The Federal Government's strategy to manage the public health threats posed by the coronavirus include safe hygiene practices, social distancing, stating that gatherings of more than 500 people should not occur and requiring anyone arriving in Australia to self-isolate for 2 weeks. I received formal advice from the NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Chant, last night that schools should remain open. In response to that advice, and other reliable sources of information, the school executive met for a substantial amount of time this morning to determine how the school will respond to the challenges the coronavirus has placed on us. I also provide you with the most recent advice from the Federal Government.
I have sent a comprehensive set of guidelines to all school employees on actions we will be taking to limit the impact of the coronavirus on the health of members of our school community and on the learning of our students. I write to advise you of our approach.
Personal hygiene – all of our staff will be very thorough when it comes to the personal hygiene practices I outlined in my Week 6 newsletter article. Staff have been given specific guidelines on how they can work with students to actively encourage good practices such as regular hand washing, coughing or sneezing into an elbow, washing hands before and after eating and washing hands after using a tissue. Every classroom which has a sink has liquid hand soap and paper hand towels for students to use. We do have some hand sanitiser; however, because it is in short supply we will ration what we have based on need and buy more bottles when they are available. I have met with the school cleaners to ensure the effective daily cleaning of surfaces e.g. school desks. They are also committed to carefully cleaning the toilets and replenishing the soap dispensers.
Social distancing – our teachers will discourage handshaking, hugging and other forms of body contact where possible. Where it is practical and realistic to do so, our staff will encourage standing at reasonable distance from others when having a conversation.
Cancelled, postponed or modified events
- The Monday Secondary assembly and the morning Junior School assemblies have been cancelled until further notice.
- We will do all we can to avoid any activity on the school site which has more than the equivalent of a full class of students in a standard size classroom. This means that CRU will not be running for the time being and we will need to look at alternatives to the Christian Studies TLC talks.
The following events planned for Term 1 will be either cancelled or postponed:
- Parent/teacher nights
- School tours
- Inter school activities
- Any offsite activity which involves our students mixing with substantial numbers of people. Excursions will only go ahead if the school executive are confident that the excursion will present less of a risk to students and staff than would be the case if they stayed at school.
The school will reassess Term 2 activities during the Autumn holidays. Mrs Breen and I made the difficult decision today to postpone the musical Joseph to sometime next year.
Future events and activities still being considered
As you can probably appreciate, a significant number of our staff have invested many hours considering the implications for the school of the government's announcements over the weekend. We are still considering our position on the following events:
- Secondary camps at the beginning of next term.
- House gala days.
- The Year 10 Cambodia trip.
- Other events on the school calendar in Term 2.
Please assume that all other school events and activities not mentioned above will continue until further notice.
I appreciate that some parents may choose to keep their child or children at home given the current risks posed by the coronavirus. Assuming they are well enough to complete schoolwork, our teachers are doing all they can to provide students with work they can go on with while they are at home. Given that many schools, including ours, were anticipating that schools would close in the near future, I was surprised by the Prime Minister’s announcement on the weekend. I am not in any way criticising that decision, rather seeking to communicate that teachers have been asked today to start trying to provide work for students whose parents choose to keep them at home. It could be a few days before that work is provided as follows:
Teachers will communicate via email with students about our use of online learning tools such as Google G Suite for Education. Secondary students will be asked to go to the Google Classroom for each of their subjects. Information will be provided for Junior School students via their class link on the Junior School Hub.
If your son or daughter is self-isolating, until further notice, because of your concerns about the risks the coronavirus poses, would you please advise the school of this as soon as possible through this online form? This will enable me to advise teachers which students are absent for this reason so they can take reasonable steps to provide ongoing learning for them. I will also work with our administration team to make adjustments to Seqta so that you will not receive a daily SMS notifying you that your child/children are absent. It could take a few days to make this change. In the interim, would you please respond to the SMS by simply stating that your son or daughter is self-isolating.
Communicating with the school
If you have a question or a comment in relation to the coronavirus, would you please complete this form and not send someone at the school an email? Today I was receiving between 20 and 30 emails per hour, making it difficult for me to effectively communicate and manage the implications of this pandemic for the school. By contrast, completing the survey is a highly effective way for our leadership team to read your question or concern and respond appropriately and quickly. While we will not be able to respond personally to every comment or question, every response to the survey will be read and seriously considered. If there are several significant questions parents ask through the survey, we will create a Q&A page and share it with parents.
Please continue to communicate with the school as you normally would about matters unrelated to the coronavirus.
If any member of the school community has been diagnosed with the coronavirus and has recently been on the school site or present at an offsite school activity, the school must be advised immediately. Please advise the school both through the online form and by phoning the school. That person must immediately self-isolate. We also ask for immediate notification if a member of the school community has been one step removed from the coronavirus i.e. they came in direct contact with someone who was diagnosed with the virus. This person should not come to the school or be present at an off-site activity until someone from the school has contacted them. The school does not need to hear cases of school community members who are 2 steps removed from the coronavirus.
One of our school’s founding principles is parents partnering the school in the education of their children. Thank you so much for your gracious, thoughtful support of our school at this demanding and concerning time. I would like to thank our highly dedicated teachers who are carrying a substantial load as they continue to teach lessons at school, seek to provide ongoing learning for self-isolating students and prepare for the possibility of the school closing in the future for an undefined period of time. We continue to be concerned for all who are anxious or struggling in some way given our current circumstances. Our staff will do all we can to continue loving and caring for every student of our school. Our school psychologists have recommended this short video for all who might be concerned about the virus.
I leave you with a verse from the book of Joshua.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Mr Brett Hartley
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