From the Principal

COVID-19 FAQ (Q and A)

Is it safe to send my children back to class at St Columba?

While we cannot give an absolute guarantee that the COVID-19 virus might not “visit” our school, we accept the advice of the medical experts and NSW Minister for Health that schools are relatively safe places for children.

“When directly asked whether children should return to school full-time, Mr Hazzard said he had seen no health research to suggest they should not send their children back to school five days a week if they wished to do so. ‘Certainly from my point of view as Health Minister I’d be delighted if parents choose to take their children back to school as soon as they feel comfortable.’ ”

Why can’t I walk my child to class or help in my child’s class?

Medical research has determined that there is a very limited chance that students will be spreaders of the COVID virus and that our greatest threat comes from adults accessing the campus. By limiting the adult presence on the campus, we are increasing the protection of both our students and staff.

”The greatest risk of transmission in the school environment is between adults.” Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice on reducing the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools.

Why is SCAS going against the Premier and Department of Education and reopening full time instead of the preferred one day a week?

The Premier of NSW, through the Minister of Education, oversees NSW public (Primary and High) schools. Working out of Sydney, they make policy for all the public schools in the state, from the largest urban school to the tiniest remote public school, from areas who have no COVID diagnoses to areas that remain hotspots for infection. We are an independent regional school, governed by a School Council and administered by a School Executive.

We have the right and the capacity to make a range of decisions that we believe will benefit our community. That includes the decision to set a timetable to re-open the school for face-to-face teaching.

We believe that the mode of return to school being used by the DEC schools would not suit our teaching and learning model and place undue stress on our families, students and staff, so are offering an alternative structure.

“The NSW Government has revealed that from May 11 — week three of term two — DECC students will return to campus for one day a week. ‘Initially it will just be a day a week, then progressively two days, and then we hope by the end of term two we’ll be in a position to have students going back to school in a full-time capacity by term three,’” Ms Berejiklian

Why aren’t staff at St Columba wearing face masks to limit infection?

The  Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) recommends that  non-medical face coverings not be used as a mitigation strategy against transmission of COVID-19 or other similar communicable diseases, as the use of these masks has the potential to create more harm than good.

Will students be allowed to play and use playground equipment when they return to school?

Yes. The advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) is that:

  • Use of play equipment by children in a school setting is unlikely to appreciably increase the risk of exposure to the virus when compared with other activities undertaken in schools.
  • Physical education may continue, but should take place outdoors or in large gymnasiums or covered areas.

How did we arrive at the decision that it is safe to open in Week 3?

Key factors in reaching our decision included:

  • Statements from medical experts, the Premier and NSW Minister for Health that schools are (relatively) safe places.
  • The local COVID-19 infection rate and risk has diminished.
  • We will have two weeks to allow for any COVID testing lag before the majority of students return.
  • Our HSC students are desperate to get back into class as Term 3 is dominated by HSC Trial Examinations, major project due dates and practical subject examinations.
  • The one-day-a-week schedule is disruptive to the educational process and places unsustainable pressure on teachers and parents.
  • Many parents need their students back in class.
  • The school must remain “open” to maintain its federal funding.
  • The lessening of social distancing regulations at schools.
  • Parents will still have a choice if they wish their children to attend

What steps are you taking to make sure our children are as safe as possible?

  • We listened to the experts, including the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), medical professionals (including epidemiologists) and the Ministers of Health and are acting according to the information provided.
  • We have set up protocols to check on the health of those who attend the campus, including checking temperatures.
  • We will be using enhanced cleaning of the campus.
  • We are limiting access to the campus of non-essential adults.
  • We are continuing to cancel external excursions and camps.
  • We are constantly reviewing any potential threats from the virus or changes in the health advice and warnings.

Summary

Returning to face-to-face teaching in NSW schools has become a matter of politics, systems authority and inter-agency regulations. And it can be confusing when mixed messages are flying around.

What we have done is taken the best advice possible and chosen a strategy that we believe offers a level of safety, certainty and educational integrity to our families. Then they can decide if they feel safe sending their child on campus at St Columba.

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