Boarding students given the green light to return home these holidays

Excitement builds as our boarders prepare to return home; crossing the New South Wales (NSW) border following the Queensland Government’s decision to waive strict interstate border restrictions for school boarding students.

The decision was welcomed by the Blok family, who are eagerly anticipating the return of their daughter, Greta - a Year 8 boarding student at Somerville House - to their small farm in Clunes, NSW.

Greta’s parents, Merrick Blok and Raya Brunello, said they felt relieved by Dr Jeanette Young’s decision.

“We’re happy common sense prevailed, especially for those families in remote NSW where there have been no reported cases of COVID-19,” Raya said.

The slower pace of life on the family farm allows Greta to have fun with her younger sister, Thea,  riding their horses and even helping with jobs on the property.

“Not seeing Greta during the term has been strange, but the idea of not having her home for the holidays was hard to comprehend. The holidays are so restorative for our family unit. Dinner time with all four of us at the table is so special,” she said.

Community support has made all the difference for the Blok family in dealing with the uncertainty of whether or not Greta would be returning home.

“We particularly felt the support of boarding families from Queensland who shared video stories and letters to plead for a change in the rules. We were touched to receive many messages of support,” Merrick said.

Merrick and Raya don’t profess to be tech-savvy, but the couple embraced newer methods of communication to stay connected with their daughter.

“When we don’t have the chance to speak on the phone, we send messages through our family WhatsApp group - lots of memes and the occasional inspirational quote!” Raya said.

“Zoom sessions, with family pets joining in, always make Greta laugh,” Merrick said. 

Laughing together as a family has helped Merrick and Raya to stay positive during the pandemic. Merrick works at Lee Pratt Beef, an Australian-owned beef processing company. Like many businesses, the company has experienced operational challenges due to COVID-19. 

The Blok family extend their appreciation to Principal, Mrs Kim Kiepe, and Head of Boarding, Mrs Frances Greene, for their exceptional leadership and support during this time.

“School communications have been frequent, informative and reassuring.  We enjoy reading the weekly boarding newsletter. Without being able to catch up with Greta in person, the stories, videos and photos make us feel close to her,” she said. 

These school holidays will be more gratifying than most for the Bloks, along with other Somerville House boarding families, as they relish the opportunity to be together.