6 February 2021

This has been such a massive week for Western Australia, and for the Education Department as we face the devastating bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fire has devastated our community. We know that 81 homes have now been lost. Our hearts go out to all of the students, staff and families affected, and our sincere thanks go to the fire brigade and others involved in the crisis. It is difficult to imagine the devastation they must all be feeling.

40 schools have been directly affected, though none is in the red zone.  All are today being inspected to ensure they are safe.  Many schools have students who have lost their homes and need support.  I am keeping in touch with the director general and other principals about what support schools may be able to provide. At the moment we are advised the best thing is donations of money. I have put a link on our Facebook page for parents to donate. I will also meet with our new student councillors next week to talk about what ideas they have for fundraising.

The other situation facing us, is of course COVID. This week, 550 schools have been closed. 238 have been open. Staff have been planning for any eventuality.

We are very happy to hear Mark McGowan’s announcement late last night, that schools will reopen on Monday, albeit with some restrictions, unless anything changes with confirmed cases. We remain in a state of emergency. I have just been in a Webex with our director general and all WA principals, and then with my admin team to ensure that we have all available information.

The key points for us are:

Masks are mandatory. All staff must wear masks. Teachers may remove their mask when they are teaching so they can be clearly understood. People who are deaf or hard of hearing are exempt and there are some medical exemptions. It’d be really good if you could prepare your child for seeing all the staff in masks. I’ve put some photos on our Facebook page.

The directions state that anyone over 12 years old must wear a mask, but the education department has streamlined this to translate to simply primary or secondary. Students in primary schools do not have to wear masks. Students in secondary schools do have to wear masks.

The department has begun a massive mask distribution process and we will be collecting our school masks later this afternoon from a designated distribution point. These are only intended for staff use at Richmond.

The director general has stressed there will be a high degree of personal responsibility for mask wearing.

All schools must continue COVID safe practices such as cleaning, social distancing and personal hygiene measures.

Playgrounds are open and being cleaned regularly.

Ten parents have written to ask if there can be ongoing flexibility for either gate or door drop off and yes that is fine for all parents.  If you choose to drop your child at the door you simply have to follow safe practices, and we ask that you try to avoid touching things. If you drop them at the gate we will supervise them. Please can you bring children to school after 8:30am, ready to begin class at 8:45am.

Pick up has the same flexibility.

There is a gathering limit, and we are not permitted to have large, adult gatherings on site. The limit is 150 adults (including staff), and 1.5 metre distancing, so please can everyone keep an eye on this and move away as necessary.

Due to the gathering limit, schools have been told that immediate assemblies can only be held for staff and students.

OSH club, tennis lessons and Bricks for Kids will start again next week as normal.

The canteen will reopen with online orders I believe, but have to confirm this with the manager, Ros. I’ll speak to her about her long term plan this week, and confirm that.

Some parents may choose not to send their children to school this week and that is entirely parent choice. Health advice does say schools are safe and I encourage everyone to return.

Schools are not required to use QR codes since visitors already sign in and we have a register of everyone on site.

We plan to continue with our planned activities for pre primary and kindergarten children to help them transition. Parents you will see the classes gathering near the library and pre primary and in the kindy play area. You are able to be with your child. Please try to be COVID safe of course. These activities will be ongoing each morning, for as long as you and teachers feel they are helpful. Your teacher will chat to you about this.

Next week, staff will as always work hard to support our children during what is and has been quite a stressful time and we will have a number of staff out around the site to assist and support their arrival at school.  We also have a new Chaplain, Jason, who is able to chat to you or your child.  Teachers will definitely call you if they are at all concerned about your child during the day.  Please let your teacher and Erika Holst Marsh know if your child has experienced first hand anything that may affect them next week. If children are feeling particularly upset they absolutely don’t need to come to school, that is completely your decision.

I think it would be nice to be able to post photos on class connect groups during the week, so parents can see what’s happening in classrooms. If you prefer your child NOT to be in any photos on connect please let us (me, Lara or your teacher) know ASAP.

Next week will be week two for all schools, since lots of schools were open last week. This is particularly relevant for kindy parents. Follow the week two attendance pattern next week please.

That’s all I know for now.  Sorry this is long, but better to tell you everything. 

In the next few days we will be guided by the premier on the way forward.

Teachers will send out their email address and details of parent teacher meetings via connect as soon as possible.

All parents should have a connect account. New parents are automatically emailed a connect link on enrolment by the system, which they need to click to sign up, but sometimes the email goes into junk or is deleted by mistake as it can look a bit like spam.  If you can’t find your link or have been locked out, Lara will be able to reset your account on Monday.  Pretty much everything you need should be on our website.

The education department is currently preparing a list of FAQ, which I will study, and I’ll advise you of anything I’ve missed…

I hesitate to say enjoy the last weekend, given the trauma WA is experiencing, but hopefully children are rested and ready, and we look forward to seeing them all again on Monday.

Lisa Dentith

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