Our first priority at Penola Catholic College is the health and safety of our school community. This is the fourth draft of this section of the newsletter that I have written regarding the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) given that information is changing daily. I am aware that it has caused concerns for parents, staff and students. Because the health and safety of school communities is our highest priority, the school’s decision to stay open is based on advice from the Australian and Victorian Chief Medical Officer. Currently, the advice of Dr Brett Sutton, Victorian Chief Health Officer, is that ‘pre-emptive school closures are not likely to be proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 at this time’. When advice from the Chief Medical Officers changes, we will communicate those changes to our school community.
We continue to actively monitor developments and are working closely with the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV). The CECV is partnering with the Victorian Department of Education and Training, and Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to ensure our practices reflect current advice and support the needs of our school community.
Coronavirus COVID-19 Update
There have been a number of developments regarding the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) that are important to be aware of in order to try to reassure the anxious within our community. We have spent a significant amount of time in the past fortnight developing contingencies in the event of a confirmed case of Coronavirus amongst either staff or students or a school closure. These will be shared if, and when, appropriate. On Thursday of last week, I posted a letter on our external website to you, our parents/guardians to provide you with an update on our plans. I posted another update on Tuesday 17 March as well.
I think it is inevitable that we will face a period of school closures as part of a preventative measure to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. The first indication of this was given with the Prime Minister’s announcement on Friday 13 March indicating that all non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people to be suspended from Monday 16 March amid fears about the spread of coronavirus. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the cancellation would not be extended to schools, universities, public transport or airports. This has now extended to no more than 100 people indoors as of Wednesday 18 March.
Cancellation of Parent Teacher Student Partnership Meetings
We have made the decision to conduct our Parent Teacher interviews via phone calls over the next 2 weeks rather than face to face to minimise the risk of inadvertent transmission of the Coronavirus for both our staff and families. For all families who have booked in for interviews, you can expect that these teachers will phone you in the next fortnight for a discussion regarding your son or daughter.
Continuity of learning
As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, it is important to be prepared to ensure continuity of learning for our students. We have spent a considerable amount of planning for a range of contingencies depending upon the escalation of the spread of the Coronavirus and instructions from key organisations such as DHHS, Catholic Education Melbourne and the Federal and State Governments. Primarily this will involve the use of our existing software such as MyPenola, email and Microsoft 365 to provide resources to support our students in the event of a school closure. I have attached a link to our Remote Learning Plan, which outlines in more detail the measures we will take to provide continuity of learning in the event of a school closure.
The CECV is continuing to work with the Department of Education and Training to identify options to support schools to ensure learning continuity for students. I am receiving regular updates from the CECV, and ensuring school leaders and staff are aware of coronavirus reporting and management practices, and are well-placed to respond as circumstances change. The school’s leaders and teaching staff are committed to ensuring that learning remains available to students as part of all students’ entitlement to access the Victorian curriculum. We have plans in place to support students to learn from home but, while we remain open, the emphasis will be on the learning and teaching currently in place in the classroom. If students are away ill then they should access their class pages on MyPenola or the unit plans on MyPenola which outline what has been covered in each lesson. Online and offline delivery options are available, and these will be tailored to our individual school context and to different student age groups.
Please find our Remote Learning Plan here.
Postponement of Athletics Carnival
In light of the most recent information regarding COVID-19 and our commitment to student and Staff safety, we have made the decision to postpone the Athletics Carnival for Monday 23 March. Instead, we will be running an early leave day on this day finishing at 12.30p.m. for both campuses to allow time for teaching staff to meet for professional learning using software for remote learning and planning for the possibility of an extended school closure period. At the Broadmeadows campus, we will run Periods 1, 2, 5 and 6 (Alternative Timetable). At the Glenroy campus, we will run Periods 1, 2, 3 & 4. My thanks to Mr John McKay Deputy Principal: Learning and Teaching, Mr Anthony Austin ICT Manager, Mrs Daniela Bombardieri-Szabo E-learning Leader and Mr Peter Sartzetakis E-learning Support Officer for their extensive work in developing our Remote Learning Plan.
