COVID-19 Update

22 April 2020

Dear Parents and Carers

On behalf of the College, I hope families have enjoyed some time away from the frenetic pace that was forced upon us all as we transitioned quickly to a new normal.  

Yesterday, the Prime Minister and the NSW Premier announced a managed return of students to face-to-face teaching. The only common element across the sectors has been an intention to transition students back into on-campus learning. In discussions with a number of my peers and peak bodies, it is clear that independent schools have the luxury of making contextual decisions, that are not constrained by the need to have a scalable solution that meets the needs of large systems like the Department of Education or even the Catholic Diocesan systems. As a result, we have been able to build a specific framework that meets our understanding of how to phase a return to teaching and learning that suits St Augustine’s College.  

I am sure like my family, many of you have met the announcement that schools can commence an orderly transition of a return to on-campus learning with equal measures of concern, relief and, for some, celebration. How this will be accomplished will be as varied as the number of schools in the State. The complexity of the challenges associated with phasing the return to on-campus learning is more difficult than the pivot we undertook to move to Remote Learning. This morning, I have discussed our transition plan with more than half the staff to ensure that they have a confidence that we can maintain a safe work environment and begin to transition students back to school in an effective and meaningful way. 

St Augustine’s College is committed to implementing measures to ensure that staff can return to their role of educating your son in a safe environment. Health officials have advised the National Cabinet that schools are safe places for students, teachers and staff. They have released guidance to schools on how they should operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of the recommended actions create prohibitions and impediments for staff and students to return in a logistically achievable fashion. Utilising this advice, the College will be taking a number of further initiatives to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, with hygiene and close contact being the two most significant considerations. Over the term break, additional hand washing stations have been installed, and prior to Week 3, hand sanitiser dispensers will be installed in all teaching and learning classrooms.

The College commences Term 2 in an excellent position having invested four days at the conclusion of Term 1 in curriculum development and design to support Remote Learning. I would like to thank the staff for their continued development of resources over the term break in readiness for the multiplicity of possibilities that Term 2 would bring. 

Commencement of Term 2 Week 1 and Week 2

Term 2 will commence on Monday 27 April 2020 (Week B), in Remote Learning mode. Teaching and learning will take place in the same way that the College concluded Term 1. 

Each day will commence with Tutor Group meetings for all Year Groups. 

Year 5 and Year 6 will continue to operate on an adjusted timetable Remote Learning Daily Schedule - Primary with the students participating in teacher-led Remote Learning via ZOOM.

Year 7 to 12 students will operate on their normal 6 Period day with instructions from their teachers utilising SEQTA and ZOOM in teacher-led Remote Learning. The previously issued timetable Remote Learning Daily Schedule - Years 7 to 12 with shortened lesson times will continue to be in operation.

All Remote Learning Communication Etiquette and College pre-existing expectations remain in place; this includes students wearing College uniform.  Appreciating that Term 2 is a change into winter uniform, students participating in Remote Learning can choose to wear summer, winter or sports uniform.

The College campus continues to be open for students of essential service workers, and families who would like to make use of the Work Respite Day are also welcome. As per Term 1, please complete the Work Respite Booking Form to advise us that your son will be onsite.

Phase One Transition Week 3 (Monday 11 May 2020) and Week 4

The plan that the College will implement in Week 3 is flexible, adaptable and will be phased. The first phase will be for a duration of two weeks. The implementation of subsequent phases may occur in one-week cycles. This will allow us to bring the College back to normal and not compromise our capacity to respond quickly if there is to be a new spike in community transmission of COVID-19. 

The NSW Premier, the Minister for Education, AISNSW and Catholic Schools NSW have all acknowledged that whilst the media focus will be students back at school one day per week, it will ultimately be up to Principals to assess risk, logistics, community need and to discern the most practicable implementation of a phased return to on-campus learning that is contextually appropriate. No solution is going to suit all schools, or for that matter, all families. Planning for the return of students and staff, protecting the vulnerable people in our community, managing physical distancing, hygiene and social and emotional wellbeing, have all been taken into account.

It is our view that attempting to roster students to be onsite one day per week for two weeks whilst maintaining Remote Learning is not practicable. A key State-wide driver around getting students back to school is about engagement and student wellbeing. The College is confident with the work being done by Formation Teams and our classroom teachers in regard to student connection and sense of belonging to our community, that a ‘day visit’ to campus is not going to have meaningful impact in Phase One.  Rostering over 1,200 students to attend for a single day per week does not provide continuity in teaching and learning, rather it creates disruption, a break in routine and a sense of confusion. In order to make Phase One successful, we are going to work on the ‘KIS’ principle: ‘keep it simple’. 

