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In mid-August 2020, the Regional Education Officers (REO) reached out to the assisted schools– schools at post that the Department of State provides a small grant to– in their respective regions with a short survey about reopening plans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of 189 schools, the Office of Overseas Schools had 182 responses. Given the dynamic nature around the pandemic, much of this information may now be out of date but does shed insights into the decision-making process each school is continually going through. To receive the most up-to-date information regarding international schools it is best to reach out to the Office of Overseas Schools directly since the REOs are in near-daily communication with the directors of assisted schools globally.

Approximately two-thirds of the responding schools planned to have some sort of virtual return this school year (online only or a hybrid of online and in-person.) Europe and East Asia Pacific are more likely to plan to open the year with onsite delivery for all grade levels, while Africa, South and Central America only had a handful of schools going this route. Elementary school was more likely to be held in- person if there was variation by grade level.

A graph showing school's plans to reopen "in person," "online," or a "hybrid" at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.

Schools are prepared to meet families where they are. Most schools had plans to accommodate students if they were unable to get back into the country by the start of school, of these schools the majority had coursework presented in a combination of asynchronous and synchronous instruction to account for the variety of time zones students and teachers may find themselves in.

A pie chart showing percent of responding schools in the way they will accommodate students who cannot return to post.

Over the summer holiday, many schools supported professional development for their teachers to better prepare for hybrid or full virtual online instruction. Schools are facing budget shortfalls as expat families choose to, or are not allowed to, return to countries.  In a few instances, the gap is as high as 40% reduction in tuition. At the same time, some directors are having difficulty even having staff return to their campuses since borders, airports, and some diplomatic missions are still closed.

Pandemic challenges are making the 2020-2021 school year more difficult than in the past but schools are adjusting. International schools, which the Office of Overseas Schools works with, are prepared to deliver strong academic grounding to students whether it is in-person or online, as the world navigates this new normal.

A version of this story also appeared in AAFSW’s newsletter and website .

U.S. Department of State

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