The past week has seen things return to something very much like our normal operations at Kinnoull as we welcomed the VCE students back last week.
Standing out in the car park to greet the boys was a terrific half-hour, despite the cool morning! It was tremendous to see so many of our wonderful young men in such high spirits and actually conceding it was really good to be able to come to school. The opportunity to return to face to face classroom learning and to connect with friends and staff was a welcome respite from the many weeks of lock down.
These periods of difficulty, inconvenience or even adversity nearly always bring a variety of positives as well. This has certainly been the case since we moved to remote learning from March 23. I have been heartened by the very many stories from staff, relayed with great pride about how well so many of the students dealt with the challenges of the transition to learning from home. For many, it demanded increased levels of organisation, independence and resilience. That so many of our young men at all levels stepped up and embraced this is a credit to them, their families and especially their teachers who provided so much guidance and support from a distance.
I must also acknowledge the many parents who wrote to me and other staff during the past couple of months with positive feedback and gratitude for the way we’d handled the situation. It really was a boost to receive these message of support as everybody in the school worked so hard, navigating literally unprecedented circumstances to ensure classes were delivered, learning continued and wellbeing was monitored.
We are reviewing all that has occurred during the period of remote learning and compiling a list of what strengths and qualities came out of the experience which we would want to take advantage of and keep. These revolve around central elements of our school experience such as effective and efficient use of ICT, pedagogy, independence and responsibilities of staff and students respectively, tracking and monitoring academic progress and wellbeing issues. This will not only assist in the improvement of how we operate under normal circumstances, but better prepare us in the event of another school closure.
There were certainly students who did not find the experience so positive and I am very grateful for the tremendous efforts of our Wellbeing Team who have been in constant contact and dialogue with a broad range of students and parents providing support, a sympathetic ear, advice and reassurance. As the VCE students returned last week, and as we prepare for the Year 5 – 10s to resume on Tuesday the Wellbeing Team’s primary focus is targeted and personal interventions to identify and help solve any issues or anxieties around our students’ learning and wellbeing in the return to working on-site.
The return to working on-site has been enabled and supported by an outstanding team effort from a range of staff. Our major focus has been identifying, managing and mitigating the risks associated with moving more than 1000 students and 150 staff back onto our three sites. Much of the detail around this has been covered in my letters and emails to parents already, but the Executive Team, OH and S Committee and staff representatives from each campus have spent countless hours identifying and mitigating potential risks. Strategies, actions, protocols and guidelines covering all these are in place. It has been gratifying to see that when advice comes from the government or CECV around how to prepare schools we have the vast majority of the recommended measures already in place.
With the cancellation of on-site tours due to COVID-19 we have quickly moved to launch our very own Virtual Tours and online presentations from key staff outlining who we are and what we stand for as a Catholic, Lasallian community. I would encourage you to take a look at these and share the good news about De La Salle College with any prospective families. The Virtual Tour can be accessed by clicking here. In the next week, 4 parent information videos will also be available online. These are valuable and indeed critical additions to our Marketing and Development arm and I am very grateful to our innovative and dedicated team who are working so hard to promote the College and all we have to offer in these challenging times.
Wednesday of this week marked the beginning of our three-day cycle of Semester 1 Parent/Teacher Interviews. With the prevailing circumstances necessitating a move to these being conducted online via Microsoft Teams it will be literally a novel experience, but one we expect to work well given the success of this platform in the past few months. Details around booking times and how to operate Teams with your son(s) have been emailed home so I hope you are all working on booking these critical interviews to establish how your son(s) has performed thus far and set goals for further improvement as we move into Semester 2 next term.
This week we have Tiger Turf working in the Tiverton courtyard on the site of the old handball courts to install synthetic turf on the concreted area. This will not only sharpen up significantly the aesthetics but also provide another popular and safe area for the Years 7 students to play when they return next week.
Enjoy your long weekend and we look forward to welcoming the boys back on Tuesday.