From the Principal – Important Covid19 update

You will be well aware that the situation involving the Covid19 virus is a constantly changing one, hence my further update today. I suspect these will continue to be regular as information becomes available and aspects of our environment change. I apologise for clogging your inboxes, but I feel it is better to keep regular bulletins coming, rather than silence. I do want to emphasise that we have no cases of Covid19 in the school, nor any concerns around it at this point. However, events around us in Australia and across the world indicate this could change very quickly indeed. Below is a link to a video recorded this morning (Wednesday 11 March) that it would be helpful if you watched. There are two other links that will also ensure your understanding of the ‘where are and why we are there’ conversation is a complete as possible. Below that is more detailed information on measures the School will be introducing over the next 5 days, assuming there are no mandated school closures in that time.

Video

Information articles:

https://www.theage.com.au/national/the-pinch-why-it-s-better-to-delay-coronavirus-spread-than-get-it-over-20200310-p548mh.html

Who is vulnerable to the coronavirus?

 

School closures

You will have seen that there have been a number of school closures in NSW and that Carey Grammar have closed their school today (Tuesday 10 March). I envisage this will continue to occur as schools make their own decisions about what is best for their community in varying circumstances. We are monitoring other schools’ closures and any ways they may affect us, particularly where we may have some connection to another school. The Executive team have been examining how we would manage any forced or discretionary closure, including how we would maintain the academic program for all students, but particularly for Year 11 and 12 students. I suspect we are likely to have a state-wide school closure before the end of Term 1.

 

Academic program in the event of a school closure

We are currently training staff both on our online meeting and teaching platform (Microsoft Teams) and enhancing staff capability on already utilised platforms such as Zoom and Screencast-O-Matic, to ensure that online options will exist for staff and students to collaborate through an effective teaching process, and that staff can also prepare materials that can be presented both easily and meaningfully without constant staff presence. In the event of a school closure, we will be able to deliver the full academic program to VCE and IB students, and the vast majority of the academic program to students below Year 10. If required, there will no doubt be some bumps in the early days of this, but I am confident that we can ensure student academic progress continues.

There will be an email in the near future from Mrs Sue Healey, Director of Information Technology, explaining this further and outlining the software that families will need to download from either the Portal, or through online channels if they do not have it already. This software is all either free or part of the Office360 suite that all families are subscribed to already. It may be that we will not need this, but I do not see preparation in this area as time wasted.

 

Co- and extra- curricular events, excursions and gatherings around School activities

From the commencement of next week, we are cancelling all excursions and events that take students into areas of crowds or the general population, or through transport hubs such as airports, large train depots or similar. At this point the School’s sport program will be maintained and all curricular programs are planned to run as scheduled. Similarly, from Monday, all student assemblies and gatherings will be cancelled for the remainder of Term 1, as will Junior School and Secondary Student Progress meetings (Parent/Teacher meetings). We are currently looking at how we can provide a substitute for these virtually, or perhaps during Term 2. The School Production is a point of significant risk, as it brings people from far and wide, not just those parents that students are always in the presence of, and seats them close together for a long period. We are looking at how we can run the Production, whilst managing this significant point of risk for our community. There will be further information in the near future on this.

 

School trips and tours

You may be aware of the government bulletin released last Thursday 5 March evening, which is summarised below:

With the situation regarding the coronavirus continuing to evolve, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has issued updated advice that overseas school excursions should cease, except to New Zealand and Canada.

Based on this advice, the Victorian Department of Education and Training has told government schools that overseas school excursions should not proceed until further notice – except to New Zealand and Canada.

While as an independent school, we are not strictly bound by this, it would be inadvisable in the extreme to ignore it. As a result, we have taken the decision to delay final nomination and first payment the Year 5 and 6 Thai Exchange for 2020, due to take place in August/September. We will review this in the first week of May, as I don’t believe that we can currently know what the situation will be in 5 weeks, far less 5 months. Similarly, we are also monitoring the factors affecting the 2020 French Language Exchange program, the September Indigenous Experience and the Senior World Challenge Experience to Mozambique and Africa. Again, our decisions around these will be made with student, staff and broader community safety as the primary criterion.

While our thinking on these trips is centred primarily around student and community safety, there is also a real concern around the issue of non-refundability through travel insurance unless certain clauses are tripped. While DFAT travel warnings are the primary ones, it would appear that a viral pandemic preventing travel overrules DFAT travel warnings with at least some travel insurers, as it is considered in the same domain as tsunami and similar, as an “act of god”, and not covered in some policies (specifically not the School’s insurers’ policies. So I can assure the community that we also have this in mind in our decision-making around trips and tours also.

 

Personal hygiene for members of the community

You will see attached a bulletin on the wearing of surgical masks. Please read this and absorb the point that masks should be only be worn if you are ill, not if you are well. They provide little or no proven protection for a well person, but are desperately needed for healthcare workers and the already ill. Also attached is a bulletin around how to limit your chances of contracting the virus, much of which I have sent previously, but still stands.

However, there are two critical points please:

  • If you child is sick in any way, please keep them at home until they have recovered. A higher level of caution on this at present would be appropriate please. This is required of staff also.
  • If your child presents at school sick, you will be contacted to come and collect them and keep them at home until they are recovered.

My apologies for what is a very lengthy email and if I can ask that any queries or concerns are directed to leaders of activities, trip coordinators, Year Level Coordinators, or Heads of School as appropriate, rather than directing all enquiries back to the Principal’s Office?

I have no doubt that we will not get every element of our responses to this set of unprecedented events right, but rest assured it will be guided primarily by what is best for the health and wellbeing of our students, our staff and our broader community.

Thank you for your support.

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