20 April 2020

The speed at which things change at the moment is incredible. Our lives have been affected in so many unforeseen ways.  And the most sobering and mind-boggling thing for me, is that every person on earth is going through this at the same time; and no one knows how this will all play out.

I wanted to write to you today to reassure you that I am closely and carefully following the situation with regard to schools.

On Friday, following the Premier’s announcement, I attended a Webex briefing with our Director General.  This morning I have spoken at length with my deputies and business manager.

This is what I know today… with the obvious proviso that this may all change tomorrow.

The State Government has given parents a choice about whether their children return to school or learn from home from Wednesday 29 April.

The government advises that these arrangements will be in place until the end of week 3. They will then be assessed and reviewed, taking into account the latest health advice and infection trends across the community.

These arrangements therefore only refer to the first thirteen days of school.

I am very happy to be flexible with you on this. You may decide to send all or some of your children to school for the full thirteen days. You may decide to ‘watch and wait’ for the first three days, and then send them in week two; or you may decide to ‘watch and wait’ until week three, to see what the government data says after that. You may also decide one thing now, then change your mind at any point. This is all ok by me.

No-one knows the ‘right’ thing to do.  You alone know your family’s employment situation, health status and personal views.  Be reassured, that whatever you decide to do will be the ‘right’ decision for you at this moment, and will be supported by us.

My main priorities remain hygiene and education.

Social distancing and hygiene in relation to children in classrooms is well documented.  The younger the child, and the more children in a room, the less possible it becomes to manage. Although one child may grasp it, they will be surrounded by others who don’t.  We always do our absolute best, but the inability to completely protect children in this way remains the main concern of teachers in this climate and we continue to discuss it.  As you can imagine, it is especially difficult in kindergarten and pre-primary.  To maintain parent social distancing, the government has advised that adults must drop all children at the school gates and not enter the grounds.

If your family has underlying health concerns, I encourage you to seek medical advice regarding school attendance. Though we are advised that schools present low risk to children, this does not equate to no risk.

The logistics of the term 2 education program – by that I mean the question of where classes will be held, who will teach online and who will teach face to face, etc – will depend on how many students come to school next week and what announcements are made between now and then. In the meantime, and as things stand, home learning resources will be on Connect, and teachers will be at school, on Wednesday 29 April.

Teachers are very much looking forward to reconnecting with their students, either face to face or online. We really wish it could be under normal circumstances.

I think every day about our Richmond staff and families and know that many of you have some kind of economic, social or emotional situation to manage. When you make your decision about school, remember it is initially just for the first three weeks and you can always change your mind. You do not need to tell me your decision or reasons. Simply send your child to school, or keep them home and send us an ‘absent’ SMS. Either way, we will do our best for your child and family. I have a great team here and I have full confidence in them.

Bear in mind it is only eleven days since we believed education would be online for term 2, and just 35 days since we first started to cancel school events. Things can change very quickly. Stay safe and I will write again when more information comes to hand.

Lisa Dentith