To all Parents and all Students
I apologise for the length of this correspondence, but I have two messages to deliver: one from my heart and the other from my head.
Firstly, my head message:
On Friday 17th April, the WA Premier and Minister of Education announced that schools are open for Term 2, and whilst he highlighted parent choice, he encouraged students to attend. So, what does this mean for Shenton?
Every choice we make is always a risk decision. Some decisions are minor, others inconsequential and occasionally they are very significant, potentially life-changing moments. As parents, we know that to manage risk, we need quality information to enable us, as individuals, to make our informed choice. As a public school Principal, I know that my teachers, indeed all our Shenton staff, are proud to support their community and remain respectful of their public duty during this pandemic. We will always be onsite and will be steadfast in our support of parents, their children, and the choices they make. It is, however, vitally important that we are cognisant of the risks involved in being onsite, and of the onus on us all to act responsibly to manage that risk. Only then can we feel as adults, empowered to make the choice over what is the right decision for our children.
In understanding the risks involved, you need to understand some of the complexities of Shenton. Shenton College has a total student population of 2430 students. Our staff numbers at 297. This means that at any one time, during a normal school day, we have a population of 2727 active on our campus – this makes us larger than 10 average-sized, primary schools. It places Shenton College as the 26th largest urban centre, by population, in the state of WA. Collectively, we form a larger community than the currently lock-downed towns of:
- Merredin, or
Several of our teachers were on leave in the first term due to the fact that they, or someone they are a carer for, fell into the government’s categories of a high risk/vulnerable group. The decision over whether they will be able to return to the site in Term Two is one for them to make in consultation with the health professionals they work with, and we will continue to support them in what is right for their individual situations. All of these teachers, who were away on leave, continued to prepare work, liaise with colleagues and check-in with students whilst they were home, despite clear directives from the Education Department that they were not required to do so.
Whilst we have a geographically large campus, we have very limited spare classroom capacity. The idea that we will be able to collapse classes or spread classes across a broader area is logistically improbable when our survey data suggests that we can expect at least 80% of our students to return in Week 1.
So, if we are to have a “soft opening” that is “cautious and safe” and respectful of parents’ rights to choose, let me be clear that all people (including students) on the school site have a collective responsibility to practice good personal hygiene and, where possible, to observe physical distancing practices.
To this end, from Wednesday 29th April, we will:
- on the first day commence school, for all years, at 9am (no early classes for Y10s)
- return to timetabled, face-to-face teaching, across all year groups
- continue to monitor the choices parents make about sending their child to school in the first weeks and adapt accordingly
- maintain interactive, asynchronous, remote learning modules on Compass that compliment or support student learning for the first 3 weeks of Term 2
- initially stagger the finish times for Years 7-11, to reduce mass transition at the end of the school day:
- Y7 day concludes at 2.40pm (Mon-Fri)
- Y8 at 2.45pm (M-F)
- Y9 at 2.50pm (M-F)
- Y10 at 2.55pm (Tues-Thurs)
- Y11 3pm (Mon – Thurs)
- encourage students to maintain 1.5m physical distancing when entering and leaving classrooms
- encourage students to use designated proximity markings on outside seating and floor areas
- require parents to keep their children away from school if they show signs of cold or flu-like symptoms
- cancel, until further notice, all after-school activities, school excursions, assemblies, inter-school activities, and large gatherings, in accordance with the Premier’s directions
- modify teaching and learning delivery, venue, and feedback as the classroom teacher deems necessary
- suspend, until further notice, all “external public access” to our school facilities, after hours
- provide additional surface disinfectant and sanitiser to classrooms
- continue to conduct physical activities and physical education, however, this will occur in well-ventilated spaces
- request that everyone on the school site (including students) follow good personal hygiene:
- wash hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser before entering school and at regular intervals
- practice good cough/sneezing etiquette
- not share food or drink – consider bringing own food
- bring their own water bottle
- ensure additional cleaning of high-frequency touch surfaces throughout the day, before and after school. Please be aware that the College has put on 2 additional day cleaners and employs 25 cleaners throughout the school
- require parents who drop off and collect their children to arrange for this to occur offsite (e.g. use the Stubbs Terrace or Lemnos Street roadside, Grace Vaughn House car-park, Hockey field drop off bays). There will be no parent vehicle access to the staff car parks at any time.
I appreciate and respect that some families are feeling anxious during this time. Please be assured that this is perfectly normal. Some families may need additional support in enabling their children to make the transition back to school. I encourage those families to contact their GP, Head of School, School Psychologist or our Head of Student Support to enable us to offer additional care at this crucial time.
I recognise that this message has had a strong focus on safety. However, these are challenging and increasingly uncertain times. We have always been a strong and supportive community – we need to be this now, more than ever.
Whilst, the Premier can open schools and encourage parents to send their children, each of us as individuals must assess the risk and act accordingly. Safety for others, however, is non-negotiable and must be paramount in our actions in the coming weeks. It is our collective responsibility to ensure the highest level of personal accountability and hygiene.
Now, finally, my heart message.
We became teachers to teach. Over the last 6 weeks, the school has not been the same without our students. What is a school without children? Without their laughter, their happiness? It is only buildings. We have all been missing the nuanced sounds, faces and relationships over the last couple of months and I know all the staff look forward to hearing and seeing them again.
Buildings, of course, are an essential part of a school, but a good school (and hopefully you categorise Shenton as such) fosters ideas, nurtures dreams, and secures friendships. And inside those buildings, if you look hard enough, you will find tomorrow.