The last day of term (Friday 27 March) was scheduled to be Student Free for our Staff Spirituality Day. It will remain as Student Free however, we are wanting to trial a remote learning day for students to check whether students can access all of the necessary instructions/software that they need from home. More details of this can be found in Mr John McKay’s section as Deputy Principal: Learning and Teaching. Essentially students access MyPenola, clicking on their timetable to take them through to the instructions on their respective class pages. If there are any issues see the table below:
What if I have a student or staff member who is a confirmed case or contact of a confirmed case of novel coronavirus?
The existing advice remains that children/students are to be excluded from schools, childcare services, TAFEs, private training providers, universities and Learn Local organisations if the following applies:
The person is a confirmed case of novel coronavirus
The person is a close contact with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus in the past 14 days.
This same advice applies to any impacted staff.
A close contact is someone who has been identified by health authorities as having at least 15 minutes face-to-face contact or sharing a closed space for more than two hours with a confirmed case. If you think a child/student or staff member may meet one of the above criteria, please make contact with the College ASAP.
Protocols for the closure of individual Catholic schools in relation to COVID-19 have been developed by the CECV in partnership with the Department of Education and Training.
As parents, you have a critical role in helping the school manage this situation:
Exercise good judgment by keeping children home if they are feeling unwell for any reason
Talk to children about the situation, as they may be feeling anxious or stressed. You have a key role in helping students feel prepared and safe
Encourage children to be proactive and committed to their schoolwork, and to stay connected with the school and their teachers.
The Department of Health and Human Services has a number of resources on its website, which explain the virus, detail risk-reduction practices and behaviours, and answer frequently asked questions. These are available at www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus. We have decided to cancel all sporting events for the remainder of term, the majority of excursions and the Stations of the Cross will not take place on Thursday 26 March.
This is an evolving situation, but we will keep you updated as things change.
Cancellation of Year 10 Work Experience Week (Friday 5 June – Friday 12 June)
As a result of the continued uncertainty due to the outbreak of the COVID1-9, we have had a number of employers contact us to say that they would not be able to host students for work experience. We have made the decision to cancel this Work Experience week, as we are not confident that workplaces will be a healthy environment for our students at this time. This may also allow us additional face-to-face learning time with students in the event of a school closure.
2021 Year 7 Enrolments
As I hope you are all aware, 2021 Year 7 Enrolments closed on Friday 17 August of last year. We have had an additional 91 enrolments since the closing date. If there are any current families with children in Grade Six who are intending to enrol them at Penola in 2021, I would ask that you make contact with Ms Jessica Alvarez at the College as soon as possible. I would be saddened for one of our current families to miss out on a place due to the fact that they have not submitted an enrolment application. I have asked Principals of our feeder Parish Primary schools to check that all of their families who indicated that they were applying for a position at Penola have indeed applied. I ask our current families to do the same as a matter of priority.
The first meeting for the new College Board was conducted Wednesday night where the following positions were determined:
Board Chairperson: Mrs Alfina Astuto
Deputy Board Chairperson: Mrs Julie Lyons
We welcomed four new parents as members of the 2020 College Board namely Mrs Karen Harvey Collings, Mr Seyit Kaplan, Mrs Beatrice Massara and Ms Marisa Francavilla.I thank these people for taking on these important roles and for their support of me and the College. I would also like to thank our other College Board members for their ongoing contribution to our school: Fr Dishan Candappa, Mrs Rose Crocitti, Mrs Jenny Vinten, Mrs Alfina Astuto, Mrs Julie Lyons, Mr Stuart Harrison, Mrs Angela Xidias, Miss Taniya Sananyake and Miss Ellie Tektonopoulos.
St Patrick’s Day Mass
In light of the Prime Minister’s announcement, all of the events planned for Catholic Education week were cancelled.
