Principal's Update Week 9
Posted: 11-Mar-2020

With the short week, I apologise for the delayed newsletter.

A lot is happening in our world around us at the moment, and I am mindful of the burden many are feeling from the fear and anxiety around coronavirus, the recent bush fires, the Pell appeal, and people’s own personal challenges. This contrasts the great energy and joy of teenagers, growing and exploring the world through learning. Today, I re-discovered a poem by Mary Wickam titled ‘The Door of Mercy’. Mercy is central to our lived Christian identity here at Damascus and if you get a chance, take a few moments with this poem and the analogy of the door. I think it is pretty special, as it invites each of us to; knock once and knock lightly. The God of Mercy, whose door it is, is always home. http://marywickhamrsm.org.au/poem/the-door-of-mercy/

On Thursday, March 5th – Isabella Pearce, Megan O’Beirne, Jarrod Joyce and Brayden Joyce proudly represented Damascus College in the BAS Tennis finals. I congratulate all four students on their representation of the College and Jarrod Joyce on winning his second Rob Benoit Cup and Megan O’Beirne being the runner up in the final for the Henderson Shield. A full report of the tennis team and results can be found here.

The Damascus female rowers will attend their final regatta for the season in Geelong this weekend with the Head of School Girls regatta. I wish all our rowers well as their season works towards a close and thank the parents and coaches who have facilitated these opportunities.

BAS Swimming took place yesterday afternoon, and there were reports of some great student achievement. I thank Nikki Hexter for her week.

McAuley students have their House assembly next Tuesday, March 17th and they may wear yellow with their casual clothes for the day.

Our VCAL students are busily preparing for their VCAL camp next Wednesday to Friday in Melbourne, and we wish them well for an excellent learning activity.

Year 7 students have their immunisations next Wednesday, March 18th. Please normalise immunisations for your young people in your conversations at home. If you are aware that your young person has a strong emotional response to immunisations, please talk with the office about the possibility of having immunisations through your GP to ensure that the dignity of the young person is maintained.

Damascus teacher and leader, Rod Mathews has professionally and enthusiastically supported Damascus athletes over the past two decades to extend their athletic capability. Rod coaches a number of Damascus students beyond their schooling, and they featured prominently at the Bendigo Gift Athletics Carnival over the weekend with Jordan Walker (2017) winning the 800 and 1500 m races and Benjamin Rofe (2017) coming second in the 800m. Both men have siblings currently in the College. I congratulate Rod, Ben and Jordan on their achievement.

The coronavirus Covid-19 is a source of significant media attention, and as part of society, we need to consider the genuine implications for our school community. Our priority at Damascus College is the health and safety of our school community.

As I communicated last week, we have cancelled our French Study Tour due for departure on March 18th. We are now looking at the implications of our other overseas travel, and I have communicated with students preparing to travel to Timor in June, that this trip has also been cancelled.

Our school community is continuing to follow the national public health guidelines and current information from the Australian Chief Medical Officer and Victorian Chief Health Officer in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak. At present, there is no evidence of transmission in the community in Victoria, so we have been advised to go about our school business as usual.

As a precaution, we are following the Health Officer advice about effective hygiene and the Australian Bishops’ advice about celebrations of Mass. The Department of Health and Human Services recommend Ten ways to reduce your risk of coronavirus...click here to view them.

If you or your student come into contact with COVID-19, please contact myself or a member of the Leadership Team at the College so that we can be proactive in assessing the risk in relation to our school community. If your student becomes ill, please keep them at home until you are able to seek medical advice. This applies to all illnesses.

We have been discussing with students in TA that Damascus is following the advice of the best health professionals and that hygiene precautions protect us best.

We have reiterated with students that practising good sneeze / cough hygiene is the best defence against most viruses. You should:

• wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet

• cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser where available

• and if unwell, talk with parents and caregivers about avoiding contact with others (staying home) and gaining medical advice.

• Talk with TA/Parents/ Caregivers/Teachers if feeling alarmed

As parents, you have a critical role in helping the school manage this situation:

• Exercise good judgment by keeping children home if they are feeling unwell for any reason

• Talk to children about the situation, as they may be feeling anxious or stressed. You have a key role in helping students feel prepared and safe

• Continue to encourage children to be proactive and committed to their schoolwork (as always!!).

I will keep you informed if there are further developments.

The legal appeal of George Pell will again bring trauma to all those who are affected by the scourge of abuse within the Catholic Church. Our community stands in solidarity with all those who have been harmed. If you are feeling burdened by the feelings and media that surround this appeal or if you have a connection with victims that make you vulnerable, I encourage you to tap into Lifeline. If you feel your student is vulnerable, please speak to your TA, House Leader, or Assistant Principal of Student Wellbeing, Andrew Robertson and we will connect students with appropriate support.

We keep in our prayers all those who need them this week.

Until next week …

MATT

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