Spotlight On: Returning to Campus

15 May 2020

This article first appeared in Queenwood News Weekly 15 May 2020

‘I love school.’

This was the happy sigh of one of our Year 10s at the end of her first day back. It is hard to convey what a difference it makes to have the girls back! There were squeals and shouts and lots and lots of laughter – guaranteed to put a spring in our step – and the campus started to feel like it should again.

It is still a time of adjustment. As one of the Year 12s said to me: ‘I’ve forgotten how to do school.’ We are all emerging, blinking, into the sunlight. The whole process feels different with real, live people and for some girls it felt a little overwhelming at first.

The staged return to campus has allowed us all to adjust gradually to the usual routine and also test the various measures we have put in place to manage hygiene and physical distancing. Those procedures will be further refined we prepare for increased attendance so we have warned girls of the need for flexibility and patience. To be honest, though, they were just so thrilled to be back that we could have got them to agree to anything!

Looking ahead, we feel confident that we can bring back Year 11 next week for three days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), as anticipated in our previous communications. All other girls will continue the pattern of attendance previously advised (see below for a reminder).This gives us the flexibility and the time we need to refine our procedures before high numbers return.

We will continue to monitor COVID-19 case statistics and public health advice closely. I am fervently praying for continued good news and – barring any unforeseen developments – we expect and are planning for the full return of all students from Week 5 (Monday, 25 May). We will confirm the decision on Wednesday of next week via email. I’m sure everyone appreciates by now that circumstances can change rapidly, but it is probably worth stating explicitly that we are always conscious that a sudden outbreak could interfere with our plans. Nevertheless, we have good cause for optimism and we can’t wait to welcome the girls back.

I know you will be as excited as we are at the thought of resuming school. As I have been speaking to the girls this week, I have also been reminding them that there could be setbacks. We all need to be aware that it will be hard to control the virus as we ease restrictions. If a case arises in the School, we would close for a short period to allow cleaning and contact tracing. More generally, if the population becomes complacent, a second wave of infections could easily push us back into online mode. We need to be honest with the girls about the possibilities to ensure that they are well prepared for an uncertain future.

We are working on further detail for the girls’ full-time return but I take the opportunity now to reiterate some important ways in which we seek your support:

  • Girls must not come to school sick. For the safety of everyone, there can be no leeway on this.

  • Anyone showing cold or flu symptoms should get a COVID-19 test. Too few people in NSW are doing this but if we want schools (and parks and shops and businesses) to remain open ‘lifting testing rates will become increasingly vital’. As social distancing restrictions are eased, we cannot emphasise this enough.

  • To quote Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly: ‘Now is the time to get your flu vaccine.’

  • I also note that we are allowing Senior School girls to carry (but not use) their phones during the day to allow the COVIDSafe App to support tracking and tracing.

Please see the notices below for important information about the canteen, Q buses and so on. We are also developing further details for issues like traffic management as we expect more cars at pick-up and drop-off from 25 May, and we will share these arrangements in the newsletter next week.

I have been smiling all week at the simple pleasure of being together so I will finish with a lovely note a teacher received this week:

I am writing to let you know that the verdict from my six-year-old this
afternoon is that she had “THE best day ever” at school today.

Thank you for bringing her such happiness, and for your
unwavering patience and diligence over the past couple of months.

You have made my heart sing this afternoon!

A great way to go into the weekend.