Principal's Update Week 2
Posted: 22-Jul-2020

I wrote this newsletter before the events of yesterday. I amended it today in light of our current circumstance. I apologise that it is a day late.

It is easy to be proud of our student population - our Damascus young people have been afforded an opportunity to take part in a careers expo this week. This opportunity has eventuated because we could not run family information evenings for 2021 subject selections. Our subsequent decision has been to empower our young people with the best available information on future pathway options to grow their ownership of the decisions that they make. Ultimately, the responsibility for their selections rests with them. Our pride has grown out of the responsible way they have engaged with this opportunity over lunchtimes this week. Teachers of electives and specific VCE, VET and VCAL subjects have made themselves available to answer student questions about future career options, and it has been well received by students. The expo continues over coming days and lays the foundation for the career preparation document that students have been working on in TA ahead of their TA interview next week. I thank the Careers team; Georgia Shillito, Jo Lawrence, Michelle Tapera and the Learning Area Leader team for their planning and facilitation of this event.

I remind families that next Thursday, July 30th is a non-teaching day here at school, and information has been sent to families to book TA interviews. The focus of the interview will be on subject selections, and I encourage families to visit the relevant 2020 year level resources within the pathways section of the College webpage. Bookings for appointments close next Monday, July 27th, at 4.00pm. Families should have received correspondence about TA interviews, and that they will be conducted remotely using Microsoft Teams, as they were last term. If you have questions about the TA process, please contact Aleceia Gason or questions about pathways and careers please contact, and a member of the team will be back to you.

Currently, there are three regional Catholic secondary schools, in Horsham, Geelong and Colac that have been required to close on short notice as a result of a confirmed COVID-19 case. In the event that Damascus has a confirmed positive case in the future, families will receive official correspondence about change on very short notice. This change, which is likely to be an instruction to stay home, will be dependent on the advice of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the broader context of greater Ballarat. Damascus will determine whether we will close for only the duration of deep cleaning, or whether we move into remote learning after a short period of preparation to allow a suitable period of isolation for the entire community. This decision will be taken on the advice of DHHS and the Catholic Education Office.

As I advised formally yesterday, the College wants to support staff and students to wear facemasks in the interest of everyone’s health. We are asking that all students wear a facemask from Monday 27th July, please, with staff starting to wear masks from today at school. We are working through some of the details currently for student and staff protocols, and we will have these available as they are confirmed. We want to prioritise safety throughout this experience, and this protective measure increases people’s safety.

We are currently working through some detailed information for staff and students about specific activities and locations. We will also need to work with individuals who have particular requirements, such as respiratory issues, skin conditions, etc. We do not have all the answers, but we are trying to make the experience as normal as possible for everyone. We want everyone to wear facemasks at school, particularly when we cannot maintain social distancing – in classrooms, around lockers, in stairwells and on public transport.

It has been great today to see students wearing face masks around school. It has been enjoyable to be able to talk with students and colleagues about mask-wearing and share our collective experiences about comfort/discomfort, style of mask, how they can accentuate our ears, how they can cause glasses to fog up, etc. Students and staff have been sharing tips and tricks to increase comfort. That is what we want to do – learn together about how we can most safely protect one another in this period of uncertainty. As a leadership team, we are doing everything that we can to make sure we can stay at school together safely to enjoy our learning and teaching.

Damascus College wants to support students to make sure they wear face masks travelling to and from school in confined spaces and with members of the broader public this particularly includes travel on buses.

Currently, we are trying to maintain the independence of our own College community, limiting where we can the need for us to mix with other schools and community organisations in the interest of safety and being able to stay at school. One of the implications of Ballarat schools maintaining their independence is the discontinuation of our interschool sport program this term. Damascus Sport Coordinator, Nikki Hexter has developed a schedule of activities for students at lunchtime and after school to replace the BAS sporting opportunities. Please encourage your student to sign up for these competitions over the next week. Unfortunately, we cannot endorse parent/adult spectators at these competitions. When students are competing, they are not expected to wear their mask.

As I have indicated over recent weeks, we need to continue to limit adults’ onsite to those employed by the College and essential contractors. If you feel you need to come to the College, please phone ahead, and we will try and determine the best way to support your need and minimise contact. Damascus College is temperature checking visitors to the College in the interest of everyone’s safety.

Our new and consolidating rowers have commenced their land-based training regime this week, and it has been exciting to see the number of students looking to try out for rowing for the 2020/21 season.

Last night the Year 12 Drama students performed their ensemble on what it means to be a hero to a small number of staff. They have a second performance today with some of their peers. The work is entirely written and developed by the students and what they have achieved was quite remarkable. Well done to the Drama students and their teacher, Andrew Seeary.

Next Tuesday Year 10 immunisations will take place here at school. Ballarat City Council provides four nurses who facilitate the immunisation program, and they are permitted by the College onsite as they are very familiar with the appropriate personal protective equipment and social distancing. Students present with their cards here in the morning, and we ensure they move through the program. If immunisations cause high anxiety with your student, please work with your GP to minimise this trauma. If you have any questions regarding the program, please contact Simon Carroll, First Aid Officer at school.

Looking for inspiration for today (yesterday)’s reflection, I came across an Irish site called Sacred Space, and it did all the work for me …”Today we celebrate the feast of Mary Magdalene, whom Pope Francis calls the Apostle of the apostles: she was the one sent by the Risen Jesus to announce the Resurrection to the Apostles. I reflect on the important role this woman was given by Jesus and on the role of women in the Church today. I thank God for all the women who helped me know Jesus better, and pray that the Church finds ways of giving women their proper place in her ministry and leadership structures.”

Until next week…


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