Based on the advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, we have assessed the site’s capacity for a maximum number of students and taken into consideration what we consider to be complexities with rostering some students onsite, staggered start and finish times, and attempting to group students from sibling and family units. Hybridising the delivery of teaching and learning where some students are in classrooms and some students are offsite was not successful for us in our trials. 

As a result, the following plan will be in place for Week 3 and Week 4. 

Primary School Plan

For the two weeks commencing Monday 11 May 2020, the following expectations for St Augustine’s College Primary School students will be in place: 

  • Year 5 on-campus attendance:

    • Week 3 on Monday 11 May and Tuesday 12 May
    • Week 4 on Monday 18 May and Tuesday 19 May
  • Year 5 Remote Learning:

    • Week 3 on Thursday 14 May and Friday 15 May
    • Week 4 on Thursday 21 May and Friday 22 May
  • Year 6 Remote Learning:

    • Week 3 on Monday 11 May and Tuesday 12 May
    • Week 4 on Monday 18 May and Tuesday 19 May
  • Year 6 on-campus attendance:

    • Week 3 on Thursday 14 May and Friday 15 May
    • Week 4 on Thursday 21 May and Friday 22 May

Wednesday 13 May and Wednesday 20 May will be ZOOM free days to reduce screen fatigue. As per previous advice, it is a requirement that students will still check in at 9:40 am for Tutor time where they will be undertaking teacher-directed work that will be posted on SEQTA. 

Due to the nature of Year 5 and Year 6 students and their learning, these younger students are less able to self-direct or be left unsupervised as parents return to work. The College Leadership Team has decided that this group will benefit from a partial return to face-to-face teaching in Week 3. 

Secondary School Plan
Year 12

For our current cohort of Year 12 students, this has been a particularly challenging time and we would like to commend them for the commitment they have engaged in Remote Learning over the past month. I would like to thank the many staff who have continued to conduct HSC study lessons over the term break. 

Week 3, Monday 11 May, all Year 12 students will resume normal on-campus lessons. In keeping with our protection of vulnerable people, some staff will be delivering their lessons remotely to the students on-campus. 

Year 8 to Year 11

In order to maintain physical distancing, classroom logistics and access to amenities and hygiene requirements, students from Year 8 to Year 11 will remain in a full Remote Learning model for Week 3 and Week 4. I appreciate that for many families this will continue to place pressure on households. I encourage you to make use of the Wellbeing Check-ins, Tutors and the Formation Teams. 

It is clear from the Wellbeing Check-ins completed this week, that families are hopeful that their son can return to school as early as possible. As conditions become clearer based around community transmission rates and the associated risks, the College will review our capacity to phase these Year Groups earlier closer to 11 May. It may be possible for the College in the week commencing 18 May to have a student check-in day for each of these Year Groups. Any changes to this will be communicated to you as decisions are made.

Year 7

Week 3, Monday 11 May, all Year 7 students will resume normal on-campus lessons. In keeping with our protection of vulnerable people, some staff will be delivering their lessons remotely to the students on-campus. 

As is the case with our Primary students, due to the nature of Year 7 students and their learning, these younger students are less able to self-direct or be left unsupervised as parents return to work. The College Leadership Team has decided that this group will benefit from a return to face-to-face teaching in Week 3.

Week 4: Year 11 and Year 12 Parent / Teacher / Student Interviews

These interviews will still be conducted after the issuing on Monday 18 May of Semester One Reports, and information regarding interview logistics will be forthcoming in Week 2.

Parent Information Session

It is anticipated that the College will conduct a parent information session via ZOOM in Week 2. This will allow the College to further unpack the considerations and variables involved in phasing student return to a safe and supportive environment. It will also allow us to communicate currency of intent based on the information available in May. 

I continue to thank the College community for their patience and support in these challenging times. It is the goal of the College to have students re-engaged in community life as quickly and as safely as possible. As with all COVID-19 planning, we have taken the information that is available today and formed a carefully considered view of where we may be based on the suppression curve in three weeks’ time. Our supposition that Phase One will be both safe and effective is based on the presumption that our pathway stays consistent with the current trajectory. If the trajectory changes, we will make proportional change in the coming weeks and advise you of these changes as they occur.


Yours sincerely
Jonathan Byrne

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