-Please familiarize yourself with appropriate CDC protocols before arriving

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Spring Break and the balance of the Spring 2020 semester

Again, the following plans represent our current thinking, given the best information and advice we have.  Stay tuned for updates in the days ahead.

1. If you choose, you may send your child back to SEGL at the end of Spring Break.  We will provide returning students with the best possible academic and interpersonal experience, and continue to follow the best guidance from local and national authorities to ensure students are as safe as possible.  This guidance may direct us to limit our movement, modify our visitor/guest expert protocols, and (if necessary) follow official quarantine guidance.  It may also direct us to send students home before the semester ends.  If you choose to return your child back to SEGL at the end of Spring Break, you may reverse that decision at any time, and we will help facilitate travel back home

2. If you choose, you may keep your child at home (or at another location) at the end of Spring Break.  We will provide students who do not return with the best possible academic and interpersonal experience using our online learning platform and other resources.  (During Spring Break I will send more information about these plans.)  Our primary goal for students who do not return will be to ensure they receive full academic credit for the spring semester.  If you choose to return your child to SEGL later in the semester, you may do so at any time, provided that you follow our health and safety protocols.  These protocols (which may change depending on when you send your child back to DC) are designed to help ensure students do not bring COVID-19 into our community.

3. If you choose #1, above, we ask that you commit to the following:

A. For the duration of Spring Break, your family must follow official guidance for minimizing the spread of COVID-19.  (This guidance may change based on your location and other factors.  Please check appropriate local and national resources regularly for updated guidance.)  This includes (and is not limited to) avoiding travel to areas that the CDC, the State Department, or another official entity has flagged, and committing to frequent hand washing and other CDC personal hygiene/social distancing directives.

B. If your child is sick and/or exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19 on the day of travel back to DC, do not send your child.  We are happy to welcome your child when she or he is healthy.  We will screen students immediately upon arrival back at SEGL; we will quarantine students who arrive with symptoms immediately and require parents/guardians (or a designated adult into whose care we can release a sick student) to return immediately to provide off-campus care and supervision.

C. Please consider your own tolerance for risk before making the decision to send your child back to SEGL.  If your child returns to SEGL, there is a chance that despite our best efforts she or he will get sick with COVID-19.  Though current science suggests that the vast majority of healthy adolescents will recover from the virus with little more than flu-like symptoms, there is some risk that your child may require advanced medical care.  If your child gets sick, you may need to change plans quickly to support your child: we will require parents/guardians (or a designated adult into whose care we can release a sick student) to return immediately to provide off-campus care for students who get sick with COVID-19.  There is also a chance that another community member might get sick.  This may cause worry at an already-stressful time.

4. Please share your end-of-break plans with your child’s advisor when you are ready.  The more advanced notice we have, the more complete our plans will be, but we understand that you may not be able to share your plans until the very end of break.  Please also watch for additional updates from SEGL as the break continues.  Our plan is subject to change.

A few other notes:

-Your child should bring home everything she or he needs for Spring Break, but does not need to bring anything else.  Should the school decide to move online, we will help ensure your child’s physical belongings are sent home (note that this may take some time), and that your child has whatever is needed for class activities.

-Some of you have heard that the Mountain School (another semester program located in rural Vermont) has chosen to sequester students on campus during Spring Break.  You may be wondering if SEGL should follow suit.  Though this decision no doubt makes sense for a population that has likely remained far from the spread of COVID-19 since January (and can be kept separate for the foreseeable future), it makes less sense for our students and faculty, who have been out and about (albeit practicing enhanced precautions) during that same time frame.

-Though we currently do not have plans to make our dormitory available for student housing over break, if you believe your child will be safer staying in DC (or a location other than your home) for Spring Break and need assistance brainstorming ideas, please contact your child’s advisor.  We will help you consider what arrangements might be possible.  (Those arrangements will likely not include full-time faculty supervision.)

