Silver Linings Comeback

01 May 2020

Worimi Ngani!

“Greetings” in Dharug, one of our local indigenous languages which is staging a comeback.

The literal meaning is “I see you come from far away”, so it’s particularly appropriate as we say welcome to all families and students as we come back to term in this unusual year of 2020. What will Glenaeon’s own comeback be?

As has been said countless times recently, the situation is fluid and the term ahead uncertain. Last Friday I wrote to all parents and staff (Update #12) outlining the three stages of our return to school plan over Term 2.

Since then two reports were released over the weekend that changed the situation for schools:

  • The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the gold standard in Australian health advice, published updated advice that the “venue density rule” is not realistic or applicable in schools and confirmed the very limited evidence of transmission by students in schools.
  • The NSW government’s transmission of COVID-19 research showed a negligible transmission rate in schools so far in NSW.

In the light of these new reports, and with strict controls in place, we have decided to revise that initial plan with the following arrangements.

Stage 1 will now include

  • a full return to school for Year 12 from next Monday May 4th
  • A full return to school for Year 11 from Monday May 11th
  • Remote learning will continue for Kindergarten to Year 10.

Stage 2 will commence as planned on Monday May 18th (Week 4) with partial returns for all other year levels.

The nature of that return for all classes and year groups, and for how many days per week, will depend on developments over the next two weeks.  All students will be invited to enjoy a return to school in some form in Week 4.

Stage 3 will commence with a full return of all students at a date to be determined, which we hope, and anticipate, will be later in term 2.

Of course these plans could all change if there is a sudden spike in transmissions in the community. We will update all parents regularly with our plans so there is as much certainty as possible in this uncertain time.

I emphasise that any return to school is based on the strict controls we have in place to ensure the health of all students and teachers, controls which are all guided by AHPPC advice:

  • Social distancing will be managed as much as is possible for student-teacher interactions and through protocols on movements in confined spaces;
  • Environmental cleaning will be upgraded to ensure all high traffic surfaces are cleaned three times each day;
  • Protocols on hygiene such as hand washing will be emphasised to students and hand sanitizers will be available in all classrooms;
  • Any student who shows any symptoms of illness must stay at home and continue to learn remotely;
  • Any student who has a family member with a compromised immune system may stay at home if he/she wishes and continue to learn remotely;
  • Isolation procedures including temperature checks will be in place for any student who develops symptoms of illness during the day
  • Movement of parents and other adults on school campuses will be staggered and strictly limited to essential needs.

Silver Linings

The clouds have been dark and dreary but they have had silver linings. Like any crisis, you are reminded of what matters in life, and what you hold most dear.

There have been some voices advocating the triumph of technology, and how this crisis will catapult education into a new technological era. Will it really? The message from so many people is how much students are missing their teachers, their classrooms, their mates, and well, they are quite simply missing school. That’s real school with real human beings around them.

We are also reminded of what school is fundamentally about. Schools can get drawn into so many extra things, all of them fine and uplifting. In these times we are reminded that school is about learning, and learning as a whole person. What has been so inspiring to me over the past month has been observing Glenaeon’s teachers working so hard in lifting their instruction from just delivering content, to building real, living experiences in learning.

Above all, this time has continued to affirm that we learn as whole human beings. The technology has served us well as a tool, but it is not just our brain that learns in front of a screen. The warm, beating heart of a living classroom made up of a community of students and teachers is education at its best, and we look forward to a swift return to that happy state.