Moataz O Saleh: Welcome to the Green Zone: Where Safety Does Not Compromise Quality

According to Moataz O Saleh the Founder and CEO of Shield Consultancy, Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and due to its continued spread, all countries around the world have been hit drastically, some more than others. In an effort to stem the spread of the disease many countries have adopted all or some combination of the following aggressive measures including lockdowns, the imposition of curfews, home quarantines, self-isolation, masking, travel bans and restrictions, the cancelation of public events, and school and university closures. With this in mind, many businesses were able to leverage technology in conducting business online and working remotely, and many schools and universities have also had to adapt to the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic and switch to online learning so as to guard against the transmission of the virus among students, staff and faculty. But while technology has been a tremendous help in sustaining the operations of these institutions, and in allowing many people to get on with their lives, it is not without its drawbacks. In this article, we will see how King’s Academy in Jordan has gone the extra mile to mitigate those drawbacks through their Green Zone campus experiment.

While most campuses remain either closed or in the process of partially reopening to allow for the incorporation of some face-to-face instruction, the fact remains that most courses are being taught online through the use of applications like Zoom, where virtual class meetings are held. Though this gives students the benefit of resuming their education from the comfort and safety of their homes, many are struggling. Ironically, many students are left feeling disconnected and socially isolated as they lack the sense of community that the on-campus experience provides. Not to mention, the internet connectivity problems students face in some parts of the Middle East, which further exacerbates their learning experience. Realizing these pains, along with improvements in the COVID-19 situation in Jordan, has prompted King’s Academy to bring life back to campus. While the Green Zone campus has started reintroducing in-person learning to the 12th grade, it is expected that it will soon do so for the other grades as conditions keep improving.

Established in 2007, King’s Academy is an international boarding and day school based on the idea of the New England boarding school while providing an enriched curriculum that combines a liberal arts education with Middle Eastern history and values. With a solid scientific understanding of the coronavirus, the Green Zone campus continues to open its doors to its students in the Spring semester like it did in the Fall. This is after students have undergone a 7-day period of hotel quarantine -under 24-hour supervision by King’s faculty- and tested negative for COVID-19. At the 5-star hotel, students are guaranteed to remain safe and healthy both mentally and physically as safety protocols are followed by trained staff and online activities and meetings are provided to keep students engaged along with daily check-ins. School transportation is then provided to transport the students to campus where they join the on-campus cohort quarantine. The cohort quarantine limits their interactions to a small group of students from their dormitory with the added safety precautions of distancing and masking for their first week on campus. Two more rounds of testing then take place during this period to make certain of the lack of any late-incubating cases.

Following the on-campus cohort quarantine, students are then able to move freely within the Green Zone and carry on with their regular school life for the rest of the semester, where almost all classes are conducted in-person, and on-campus student activities such as prom and other senior events are also held in-person. In addition, students can participate in extra-curricular activities as indoor and outdoor facilities including the gym and pool are open to students to play and practice sports, and balls and equipment are provided at the playing fields. Although safety guidelines such as masking and social distancing are still expected to be followed in certain settings where large groups convene, students will be able to eventually unmask as the campus proves safe and interact without fear of catching the virus.

King’s Academy’s response to the COVID-19 situation can, thus, be described as going over and beyond to make possible what other institutions might view as being burdensome. By choosing not to stick to the common approach that most other schools have taken to switch all (or most) learning online, King’s were able to think outside the box for the sake of the mental as well as physical well-being of its students, and devised a plan to make face-to-face interactions possible for students who choose to stay in the Green Zone while also making accommodations for those who choose to continue their studies remotely. And so, while technology has been sought by many as a substitute for human interactions, in King’s it is but merely a way for enhancing those interactions, while allowing students to continue to develop their much-needed social, teamwork and other essential skills that cannot be taught online.