We’re having a quarantine.  It started on Saturday.

I hear you.  It sounds like something out of a movie, right?  Just the word “quarantine” brings to mind images of people in white Hazmat suits frenziedly rushing in and out of buildings, and soldiers patrolling the streets, making sure that nobody leaves their homes.  It’s not at all like that.

Back in December, I’d heard talk of a quarantine.  Apparently, it happens every year when there’s a flu outbreak.  But I didn’t pay much attention to it and didn’t give it much thought.  Then on Thursday, one of the local teachers announced that her daughter’s school was on quarantine for at least a week.  That’s when my ears perked up a bit but not that much.  I still didn’t know anything about how a quarantine works and didn’t really understand that it could affect our school as well, except that I knew our student attendance rate would fall somewhat for the period of the quarantine.  I thought that would be because some of the children would have the flu, but it also wasn’t that.

On Friday morning only half of my 9 am class showed up and I thought maybe their schools were also on quarantine and they didn’t come to class because thought we wouldn’t be open.  I decided that after class I would have someone call all of their parents to let them know we’re still operating.  I still didn’t get it.  Now it’s upon us and I finally  understand what’s happening.

A quarantine only affects school children.  As I understand it, the whole thing starts with a class.  If a certain proportion of students in a class are out sick with the flu then that entire class is quarantined and all of the students in that class have to stay away from school.  When a certain proportion of students across the city’s school system are out sick with the flu, then the town council meets and decides to enact a quarantine.  They also decide how long the quarantine will last.  So a quarantine doesn’t mean that we’re all required to stay inside our homes.  It means that all schools are closed and children are required to not attend their extracurricular activities for the period of the quarantine.  Since our school is considered an extracurricular activity – like piano lessons or swimming classes – we’re affected for the period of the quarantine.

The town council met first thing last Friday morning and we heard about the quarantine order by mid-morning.  This quarantine has been ordered for ten days, starting last Saturday.  However, while it covers primary and secondary schools, it doesn’t affect kindergarten.  That is, kindergartens are open and those children are free to go to school and to their other activities.  I know, it seemed weird to me too when I first heard it.  After all, aren’t little kids even more vulnerable to illness than older kids?  But there’s actually an excellent reason for this exemption.  It’s because parents have to work.  Older children can stay home alone during the quarantine while their parents go to work, but what about younger children for whom kindergarten serves as child care while their parents are at work?  Some parents have their own parents living in the city and so can leave small children in their grandparents’ care but many people don’t have that option.  Hence, kindergartens will continue to operate for the duration of the quarantine; at least, at this point.

So, what does this all mean for me?  Am I going buck wild, celebrating an unexpected week and a half of vacation?  Hardly.  Just because the children are on quarantine doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do.  First of all, my little kids – the kindergarten aged ones – are still coming to class and so are the adults from the one group of grown-ups that I teach.  So during the quarantine period, I still have four groups to prepare and deliver lessons for.  Secondly, once the quarantine ends, all hell is going to break loose at work and I have to spend this week preparing for that.  Let me explain.

As I’ve said before, our school is run in a very professional way.  We have curricula and pacing schedules for every course that we teach.  That is to say, for any given week, we all know what we’re supposed to be covering for every class level that we teach.  We’re regularly monitored to ensure that we’re not too far ahead of or behind our pacing schedules.  These pacing schedules are set up so that we’ll finish the school year at the end of May, then summer camp will begin in June.  If we fall behind on pacing, this will affect our summer programmes, which has further implications for the company.  So we can’t allow that to happen.  Therefore, when the quarantine is over, we’re going to have to find a way to make up the week we’re losing.  In some cases, this will mean cutting something out of the curriculum here or there.  For example, I was planning to have reading classes with all of my kids this week but now I’ll have to cut that and perhaps make it a homework assignment instead.  In other cases, this will mean having make up classes.  It may mean that I don’t take my usual day off for a week or two.  Whatever it takes, we need to get classes back on track so we can end the school year on time.

This is why, although this week isn’t as physically busy as usual, it’s still a mentally busy week for me, and I’m doing things I normally wouldn’t have the time for.  For example, today, I went to a company to deliver a demo lesson; hopefully, they liked it and will decide to have English lessons with our company.  On a normal Monday, I wouldn’t have done that because I wouldn’t have had the time.  This week, I’m also doing all of my post-quarantine lesson planning in order to minimise next week’s potential craziness.  And I’m using the time to do some research into a couple of projects I want to take on and to wrap my mind around some future plans.  So it’s still a busy week but less manic than usual.

Hopefully, there will be no need to extend the quarantine and we can get back to normal sooner rather than later.


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