Sunday 22 March, 2020
Dear Dominic College Families,
My gratitude to all families for your positive support of our College during this unprecedented phenomenon of the spread of the Coronavirus and its impact on communities. I have written to families in the College Newsletter this week regarding this. The landscape of this enormous situation however is rapidly change by the day and by the hour.
The risks in Tasmania of contracting COVID-19 continues to remain comparatively low. The strategies of island border closures, group gathering controls and contraction and exposure tracking and isolation are being well received despite the ramifications and sacrifices for the people of our state.
Dominic College Self-Isolation Requirements
Whilst the Tasmanian Government has advised that people living under the same roof as somebody who is required to self-isolate, are free to move throughout the community as normal, the Tasmanian Catholic Education Office (TCEO) has advised that such students and staff are not to attend school as a means to add an additional layer of protection to Catholic schools.
Dominic College has also invoked this pre-cautionary measure. If one of our College families has a visitor or family member returning from international or interstate travel coming into their home, any such Dominic student or staff member must not enter Dominic College for a period of 14 days. All families and students must adhere to the isolation policy. It is better to explore how to isolate the incoming traveller beyond one’s home.
They can only return into our school once:
Ø the 14-day self-isolation period has expired with no member of the household having COVID-
19 symptoms, or
Ø receipt of a negative COVID-19 test result, or
Ø a medical professional has advised there is no risk that a member of the household can
transmit the COVID-19 infection. if they have a medical clearance.
Members of the College community must inform the College if they are required to: self-isolate, undergo a COVID-19 test, or have tested positive for COVID-19. They can only return into our school if they have a medical clearance. Please contact the College by phone and seek advice immediately from Maria Walker: firstname.lastname@example.org
There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in the College community. If there were, parents and all members of our community would be immediately informed and containment strategies enacted. Families can be assured of full disclosure and transparency about these matters.
Student attendance at Dominic College continues to be imperative. Teaching and learning continues apace with our ongoing and progressive skills and knowledge development and assessment.
On average, across the year our student attendance at the College is normally hovering around 92%. On Wednesday 19 March we had 84% attendance and on Friday 20 March it was 85% attendance. The majority of Dominic College students are at school and most of those not in attendance are students taking temporary cold and flu pre-cautions. Our students are fully engaged in ongoing learning and our parents are supporting full attendance.
I commend our families for supporting the College and our government in our directives that all students who are well, continue to attend school and enable continuity in their learning.
There is currently quite a lot communications around student attendance. The normal processes of notifying the College of student absence regarding phone or email will continue.
However, from Monday 23 March, the oversight and management of K-10 student attendance will be centralised under the leadership of a member of the College Leadership Team, Mrs Alicia McMahon. If you have any significant concerns about your child attending school, please contact Alicia email@example.com
If any student who is being kept home and their absence has not been an authorized medical absence by the College, they will not be provided with individual work by teachers. Please do not ask for it. Teachers are using all their energies and resources on those students who are in attendance and supporting the directives and expectations of the College and planning for future contingencies.
If a student is unwell, the College has the authority and duty of care to send them home. It is important that families liaise with staff in Student Services if in any doubt or if they have concerns about a student.
Personal and Group Hygiene and Cleaning Regimes
We are being very proactive to implement particular hygiene and cleaning procedures within the College based on advice from health authorities. There are key actions everyone can and should continue to do both at home and at school:
Ø Follow protective coughing etiquette (cough into an arm or tissue);
Ø Follow protective sneezing etiquette (sneeze into an arm or tissue);
Ø Regular washing of hands using soap and water or hand sanitizer;
Ø Soap and water is more effective for washing hands;
Ø Washing in warm water is not necessary, cold water (15°C) is sufficient;
Ø Regular daily wiping down of surfaces; sanitizing wipes are effective for this purpose.
A week ago, the College cleaners commenced the cleaning of touch points (door handles, light switches, desks etc) and will continue to do so. Cleaning has been increased in communal areas. Our Administration Team have gone to extraordinary lengths to source nationally scarce cleaning products. Cameron Berry is the centralized leader dealing with all issues regarding College cleanliness. Please contact Cameron with any concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org
Social distancing within the College community and broader community is an important principle and we have applied bans on gatherings and all activities of large-medium groups of students and contact with people external to the College. We continue to review recommendations from health officials and the College has, where possible, implemented the recommended social distancing strategies for schools in line with the Department of Health advice.
Ø We are well under the public guidelines of permissible groups and we are committed to sustaining activities to single class activities.
Ø Our College and class masses have been cancelled in the chapel. Fr Peter Rankin SDB has called for meaningful liturgies with spread of single classes only, without the sign of peace, communion or blessings. Liturgies commenced last Friday.
Ø All College participation in sport (contact and non-contact) has been cancelled. The College will not participate in any team or inter-school sporting activities.
Ø It is anticipated that all winter sports will be cancelled.
Ø Our teachers are working hard to discuss with students the need for social distancing that goes against ingrained cultural practices for children and young people.
Ø With the age range of our students and the physical environment in which we are working, our teachers are committed to implementing this principle.
