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COVID-19 Response

Principal Les Conroy Video Message Transcript:

Hello to the STMC community. This is a video message that I want to cover off a number of items that you really can’t put in writing. But I want to start off by saying thank you to the parents and the broader community for the support they’ve given us as a school. Our teachers for the hard work that’s been going on behind the scenes in order to prep for this moment of where students will be sent home and will be working from home. It really has been a testing and trying time, but our staff and I know our students and our parents that have been supporting us behind the scenes, have been doing a great job. So from us here, just want to say a big thanks.

The items I wanted to cover off and I’m just going to refer to my notes because there’s a long list here, so I hope you excuse it’s not a normal polished piece of video that we normally do, so just excuse me as I look down.

First of all, I just want to tell you a little bit what’s happening behind the scenes. About three weeks ago we created our COVID-19 Standup Team and in that Stand Up Team is Karen Mulcahy who gives advice and direction for staff welfare. We have Jodie Barnard who looks after student welfare and gives directions and advice. We have Patrick McGuire who looks after grounds and facilities, who gives us advice and also sources the materials like hand sanitiser and cleaning, et cetera, across the school. We have Scott Booth who looks after the technical and IT aspects, which we knew in this crisis compared to other crises that we’ve had to deal with, this one was going to play a critical and key role in how we deliver the services going forward. And of course myself as Chair. We meet every morning at 9:00am and that’s based on a briefing that comes out overnight from Brisbane Catholic Education because they’ve got their own COVID-19 standup team. They work overnight to give a release to us in the morning, for us then to take advice and act and if you like, push that information out to our community and also advance our own planning. And we want to thank that team in Brisbane Catholic Education, they’re the faceless people, and I’m going to say that in a very positive note because they’ve been working overnight every night since this crisis began, to make sure that our schools and Brisbane Catholic Education, are way ahead of the game.

The other people I want to mention is QCAA. I know that’s been causing a lot of anxiety amongst our students and parents, particularly if you’ve got a child studying in the QCE in year 11 and 12, the advice finally came down Wednesday night from QCAA in relation to those studies. I know Mr Camilleri will be putting it out and has put out some advice and some actions that we’re taking with regards to assessment and hopefully that will ease the nerves and the anxiety of students. But I just want to also just give another message of reassurance that the QCAA have assured us and the rest of Queensland, that whatever decisions they make will only be to the advantage of students and not to the disadvantage of students. And if we take that on in good faith, which we should, they’ll be working very hard to make sure that the learning for these students and the way it moves forward for them after Year 12, won’t be too disruptive. And we’ll await further advice as to what that looks like in the coming days and weeks.

We know, and we’ve already had been contacted by a number of our families and this is the heartbreaking side of this crisis, is that a number of our families have lost jobs, some of them have had to close their own businesses and we feel that along with our families. And we want to reassure you that your child’s schooling is absolutely as important to us as it is to you and we want to reassure you that if you do find yourself in financial strife because of the COVID-19 crisis, that you come and talk to us or at least go onto our school portal. There’s a form there which we’ve simplified, where we can extend financial help and assistance to you during this period of time because we do know it’s not a long time thing, it’s a short term thing and we’ve got some provisions to be able to help families because we want your child to return back to STMC when this is all over and you don’t have to make that hard decision as to where you send your child in the future, because we want them here a STMC. So please make that call very early, so we can help you and plan your financial future as well.

The online learning is progressing well for us. Stacey Readman, Nathan Camilleri and Scott Booth have been working hard behind the scenes. Scott with the technical aspect of streaming and the streaming services to help with the online services that we’re going to deliver through the Microsoft Teams platform. And Nathan and Stacey have been working hard to help teachers to adapt to what would essentially be face to face curriculum, to an online learning environment. And we thank the State Government for making that courageous decision to go student free from Monday, to allow our teachers that time and space not to worry about other things, but to actually focus on developing and getting those resources up and ready for Term II because that will be a critical term for us all.

I want to talk to also about the importance of routines as we shift to an online environment where students will be staying at home and some parents may not have given this some thought, some may have, but we’re going to be sending out a number of notes in the coming days and weeks, to help you set up what essentially is a home office or a homeschooling environment. Because it’s absolutely critical during the teenage years of development, that routine is important. And what I mean by that is, we’re going to be running a normal routine day of timetables, where students will log on, say for argument’s sake, Period One English. They would log on and do the English homework or schoolwork with their teacher who will be ready and online with Teams, Office Teams 365 to answer students questions, set up learning, ask key questions and move that learning along.

