Dear parents, guardians, and students
Welcome to 2022 school year. I hope you have been able to have a little time to relax which your children over the holiday period. The last two years have certainly given us plenty of reasons to need some family time and an opportunity to re-energise for the year ahead of us. I know that you will have many questions regarding the arrangements for Term 1 and the conflicting information from various media outlets does not help. Below you will find the important information that I have now. As we all learnt through 2020 and 2021, we have to be prepared for further change at any point in time. As usual we will do our best to meet those challenges as they arise, and we know that we will continue to support each other to achieve the best possible outcome for our children.
The following dates were distributes last year and in information packs for new students but I have included them for convenience.
Wednesday 26th January 2022
Thursday 27th January 2022
All ES staff on site
Friday 28th January 2022
Teaching staff return
Monday 31st January 2022
First day of school for Year 7 and VCE students.
Tuesday 1st February 2022
All students are at school
Year 7 students will go straight to their mini school when they arrive. This is where they spent Orientation Day last year.
What I am outlining will be practised from the start of the year
I will provide regular updates for you via the college websites and directly to the email you have supplied to the college. (If your email has changed, please make sure that you email these changes to email@example.com.)
We share with you our number one priority which is keeping our students and staff not only safe but feeling supported and acknowledged. We are extremely lucky to have our Home Group structure which enables us to support students on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis and to get information to families quickly by people who have a good knowledge of the students as well their families. Ensuring that your child’s home group teacher is the first person you contact with any concern means information is always channelled to the correct person.
We understand that while it is important that we get back into structured challenging learning we intend to be as flexible and responsive as possible to keep your children and our staff as safe as possible both physically and mentally. Throughout the term, and of course throughout the year, we warmly welcome all great ideas that support this aim.
We all recognise, as we return to another school year that this is NOT school “as usual”. Although the Omicron variant of Covid-19 appears to bring mild illness for most people, particularly those who are vaccinated, it is a serious illness for many. At the very least, it is causing havoc with businesses due to absenteeism, and is likely to be problematic for schools.
One of the challenges we will face is covering staff who are absent due to needing to isolate – either because they are a close of contact of someone with Covid-19 or have tested positive themselves. This means we are likely to have a higher than usual proportion of relieving teachers in the school, but classroom teachers will have their curriculum and assignments on Compass making sure teaching and learning can continue.
Please make sure you are across all the information below so that we can all be assured that our work/learning place is safe for all of us. This information is provided by the Department of Education.
Rapid Antigen Testing
The Department is making rapid antigen tests free for all staff and students for the first four weeks of Term 1. It is recommended (although not mandated) that students and staff take a RAT twice per week, at home, before they come to school. The best times to do this are Monday morning and Wednesday morning.
A pack of 5 RATs will be provided to students at the start of Week 1, and the start of Week 3 (assuming they have arrived by then)
Any positive result must be reported to the school.
If staff or students receive a positive test result it must be reported to your child’s Home Group teachers, the school (Thomastown.firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Department of Health. I will send you information as to how to do this once you notify me of a positive result.
We will support your child’s learning and record their absence for the 7-day isolation period. We will also let the rest of the school community know we have had a positive case onsite and that they should monitor for symptoms.
Under no circumstances will we share the name of anyone who is Covid positive. Vaccination status and health status are covered by the Privacy Act.
If we have a positive case
A ‘suspected’ or ‘symptomatic’ case means a person who displays any Covid-19 symptoms. As soon as I am aware of a suspected case in a staff member or student, and if that person has attended onsite while displaying symptoms, or 48 hours before the developed symptoms, there are a number of actions I need to follow.
- I notify the person that they need to take a RAT.
- If the RAT is positive, I will guide parents as to how to record the result with the Department of Health and complete the College record keeping.
- Students or staff who test positive must isolate for 7 days and not attend school for that period.
- Where a student is a household contact of a positive case (that is, they have spent more than 4 hours with someone who has Covid-19 inside a house, accommodation, or care facility) they must inform their Home Group teacher and isolate for 7 days and not attend school during that period.
- Staff must report the result of a positive test and request leave through their EduPay portal. Staff who report a positive result must isolate for 7 days and not attend school during that period.
- Where a staff member is a household contact of a positive case, they must inform me and isolate for 7 days and not attend school during that period.