-Some of you may be worried that sending your child back to SEGL after break might facilitate the virus’ spread, particularly to vulnerable populations.  Though this is a risk, and though some have suggested all travel should be halted, this is not the CDC’s current recommendation, and given the commitments we have asked you to follow in #3 above, we hope any risk will be small.  Of course, this may change pending revisions to official guidance.

-We will not be able to help with added costs incurred by flight/train cancelations/re-bookings or travel to DC to assist sick students.  (For families receiving financial aid, we may be able help in some circumstances.)  Please consider this when making plans.

-I have no doubt left some questions unanswered.  If you have questions, please share them with your child’s advisor and we will respond as soon as possible.

 

This is a challenging time.  For many, it is also a frightening time.  Please know that although we are taking COVID-19 very seriously, the first half of our semester together has been filled with joy and hope.  The future is as bright as your children: 24 shining stars.

On a personal note, I want to share how much your support has meant in these past few weeks.  Your kind words and willingness to help are a constant reminder of how singularly amazing the SEGL community is.

We will all get through this, together!

–Noah

P.S. Please check out our Instagram page for a photo of Tuesday’s meeting with Sherri Berger, Chief Operating Officer of the CDC!

March 10, 2020
Head of School Letter

A short, happy update: the student I referenced in my last email has tested negative for the COVID-19 virus.  This means the student does not have the virus and was welcomed back into our midst today–just in time to join our special conversation with the Chief Operating Officer of the CDC!

Of course, our heightened precautions remain in place.

More soon.

March 8, 2020
Head of School Letter

I am writing with an update to my message yesterday about COVID19.

Late last night a student had a coughing episode that resulted in a precautionary trip to the hospital.  After a bevy of tests came back clean, the hospital decided to test the student for COVID19.  The results are expected in 48 hours.  The student, who is awaiting discharge from the hospital, is in good spirits; the cough has subsided considerably.

The hospital’s medical team believes the chances the student has COVID19 are low.  The team has used phrases like “it could be millions of viruses” and “out of an abundance of caution.”  The student reports that the cough has been present since January (the student did not travel to an affected country prior to SEGL).  Nevertheless, the medical team believes this is the best way forward given the current environment and the fact that the student attended the CPAC conference last weekend.

We have contacted the student‘s family and the CDC and are following all recommended protocols.  The student will stay off-campus until we receive the test results.  At this point there is no guidance to test additional students.  Today and tomorrow, the rest of the students will be based on Capitol Hill, with classes in the dorms on Monday and plenty of opportunities to get fresh air.  Assuming the test results are happy, we will resume normal activities, with our existing (and perhaps additional) enhanced precautions, as soon as possible.  Again, we have made these plans in coordination with CDC guidance.

I know that some of your children attend schools that have temporarily closed due to COVID19.  You may be wondering if SEGL is planning to do something similar.  At this point there is no reason to close SEGL (and the DC government does not recommend it), but we are well-prepared should the situation change.

Please contact your child’s advisor with any questions you may have.  As I mentioned last night, these are challenging times, and I am grateful for your partnership as we work to provide each of our students with a safe, healthy, and meaningful experience.

March 7, 2020
Head of School Letter

I am writing with three important COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) updates:

1. Earlier this evening we received word from the American Conservative Union (ACU) that one of the 20,000 attendees at its Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has tested positive for COVID-19.  The full announcement is available here.  The DC government also announced the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in DC (this case appears to be unrelated to the CPAC case).  You can watch the DC mayor’s 8pm press conference here.

These developments, which we shared with students at dinner, mean that COVID-19 may well be present in the greater DC area.  It also means that last week’s SEGL COVID-19 protocol drills, which are now our standard practice, were well-timed.  We continue to consult with our health care team and others to confirm that those protocols, which we developed with guidance from the CDC and in anticipation of a situation like this one, are state-of-the-art.

Ten of our students attended CPAC last Saturday for several hours.  (The trip was student-generated, optional, and required parent approval.)  None has shown symptoms of COVID-19.  We have interviewed the SEGL CPAC attendees about their whereabouts and activities during the conference, and we believe the exposure risk to our students was low.  As we are halfway through the 2-14 day period where COVID-19 symptoms may develop, we are monitoring all of our students closely through the beginning of Spring Break.

