School goes above and beyond to support students & families

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.



Timely focus on loneliness

“Loneliness: the solution is community” is a particularly significant theme for Neighbourhood House Week 2020 this week, given the varying levels of social restrictions and lockdowns globally.

So, with people having to stay home, how can we connect with each other to maintain our sense of community? We hope the following might help.

It is great news that we can now welcome up to five friends or family members into our homes, or catch up outdoors in groups of up to 10, especially for those who have been missing their loved ones. However, please remember to maintain safe distancing and hygiene practices.

With the easing of some restrictions, some of our community’s most vulnerable people will still be isolated, so you might like to drop a note in their letterbox, offering assistance. Cire has created a simple form to offer your support.

Our Hubs team is proud to be part of the Community House network and help with the Outer East phone chat line. For anyone bored, isolated, lonely or just wanting someone new to talk to, we are here Monday – Friday 10.00am – 1.00pm and Monday – Thursday 5.00pm – 9.00pm or we can schedule callbacks outside of these times.  To get in touch for a chat, give us a call on 1800 984 825.

For those on Facebook, or other social media platforms, there are many ways to keep in touch. Now, more than ever, we are using our Community Hubs Facebook page to share information and stay connected with locals. Social media is a great way to have everyday interactions with family and friends, but it’s also full of groups to join.  If you have an interest, there’s sure to be a group of like-minded people.  We’ve been enjoying our “Lock-Down Lego” challenges, as a way to create connections with those who enjoy building.

Another option to grow your digital community is the “Next Door” website.  This platform helps people connect with their neighbours, posting information, as well as offers of goods, services or support.  As always, remember the core cyber-safety principles, and never share your personal information online.

Cire Craft Group

Cire Community Hub Craft Group catching up via Zoom

It has been exciting to see the ways that people have embraced using technology to engage with each other.  I had heard of FaceTime and knew that Messenger (Facebook) had a video call option, but I would have never thought that words like “Zoom” and “WebEx” would become so familiar, or add-ons like Microsoft Teams and Google Meet would become life-lines connecting with my colleagues. One of my favourite COVID-19 responses is the way our “crafters” have adapted to catching up via Zoom, rather than their usual Wednesday morning tea at the Chirnside Park Community Hub.  Chatting about current craft projects, grandchildren and offering mutual support is being done via video meeting, but the joy of connection is still very much alive.

Don’t forget our Hubs team is here for anyone needing some assistance in becoming familiar with using technology to connect to others.  Just give us a call on 1300 835 235, or email us at for more information.

Toilet paper donation delivers much joy

Who’d ever thought a gift of toilet paper would bring joy to the faces of so many people.

That’s been the case in the Yarra Ranges where Cire distributed hundreds of packs of toilet

Cire Vacation Care - Woori Yallock

Mum Kiah and child Tasma (YOSHC and Woori Vacation Care) with Quilton

paper on behalf of Quilton as part of its coronavirus campaign to support people most in need during the unprecedented paper shortage when commodities such as toilet paper were like ‘gold’.

The gesture certainly brightened the days of people ranging from families where there has been the loss of employment and with children unable to comprehend the need to limit their use of certain items;  to elderly people and those experiencing the challenges of mental health issues and have been too scared to leave their homes to shop for basics.

One family with four children was ‘over the moon’ when presented with two packs of toilet paper whilst an elderly woman, living on her own and relying on others to shop for her, said her neighbours had each given her a roll to ensure she had some supply but it was ‘worrying’.

Quilton was quick to launch a campaign to donate 1,000,000 rolls of toilet paper to those Australians who needed it most, in response to the initial panic buying and paper shortage crisis.

Cire was linked up with Quilton through its valued partnership with by Good360, a not for profit that receives surplus new goods from companies and manufacturers and distributes them to registered charities to ensure they reach the people most in need. Cire, and the communities it serves, has benefitted enormously from the Good360 network.

‘It’s been our absolute pleasure to help communities throughout the Yarra Ranges. Cire is uniquely local and has a long and established reputation and history in the region and that’s why we chose Cire to help distribute the toilet paper to those who needed it most, the elderly and the disadvantaged,’ said Quilton Campaign Spokesperson, Matthew Ngai.

Morgans Winery and Distillery at Seville

Michele and Simon Gunther, owners of Morgans Winery and Distillery at Seville

In a further act of COVID kindness, Cire received much-appreciated support from Morgans Winery and Distillery at Seville in the form of hand sanitiser, one of the ‘new golds’ in this C-19 environment. Morgans has been producing the sanitiser to help meet demand, as well as provide ongoing employment for its team.

The hand sanitiser is essential particularly for Cire Children’s Services which has continued to remain open, and Cire Community School which now has some students attending its Mount Evelyn campus.

Cire Children’s Services operates long daycare with integrated kindergarten programs, and occasional care, providing vital support for parents particularly those working in essential services. The availability and regular use of hand sanitiser and regular disinfecting of all areas help minimise any risk of C-19, helps reassure and instill confidence in all our users and also fosters a culture of safe practice.

Cire CEO, Gus Seremetis said it is tremendous to see how people are reaching out and supporting each other in such challenging times, and in all shapes and forms.

‘Cire feels privileged to receive any form of assistance that helps us to continue to deliver services to those most in need, to the best of our ability, and in the safest possible way for both our staff and users,’ she said.

 “We particularly value our ongoing partnerships with organisations such as Good360 which normally distributes surplus new products to NFPs but is sourcing items in high demand to help provide relief where it is most needed.”