Dear Parents and Carers,
I am back and so too, it seems, is Covid. The recent outbreak and consequent reintroduction of Covid restrictions across Greater Sydney and regional NSW has prompted this special "brief" edition of our school newsletter. We will outline the routines that we will follow from next Tuesday until the current restrictions are lifted. It follows on from the COMPASS communication yesterday from the CSO that alerted parents of the impact the current restrictions will have on our schools.
Please note: Monday 12th July is one of our planned Pupil Free Days as staff will attend professional development led by the CSO. School for studentss will return on Tuesday 13th July.
My Heartfelt Thanks
It feels strange to jump straight back into business after two terms away but that is the reality we are presented with. I will share some of my experiences across this great country of ours later in this newsletter for those who are interested but for now let me say how proud I am of the Corpus Christi community - staff, students and families alike. I watched Facebook and the read the newsletter with great pride (it was one of the few work related things that I maintained contact with). I read of the different achievements and community events that were held (that we missed so much last year) and the way that important celebrations of faith and identity were integrated into ongoing excellence in learning. I also came to realise two things quite early in the piece. First, I missed the school terribly and second, that the school did not fall apart without me. There is something very special (to do with belonging) in the first realisation and something most humbling in the second. I have no doubt that the continuing success of the school was a credit to Katie McDermottt who, when presented with a very unusual proposal of undertaking the Acting Principal Role before even arriving at her Assistant Principal role, did so with great professionalism and focus. So too, the continued roles of David Treloar and Lisa York in their acting Assistant Principal and REC roles respectively. Together, the executive team competently led our staff, who I know to be incredibly professional and dedicated to their roles, through two successful terms of learning, faith journey and community building. I am forever grateful, even if my ego may have taken a hit.
Now, we are back to Covid and it seems like I never left. Below is a brief rundown of the way our school will seek to follow current covid restrictions over the coming weeks. Much of it was already described in the information from the CSO posted on compass on Thursday 8th July.
Key guide lines relevant to our School
The current guidelines are in place until at least July 16th or until the NSW government advice directs us otherwise.
1. Wearing of Masks
At this stage in regional NSW, masks or face coverings are recommended in all indoor settings for all staff/adults in primary schools. However, the CSO will provide further advice on masks and face coverings later this week.
It is important to note, that at this point of masks being "recommended" in schools there are still certain exemptions that apply. Including one that stipulates that a mask need not be worn if the need to demonstrate and articulate the learning for a student is impeded by the wearing of one. This is incredibly pertinent to the explicit teaching of reading and spelling when so much focus is on letter and sound formation within the mouth. To say nothing of how much of a teacher's communication is done through the mouth - a smile and frown speaks volumes. Moreover, the teaching of 30 children may prove audibly challenging behind a mask. So, teaching (mask free) from the board while students are at their desk may also be feasible. As I said, I am confident we will have further clarification of this by Monday. Certainly, the staff on front gate duty are recommended to be wearing masks as they assist parents with the morning drop off and afternoon pick up and the office staff will also be wearing a mask when interacting with others.
2. Essential Visitors Only on site
No non-essential visitors are permitted in schools. At this stage, essential visitors include canteen and uniform shop volunteers (which means these can continue using the current covid safe practices) but sadly, not parents assisting in the classroom with reading groups and other learning. It also means that parent teacher comunciation and interviews will revert to zoom, email or phone calls for the time being.
Those essential visitors that are permitted in schools are required to follow mask-wearing requirements and sign-in using the Service NSW QR code when entering the school. Parents in general will not be allowed to enter the school grounds (even if it is to run an errand or speak quickly to a staff member) without contacting the school first to ascertain the neccnecessity of the visit - A lot can be done over the phone or via a zoom appointment that can be easily arranged.