We are unaware of any contact between our students and the individual mentioned in the DC government announcement, and the announcement says “the general level of risk for residents is low.”

2. SEGL’s Spring Break begins on Friday.  All of our students are traveling to locations outside the United States that currently have no known COVID-19 infections and/or to locations within the United States.  Please contact your child’s advisor if:

A. Your child’s travel plans change and she/he plans to visit an area for which the CDC has issued an “Alert Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions” or “Warning Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel” travel advisory and/or an area for which the State Department has issued a “Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution,” Level 3 – Reconsider Travel,” or “Level 4 – Do Not Travel” travel advisory.  (Please check the CDC and/or State Department website regularly for updates to current guidance.)

B. Your travel plans stay the same but the CDC and/or State Department issues a new advisory for an area your child is visiting over break.

C. Your child is likely to arrive at SEGL at the end of Spring Break with an illness (for example, if your child develops flu-like symptoms in the final days of the break).

Please note that we may require some students to self-quarantine and/or postpone return depending on guidance we receive from the CDC and other health authorities.  In these circumstances, we plan to use our online learning platform to ensure all students keep up to date with their coursework.

I am likely to send out further guidance and information prior to student arrival on March 29th.

3. At this point, our Family Day is still on as scheduled, and in an upcoming message I will share the enhanced precautions we will be taking that morning.  If we believe we can no longer safely offer our Family Day programming, we will let you know.

The current COVID-19 situation is dynamic, and, understandably, may cause anxiety and alarm.  Our students remain in high spirits (it was great fun to see them touching elbows–rather than shaking hands–with former White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten yesterday, and tonight they are dancing to Los Del Mar’s “Macarena” and the Village People’s “YMCA” during a dormitory “karaoke night”).  They know where to get help if they are upset.  Our faculty continues to seek the best possible information from the most reliable sources, using research and reason to make decisions.  As always, your child’s health and safety is our top priority.

I am grateful for your partnership in these challenging times.  As always, please contact your child’s advisor with any questions.

March 3, 2020
Head of School Letter

This week our community is progressing through a number of daily “drills” to prepare for COVID-19’s potential arrival in the DC area.  Our faculty COVID-19 response team designed these drills in consultation with our health care advisors, the Centers for Disease Control website, and other respected sources:

Monday: “Wash Your Hands Day”
Tuesday: “Don’t Touch Your Face Day”
Wednesday: “Are You Sick?/Screening Day”
Thursday: “Upgrade Your Chore Day”
Friday: “Safe Food Service Day”

Each night we are prepping students for the next day’s drill, including reviews of lessons learned from the previous day.  The drills are cumulative; meaning, for example, that Monday’s hand-washing protocols are in effect for the entire week.  Additional drills will follow next week.

These trial runs are not impacting our students’ academic experience.  We believe they are a way to empower (not alarm) our students, and to allow our community proactively to strengthen our protocols.

In the coming days, your child’s advisor will contact you to learn about your Spring Break travel plans and to hear any COVID-19-related questions you may have.  Given the quickly-evolving situation, we want to be as prepared as possible for students’ return from the break.

February 26, 2020
Head of School Letter

As you may know, yesterday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned that domestic outbreaks of COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”) are increasingly likely.  Though the CDC states that “the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time,” it has also asked institutions to begin making preparations.

SEGL has made comprehensive preliminary preparations for COVID-19’s potential arrival in the DC area.  (There are currently no confirmed cases in the DC area.)  A faculty team continues to review information from experts, contact members of our health care support team for advice, and meet regularly to refine our planning.  We will update our preparations as the situation and the guidance we receive changes.

As I wrote several weeks ago, we have already shared the CDC’s recommendations with students, and continue to provide them with additional/revised information as needed.  The students know they can contact advisors to discuss any fears or worries they have related to the virus.  We are also encouraging them to seek information from sources they trust (for example, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and DC Health).