- I will notify the school community daily if a student/students or staff member/members have returned a positive Covid-19 test result and had attended school. My notification will include dates of attendance, affected year levels/Unit and any relevant extracurricular activities.
If there are a significant number of cases, the Department of Education will work with us to managing any other actions that may need to be taken. A move to remote and flexible learning will only be used as a last resort and can only be approved by the Regional Director.
Students are expected to attend on site. Parent preference is not an approved reason for students to be absent due to Covid-19. Students who are required to isolate or quarantine will be supported in the same way as a student with an extended absence due to illness or injury, with learning materials provided to support continued learning. The school is unable to provide a remote learning program for absent students.
Medically vulnerable students
Students with medical needs must have an up-to-date Student Health Support Plan based on medical advice from their medical or health practitioner. Please contact your child’s Home Group teacher to discuss your child’s plan
QR Codes and Visitors to School
Visitors and volunteers working on site all need to check in via the QR code at the office. All parents who enter the administration buildings must also check in via the QR code and always wear a mask
Students and staff do not need to check in.
Off-site VET students
Students undertaking VET subjects on other school sites are able to continue to do so.
Students and staff returning from overseas
There are additional requirements for people who arrive from overseas. Please contact me if this applies to you.
Vaccinations for Students
There is no mandate for vaccinations for students, but vaccinations are strongly encouraged as the best way to prevent individuals, families and our community from further outbreaks and the spread of COVID-19.
We have been provided with a few air purifiers, to be placed in high traffic areas. Staff will be encouraged to keep classroom windows and doors open wherever practical. Air conditioners can be used but only if doors/windows are open to allow air circulation. on.
Where practical, teachers are encouraged to utilise outdoor spaces.
We can run extra-curricular and other out-of-classroom activities including camps, excursions, sport and tours.
However, we will be conducting a risk assessment for each activity to determine additional risk mitigation measures required. These may include:
- limiting the activity to a small cohort size
- limiting activity to outdoor spaces
- postponing the activity
- staggering groups who participating in the activity
We also need to consider the current levels of Covid-19 related absences and staffing pressures that may be associated with the running of an activity.
We will inform you prior to any camp or overnight stay of the COVID Safe measures that will be in place during the camp and seek permission – even if you provided permission last year. You need to understand that if a confirmed or probable case was present at the camp while infectious, students may be identified as household-like contacts and must quarantine for 7 days.
Physical distancing is rarely possible in a classroom situation. However, staff and
students should practise physical distancing wherever possible.
School staff are required to always wear face masks indoors when not actively teaching.
Students must wear a face mask indoors at school. Students must wear a face mask even if vaccinated.
No one is required to wear face masks outside.
When attending outdoor activities and excursions, face masks are not mandatory but must be worn indoors.
Everyone over 8 years old must wear face masks when travelling to and from school via public transport or on the school bus.
Visitors to the school must wear a face mask.
A face mask MUST cover the nose and mouth. Many students are in the habit of wearing it under their nose, or under their chin. Any deliberate and persistent non-compliance with the face masks direction will be treated as a serious matter.
Students should bring their own face masks. Cloth masks are the least effective. It is recommended that disposable masks are worn, but your child should change the mask at least twice during the day and dispose of it responsibly in the bin. N95 are the most effective face masks. The College has a small supply of masks for students whose masks may break. Please help us be reinforcing the importance of compliance with this health directive with your child.
Practise good hygiene
All staff, students and visitors should practise good hand hygiene particularly on arrival to school, before and after eating, after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, or using the toilet.
Hand sanitiser will be available in classrooms and students must sanitise their hands on entry.
It is advised that students bring their own hand sanitiser for use before and after eating, and after using the toilet.
In Conclusion…. I said at the beginning that this is no ordinary start to the school year, but we managed to get through last year without any school lockdowns and I attribute that to the fantastic support and communication by parents and the diligence of teachers. If we keep communication open and supportive of each other, maybewe can do this again in 2022.
Note. The full version of the Department of Education Operation Guide can be found of the College website under the Covid Update tab.
At Thomastown Secondary College, students are supported to strive for Individual Excellence in all aspects of their studies and in the way they carry themselves within their school community.
They are curious, creative and enthusiastic about their learning. They are encouraged to be respectful, to work collaboratively and to accept responsibility for themselves.
Teachers at Thomastown have a deep knowledge of each of their students, their particular strengths, interests and needs. Students, parents and teachers work together to promote the full development of the child.