Cautiously welcoming the staged re-opening of campuses in coming weeks, Cire Community School pulled out all stops during the tougher period of COVID-19 restrictions to ensure that all students continued to be engaged, connected and supported in such challenging times.
The school made a rapid transition to online delivery of learning and making sure all students had a digital device, to providing and delivering individual learning packs where needed to opening the Mount Evelyn campus to students unable to continue their schooling at home. Teachers have been incredibly innovative in using web-based applications to engage students in a remote learning environment
Teaching and learning support staff have been available at all times and so too has the wellbeing team who have been touching base regularly with students via phone, email and SMS to see how everyone is going.
And in the midst of the changes, the school clocked up some milestone achievements in the form of registration to expand to include grades 5 and 6 at Yarra Junction possibly from 2021, and the completion of the much-anticipated hospitality training centre at the campus.
Principal Paul van Breugel said: “I am incredibly proud of our staff and how they have worked so hard to support our students and families. Even at the best of times, our staff go above and beyond to ensure the individual care and support of each student. In this difficult period for all of us, our staff have been flexible, innovative and amazingly committed.”
Given this week’s announcement of the easing of restrictions, the school is now organising a staged re-opening of the campuses and the management of health and safety measures. All students will be able to attend face-to-face no later than Tuesday 9 June, following the Queen’s Birthday holiday on the Monday. Students who are unable to return to face-to-face teaching for health or other reasons will continue to be supported with online learning.
The possible option of online learning for a small cohort of students is one of the many benefits that have emerged from a challenging situation. One of the big bonuses of online delivery has been the access to guest speakers and subjects experts who would otherwise be unavailable.
Google Meet has allowed teachers and students to stay connected via voice and video conferencing. A welcome addition to some usual classrooms has been the introduction of guest speakers joining in remotely. A fashion student residing in the UK dropped in on Personal Development Skills Beauty via Google Classroom to speak with students while a representative from the National Gallery of Victoria joined one of the VCAL core classes.
Another guest has been Joost Bakker to talk about sustainability and in particular moving towards zero waste. Joost is the man behind fire-resistant hay bale homes and sustainable restaurants Brothel & Silo where there is no waste, not even recyclables. His new ‘0 Waste House’ project is scheduled to be assembled at Federation Square later this year.
“Online learning made this possible as Joost is very busy & this was a great opportunity while he was working from home to just join our meet,” said VCAL teacher, Catherine Gates.
The school’s rapid transition to managing the tougher COVID-19 social isolation restrictions benefitted from Cire-wide resources, as well as the school’s dedicated staff. Cire’s bus drivers have gone beyond their call of duty, with weekly deliveries of learning packs and collection of completed tasks from students living as far afield as Mooroolbark, Yarra Glen, Warburton and Powellton and numerous towns in between. The IT Department has also been kept busy ensuring students were equipped with digital devices.
Approximately 35 students are having work delivered to their homes or collecting it from the Mount Evelyn campus while the school has loaned online learning devices to those requiring them.
About 40 students have been attending the Mt Evelyn Campus for up to four days a week depending on their needs.
As the school prepares for a staged resumption, the Department of Education and Training and Victorian Chief Health Officer’s recommendations and guidelines will be followed closely.
Many logistics must first be put in place to ensure the safety of all and including physical class arrangements, hand sanitiser, cleaning, and the school bus service.
The school community will be kept up-to-date accordingly.