Wednesday 18 March 2020

Wednesday 18 March 2020

An adult member of a Somerville House family has tested positive for COVID-19.  There is no risk to the School. This person recently returned from overseas travel.  The family has been very sensible in their approach of self-isolating and social distancing, having worked closely with Queensland Health.  The family have taken more measures than required to ensure the health and wellbeing of those around them.  The family will remain in self-isolation until medical clearance is given. 

Over the coming months, our parents, students and/or staff may become affected, or be closely related to someone who is impacted by COVID-19.  The measures to reduce the spread of the virus are expected to be in place for up to six months, possibly longer.  We must remain alert, but not alarmed – we are in this together.  During such times, please remember to show kindness and empathy to all in our school community. 

Over the past few days, there has been speculation about when schools will be required by the Australian Government to enforce mandatory shut-downs.  The Prime Minister has confirmed the following aspects at this morning’s press conference:

  • Schools will continue to remain open, acting on the advice of health authorities concerning any identified COVID-19 cases.
  • All international travellers must self-isolate on arrival in Australia for the 14 day quarantine period.
  • There is to be no international travel to any country.
  • There is to be no large scale domestic travel.
  • Social distancing will be used as a key measure to contain the spread of the virus.
  • Mass gatherings of 500+ people in outdoor venues are not to be held.
  • Mass gatherings of 100+ people in indoor venues are not to be held.
  • Non-essential gatherings must be questioned whether necessary, considering health issues.

Yesterday (17 March), the AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee) met to consider the issue of school closures concerning the community transmission of COVID-19.  At this stage, the spread of COVID-19 in the community is at quite low levels. The Committee’s advice is that pre-emptive closures of schools are not proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent community transmission of COVID-19.  They indicate that school closures for shorter defined periods may be considered as part of a suite of more stringent distancing measures at a later point in time. 

Please note the advice concerning school closures will continue to be reviewed at daily meetings of the AHPPC.  Given that COVID-19 is an evolving situation, the School is continuing to prepare for a possible mandatory school closure at short notice. 

The School’s teaching staff continue to work together to determine strategies for their subject or year level, with consideration to short-term and long-term scenarios. We are also utilising this time at school for the professional development of all teachers in our learning management system, My Subjects. We have teachers collaborating with other teachers to run sessions via our learning platforms so that we can remain flexible in our response to this situation. 

On Tuesday (17 March), students were asked to log in from 7.00pm to 8.00pm and work as they would a normal school day. During this time, the IT staff monitored the servers and bandwidth and were able to determine that the School’s infrastructure was sufficient for a possible school closure, with all students and staff working from home.  While we can be assured that our ICT infrastructure will hold up in the event of a possible school closure, your home internet may be affected by congestion in your local area, which could cause slowness or delays in accessing resources.

There is much valuable work being undertaken at Somerville House at present, and which is placing us in the very best position to continue to support the learning of our students in the event of a possible school closure.  

The Pandemic Management Team are monitoring the advice from the Australian Government and health authorities on a day-by-day-basis.  We will continue to monitor the situation closely and endeavour to keep open communication with our staff community.  Until such time, I would ask for your continued attentiveness in implementing the range of strategies to reduce the transmission of COVID-19:

  • Practise social distancing measures, whenever possible, by staying 1.5m away from others.
  • Avoid kissing, hugging, shaking hands and other forms of contact.
  • Avoid visiting any people in aged care facilities or hospitals, or people who have compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment.
  • No collaborative style of group work.
  • Distance will be placed between desks, where possible, to observe the social distancing measures.
  • Practise good hand, sneeze and cough hygiene. Wash hands regularly with soap or use the hand sanitizers, if the soap is unavailable.
  • Cover mouth with elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing, with immediate disposal of used tissues.
  • Avoid touching your face and mouth.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep open communication with our community via email and our school website.