Dear families,

I trust that you have had a safe and enjoyable number of weeks home with your children, allowing time to do the family things and spend time with each other. I know a number of people have enjoyed the time to catch up with friends and family, as well as having some form of holiday. I am also aware that some families have had to endure a period of isolation, and I hope that you have managed to keep yourself healthy during that time.

By now you would be well acquainted with the media reports concerning how the school year is going to begin for 2022. Some of what I’m about to say will be related to that, and some of it will be very much connected to our context.

Teachers will return to school in the week prior to our Reception and year 1 students, as they prepare for 2022. On these two days, as well as the Monday and Tuesday of the first week of school, all of our teachers will be spending time preparing for 2022 school year and the online learning for year two to year six students. For year 2 to 6 students involved in online learning, information will come to you prior to Wednesday 2 February.

Information regarding the processes for Reception pick up and drop off will be sent to families ahead of time. We can assure families that successful transition is a priority and we will have processes in place to make this as calm and routine as possible.

We have also been instructed to limit the number of adults on school grounds at any one time. This does mean that for the first two weeks, we will revert to students being dropped off at the school gate, rather than on school grounds. I really appreciated the efforts that parents went to when we had to do this previously to support us all. This will be reviewed on a weekly basis to see if it needs to continue, as it is too early to say if this is a short or longer term scenario.

The first day of school for any student, whether face to face or online is Wednesday 2 February 2022. Students who are expected to be at school in reception and year 1, will not be eligible for online learning if they remain at home. Any student in year 2 to year 6 who needs to be at school in the first two weeks, because their parents are either an essential worker or are mandated to work, (and are unable to care for their child), will receive the same online program that students at home do.

Service providers who work with children to support either their learning or health needs, will still be attending the school and carrying out their roles. This will include our instrumental teachers but will not include the band program at this stage. No school sport other than physical education lessons, will take place for the time being.

While the Omicron variant is so prevalent, it is essential that we do as much as possible to protect teachers and students in schools, so that we can avoid having to close classrooms or even the entire school and send students home.

On Friday 14 January, we were put into the position of needing to close our Vacation Care program for a number of days due to a child being at school while being positive. Children were sent home, staff and children needed to isolate and get a negative test, cleaners were required to come and do a ‘deep clean’, and in addition, there was quite a lengthy process connected to documentation that was required. This impacted on all families and staff who were involved in Vacation Care.

We are keen to minimise, wherever possible, the number of times this happens when children return to school. Many of our school staff have had booster vaccinations, or are on the waiting list to get them. However, this doesn’t stop people from either transmitting or catching the Omicron variant.

SA Health has instructed that staff wear masks unless needing to take them off for the purposes of teaching students. Students from year 3 to year 6 have also been encouraged to wear masks by SA Health; some lessons will be held outside to be in the open air; where possible, windows and doors will be open to allow fresh air to circulate, (most of our existing air conditioning units cycle fresh air as well); where possible students will distance from each other and we will continue with sanitising and the washing of hands. Excursions and incursions will be placed on pause, along with assemblies and the gathering of classes together for activities.

It Is essential that only Woodend school students are permitted to use play equipment, which will be cleaned on a daily basis. It is also very important, that where adults do need to come onto school grounds, such as collecting a child from the office area, that masks are worn at all times, and need to be worn correctly. QR codes are still in place to be used if on site.

Obviously, in a school setting, it is very hard to get students to be compliant with social distancing in particular, and so they won’t be penalised for this, but will be encouraged to follow this request. Teachers will explain the reasons behind this in a manner relevant for each particular age group.

Cleaners will continue their regular cleaning, as well as the additional cleaning that we have been experiencing over the last two years for all surfaces that are common touch areas for adults and students.

We are in a unique situation of providing for the mental health of our young people, during a time where it would be easy to keep them at home and separated from their peers, and from their classroom teachers. The measures that we put into place are very much designed to, as much as possible, maintain our school practices for students and teachers.

Given the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, there is a still a high possibility, that teachers and students may contract Covid. In that case we will endeavour to employ relief staff to keep the school operating. To assist us, it is required that any child, even if only mildly ill, must be kept home and not sent to school. If a child shows any signs of being unwell at school, they will be removed from the classroom and parents will be asked to collect their child.

As mentioned, Reception and year one students will be in classrooms from the Wednesday of the first week. Regarding our planned opportunity to meet with parents of reception children in the afternoons of the first week of term one, we are keen that we still do that, however, in a modified form, via phone rather than face to face.

More details about this will be coming home prior to the first week of school.

The key to a good relationship with students has always been to know their stories and personal learning journeys. It is important for us to create and maintain a community in the school. This has been one of the core elements that parents and teachers share about our school. Hence why we need to keep that opportunity to speak with parents about their child as part of our early years structure.

If you’re reading this blog post, can you please let others know that this is available on the blog, via our school website, as I know some people may not be anticipating communication at this early stage. Another update will come out on the blog post on Friday 28 January and there will be communication from teachers in preparation for the new school year.

Take care and keep safe.

Kind regards,
Steve Freeman