Over the last four months Class Afloat has carefully monitored the epidemiology of COVID-19 and the international social policy response to control the pandemic.
Our efforts have focused on a comprehensive assessment of risk to formulate a safe plan for the operation of the 2020-2021 Class Afloat program. Advice of the WHO, Health Canada, International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other experiential youth programs has helped us to understand the evolution of the virus and track COVID-related regulations around the world to assess the impact and risk to our program.
Since the onset of the pandemic, we have been working to create alternative sailing itineraries that avoid higher risk ports, countries, and even whole continents. We developed alternative models for port programs to minimize the risk of virus contact in the communities we visit. We created COVID-19 health, hygiene and ship access protocols in order for our crew to form their own ‘shipboard bubble’.
Throughout this process we remained optimistic and determined to find solutions that would make safe sailing possible for our Class of 2020 departure in September. It became clear however, that while we can re-engineer our program and operations, there are factors over which we have no control that have led us to the necessary decision to suspend the Class Afloat 2020-2021 school year.
There are many unknowns at this time, including the probability of local outbreaks and a second wave of COVID-19. Both scenarios would force governments to re-introduce restrictions including the closing of borders, ports, and air travel, and the enforcement of lockdown and quarantine measures in a foreign port, a precaution that would end our student’s voyage and academic year.
Class Afloat is proud of its past success at taking on challenging experiential education programming and managing with a higher level of risk tolerance. We deeply regret that our evaluation process has come to this conclusion and we share the disappointment of our Class of 2020.
Over the next 15 months, we will plan for the launch of our September 2021 school year program and sailing itinerary.