I sat down and wrote the first iteration of this newsletter on Monday afternoon, then we had the Premier’s announcement yesterday, and here I am this morning, writing an updated and changed version of the newsletter.
Life in this time of change and uncertainty has been about letting go of what we are familiar with and being open to those changes and willing to accept that so many things are beyond our control. That we have had to respond flexibly over the last two months has become ‘run of the mill’. I am enormously proud of this community’s ability to respond. Our students have been the most committed learners, willing to embrace this changed time and give their best effort to a different format of learning. Our College staff have also been extraordinary in their ability to turn everything “on its head” and approach their craft differently in the interest of our students. None of what we are trying to achieve over this period could be done without our families, who have partnered with us daily, regularly present in classes and always providing the care and support to our young people. Thank you for your support!
It is a relief to know that we can begin the transition back to onsite delivery. The announcement was made yesterday morning that cross-sectoral agreement has been reached that the return to school will take place in two stages. This will give the Chief Health Officer and the Victorian Government time to monitor and evaluate the effects that the staged return to school has on the increased movement of people and transmission within the community. I understand that some families may feel anxious about this move back to classroom teaching and learning; however, I can assure you that this decision has been taken based on the best health advice available to our state.
The plan for the staged return, which I indicated yesterday, is now able to be shared in greater detail as we have received further information from CECV.
Stage 1: 26th May – 5th June
In the first stage, students in Years 11 and 12 Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) and Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) will return to school from Tuesday 26th May.
Year 10 students undertaking VCE studies, including VCE Vocational Education and Training (VET) studies, should also attend school for those classes where practicable. We are currently awaiting advice on cluster VET classes and will notify families as this information becomes available. Where needed, Year 10 students who attend for VCE/VET classes can be supervised at school for the remainder of the day if travel is problematic.
Remote and flexible learning will continue for all students in Years 7 to 10 until stage 2.
During Stage 1, the existing model of onsite schooling for students who cannot be supervised at home and vulnerable children will remain in place.
Stage 2: from 9th June
All other year levels will return to school from Tuesday 9th June. All students will be expected to attend school as normal, and the College will return to full onsite curriculum delivery.
Once a year level has returned, all students will be expected to attend school as normal. This means if you choose to keep your child/children home after their year level has returned to onsite schooling, we can no longer support their learning from home.
This does not apply to children who need to be absent for health or medical reasons. For those families, please contact the College so we can make an appropriate plan.
This same approach is being taken by all Catholic and Government schools in Victoria.
In response to yesterday’s announcement and reflecting on our College calendar, we will bring our Staff Professional Practice Day forward from Wednesday 10th June to Friday 5th June. Friday the 5th June is the final day of the remote learning period for Year 7 to 10 students before everyone returns on the 9th. There will be no classes for Damascus students on Friday 5th June. All students will then be onsite/offsite from the 9th June to the end of the term.
One of the significant risk minimising factors that we will adhere to for the safety of our community will be prioritising students and staff on campus. Our advice specifies the importance of limiting adult to adult contact over this next stage, so I ask that parents not exit their car when onsite. If you believe there is a legitimate need to come into the College office, please contact the office, and we will work through the specifics of your need individually.
The best support families can continue to provide our community is to keep students home who show any symptoms of illness. This is counter-intuitive when many of us have encouraged our young people to go to school knowing that adolescent “lethargy” in the mornings may be an underlying factor, only to receive a call from Simon or the office team later in the day to collect a genuinely sick young person. If there is a chance your young person is unwell – please keep them home. As students resume school, the expectations will be as they were before the break, with additional requirements for hand hygiene and social distancing.
Can I also remind families to book TA interviews for next week, please. This is a valuable opportunity to build the connection between school and home. Families would have received an email yesterday about interviews, and a copy of that information can be found below by clicking on the PDF link:-
TA Remote Learning Interviews (691 KB)
We are in the period of Winter uniform, and I am sure that there will be some families (my own included) who will need to visit the uniform shop over the next ten days. Damascus has also added additional items to the uniform. Please find a link to further information on the new uniform items and opening hours for the Dobsons Uniform Shop and Crockers Schoolwear here.
Finally, yesterday was International Nurses Day. Why am I aware of it – I am married to a nurse, I am the son of a nurse, and I am the sibling of a nurse. I am very grateful for the nurses in my life. Nurses and other health professionals are in the frontline of this crisis. Schools have also continued to provide critical support for the children of nurses and other essential workers. Two of Jesus’ primary works were healing and teaching. The continuation of Jesus’ ministry is very evident in our own Ballarat community through our faith-based schools, St John of God Hospital, Mercy Aged care, Centacare…. This week we pray for health professionals and educators, and I use both terms inclusively of all the staff associated with these ministries and offer a prayer of gratitude for the extraordinary service they provide.
Until next week…