In the coming weeks, we are planning to conduct several “COVID-19 drills” that will allow our community to practice our COVID-19 protocols.  I will share more information about these drills as appropriate.  We may also ask families to share more information about spring break plans; especially plans involving international travel, to ensure all students enjoy a healthy second half of the spring.

At this point there is no reason to believe SEGL will need to send students home before the semester ends in May.  However, in the unlikely event that becomes necessary, we have a plan to continue students’ coursework remotely, so that they can end the semester with full academic credit.  Again, there is no reason to believe this worst-case scenario will occur.

I will provide further updates in the days and weeks ahead.  As always, please contact your child’s advisor with any questions.

February 3, 2020
Head of School Letter

You have likely heard the increasing worry about a new strain of coronavirus (“2019-nCoV”) that seems to have originated in Wuhan, China.  Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) clearly state that the current risk of contracting this coronavirus in the U.S. is low, we want you to know that SEGL is monitoring the situation closely and taking proper precautions.  Last week we shared the CDC’s recommendations with students, and we will share any updates to these recommendations as necessary.  If you have any questions, please contact your child’s advisor.

 

Previous Communications with Families: South Africa Campus

March 16, 2020
Director’s letter

Dear SEGL at ALA families,

It is with a heavy heart that I share my decision to send your children home this Friday, March 20.  We will do so as safely as possible, and all students will be able to earn full credit for the semester through our distance learning platform.

SEGL at ALA Assistant Director Brendan Buckland, who traveled here with our students in January, will accompany them on a direct South African Airways flight from O.R. Tambo to New York-JFK that leaves at 9:00pm on Friday and lands at 6:40am on Saturday. We are coordinating connecting flights today and will share those details individually with each family as soon as we have them.  Traveling on Friday will allow your child time to tie up loose ends here, and it also guarantees that the group can travel together.  Additionally, we hope that by Friday, the U.S. government will have had the time to improve the airport arrival situation that you’ve likely seen on the news.

Please know that this is not a decision we made lightly, and that we considered many compelling arguments for other ways forward.  Ultimately, we have made this decision in order to uphold our primary commitment to our families: the health and safety of your children.

We continue to believe that ALA’s campus is currently safe and understand the ALA Trustees’ decision to house students on campus throughout the period ahead, which has been declared a ‘state of disaster’ by President Ramaphosa. This seems to be the right decision for the health of the ALA campus and families across Africa given the information available to us at this time. Our concern is that should COVID-19 appear on the ALA campus, new government-mandated quarantine requirements could indefinitely prolong the wait time for us to return your children.  This consideration, coupled with the increasing travel restrictions put in place by the American and South African governments, ultimately overrode our assessment that our gated campus was the best place for your children to be during this extraordinary time.

Our second commitment to our families, after health and safety, is academic excellence.  As I have shared in previous communications, we are committed to continuing to provide the best possible academic and interpersonal experience using our online learning platform and other resources.  Over March break, we will share more information about these plans.  Our primary goal for students will be to ensure they receive full academic credit for the spring semester.

Our team is heartbroken at this turn of events, and it is the last thing anyone could have anticipated going into this experience.  One student mentioned to me today that it was a year ago this week that she received her acceptance letter into the program, and it is stunning to think about how different the world was at that time.  We are deeply grateful to have shared these last two months with your incredible children, and we look forward to continuing to work with them as we wrap up the school year in this new format.  We could not have asked for a better inaugural SEGL at ALA cohort.

We will be in touch regularly in the days, weeks, and months ahead.  If you have questions about our academic program at this time, I ask that you please wait to hear more from me next week.  At this moment, our focus is student safety and travel, but I promise that communicating about our distance learning program is next on our list.

Thank you for your unwavering support throughout this whole experience.  It has meant the world to us.  I hope that our paths will cross in the United States, in South Africa, or somewhere else in the world once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.

