“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” – Psalm 94:19

Take Precautions and Help Others

Across the weekend, I came across a letter that Martin Luther wrote in 1527, during a time of the bubonic plague in Wittenberg. He wrote

“Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others…If my neighbour needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely. This is a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

His advice was to take precautions and help others. Fortunately, we can do both.

Letter from Dr Kerry Chant – NSW Chief Medical Officer

Last night, I, along with other Independent School principals received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of NSW, Dr Kerry Chant. It said, in part:

“For pre-emptive school closures to be effective, prolonged closure is required and it would be unclear when they could be re-opened. If there were still a large pool of susceptible students when schools are re-opened, there would be likely to be re-emergence of transmission in the community. School closures may still be considered late in the outbreak in anticipation of a peak in infection rates, for a shorter period of time. Short term reactive school closures may also be warranted to allow cleaning and contact tracing to occur. At this stage, the spread of COVID-19 in the community is at quite low levels. It may be many months before the level of community infection is again as low as it is at the moment. A decision to close campus operations now on the current level of community transmission may therefore see schools closed for many months.”

“Schools should implement a range of other strategies to reduce transmission, including the promotion of personal hygiene measures (handwashing, reducing face contact, cough etiquette), physical distancing, reducing mass gatherings (eg school assemblies), and reducing the mixing of students (eg reduced use of common areas, staggered lunchtimes, and reduced after school activities and inter-school activities). Schools should also reinforce existing policies to exclude students and staff who are unwell, and current policies requiring quarantine for those who have recently travelled overseas. It is also important that the learning needs of students who are excluded from school are met.”

NBCS Response and Plan

Any decision that we make will be based on the advice of the experts. When it comes to health, we are not experts and so have to rely on others. When it comes to education, we are experts, so I am confident that we will be able to manage the learning and relational elements of our current circumstances.

For the remainder of the term, we will not have assembly or chapel, but will look to engage with students in their mentor, stage and or year groups with the same content via different delivery mechanisms. A number of other events will be cancelled or run differently, and a separate Communicate will be sent regarding these changes.

We have, on advice, cancelled excursions and any sporting event that involves large gatherings or students from more than two schools. Based on my understanding, and the practices of various sporting codes, grassroots and school sporting fixtures, for example a cricket or football game between two teams can go ahead, but a gala day or carnival cannot. Our cross country will be run differently, likely on a voluntary basis.

Hygiene, cleaning and social distancing remain crucial in managing our school environment. We continue to work hard in getting this right for our students and for each other.

Keeping Children at Home and Assessments

There are families who have made the decision to keep their children home. There are those who have done so because their children are in high-risk categories including the immunosuppressed or have those in their immediate family who are. We are doing all we can to support them. There are others who have done so against the current medical advice. That is a parental prerogative, and we will support this decision, even though at present our resources are going into onsite learning, while preparing remote learning for all should we be asked to close.

We recognise that current circumstances present numerous challenges, including with assessments tasks. It is clear to us that the first order issue is the health of those within our community. Assessments are therefore a second order issue and they will be modified or adjusted in timing and format to deal with current circumstances. This is an issue that will be most pressing for Year 11 and 12, and less immediately relevant for K-10.

We will issue specific guidelines later today, but our guiding principles for assessment will be as follows: fairness (fair for those at school, fair for those at home), logistically sensible (no more complex than they need to be), trust parents/guardians/students regarding honest completion of tasks, not overloading the health system for illness/misadventure on assessment tasks, adjusting the format and timing of tasks in order to balance the above principles.

Remote Learning Test for Year 10

We plan to test our systems by asking Year 10 to learn remotely from home this Friday 20 March 2020. More details will be forthcoming for Year 10 and their parents.

As I wrote to staff earlier today, it is crucial that we continue to look after each other, not second guessing or imputing motive, but being supportive and considerate.

Thank you for your ongoing support. In all of this we aim to be able to support the health, wellbeing and learning of all our students, families and staff.

A Prayer for A Pandemic

The words of the following prayer, A Prayer for A Pandemic, are worth reflecting upon.

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those who are most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or paying their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for self-isolation at home remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our world, let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbours.

Kind regards,

Tim Watson