The times, "are a changing"
This edition of our newsletter comes at the end of what has been a memorable first half of the 2020 school year, one that not only we at Nossal will look back on as a time of major change, but one that the community will also.
We commenced the year with our daily news filled with details of devastating bush fires across Australia. The images and the stories dominated our thoughts and our school community, lead by our School Captains, took up the challenge to make a difference in the lives of some of those most affected.
But while it seemed our attention was focused on East Gippsland and other places facing significant hardship, the world-wide coronavirus was beginning to have an impact closer to home, and under direction from the Department of Education (DET), by mid to late Term 1 schools had begun cancelling events and scheduled activities such as excursions, camps and sports. The major change in student learning and classroom learning came relatively swiftly and on Tuesday 24 March, just a few days before the end of what was already going to be a short Term 1, students were sent home for an early start to the school holidays so that teachers could plan in depth for a program of remote learning.
Term 2 started back with students in remote classrooms and, judging by comments through networked colleagues, Nossal adapted to the process relatively easily. The successful adaption was without doubt thanks to the work done in previous years by Nossal staff led by Mr Fankhauser, who had already planned for, instigated and helped our school community implement online approaches designed for situations where students had to learn remotely. It was not only normal lessons that carried out through this medium, though. We have successfully held whole school assemblies, year level assemblies, House meetings, presentations by special guests such as the visiting authors' talks, Parent/Student/Teacher Conferences, Staff meetings, School Council and PFA meetings and of course the successful Iso-Athletics program arranged by Ms Coffa.
The Nossal community have worked well together and we thank the students for their willingness to continue to make the most of their educational opportunities throughout the time they had away from the school. We acknowledge the work done by the staff, both teaching and educational support, who have been adaptive and progressive to ensure access to learning opportunities for all students. We would also like to thank and acknowledge the assistance provided by parents who have actively sought to support the students and the school as we have changed and adapted our programs, even in minor ways like dropping students off away from the school buildings each day and allowing students to walk the remaining distance, and therefore reduce congestion and potential dangers around the campus.
DET have requested feedback from students and families about their response to "Learning from Home". Preliminary reports collected from the survey approximately a week ago suggested parents were pleased with the communication from the school about arrangements for remote learning as well as being pleased with the feedback and teaching that staff were providing. They also acknowledged the programs put in place were well resourced and prepared for students to be able to continue to learn. Parents indicated they felt both that they and their students were able to contact teachers if they needed assistance, clarification or feedback, and noted that the communication between students and the school had been both regular and effective. The survey data once again highlighted that parents thought Nossal was well prepared for this type of learning, a further acknowledgement of the importance of the Digital Delivery Days of the past.
In their survey, students highlighted the side benefits they found of the remote learning period as including: an increase in quality time with family, an interest in doing new things and an increase in general health and overall happiness. In many cases this was attributed to the the elimination of the distances some students travel to get to and from Nossal each day, which in some cases can mean up to four hours spent on public transport. When thinking about returning to school, the student data highlighted the importance of their social connections in their personal development; a large percentage of students indicated that they were most looking forward to seeing their friends in person on their return. Likewise, students were also looking forward to seeing their teachers again and to returning to learning in classrooms.
Returning to another 'new normal'
While the return to school has been welcomed by the vast majority for a variety of different reasons, it is important in the excitement of moment to remember that our school is part of the wider community and that we cannot drop our guard.
This past weekend, we have heard how the Premier, Daniel Andrews has announced that there is a genuine risk of Victoria facing a second wave of COVID-19 and how we must remain vigilant. The City of Casey is one of a group of municipalities identified as being potentially locked down to curb the spread of fresh outbreaks of the virus.
Students have been told that while they are at school, they are not required to remain 1.5 metres apart, however they should try at all times to socially distance themselves where ever possible. Smaller rooms and study areas at the school have been rated and signs are posted to display the recommended number of people that can safely work in these places. It is important that students follow these guidelines and also the directional signs displayed through the school. While it is not necessary for students to strictly follow the 1.5 metre rule within the school, it is important that they do so when they are on their way to school and when they leave at the end of the day, travelling in the community. They will be best served in these environments by a set of firmly entrenched habits of responsible behaviour. Nossal has sanitiser distributed throughout the buildings but it is a second line of defence against infection, and all students are reminded to regularly and thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water throughout the day.
Planned activities starting to re-emerge
During the past few weeks, DET have advised schools that camps programs can now be recommenced in line with camping grounds and caravan parks being reopened. (At this stage we remain unable to conduct excursions.)
With this in mind, Ms Warriner and Ms Soltys have begun planning for a Year 12 camp to the Lord Somers Camp to be held in late Term 3, and Ms Loel and her team have begun looking at what can be done to reschedule the Year 9 Roses Gap camp to later in the year. Both events are major items on the school calendar each year and eagerly anticipated by the students.
More information will be distributed to families over the coming weeks as plans are confirmed.
Take some time
This year, in some ways it seems a little odd to be saying to the school community to take some time and relax over the coming holidays when for some, like our Year 9s, they have just physically returned to school. It has however been a very demanding time for everyone and these holidays, I suspect, cannot come quickly enough for many.
On behalf of Roger and Tracey, my colleagues in the Principal team, we wish you all a wonderful and safe holiday. We may not be able to travel as we might have hoped, we may not be able to socialise as much as we would have liked, but what we can do is to stop, be grateful for what we have, relax and recharge for the remaining half of the school year.
To all our students, staff and their families we hope you enjoy your break. Unlike the end of last term, this time, we look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks.