I have shared through newsletters recently how my 50 years of faith engagement has been centred in the Eucharist; the experience of regular Mass attendance. This pandemic has disrupted so many parts of our life experience and looking for sacred time and space has required me to find experiences of communal faith expression elsewhere. One of the things that I am seeing within this Christian community is a genuine concern for “the other”. This is manifesting in the selfless decisions for people to isolate for colds, flu’s, coughs, symptoms that many would normally continue about our regular business. People, while concerned for their own well-being, are acting as Jesus would encourage us to do – in the interest of others. Our students this week have transitioned to face masks, and our teenagers have predominantly been incredibly compliant. Largely, it has not necessarily been for the benefit of themselves, but because they do it for their “neighbour”.
This week’s Gospel has Jesus feed the 5000 – the disciples wanted to send people away because they believed there was not enough food to go around, but Jesus got people to sit down, talk and bring out what they had. Everyone was nourished! This community remains nourished by those whose decisions and actions support the well-being of others and what a lovely expression of Christian living that is!!
Within the Ballarat community, the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus seems to be more common. I thought I would outline for members of this community what actions we will take in the event Damascus has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and is instructed to close by DHHS.
The Department of Health and Human Services must confirm that a student or staff member who has tested positive attended the College during the period that warrants school closure.
Damascus College will communicate with families that we will close for a period to undertake contact tracing and commencement of a containment strategy. It also enables a deep contamination clean to commence. This will be effective from the day when confirmation of a positive test has been received. Typically the school will finish the day as normal. Depending on the time of communication of a confirmed case, the advice received and the relative risk to the community, families will be notified if they wish to collect students prior to the end of the day.
Damascus College will commence a period of school closure. The school community will not be able to come onsite during this period, and there will be no remote delivery or onsite supervision. It is anticipated that this may be 2-3 days. Staff will use this time to prepare for remote learning.
This closure will allow time for the school and the DHHS to work through a contact and containment strategy.
This includes identifying and notifying any person who has been in recent close contact with the affected student or staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19. Affected students, their families and school staff will be notified by the DHHS over the following 24 hours and supported to ensure they understand what actions to take.
All students and staff are advised to remain at home while contact tracing occurs. They must limit movements to home-based activities and not attend public places.
Remote learning will commence for a period of 2 weeks for all students to support those who are required to isolate as a result of contact tracing. The College may be able to offer onsite supervision for families of essential workers during the remote learning period after the deep contamination cleaning is completed and approved by DHHS.
The College will communicate regarding a return to onsite learning plan.
This plan is subject to the particularities of each case and will be guided by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Catholic Education Office. If we have a confirmed case, I will provide specific communication with a series of expected questions and responses.
We have been working with students, encouraging them to take essential learning items home each day, such as their device, their pencil case and the current novel they may be studying.
I hope that we do not need to enact these steps, but I thought it is important to try and get communication out, so families know what to expect.
In other things happening around the College, Year 10 students had their immunisations yesterday. Some students did not get that opportunity yesterday, and an alternative date has been made for Thursday 13th August.
Our Year 12 Drama students were extraordinary in their performance of their VCE ensembles last Wednesday and Thursday, and I congratulate them on their efforts.
Nicole Hexter has circulated information to students about sporting opportunities here at school over the next few weeks. Students are encouraged to take up these school-based sporting activities.
I want to finish thanking families for partnering with us in the education of your children through the TA interviews. Staff genuinely appreciate the chance to talk with families about the progress and challenges of each young person. Tomorrow is a non-teaching day, and interviews will continue throughout the day through MS Teams.
Until next week …