Please Note: We are very aware that we have several community events planned for this term the first of which is the Book Fair and Grandparents day. We intend to meet as a staff asap to plan around this and make necessary changes. We'd love to believe we'll be through this by then, but time may prove otherwise. Other planned events that we will address as soon as possible will be our school concert (Week 10) and the Fathers Day breakfast and Liturgy (Week 8). Decisions regarding these later events will depend on the length of time the current restrictions stay in place but it is also important that we make preparations in anticipation. We will update parents on any decisions once they are confirmed.
3. Morning Drop and Afternoon Pick Up
All students will need to enter the school in the morning via the front gate. The bottom gate will remain locked. A staff member will be at the front gate to assist all students to enter the school independently.
We will maintain current afternoon pick up procedures via the front gate and bottom gates but will be required to be more restrictive with parents entering the site for a quick message, a chat or to assist students.
Parents and carers that are picking up (or dropping off) their childrenn will need to stay with the car, preferably in the car, within the drop of zone while we call your child to the front gate and escort them to the car. We will continue to coach the students to be as efficient with this as possible.
Current advice from the CSO states is that parents should maintain physical distancing by avoiding gathering outside of school gates. If you need to pick up "on foot" then it is expected you maintain social distancing from fellow parents and for the sake of extra precaution, wear your face mask if at all possible. The staff member on duty will be doing so.
Our preferred mode of drop off and pick up will be via cars. To assist with the time constraints that additional traffic will cause, especially in the afternoon, we will begin the pick up process from 2.45pm (having the kids assembled by 2.40pm) and maintain it for as long as it takes (sometimes 3pm and beyond) so do not stress about spreading the traffic across this window. We all know how hectic it can get.
QR code sign-in process for all staff and essential visitors
The NSW Government has introduced mandatory QR codes across a range of additional settings, including schools. Staff and on-site visitors, including contractors, will be required to check in every day. This practice is already in place at CCW but as mentioned will only apply to essential visitors who are allowed on site.
Schools will also provide a Service NSW QR code for staff in a location that is not accessible to students (e.g. the staffroom).
Our Short 6 month "Lap around the Block"
For those who are interested, here is a little bit about our trip. We spent 192 days away from home. 182 of those were spent in our off road camper and 10 in some accommodation (because everybody needs some luxury every now and then). We got locked down once due to covid in the Margaret River Wine Region of WA (there are worse places to be locked down). We travelled nearly 29000km, visiting 5 states leaving QLD and Tasmania for another time.
We were as excited to come home as we were to leave. We have had experiences that were so very special that I doubt we will believe them to have happened in years to come, and yet at the time they were our every day. We met some amazing people and shared the road a while with them but through it all, it was our family unit that grew stronger every day. I have never felt so lucky to be part of something as I did when I was travelling the road with Brent and our boy, CJ, who grew exponentially from the experience. Having said that, there is something really special about coming home to loved ones, friends, colleagues and community.
This country is beyond words. We are incredibly lucky to live in such an amazing natural and varied gift that is our land. God is at His very best when He is at work in the natural wonders of Australia. I am in awe of this country, and we only saw half of it (probably a lot less than half really). As I launch head long back into reality, I will carry this feeling with me and it will continue to energise me to work hard, stay strong and plan for what is next - whether that is the next adventure or what is happening tomorrow.
I am so eternally thankful to have had the experience I have had with my family. We lived a little while in a postcard and now we are challenged to make our everyday a postcard as well. I walked along Bathers Way, Newcastle this week and saw it with new eyes. Thankfully, Home is just such a postcard, in more ways than one.
Just 10 of our favourite photos if you're interested. We took thousands (not an exageration).
We will continue to keep you updated regarding Covid restrictions and routines as we are given greater clarity in the coming weeks. Stay Safe everyone and we will chat in person soon enough but for now it will be behind the face masks and through the car windows.
Most importantly we are so glad to be welcoming our students back as normal while being very mindful of those school communities in Greater Sydney who have returned to remote learning for the time being.
As always, more great learning to come at CCW.