Yours,
Mairéad

March 15, 2020
Director’s letter

I hope this note finds you well.  I am writing with the latest COVID-19 update.  I understand that some of you may have received Dean Hatim’s latest ALA update from your children earlier this evening; I have included that email below for those of you who have not seen it.  As always, my plan was to forward this communication from ALA with some SEGL-specific prefatory remarks.

You may also have heard that South African President Cyril Ramphosa recently addressed the nation and announced new measures to fight COVID-19.  Many of your children watched those remarks from campus this evening.

Some of the information in Hatim’s email and some of the measures that President Ramphosa announced may affect SEGL at ALA.  This evening and tomorrow morning I will be working with SEGL and ALA leadership to craft a plan that takes these new developments into account.  I will share that plan tomorrow.

In the meantime, please know that your children are safe and sound, and that we have many resources at our disposal to ensure they remain that way.  I am heading to campus shortly to meet with the group.  Brendan and Shizuha will both be there as well, and I would like to remind you that they both live in the dorms as Hall Master and Mistress for SEGL and ALA students.  Point #4 in Hatim’s email does not apply to any of the three of us; the two of them live on campus, and I am in a student-facing role.  Please rest assured that we all have the same access to your children that we always have.

Please also know that I may be unable to respond to your calls, text messages, and emails until I have shared our updated plan with you tomorrow.  I simply need time to understand the latest information and create a thorough, safe, and clear plan.

Finally, though you do have access to the Zoom link for Dean Hatim’s call with ALA parents on Tuesday evening from his email, I would kindly urge you not to join that call, as it is intended for parents with a set of questions and concerns different from yours.  After I communicate the updated plan tomorrow, please feel free to reach out to me to schedule a call.

I know that waiting, especially in a moment like this, can be difficult.  Please know that we are working as efficiently as we can, with your child’s health and safety as our top priority.  We continue to believe that remaining on campus is currently a healthy and safe choice for all SEGL students.  But please remember that, as I mentioned in my previous email, you are always welcome to make the choice to bring your child home, and we can help to facilitate that process.

Thank you, as always, for your support.

March 14, 2020
Director’s letter

Dear SEGL at ALA families,

I hope this note finds you well.  I am writing with the latest COVID19 update.  Please note that these plans represent our current thinking, given the best information and advice we have.  I will continue to update you as the COVID19 pandemic evolves; our plans may change in the days ahead.

The SEGL at ALA team has three main considerations as we monitor the global impacts of COVID19:

1. The possibility of contracting the virus;
2. The impact of the virus on the South African healthcare system; and
3. Travel restrictions put in place by the United States and/or South Africa.

Our current thinking on these considerations is as follows:

1. As of this morning (Saturday, March 14), there are 24 confirmed cases of COVID19 in South Africa. According to the WHO, all of these are imported cases.  There is no evidence yet of local transmission, but we are monitoring the news and numbers regularly.  In addition to the protocol for visitors from certain geographical areas that I outlined this past week, ALA made the decision yesterday to cancel the Model African Union conference planned for this coming week, which would have included off-campus attendees.

The ALA crisis team (which includes SEGL representation) is meeting on Monday morning to discuss and update plans to limit the possibility of our community’s exposure to the virus. I will send another update after that meeting with more information.

2+3. This weekend, we are watching for any considerable changes in these numbers that might significantly impact the South African healthcare system.  We are also closely monitoring news from the American and South African governments about any restrictions to travel that could impact our students and your families.  It remains the #1 priority of our program to ensure that we can safely return your child to your care.

As of now, SEGL’s plan is to continue providing our students with the best possible academic and interpersonal experience here in South Africa, and to continue to follow the best guidance from local, national, and international authorities to ensure students are as safe as possible.  This guidance may direct us to limit our movement, modify our visitor/guest expert protocols, and (if necessary) follow official quarantine guidance.  It may also direct us to send students home before the semester ends.

