From the Principal

Despite how much we all love being part of the community, schools can be complex and challenging places at the best of times. The past few weeks and certainly those to come, are presenting a myriad of issues to deal with. I have written four or five letters to families and staff in the past week outlining the conditions here at Malvern, the measures we are putting in place and the emphasis on the safety, health and wellbeing of our students and staff.

I do not need to go over that information again, even though our situation changes daily. You will have heard yesterday that the government insists schools stay open and at the moment we are still taking the advice and recommendations of the authorities, as are the vast majority of schools.

I want to offer a few comments around what is obviously becoming an increasingly fragile situation for us all. I am very conscious of the unease the literally unprecedented situation we find ourselves in is generating. There are certainly mixed messages coming through the media, but I’m hoping the following can provide some reassurances.

The Independent Education Union published a helpful comment on Tuesday, which I think sums up our position at the time of writing:

Current advice is that at this stage schools should remain open, except where required for cleaning, contact tracing or isolation. This is supported by public health experts, and it’s important to highlight that (contrary to some suggestions circulating on social media) this is not simply about ‘child‐minding’ or keeping the economy going – it’s part of a broader strategy to manage the spread of the virus. It may be the case that at some point there will be a general closure of schools, but it’s crucial that this is timed for maximum effectiveness.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton, has stated that “pre‐emptive school closures are not likely to be proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent community transmission of COVID‐19 at this time…” I know many will question this and some high profile schools have elected to close or have been forced to if they have someone in their community testing positive, but I am comforted by the reality that the vast majority of schools (including all ACC schools) remain open and are being guided by advice from the government and CECV. This has been reinforced by the statements this morning from the Prime Minister and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy.

While this official advice is for all schools — and a lot of it is reassuring — I am acutely aware of our local context at De La Salle, my responsibility to students and staff wellbeing and the increasing anxiety and questions the situation is generating. I, along with the Executive Team, will continue to monitor all aspects of our situation and provide updates as regularly as practical, particularly if the situation changes. You can also be assured of a sympathetic ear and ongoing support from the Executive Team if required.

In the short term, please be reminded of the Covid‐19 symptoms

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore Throat
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • A general feeling of being unwell

At present we have NO person in our community who has tested positive, with families providing a terrific level of cooperation with the Health Centre and me in dealing with any perceived symptoms/issues. As you can see above, schools are advised to remain open but we will close if there is
(a) any confirmed case of Covid‐19 among staff, students and potentially parents or
(b) DHHS, DET and CECV advise us to do so.

If there are specific concerns we may be able to address, it is important you speak with members of the Executive Team or other senior staff, ask questions where need be and be reassured by the measures we are taking. Likewise, we need to work together to keep things in perspective, remain calm, and support each other and, most importantly, our students.

Many of our young men are confused, anxious and seeking advice and reassurance. While none of us knows how this is going to ultimately pan out, I have advised staff it will be helpful to engage in sensible conversation with the students, reiterate helpful facts, don’t buy into their rumours or scaremongering among each other but be the voice of calm, support and reason. A consistent message from all staff is very important here. The two articles attached to my letter on Tuesday and the info at Whole Child Counseling may be helpful for you.

I am also writing to all students and have been visiting classes to answer questions, clarify grey areas and generally trying to put the boys at ease in this difficult situation.

As the days unfold staff welfare/wellbeing is also very much on the agenda, as well as the obvious duty of care to the students. Yesterday’s staff collaborative planning time was important in supporting each other to develop the process for remote learning but also an opportunity to speak, share and support.

In closing, below is a prayer shared with me this week – a nice beacon of hope as we look forward to better times.

Peter Houlihan
Principal

Lockdown

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.

But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.


Richard Hendrick
13 March 2020

Back to The Duce Issue 2020 03 - 19 March 2020