Written by Jennifer Chien, Judy Chuck, Hsuan Tsai
Translated by Mark Wan
Edited by Andrea Barkley
Since the spread of Coronavirus throughout the United States, Tzu Chi Elementary School in Walnut, California, locked down its campus per governmental pandemic prevention regulations. However, after vaccines became widely available, California allowed schools to resume onsite classes in the fall of 2021. So it was not long after August 9, 2021, the school’s restart date, that Tzu Chi Elementary School began preparing for an event called “Back to School Night.” The school hoped to help put parents’ hearts at ease following this campus visit. School faculty and staff made plans to demonstrate Tzu Chi pandemic prevention measures. It was also an opportunity for parents to assess campus conditions before they made final decisions to entrust Tzu Chi again with educating their children.
Parents Enjoy Peace of Mind
With the pandemic yet to ease off completely, a supermajority of schools and school districts in Los Angeles county provided virtual platforms for briefing parents on the state of pandemic prevention. However, the entire Tzu Chi USA education foundation and Tzu Chi school staff decided to meet in person with parents after 18 months of campus lockdown.
Chet Crane, president of the Tzu Chi Elementary School at Walnut, mobilized all the teachers to create welcoming atmospheres in their classrooms. Busy arranging trinkets for decoration, he explained, “This is the first time we’ve invited parents to the campus in 18 months. I look forward to teachers sharing the proposed syllabuses with parents and returning to emotional connections among teachers, parents, and students that existed long before the pandemic.”
For the reopening of campus for the new semester, all Tzu Chi schools took safety measures required by CDC regulations and standards. In addition, the “Back to School Night” had policy “guardrails” and practical proceedings. Each family sent one parent at a time. Everyone had their temperature taken and had to show proof of vaccination.
School supervisor Yumin Zhuo said, “This is the first time since the school opened on August 9 that parents are allowed to come on campus. After careful deliberation, we resumed face-to-face interaction among teachers, students, and parents. This way, parents can ensure the school puts effective measures in place. Moreover, by having temperature taken upon arrival and sitting at the seal-off desks in the classrooms, parents were relieved and felt comfortable letting their children back on campus.”
A Loving and Happy Environment
“By the briefing session, we hope parents can observe the learning environment for students and the classroom that teachers arranged. Both teaching and learning environment is important.” Chet elaborated on his idea for education and why he insisted on having an in-person “Back to School Night.”
Jennifer (surname unknown), a Tzu Chi parent, has a son who is a second-grader at Tzu Chi Elementary School. And after visiting the school, she felt it reminded her of her grade school in Germany. “The school must provide a total immersion that includes linguistic study and behavioral learning. It’s important to us. My son loves this school, and it enriches him greatly. You know a school is successful if a kid can’t wait to go to every day. Tzu Chi Elementary provides a learning environment where children find it interesting and fun to learn,” said she.
Lini Gu has a child in Tzu Chi kindergarten before enrolling in the Tzu Chi Elementary School. For her, the Tzu Chi Elementary School remained very committed to education during the pandemic. Kindergarten was even taught online. Therefore, with a good foundation, her child could continue to transition well into elementary school. Moreover, as a parent, she saw that the school has excellent plans for STEM courses besides English and Chinese syllabi.
For Tzu Chi, education is a long-term endeavor. And for parents, the prospect of the next generation being immersed in a loving, attentive, educational environment is something to look forward to.