If this last possibility becomes our reality, we will continue to provide our students with the best possible academic and interpersonal experience using our online learning platform and other resources.  (As the situation evolves, I will send more information about these plans.)  Our primary goal for students will be to ensure they receive full academic credit for the spring semester. We have also been in touch with our travel agent and have a plan in place for changing our group flight should the need arise.

We recognize that schools and communities in the United States have made choices to suspend classes and limit movement, and that seeing these choices play out around you might make you wonder why SEGL and ALA have not chosen to do the same.  Right now, we believe that ALA’s campus and our designated visit areas in the country remain healthy and safe options for your children.  At the same time, we are committed to making difficult choices, including sending our students home, if we determine that this assessment has changed.

To reiterate, we believe that remaining on campus is currently a healthy and safe choice for all SEGL students.  But if, for any reason, your family would like to make the choice to bring your child home, please let me know and we can help to facilitate that process.  Our online learning platforms will still be available to your child if you make this choice.

This is a challenging time, and I can imagine that it is particularly challenging to have your children so far away from you.  I want to underscore how much your support has meant in these past few weeks.  Your kind words and willingness to help are a constant reminder of how singularly amazing the SEGL community is, and I am grateful for your partnership.  And your children have been incredibly adaptable and resilient with the ever-changing news.  We think the world of them.

We will all get through this, together!

Warmly,
Mairéad

March 15, 2020
Director’s letter

Dear SEGL at ALA families,

I am writing with the latest COVID19 update.

You might already have heard from your child that as of today, the United States is now on ALA’s travel advisory list. This means:

1. For families traveling to South Africa for March break, you will not be permitted to visit ALA’s campus; and

2. Once your child has left campus and is in your care, she/he will not be permitted to return to campus until demonstrating a negative test result for COVID19. (Please see below for the exact language from Dean Hatim’s email this evening.)

Based on the travel information that you all have provided, we have determined that all SEGL students who travel off campus with their families must be tested by Thursday, March 26 in order to allow up to 48 hours of processing time for results before returning to campus on Sunday, March 29. Our understanding is that tests are available at private hospitals and other testing centers in Johannesburg; ALA’s Director of Health and Wellness visited our local private hospital today to gain a better understanding of the screening process. In the coming days, we will provide more information about testing locations and costs.

Thank you for your patience and support during this time. I’ll be in touch soon, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Warmly,
Mairéad

March 4, 2020
Director’s letter

Dear SEGL at ALA families,

I hope this note finds you well! I am writing today to provide information in response to the global Coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak. Though South Africa does not yet have any confirmed cases, the SEGL team, in collaboration with ALA’s health and security teams, is continuing to monitor the situation as it develops. It remains our evaluation that there is not an imminent risk to the campus or to our program.

I am forwarding the email below, which Hatim El-Tayeb, Dean of ALA, sent to the community yesterday. I also want to share a couple of SEGL-specific COVID19 updates:

1. Some of you have plans to visit your children over March break in just two weeks. As you plan your trips, please keep in mind that while we do not anticipate limiting your ability to visit campus, we may implement a health screening process upon your arrival (taking temperatures, etc). It is also possible that in the coming weeks, the South African government may implement regulations limiting travel from the United States. Likewise, while you are in South Africa, it is possible that the government may implement regulations limiting your ability to travel back to the United States.

Please consider your contingency plans for both potential situations. If your trip here is canceled, we do have the capacity to add more SEGL students to the group trip; if your trip home is canceled, we do not have the capacity to house you in Johannesburg.

If you are planning to visit campus in the coming weeks, please complete this brief survey to let us know more details about your travel route and plans.

3. At this point, there is no reason to believe SEGL will need to send students home before the semester ends in May. However, in the unlikely event that becomes necessary, we have a plan to continue students’ coursework remotely, so that they can end the semester with full academic credit. Again, there is no reason to believe this worst-case scenario will occur.

4. SEGL students know they can contact their advisors to discuss any fears or worries they have related to the virus. We are also encouraging them to seek information from sources they trust (for example, the CDC, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, etc).

Thanks for your continued support, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

All best,
Mairéad

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