Our response to coronavirus – Wyvern
The coronavirus COVID-19 is causing understandable concern among our families, and I’m keen to ensure you are familiar with the steps Newington is taking to ensure, as far as possible, the safety of our boys, staff and community.
Information about coronavirus changes by the day and we are keeping abreast of advice from the Department of Health, NSW Health, the World Health Organisation and other reliable authorities. Links to these organisations will be readily available to the Newington community via this section on Spaces, along with all information related to COVID-19 as it relates to Newington.
I have put together some potential questions and answers below. As a rule, we will not do less than what is recommended by the Australian Department of Health and the NSW Department of Education. We may choose to do more.
How concerned should we be for our children?
To quote a well-known slogan, we should be alert but not alarmed. As adults, we have experienced major health events in the past (swine flu, ebola) and have a level of understanding that young people, inevitably, do not.
It is our role to not over-react … or under-react.
We can get by without a wall full of toilet paper. We should also be aware that the voracity of the news cycle can heighten a sense of emergency in our children that they do not need to feel. When we speak to our children, we should stress that prudent, cautious – even super-cautious – measures should not need to be conflated with a sense of emergency.
What we can tell our children
Listening to their concerns and addressing them with facts is a good way to provide a sense of calm and perspective.
Of course, not every young person will react in the same way. Many might not show outward signs of concern. Some might be anxious. In all cases, clear, factual and sensitive communication is a good way to manage these feelings. It is important that they understand most children experience coronavirus as a cold or flu.
Many groups are working on vaccines and public health measures. Explain that there may be significant disruption to our lives – but it will not be permanent.
Boys anxious about any potential disadvantage they might suffer should also understand this will be ameliorated by the fact that most people of the same age will be experiencing the same thing.
Honesty and accuracy are really important. We will talk to our boys to help them separate fact from fallacy.
If your son is experiencing feelings of anxiety and you are concerned for his wellbeing, please let us know and we can provide support to him through our pastoral care teams.
What steps is the College taking?
The College leadership group has a working plan that is being refined daily as the situation changes and new information becomes available. We are closely monitoring public health and education advice, knowing full well that in some ways we operate under their ‘umbrella’.
We have put in place several specific measures.
We have stepped up a series of hygiene measures.
Boys have been shown how to wash their hands using the 20-second rule. We have asked them to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with antibacterial wash, not to touch their faces and to cough into their elbows or into a tissue (before disposing of it). We advise them not to wear masks as a preventative measure. Medical advice is that masks are useful if you are sick to stop the spread of coronavirus … but if you are sick you should not be at school.
Shaking hands and other physical contact is being discouraged.
We have increased the frequency of cleaning in classrooms, toilets and common areas.
Additional sanitiser stations are being set up across all campuses. If you have been to your local supermarket, you will know sanitiser is in short supply, but we are still receiving deliveries at this stage.
Signs explaining good hygiene practices are being installed across the College as a reminder to both boys and staff.
What about tours, major sport events and large gatherings?
Senior school tours scheduled for the April break have been cancelled. We are monitoring tours planned for later in the year.
We are still promoting tours planned for December. Payment for them will not be due until a few months before departure. Please be aware that refunds will depend on the particular policies of each tour provider.
The upcoming Year 3 sleepover and Year 5 camp out at Wyvern have been adjusted so that boys will not stay at school overnight. The new arrangements will be communicated to parents early next week. The Wyvern Year 6 camp to Point Wolstoncroft at the end of Term 1 is still on at this stage, pending further review and liaison with the operators of that facility.
We are considering how to deal with spectators at large-scale events such as GPS Swimming and Head of the River. They are still a few weeks away and we are and working closely with the other schools involved.
We are also looking at our own assemblies and chapel. At the moment they are still on. This is certainly something I will consult on and we will respond carefully to advice from NSW Health.
How are we monitoring potential cases coming into the school?
If a student comes to school with a cold or flu symptoms, we have to isolate them in our sick bay until a parent or guardian comes to pick them up.
If you are travelling to China, South Korea or Iran in the holidays please let the College know. You will have to quarantine for 14 days before your son returns to school.
Please also be aware that several other countries are being closely monitored in relation to coronavirus, including Japan, Italy and Mongolia. This list could grow – please check the Smart Traveller website for latest updates.
How will we know if there is a case at the school?
We will be notified by the Department of Health if we have a confirmed case or someone who has been in close contact with someone who is a confirmed case.
What to do if your child is sick
Please keep your child home from school if they are unwell. If they have a fever, runny nose, sore throat and/or cough they must stay home and follow medical advice.
Otherwise, if there is any history of travel to countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus, or contact with a known case, phone your GP for advice.
Remember to regularly hand wash and practise good respiratory hygiene.
When the flu vaccine becomes available, we encourage vaccination.
Would we close the College?
We will take advice from NSW Health and act on that advice. Of course, we would also close if the Government closed a large number of schools, as has happened in China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Italy.
We don’t know how long the closure would be. That would depend on the advice of NSW Health.
What would happen if we closed the school?
We have teaching provisions and technology in place that will allow us to keep operating. We plan to keep educating our students as much as possible, particularly those students in senior years.
In our Prep schools, teachers will use online platforms such as Spaces, Canvas and Seesaw to provide educational programs.
We are examining if it will be still be possible for teachers to safely go to work, even if our students can’t.
In short, we would plan to still run, but do things differently.
We think it is significantly more likely than not that the College will remain open. We are planning for the worst but expecting to operate Newington as usual.