As I moved around the College during period 4 yesterday, it was great to have the opportunity to answer some questions from students that followed a videocast I had shared with them regarding the current situation. The rapid evolution of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak continues to be a challenge for everyone, including those in education. I am aware that it has caused concerns for parents, staff and students. Students have had many questions relating to school closure, and all of them have been valid. Students are responding to so much mixed information. It is a very unsettling time for everyone, and it is important to try and keep information factual. There are two questions I keep asking myself, and I have been using them at home with my family;
1. What was the source of your information?
2. How do you know it is true?
One of the common questions has been; ‘Why is Damascus still open when other schools in Ballarat are closed?’ Our circumstances are quite different from some other schools who have interstate and international boarders, and they have made decisions pertinent to their community.
Of course, the health and safety of the Damascus community is our highest priority, and the school’s decision to stay open is based on advice from the Australian and Victorian Chief Medical Officers.
As I have communicated previously the current advice of Dr Brett Sutton, Victorian Chief Health Officer, is that ‘pre-emptive school closures are not likely to be proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 at this time’.
When advice from the Chief Medical Officers changes, we will communicate those changes to the Damascus community, via the usual platforms including email, SMS and social media.
I recently received a communication from The Australian Psychological Society, that I think may assist with the natural concern and uncertainty that our young people are feeling at the moment. I myself found it really helpful last night. I turned off our news stream and TV and played some music, and I woke up today, and things have not substantially changed. I encourage you to have a look at what it suggests about talking to young people and “switching off”. The article can be found here.
As I have communicated recently, we continue to formulate our remote learning plan. The College’s leaders and staff team are committed to ensuring that learning remains available to students as part of all students’ entitlement to access the Victorian curriculum.
Our remote learning plan is in place to support students to learn from home but, while we remain open, the emphasis will be on the learning and teaching currently in place in the classroom. I appreciate that some students are presently unwell for a myriad of reasons, and when they are well enough to return, they will, of course, be supported to catch up.
Our remote learning plan will require some preparation on the part of families to facilitate learning in your home. Your student(s) will require:
1. Access to a laptop or computer – all students should have their school device
2. Internet access or capacity to access the internet temporarily
3. A quiet area for your student(s) to access their online learning
NOTE: If your student(s) does not have access to the internet, please contact the school immediately.
In terms of maintaining protective practices between staff and students during school closure, should the online learning involve video conferencing or discussions, we ask that this does NOT occur in bedrooms and that your student is appropriately dressed for learning. Inappropriate dress, including pyjamas, will not be acceptable.
Learning from home requires careful management, and as I have indicated previously, there will be a two day lead time before the remote delivery of learning and teaching commences.
Should you have any concerns relating to school operations, or the health and safety of students, please do not hesitate to contact me. Further information and updates from DHHS on COVID-19 can be found at: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus
On a lighter note, I congratulate our female rowers on their performance last week on the single day of rowing at the regatta before it was cancelled. I also congratulate our BAS swimmers on their results and thank Sports Coordinator, Nicole Hexter, for her organisation of the carnival.
We keep in our prayers; staff members, Tim O’Sullivan, who lost his grandmother in Warrnambool recently and Vicki Holford, who lost her brother recently.
I hope this community appreciates that one of the strengths of being founded on a faith tradition is that it provides practices that centre us in unfamiliar times. I encourage you to look to practices of prayer or mindfulness, scripture, music, engaging with nature or beauty as a way of taking your young people’s focus to another place.
My prayer this week is not one of distraction but for our situation and its source is unknown to me, so I acknowledge with gratitude the unknown author;
We pray for our world - for all of us, each one now in some way impacted by COVID-19; but especially for those persons who are ill, those who have lost loved ones and those whose personal and work lives have been severely disrupted by the reach of this virus.
We give thanks for the tender care of the sick by doctors, nurses and health care workers, for the generous and willing service of volunteers and the imagination and dedication of researchers seeking a cure.
We are grateful for those who share wise advice with us; those whose work creates healthy environments for us; those who put our needs before theirs, our safety before theirs, our well-being before theirs.
May we each be supportive of one another, considerate of one another and generous to one another in this challenging and uncertain time.
Until my next communication … (likely to be before next week!)