1 May 2020

Community COVID-19 Update #8

Dear Parents and Families of CBC Fremantle,

I hope this communication finds you well.

I just wanted to provide a brief update on how the first few days have gone. I have already had many meetings with my colleagues, Principals from other schools and EREA and CEWA executives and I am happy to report that it seems we are doing well as a community, albeit you can never please everyone.

I have been approached by a few parents questioning CEWA’s decision to enter Term 2 a little more cautiously than what the state government would like. A Catholic education places all its individual members at the centre of its decisions. You may have read that the government is providing $43 million to its schools for extra cleaning and sanitising. Catholic schools have had to provide that service from their existing resources. Given our boys, your children, and our staff should not be treated with any less dignity and care, the softer start has enabled us to plan and prepare for everyone’s safe return, ensure supplies of soap and sanitiser have arrived and contract extra cleaning services. These are all things that are in huge demand at the moment and despite ordering and preparing weeks beforehand, we couldn’t assume they would necessarily arrive or be put in place by day one. Another thing that CEWA and EREA have done is provide conditions of work to its employees that exceed those in other sectors. This pastoral approach is what I hope you agree makes this community so special. Again, we have extended to our staff some time to prepare for the change that was decided by the government during the break. Clearly, some of those conditions will be wound back as things progress, but whenever the greatest care is offered to the staff of a school, there can be no excuse to then not extend the greatest of care to the students of that school.

What I am happy to report is that we had responded to some parent feedback that our online learning was lacking a little in interaction and real-time accountability. We had planned for Years 7 to 10 boys to receive a minimum of two lessons per week in real-time and face-to-face via Microsoft Teams for the next few weeks. After the first few days our attendance is more than 90% for upper school and heading towards 50% in Years 7 to 10. The staff are very keen to return to face-to-face learning for all students as soon as possible and, from the overwhelming feedback from parents, this sentiment is shared.

Now what that means in every case is that the level of learning for both the boys who are attending school and those whose parents are choosing to keep them at home will be matched or improved.

We are still discussing the re-commencement of our face-to-face lessons for all Years, with consultation from the appropriate authorities, but it appears at this stage that all Years will be receiving face-to-face lessons as early as Wednesday 6 May or at the latest Monday 11 May.

The following two paragraphs describe the arrangement currently in place for Years 11 and 12 and, when face-to-face lessons recommence, will be extended to all students.

If a student is absent from face-to-face lessons, the teacher will use Microsoft Teams to video their lesson and present it live to the students at home. They start the conference call with the students at home with a recording running. They then deliver the lesson as per normal with the absent boys viewing it live. After the class, all students have the ability to replay the lesson. During the lesson, the teacher and absent students should have the chat function running so they can ask questions without disrupting the class. Please be aware this may not be possible for some practical classes, eg Woodwork and Metalwork.

Some of our staff (very few) are medically compromised and have advice not to attend the College in the short term. The students in Years 7 to 10 whose teacher may be working from home will be supervised in their scheduled room, where possible, by a teacher of the same learning area, while the teacher at home remotely delivers the lesson. The teacher records the lesson, which can be replayed at any time by the class if they wish, and students can then ask any follow-up questions via the Teams Chat.

A number of other safety measures are being undertaken as well as being ramped up. Obviously, some precautions such as wiping down every surface the boys may contact are logistically impossible. One thing that I have come to realise is that social distancing is absolutely impossible to impose on the boys. No matter how many times we ask, no matter how many signs we put up, they seem to gravitate to each other’s person like moths to a flame. The other thing that can’t be delivered in most classes is the 4sqm and 1.5m social distancing that applies on the other side of the fence.

The reason I commit to you what we can and can’t deliver, is that I want you to make the best possible decision for your son and family. The following summarises this message:

  • All boys are welcome back to the College.
  • The staff are very keen to return to face-to-face learning for all students as soon as possible and, from the overwhelming feedback from parents, this sentiment is shared.
  • All decisions made by parents are absolutely respected and no-one should feel forced one way or the other, or judged in any way for the decision they feel best supports their sons.
  • It is likely that some time next week we will revert to face-to-face teaching for all our boys, not just those in Years 11 and 12.
  • The model of face-to-face teaching provides, at the least, an equal model of learning for the boys and, in many cases, a superior lesson delivery. Boys staying at home will be accountable in real time for their participation, will be able to listen to and follow the entire lesson, ask questions during the lesson via a chat function and watch the lesson or parts thereof afterwards.
  • Social distancing between boys is actively being promoted and physically supported by some logistical changes, but very difficult to guarantee.

In conclusion, thank you to all our families for their feedback, their generosity (many, many gifts, cards, messages and offers of financial support to others) and their patience. It was inspiring and uplifting to see many of our boys this week. We hope, with a continuation of the measures in place to control the COVID-19 spread, we will slowly but surely move back to normalcy. One of the measures being used and that you may consider for the safety of everyone at CBC Fremantle, provided you are comfortable with it, is to get your son to download the COVIDSafe app. Every ounce of ability I possess has been challenged over the past weeks and I hope the staff I lead, support and am proud to call my colleagues have been able to deliver. I know that if I, or they, haven’t reached the standard expected of some, it has not been through a lack of effort and love. Please call me if you need any further information.

God bless,

Mr Domenic Burgio