As I am writing this letter, there are two days of Term 2 still remaining before your children commence a three week holiday break. (Of course, all staff will participate in our one week July Staff Conference during the third week of the break.) And what an amazing term it has been! In fact, the 2020 year thus far has seen our school community (and our entire global community) navigating our way through what can only be described as extraordinary times.
From the outset, I would wish to take this opportunity to commend every member of our school community – students, parents/carers and staff – for the wonderful way in which you have responded in a spirit of partnership to the unexpected demands and changes that we have encountered. Our three key school values are ‘care, community’ and ‘character’ and I have seen these values displayed time and time again throughout the past nine weeks.
I cannot recall a time where I have been required to write so many letters during one term to provide updated information of relevance to all members of our school community. I thank you for your patience as you have taken the time to read through this material. However, even more importantly, I thank you for your flexibility as you have worked with us as we have put a wide range of revised protocols in place.
I thought that I might take you on a brief ‘journey’ back through the term that we are about to complete. I would like to share a few key moments that I believe will highlight just how flexible you have all been during the past nine weeks as you have responded to this series of changes.
In the very last week of Term 1, I wrote to you, providing information that the School Board had just approved an extra Pupil Free Day at the start of Term 2. This was to be the first of a number of changes that would see the term commencing one day later than originally scheduled. This day was designed to enable staff to work on further developing online lessons to be delivered to all students, most of whom were located off-site. Although the school remained open to accommodate children whose parents were unable to provide supervision at home, at the height of the ‘lock-down’ experience we had 55 students at school with 355 working from home. From Week 3, in line with NSW Government advice, Nowra Christian School began the journey back to on-site learning, although initially this still involved the online lesson delivery mode only. We shared a 5 Phase ‘Return to School’ diagram with you that outlined a proposed timetable that would eventually see all of our students back at school, enjoying a teacher-directed lesson delivery model. This process actually occurred more quickly than anticipated and by the commencement of Week 5, all students and staff were, once again, able to be physically present at school. I commented at this time that this was a very reassuring moment as schools without students and staff physically present feel strangely empty!
So, where do we find ourselves placed at the moment from a school perspective and what do we anticipate may be further changed arrangements as we plan for the commencement of Term 3 in just over three weeks’ time? Before providing further details, I believe that it is important to repeat advice that I have included in previous letters. This advice states, ‘Both the Federal and NSW Governments are providing regular briefings in relation to the COVID-19 scenario. We are being continually reminded that the situation that we are facing is a very fluid one where all areas are being carefully monitored. The arrangements outlined in this letter are clearly subject to review, should circumstances warrant any further adjustment.’ Whilst these ‘briefings’ are now less regular, we are still subject to the guidelines that they provide.
Firstly, I can state that there are a number of factors that either will not change, or are unlikely to change, in the foreseeable future. The focus on excellent personal hygiene habits remains as a high priority for everyone on our school site. We will continue to provide sanitiser and cleaning wipes/spray as required and will regularly remind students about the importance of washing their hands thoroughly before eating and after visiting the toilet facilities. If your children are unwell, we continue to request that they are to remain at home until fully recovered. Again, for the foreseeable future, parents and carers are being requested to drop-off and pick-up your children and then promptly depart the school premises without engaging in extended conversations. (Your cooperation with this request during Term 2 has been greatly appreciated.)
So, what can take place from the beginning of Term 3? Inter-school student events and competitions such as choirs, sport, debating, public speaking and performing arts can occur as long as they are conducted in accordance with current health advice. Official school photos will be able to be taken. Parent/Carer/Teacher meetings will be able to occur, although we will need to carefully consider what will be the most suitable format for our school community. However, the House Athletics Carnival, scheduled for 21 July, has been cancelled. Under current guidelines, this large-scale event would not have been able to occur with spectators but we have been informed that the Shoalhaven Secondary Oval will be unavailable for this event.
Relevant government authorities are still giving careful consideration to a number of activities that may be allowed to occur from the start of Term 3 but are yet to be fully confirmed. These include school camps, excursions, parent/carer attendance at assemblies and other school events and various roles involving parent volunteers (e.g. parent /carer reading helpers).
As I have been reflecting on the incredible range of events and changing circumstances that have occurred throughout this busy term, it has become apparent that, as mere mortals, we may well feel somewhat tired and strained. As always, we can find both comfort and reassurance in God’s word. I would like to share with you a passage that immediately comes to mind, reminding us, through the provision of beautiful imagery, that we have a God who desires to support and uplift us at the very times when we are feeling the most vulnerable. This is a well-known passage from Isaiah 40:30-31. It states, ‘Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ (NIV)
We will continue to provide further updates for all parents/carers as new information comes to hand. In the meantime, on behalf of staff and the School Board, I trust that you will find opportunities for rest, relaxation and refreshment during the coming three weeks of the school holiday period. We will look forward to warmly welcoming your children back to school when Term 3 commences on Monday, 20 July.
Rob Bray | Principal