Dear Members of the Penola Catholic College community,

 

Survived Week One

As we reach the end of the first full week of conducting classes online, I’m sure everyone is breathing a collective sigh of relief that our systems are holding up with no significant problems. I know that I am! I hope you too are feeling more confident about the changes and with the support Penola is providing to support you and your family.

We have made swift adjustments to accommodate changes in the way we learn, work and live due to COVID-19.  As we continue to follow the guidelines that the Victorian Government has outlined for schools, we are not only looking at how we are operating during this time, but also focusing on how we will lead into Semester 2 and 2021.

I know that this has been a stressful time for parents and students, particularly our Year 12 students.  I am conscious of the fact that many of the rites of passage associated with Year 12 and turning 18 have changed during this period of social distancing and remote learning.

The Victorian Government has also announced the following adjustments to the delivery of the VCE:

  • The GAT test will move from June to October or November.
  • End-of-year exams will be postponed until at least December.
  • School-based assessment tasks will be reduced where possible to relieve some pressure on students as they move to remote and flexible learning arrangements.
  • Universities will be asked to delay the start of the 2021 university year to account for impacts of coronavirus on senior secondary students.

VCAL students will have more time to complete their courses and this will be consistent with the revised dates for the VCE. The VCAA has been asked to consider a compressed end-of-year exam schedule in recognition of the disruption caused by the pandemic.

The VCAA are the State body who administer both the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL). By the end of this week they will have decided how subjects that contain a practical component will be assessed and the arrangements for completing on-site assessments in recognition of their practical nature and the facilities required for an authentic assessment. As soon as this is clarified we will be in contact with all Year 12 students and their families.

I would like to publicly acknowledge the efforts of all of our staff in transitioning to remote learning for Term 2.  In particular, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of our College Executive (Mr Ernie Pisani, Mrs Jenny Vinten, Mr John McKay, Mrs Monica Kacela, Mr Rob Dullard and Mr Stuart Harrison) for their tireless efforts in laying the foundations for a successful transition to remote learning.  I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of Mr Anthony Austin (ICT Manager) and his IT team for all of their efforts in dealing with the technological challenges that remote learning can bring. One of the things that I have noticed this term is that schools are lonely places when there are no people here!  Schooling is both relational and social as many of our students and staff will currently attest to. Like many others, I cannot wait until both staff and students resume school in our usual way with face to face contact but acknowledge that we are all doing our best to limit the spread of COVID-19 and the loss of human lives. Self-isolation is a necessary evil for now!

Raising Concerns

Penola Catholic College works in an educational partnership with parents for the benefit of all students. On entering into this partnership, families assume a number of important responsibilities which include: loyalty to the College community, a commitment to the College Mission statement and support of all College policies and expectations.

It is acknowledged that there may be occasions when parents wish to express concerns / make complaints regarding College matters. Parents are always encouraged to communicate with the relevant College personnel to discuss their concerns.

The College is always available to assist parents through discussion in developing a clearer understanding of College expectations in all areas.

Parents are required to express their concerns in a calm and respectful manner towards all staff who may be involved. On presenting the concern the family must be able to be identified.   Any anonymous concerns or complaints cannot be satisfactorily investigated as the College would be unable to confirm them as genuine.

In having specific concerns / complaints addressed we recommend that initial contact be made with the relevant College personnel in the order below:

Curriculum Matters                   Subject Teacher, Head of Learning, Deputy Principal of Learning and Teaching

 

Student’s Academic                 Subject Teacher, Year Level Co-ordinators, Deputy Principal Head of Campus

 

Student Wellbeing Matters     Homeroom Teacher, Year Level Co-ordinators, College Psychologists/Youth Worker, Deputy Principal Head of Campus

 

General Student Behaviour     Homeroom Teacher, Year Level Co-ordinators, Deputy Principal Head of Campus

 

College Policies                       Deputy Principal Head of Campus

 

Staff                                          Deputy Principal Head of Campus

 

Off Campus Incidents               Deputy Principal Head of Campus

 

Financial                                  Business Manager

In all cases where the matter cannot be satisfactorily resolved, parents are encouraged to contact the College Principal.

Changes to Reporting

Due to the transition to Remote Learning we are currently determining the nature of assessment and the ways that we report this assessment to parents.  At this stage, it is likely that we only report online through MyPenola rather than a summative report at the end of the Semester.  Once this decision has been made, I will inform you as parents of the decision.

Family Liaison Officers

We have a number of our Support Staff (approximately 40) who have been allocated a new role as Family Liaison Officers during the period of remote learning.  They will touch base with each family at least once per week and provide you with feedback about any concerns that we might have regarding your child/children’s progress i.e. logging into MyPenola or information from subject teachers. Their role is essentially to:

  • Touch Base with the Penola Catholic College families
  • Ask best time to contact the parents and best contact number to use.
  • Ask about the progress of the family and the students.
  • Remind families services will continue to be available.
  • Remind families the reception office remains open.

