Friday 13 March 2020

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Community COVID-19 information

When I heard about the coronavirus all those weeks ago I must admit I didn't pay much attention. Just another foreign epidemic that would have little or no effect on me. How short-sighted I was in that outlook – and I am certainly not the only one.

The world is such a small place these days, with millions of people visiting other countries every day. Despite still waiting for my hoverboard, some of those science fiction movies I used to watch in the 1960s no longer seem so exaggerated.

As I mentioned in the communication sent on Wednesday, the College is being well-supported by Catholic Education WA (CEWA) and Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) during this escalating community concern. Government agencies are being proactive with their advice and communication, and all of this provides us with a sound baseline to make our decisions. At today's College Leadership Team meeting, Deputy of Teaching & Learning Scott McDonnell presented a plan for students to be able to continue their education in the event of face-to-face lessons being suspended (Educational Continuity Plan). In the case that this happens, it may be pertinent for families with both parents working to begin to discuss contingencies with your employers in the event that your son is confined at home for an extended time. Likewise, studying from home will require internet access and download capacities that may not currently be available to some students. If this is the case, once you have reviewed the Educational Continuity Plan which will be distributed this afternoon, please contact the College for information on how to proceed. There remains the possibility that there may be some issues the College simply cannot address, but we will do our best to ensure that teaching and learning continues for every student.

The College has also adjusted our Emergency Response Plan to include a specific COVID-19 plan. Further information will be communicated next week, and likely to keep coming out as the situation evolves. I ask that all families take the time to make sure they are across the briefings, especially when it comes to self-isolation and any contact with family or friends who may have been overseas or had other high-risk exposure to the virus.

CEWA has issued a six-point plan, which we are completing to schedule.

This week we completed the preparation phase, which includes:

  1. Establishing a COVID-19 incident response team and identify staff who are willing to temporarily care for affected students and staff. Staff who have pre-existing medical conditions should not be considered for this group.
  2. Ensuring that all students, parents, staff and visitors to the school are made aware of the requirements for good hygiene, the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, and in the case of a suspected case of COVID-19, the requirements for self-isolation and management.
  3. Working with students and staff who may have medical conditions that make them more susceptible to infection to put a management plan in place to support them in the event of an outbreak of the virus. Parents need to be pro-active with this by contacting the College.
  4. Ensuring that an appropriate area is identified to isolate a student or staff member in the event that they display symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.
  5. Identifying a secure area where any close contacts of the infected person can be assembled.
  6. Ensuring adequate supply and ready access to Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and hygiene supplies.
  7. Ensuring that parents, students and staff are kept up to date with current Health Department advice regarding the COVID-19 virus.
  8. Ensuring that cleaning regimes are adequate.
  9. Ensuring that all parent/guardian contact details are up to date. Can all parents make sure that the contact details the College has on its database are correct.
  10. Ensuring visitor logs are maintained and include visitor contact details.
  11. Ensuring all COVID-19 incident response team members are familiar with the following steps, assigning tasks as required:
    • notification of COVID-19 infection,
    • protocol if the infected individual is present at school,
    • notification protocols,
    • need for suspension of face-to-face education (students study from home),
    • communication to parents about any required action, and
    • follow-up before recommencing face-to-face education (any required cleaning and hygiene procedures).

EREA has determined a zero-symptom-tolerance threshold for its schools. If a student or staff member presents with flu-like symptoms (fever, coughing, sore throat and fatigue and or shortness of breath), the community member will be sent home, with medical follow-up requested and acted upon.

For cases of COVID-19, exclusion should remain in place until the patient is medically cleared to return to school.

All tours, national and international, have been suspended until further notice. The College strongly advises that families reconsider their travel plans for the upcoming school holidays. Our boys must quarantine themselves at home for 14 days before returning to school if they have visited China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy or South Korea.

Please also be aware that several other countries are being closely monitored in relation to coronavirus, including Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia. There is the possibility that these countries, and others, could be added to the quarantine list at any time. Please check the Smartraveller website for the latest updates.

At this stage, the College Ball and all other scheduled College events will be going ahead. There has been no directive from government authorities or from our administrative body to instruct us otherwise. We can perhaps bask in the comfort that Perth is reported to be the most isolated city in the world, but rest assured that we are closely monitoring the situation and take each day as it comes. Closer to the Year 12 event, our students will be provided with information for themselves and their partners on the recommended procedures at social gatherings.

The strength of a community is most tested during difficult moments. We have an obligation to each other to stay informed and err on the side of safety in consideration of others. I can assure you that neither I, nor the staff, ever covered COVID-19 in our studies, but with the help of the experts, your unwavering support and a calm, rational plan and response we will make the best of any situation the College faces. I trust this information is useful for you and we will continue to keep you updated as more information comes to light. In the event that there is something you feel we may have missed, or could do better, feel free to contact the College, or me personally on 0400 880 861.

Mr Domenic Burgio
Principal