So what that means for you as parents is it will be important to one, I believe, to normally wake your student up, have breakfast, that normal routine, but also it will be important to put them into a uniform, whether it be our formal uniform or our sports uniform. But what that means, it allows them to get their head space into that when they sit down at their desk, they’re actually there to work. And that’ll be very important to keep that routine for that young person and it will also help lower their anxieties and keep them keen for learning. But more information will come in greater detail from Nathan Camilleri and Stacey Readman.

Some staff may be working from home, but it is our desire and hope until the government calls a complete lockdown, that teachers will come to school every day. We’ll be allocating a classroom, so that they’re socially distancing from other staff members and we’ll be allocating them to a room where we can then provide them with all the resources they need to get online and to be active learners with your students.

The other part, well the next part is something that we have at school which some families may have or may not and that is a prayer space. I think during this time of crisis it’s important to stay firm and strong to your faith and create a little prayer space that you and your family perhaps can say a little prayer in the morning because that’s how we start our day, every day, is with a prayer. Mr Thomas will be putting out some information in the coming days about what that prayer space can look like for you at home and also sending out daily little prayers that you and your family can stay together to stay strong, keep faith and to be moving forward.

I’d also encourage you to download, if you haven’t already, the Brisbane Catholic Education Connect App and it’s called the BCE Connect App. You can get it on Google Play and iTunes. It’s an important way to keep up to date with announcements that come out from Brisbane Catholic Education, as well as ourselves, and also making sure that you can log on to the parent portal because a lot of important information will come out through those areas.

The pastoral care of students is something that we pride ourselves on at STMC and it’s something that we want to continue to do and we think it’s essential that we continue to do going into the future because we don’t know really what Term II is going to look like. So we’re planning many different scenarios, but pastoral care, so more details will come out, but essentially to give you a bit of a skeleton structure of what that’ll look like is that we’re going to set up a structure where Pastoral Care Teachers will check in every day, just on the care and concern of students, to make sure that they’re travelling well, that their levels of anxiety are relaxed and that they’re happy with themselves.

Because we do understand that teenagers like to be with other teenagers and during a time of social isolation, may cause some students to stress greatly. Social media will play a part in that, but we also ask parents to keep an eye on that social media so some poor behaviours don’t start occurring right under our own noses if you’re like, and we have issues for other students that are feeling isolated at home.

We’ll also have a structure put in place that if teachers do identify that a student is feeling vulnerable or stressed or high levels of anxiety or a parent makes contact with us, our Counsellors, we’re going to be setting them up with mobile phones and mobile phone numbers that you can ring them directly and you can talk to and have them on the phone counselling sessions, which we think will go a long way to help improving that access to school resources that we have here.

Also whilst we’re on the topic of ringing staff and staff ringing home and being online is, also please be aware of staff’s own personal time. This is a new and brave world that we’ve entered into and if eventually our teachers are locked down at home, they will have their own issues with making sure that their child’s schooling is kept up to date and keeping and running of the household as well. So just be mindful that please, if you do decide to send a message or an email or contact through Teams 365 platform and that might come through late at night because that’s when it’s convenient for you, please don’t expect staff to be online at those times, but they will take maybe 24 hours to 48 hours to get back to you because they’ll have a lot on their plate as you will at home as well. Teachers are no different to you as well.

The semi-formal, the Year 11 semi-formal, it’s a big one. I know it was coming up very soon and we’ve had to make the very sad decision to cancel it and not postpone it. We’ve explored opportunities to postpone it but because we’re unaware and unsure of dates that we can progress to, one of our issues is that if we postpone it to too late in the year, it comes right on top of the Year 12 formal in 2021 which is in early March. So we’ve made the tough decision to actually cancel it and I know that’s been communicated today to Year 11’s through the Pastoral Leaders and that’ll be very disappointing but unsure that we’ll have your backing, your understanding that that was a tough decision to make but the right decision to make.

During the holiday period, like always, at the time of Christ dying and rising again, maybe this is our opportunity to rise again in the future for a brighter, better future. Hopefully it’ll make us all more humble, more aware of how fragile life and society can be and that we’ll be kinder and better people moving forward.

As Term II unfolds and we’ll have more information that comes from the government as to what that might look like, we’re planning again behind the scenes for different scenarios that may play out for Term II. It could be that it’s business as usual, everyone comes back day one for Term II, or it could be a situation where it’s student free for a period of time and students stay at home for an extended period, or it could be a complete lockdown and teachers will be continuing that learning in Term II from their home bases. But we’ll inform you every step of the way with regular updates that will come out both in writing and also video.

During this period of time we hope and wish that you all stay safe and well, and of course socially distant from one another.