Allaying Parent Fears

I was reading an article the other day which cited Professor John Hatttie, a leading educator and Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) chairman who was also the adviser for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority that oversaw school examinations after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes of 2011.

Schools were closed for weeks and most students did not have the opportunity for online learning or discussion with teachers. But results did not suffer and high school students did not drop out. “The students’ performance actually went up in the final exams,” Professor Hattie said. He said the difference was teachers focused on “what has to be learned” instead of getting through a lot of curriculum.  Click here for the full article.

Recognition of ANZACs

We will celebrate ANZAC Day this Saturday, where we commemorate the landing of members of the 1st Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey on 25th April 1915.  For Australians the day carries enormous and solemn significance because it is the day on which we remember and pray for all those who have died in the service of our country, and we remember also those who served in the defence forces in the very many conflicts and peace-keeping missions in which our country has been involved.  We acknowledged ANZAC Day during our online Pastoral lesson on Friday 24 April, 2020. We pray for the honoured dead whose sacrifice and memory remain so dear to us.

The Gallipoli campaign was but one chapter in a terrible war that cost millions of lives and was dubbed at its conclusion as “the war to end all wars”.  We know it today as the First World War, and we are also well aware that many wars and conflicts have since followed.  Those who have been to war know full well of it horrors, and upon their return speak mostly of the sacrifices of their comrades and the cause of peace.  As we pray for the dead, and all those who were injured or whose lives were deeply affected by war, let us pray also for peace in our world.  Let us give thanks for the great privilege of living in land that is relatively peaceful and let us do all that we can to ensure that all people are able to live in freedom and peace.

When will videoconferencing commence in classes?

Videoconferencing will commence in most classes at the start of Week 3 of Term 2 i.e. Monday April 27. Videoconferencing will be conducted through Microsoft Teams as it is a more secure environment for our students.  Teachers will use their professional judgement and expertise to determine how often videoconferencing will be used within their subject classes. It is important that students read thoroughly the Remote Learning – Student Code of Conduct

Language Tour to Japan cancelled

Regretfully, last week Mrs Favrin and I made the decision to cancel the trip to Japan for this year. We  have contacted Passport Travel and am awaiting a response about the refund of the Deposit that was paid last year. Please be assured that all other monies are with the College and will not be lost. We hope to recover most of the monies paid for this trip.

Once all the information has been confirmed, we will be sending a letter home to each participant’s family detailing the amount to be refunded and how this will occur. At this stage, we hope to reschedule the trip for next year, if international travel is permitted and if Dokkyo Saitama High School will host us.

Condolences

Please keep Frank, Trish (staff member) and Georgia Franzoni (Year 10) and extended family in your prayers on the passing of Giuseppe Franzoni from COVID-19 on Friday 17 April. Please keep Mrs Christina Pascalis and her family in your prayers on the passing of Hossam Omar (Son-in-law), husband to Laura Omar and father to Katerina, Yasmin and Amira who passed away after a five month battle with pancreatic cancer. He died peacefully on 16th April in Sydney.

Reflection

As we all struggle to come to terms with the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak here in Australia, I have included a poem from one of our Year 9 students, Bethanie Matic about COVID-19.

How would it reach us?  (A poem about Covid-19) By Bethanie Matic.

Credit to Ava Vitetta (Year 9s)

At first it was a rumour, a whisper, merely a thought. We heard of a virus spreading in China, so how would it reach us?

More news articles came out, more people were infected, but it was all happening in China so how would it reach us?

People were trying to escape the country by getting on planes, going on boats; returning to their homes, but still there was nothing for us to worry about.

We soon heard of people being quarantined, taken to an island, destitute for 2 weeks. Therefore it had no chance of reaching us.

As time went on, as lives were lost, as immune systems failed, as people panicked, as more news spread, Italy shut their borders and locked their doors from society. Rumours spread that Australia would do the same.

The mass hysteria was unbelievable.

Pasta, rice, even toilet paper became ‘a thing of the past’ for our country. Fights broke out, minds were brainwashed, yet we once again had no thought of the virus infecting us.

Then the first case in Victoria hit.

Then the next, and the next.

Events began to cancel, theatres were shut, rules of social distancing were implied, gatherings of over 500 were banned. People started to lose their jobs, families stressed and mourned over the loss of loved ones. The first school in Australia closed and that trend began to continue. The number of people allowed to gather lessened, leaving no gatherings to occur at all.

And now, here I am, on the 23rd of March 2020, my last day attending a school for the foreseeable future. The AFL announced that it would be postponed, all non-essential public places are going to be closed, and as of tomorrow all social scenes shall be broken, a glitch will be placed in the community in which only the leaves rustling in the trees will be heard.

Trying to remain positive is difficult when you feel attacked by the anxiety the media is forcing onto you. Therefore, I tell you, we all feel the same and you are not alone. But, it is only now that everyone has realised that this virus could reach us and did reach us, and is showing no sign of stopping.