Driving to work the other morning I heard a report on the radio, which talked about the link between the education levels of parents and their children’s NAPLAN success rates. Simply put, the higher the level of parent’s education the more likely the student was to succeed compared to other families. I believe we need to be very careful when considering research such as this as there is a danger that we can accept these findings without question and it becomes a self-fulfilling idea. That is, students cannot change their level of performance and it is all pre-ordained according to genetics, postcode and income levels. In my experience in education, I have met many outstanding students who come from families with a variety of levels of education who succeed extraordinarily well.
Fortunately, the researcher went on to say that, what they do next is to see what these so called ‘successful families’ do to support their children’s education. I believe that there are strategies and approaches that consistently benefit students when instituted at home on a regular basis. As parents, you should have been able to access your child’s / children’s reports online. One of the key ways that you can support your son or daughter’s education is by taking a genuine interest in what they are doing at school. Ways that you can show that you are interested is by asking how their day was at school or through your attendance at Parent/Teacher/Student interviews and other school events.
I have been pleased with the numbers of parents that have attended our initial Parent/Teacher/Student interviews. The purpose of these interviews is for staff to find out from parents information about your son or daughter, to meet with your child’s subject teachers and for teachers to give feedback about their performance to date. Many of you will have noted a change in practice with our progress reports in terms of when they are available and whether interviews have been requested. We have sent personal invitations to every family as we are seeking to promote two-way communication between the school and our families.
One of the most important study habits a student can institute is ensuring study times are regular and immoveable unless there is a remarkable reason to make a change. Times can be sorted around sporting or musical commitments, part-time work or even favourite television programs but once they have been sorted out, it should be as regular as brushing your teeth in the morning. If there is no homework then some school work such as revision, additional maths or reading a novel should be done instead. There are always a certain number of students who will cram their class work so that they can come home to announce that they don’t have any homework! Having an unconditional homework time can encourage students to expand and develop their work further.
Secondly, usually the best place for homework is in a public place in the house. Especially where adults are quietly doing other things around them, and are touching base with how they are going. For both of my children this place is on our kitchen table! Some students find doing homework locked away in a bedroom so crushingly boring that they either don’t get on with anything or they are constantly tempted by distractions such as facebook, computer games or even just surfing the net! The other advantage with this suggestion is that there is considerable research around that says that when parent’s take an interest in the child’s school work; this improves the attitude of their child to everything associated with schooling which improves learning. What is also critical is that the homework is done earlier in the evening rather than late at night.
All students struggle with motivation at various stages and one of the things that we can assist with as parents is reminding our children that nearly every form of success that we have achieved has been as a result of hard work and lots of it! Some students need assistance with their organisation to ensure that they start tasks early enough to be able to complete their best work rather than in a huge rush just before it is due. Others simply need help in planning and recording what tasks they need to complete and prioritising this work.
Despite what your children may believe, you know them better than anyone else so you will know the areas where they need support and ways that you can help.
As we continue with the fourth week of Lent, many people consider what to give up. The following reflection was in my local church bulletin at St Monica’s Moonee Ponds, which I offer to you:
What to give up
Give up complaining – focus on Gratitude
Give up pessimism – become an Optimist
Give up worry – trust Divine Providence
Give up bitterness – turn to Forgiveness
Give up hatred – replace Good for evil
Give up negativism – be Positive
Give up anger – be More Patient
Give up pettiness – become Mature
Give up gloom – enjoy the Beauty all around you
Give up jealousy – pray for Trust
Give up gossiping – control your Tongue
Give up sin – turn to Virtue
Give up giving up – Hang in there!
As Lent draws to a close, we look for hope in the Resurrection of Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. Through His sacrifice, he has made possible our salvation from sin. Jesus tells us that He is the way to the Father. Let us take time in this Easter season to reflect on our own lives and invite the Risen Lord’s companionship on our life’s journey towards our Eternal home.