Ø The College Leadership Team will be reviewing this this week to try to achieve swifter changes in cultural practices amongst students. Please contact with any concerns for K-6: Mrs Allison Lowe and Mrs Olivia Stephen email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org and 7-10 Mr Aaron Davey: email@example.com
Cancellation of Events
We are all disappointed that much anticipated and valued College events and activities have been cancelled. It is not feasible to reschedule and push these into other terms without putting further pressure on staff and the College resources. The College Leadership Team (CLT) have decided that we will not be re-scheduling activities.
Ø Families should anticipate now that Term 2 events will most likely be cancelled. Staff are asked not to spend their time and resources planning for these events that will most likely be cancelled.
Ø Robotics has been cancelled commencing this week and updates about further cancellations will unfold.
Ø The CLT will contemplate a possible re-scheduling is the Year 7 Camp in Term 4. This is a priority community development activity for students transitioning in their secondary education. However it may not be possible.
Parent Connections & Meetings with Staff
Ø Parents are asked to move swiftly in and out of the College as far as possible.
Ø On-site ‘parent help’ will be discontinued immediately.
Ø Mamma Margaret Kitchen Program will be discontinued immediately.
Ø All Parent –Teacher meetings or interviews will be conducted by phone or skype, effective immediately.
Last week, a decision was taken by the COAG Education Council meeting, which includes Commonwealth, state and territory ministers, not to proceed with NAPLAN in 2020.
It was announced that amongst a range of reasons, that this decision has been taken to assist school leaders, teachers and support staff to focus on the wellbeing of students and continuity of education, including potential online and remote learning.
Avoidance of School Closure
I have spoken with our College Governing Body, the Salesians of Don Bosco and our College Council Chair, Fr Bernie Graham SDB.
Ø There is absolute commitment by the Salesians that the College will be guided by national and state directives to virus containment of its spread.
Ø Whilst we are an independent Catholic school, we will not break ranks with our national and state Governments and our partners in Tasmanian Catholic Education, who are calling for cohesive, unified and strategic action and collective planning.
Ø To act alone and independently would be irresponsible and go against the social and moral teachings of the Church – to act in the interests of the Common Good.
Contingency Planning for School Closure
A pre-mature and unwarranted closure of schools is not in the interests of our students, families and staff. Dominic College will only close if requested by the Tasmanian Director of Public Health.
Ø It is expected that a closure at this stage would be in relation to a suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus by a staff member or student. Closure would be for an anticipated 48 hours to allow Public Health to trace who has been in close contact with the infected person and for us to thoroughly clean the College.
Ø It is reasonable to anticipate identified close contacts would be directed by Public Health to self-isolate for 14 days in order to ascertain if they are infected with COVID-19. Once the tracing and the self-isolation of close contacts has been completed it is anticipated that the College would reopen. NSW schools who have needed to temporarily close have provided us with a framework for this.
We need to use the time we have to plan for the advent of a possible school closure and use planning time for teachers smartly. Teacher meetings are being immediately devoted to this.
Our Year 5-10 students have their own individual laptops. We are currently focused on potential on-line learning for Year 4-10 and teacher-parent/family-student interactions for K-3 students that will also use technology. Families can expect a survey regarding their technology capacity at home.
We are very fortunate to be well placed for our students with a wonderful on-line learning platform – SEQTA. Year 5-10 students will be targeted to develop their capacity to use our on-line learning platform.
Remote Teaching and Learning Model
How teaching and learning will look being delivered remotely is unfolding for us and all school communities. We were fortunate that we held on-line meeting last week with our K-10 Director of Science, Jane Myers, who is on leave and is currently teaching in Vietnam for the year at a K-12 international school. They have been in school closure with on-line learning for 7 weeks. We have gained great insight from her and lessons learnt from the school’s experience. Our focus will be on crucial upskilling of our students and staff in remote learning. This will be implemented with what we are teaching and learning now and is one of the crucial reasons students need to be at school if they are well.
Potential short term or prolonged school closure is very worrying for most working parents, especially those who have no immediate family or those who have grandparents but do not want to put them at risk. I would encourage families to think now about how they might manage this.
Social and Emotional Well-being of our Students
There is no doubt that the spread of COVID-19 is increasing levels of anxiety amongst our students. Our staff are doing a first class job in assisting students to be calm and really reinforcing student responsibility for safe hygiene and social distancing. Our K-6 Coordinator of Pastoral Care, Mrs Allison Lowe has written in the College Newsletter this past week highlighting the social and emotional well-being of our students and potential resources to use at home.
Retaining a sense of belonging, keeping connected and intentional interaction are key pillars in designing our model of on-line and remote learning. Students need to continue to have fun in their learning.
At this time all of us need to be committed to maintaining as much harmony as possible throughout the College. This is not a time to commence divisive conversations or fuel a ‘them and us’ paradigm within the school community.
If you have any concerns, regardless of how large or small, please personally touch base with delegated leaders across the College. At any time, but especially in times of heightened anxiety and worry, person-to-person dialogue works in the best interests of our community. Speak via phone.
I would be most grateful if community members refrain from sharing their personal views about the College’s decisions on matters, especially on social media. At this trying time, we need to be a tight community. The vast majority of our families know how best to be an educational partner with us and do it so well.
Please do not hesitate to contact the College if you have any queries: firstname.lastname@example.org
I intend to do a weekly update to our families.
My gratitude for your on-going support at this anxious time. Please continue your prayers for all our health workers and our state and national decision-making bodies.
With kind regards,
Principal Dominic College