Hello to the AISM Community,

I am pleased to be officially joining the AISM Herd in a few days to lead the school for the coming year. I’ve enjoyed transitioning and working with board members and the leadership team in the past month. It’s clear to me that Dr. Heckmann has developed a very strong leadership team that is functioning effectively. I look forward to returning to Africa soon and learning more about Mozambique and the school community. 

Enrollment and Staffing for 2020–21

These are such challenging and difficult times. As the community heard last week at the Board meeting, enrollment is expected to be halved for the beginning of the 2020–21 school year. AISM does not have deep reserves that would allow us to ‘float’ extra faculty and staff for the year. Sadly, decisions need to be made regarding staffing. The cuts will be voluntary as much as possible, and will include long term teachers as well as some who were planning to join us for the first time this July. It will not be easy. 

The school’s leadership team has had a thorough process for making those decisions. Cost is a factor, but flexibility, experience, qualifications and contract status are also critical. Based on the way our anticipated enrollment is shaping up across the grades, we will have one, two or three sections at each grade. That has been a big factor in the employment decisions the team has made in the past two weeks. 

Impact on Primary and Secondary Programmes

Parents and teachers want to know more about the programmes we can offer next year. With 340 anticipated students, we can offer learning “for the whole child” that the AISM community values and expects. For example, the Library will continue to be a vital hub for learning across the school. 

In the primary grades our core classrooms will be supplemented with Visual and Performing Arts, PE and Portuguese. However, there is not enough interest in ELC3 to offer a programme for 3-year olds for next year. 

In grades 6–10 we will have our core classes, as well as Visual Art, Drama, PE, Design Tech, Portugeuse and French, and other elective classes. 

The IB Diploma programme will be broad, with multiple sciences, Visual Arts, languages, and social sciences. Student course selections have been respected as much as possible. There will be slightly fewer choices for Year 1 students than we could offer for a school with 700 students. Standard and Higher Levels and/or years may be combined for some classes and subjects, but the programme and diploma results will remain strong. 

Our English language learners will be supported by a trained and experienced EAL team. Because of necessary reductions, Learning Support will be limited to students with mild needs only. Fees will not be charged unless there are direct services such as an Ed Psych assessment, speech therapy, or a ‘shadow assistant.’ We will do all we can to support students currently enrolled. Applications from new students with moderate or intensive needs will be considered on a case by case basis. Decisions about enrolment and support for current students will be made on an individual basis by the principals in consultation with parents. 

On-campus and On-line Learning

Parents, students and staff hope that we will be back on the AISM campus for learning on September 1. However, we also need to prepare for a hybrid programme that combines on-campus and on-line learning.  We need to be prepared to deliver on-line programmes that offer real-time virtual learning (called synchronous learning) and asynchronous, any-time virtual learning too. AISM teachers learned much about virtual learning in the spring. With that experience and the feedback we received from students and parents, make us confident about delivering a model programme in the coming year, regardless of the challenges we face. 

The number of students enrolled in each classroom will be limited to allow social and physical distancing. Health and safety must remain our primary consideration. For this reason, and because we’ve had to reduce sections at many grade levels, some students will be enrolled only for our Virtual Learning Option, based on available physical seats in our classrooms. In some cases, enrolling in a virtual learning option will also be based on the family’s location or choice/need to remain at home rather than being on-campus. 

Communications During the Summer

It is too early to know exactly what our opening will look like and how our programmes will be delivered in September. A Reopening Framework with more details was shared with the community in May and is linked here

If you find yourself wanting to ask a question or a series of questions concerning AISM's reopening on 1 September, we have created a new email address: re-opening@aism-moz.com. This will be checked regularly and questions fielded by staff who are in the best position to provide answers. Send your questions to re-opening@aism-moz.com

This summer we will send updates regarding our programmes and planning to parents two times in July and then weekly in August. In addition, I am also planning several webinars for parents and students in July/August, focused on various aspects such as health and safety, the primary and secondary programmes, Social-Emotional Learning and Support. 

Final Words for Today...

The past four months have been incredibly stressful. AISM students, parents and staff coped with painful changes, with little or no notice. We’ve had to reinvent our roles with no or limited time to prepare. The AISM community lost so much that made it a special place to everyone in the herd. Friendships were disrupted. Families left without a chance to say goodbye. Sports, trips, graduation and on-campus celebrations of learning: all gone in a moment. It has been traumatic in so many ways, and it will continue to be traumatic in the coming months. 

Two of AISM’s core values include celebrating humanity and cultivating grit. Those values will be critical for all of us in the coming weeks and months. We need to give ourselves and one another “grace and space.” We do not know the battles that our colleagues and friends are fighting. Empathy—not judgment or anger—will help us cope with the changes together. I am confident that the AISM community will respond with humanity, grit, inspiration and integrity. 

Thank you again to Dr. Heckmann for his leadership over the past three years. It is obvious to me that his focus has been on building upon the strong foundation laid in prior years, to continue to raise the expectations and results for all children at the American International School of Mozambique. Sascha has much to be proud of as he moves on. I look forward to keeping the school moving forward in the coming weeks and months. 

In hope and solidarity,
Jim Laney,
Appointed Director, 2020–2021