Seven days ago the air was orange and red.
Blackened leaves and ash peppered our open spaces.
Panic was in the air and on television.
At St Columba, the staff were quietly and professionally teaching and caring for our students in the midst of an unfolding firestorm.
They were assisting families who had heard the worst (“No the back oval is not on fire.” “No, the school has not been closed/evacuated/burnt to the ground!”).
They were reassuring worried students, organising early pick-ups and generally behaving like true professionals.
I could not be more proud of our staff under those conditions. My personal and professional thanks to :
- The Teachers who taught and normalised an abnormal day.
- The Support Staff who took hundreds of calls from parents who were worried and often fearful.
- The Ground Staff who made sure that ember attacks etc. never placed us at risk.
- The School Leadership Team who calmed, organised, adapted and made everything work out OK.
For the rest of the week:
- We were able to finish the Higher School Certificate examinations
- We took advice and closed Tuesday and Wednesday
- We abandoned some examinations when it became clear they would be compromised by absences, weather conditions and external stresses. (I believe this decision was met with cheers by some students!).
- We came back on Thursday to a grey world as the smoke thickened and refused to lift.
- Today we saw levels of smoke that meant our students had to spend the day indoors.
We heard of other schools closing in the middle of the day and we were so glad that over the last five years we had air-conditioned the School and could keep the worst of the smoke out of our teaching spaces!
Now we are planning what we will have to do if it all happens again next week!
I would like to thank our students and families for the trust they put in our decisions—to keep the school open, to close the school, to keep teaching etc.—and promise that our students wellbeing will be the focus of any further decisions we make as this crisis unfolds.
Whatever we decide, we will let you know as soon as possible.
Weekend Message: Stay safe and pray for rain!
A bushfire footnote from a member of our staff:
I just wanted to publicly acknowledge the incredible job Elissa Veitch (Sport Assistant) is doing as a volunteer for the RFS. The team from Lake Innes RFS set up a strike force outside my house on Friday and it was amazing to see Elissa jump out of the truck and advise the neighbourhood. Elissa, calm and informed, provided reassurance during a stressful time. Fortunately, the conditions were on our side that day/night. I spotted Elissa driving the RFS truck around the community on Saturday as her team continued to monitor conditions.
Good luck Elissa for the upcoming days. Stay safe and know that the SCAS community is supporting you. I’m not sure when you’ll next be in at SCAS, however, I’ve left some money at the Iona Cafe for you to buy some lunch/coffee. You must be exhausted. Very proud.
Chantelle Perkins – Secondary Teacher
Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School