Dear parents and carers,
Thank you for your ongoing support in keeping your children home for the duration of the stay at home orders. It has been a long, hard slog of learning from home, but the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter.
The best learning environment for students is in the classroom and we are looking forward to welcoming back our staff and students to their classrooms in Term 4. We know that while there will be excitement, there will also be some uncertainty about being back together at school.
The Department of Education has worked with NSW Health on our COVID-safe plan to return to school sites and have put in place effective practices: vaccinations for all staff on site, mask wearing, reduced mingling of staff and student groups, ventilation in classrooms and continued good hygiene and cleaning. We are confident that this, in combination with support from our school community, will minimise risk and help to keep students learning face-to-face next to their peers.
I’m sure you have many questions about the return to school and how it will work, which I will aim to address in this newsletter.
Staggered return to school dates
As announced on Thursday 7/10, the staggered return to school schedule has been brought forward:
Kindergarten and Year 1 (including 1/2S) return on Monday 18th October
All other students in Years 2-6 return on Monday 25th October
From these dates, the school will not be able to offer learning from home resources, except for students who cannot return to school due to a medical exemption. All students should be at school on the date indicated for their year group, unless:
- they have a medical certificate which says they can’t return to school due to a condition or illness
- they are currently unwell
- they have been asked by NSW Health to self-isolate.
Staggered start, finish and break times
Years K-2 will start school at 8:45 and finish at 2:45. They will have their recess and lunch breaks 15 minutes earlier than usual. Teacher supervision will be provided in classrooms between 8:30 – 8:45am.
Years 3-6 will start school at 9:05 and finish at 3:05. They will have an early lunch break (11:05 – 12:05), and an afternoon recess break (1:25 – 1:45). Teacher supervision will be provided in classrooms between 8:45 – 9:00am. Students in Years 3-6 should not arrive before 8:45am.
This system will enable us to have Years K-2 and Years 3-6 using the playground at separate times, decreasing crowding and enabling separate cohorts in the playground. It will also prevent crowding at school gates and spread out traffic in the Kiss and Go Zone. We are aware that this will cause families with children in both Years K-2 and Years 3-6 some inconvenience, for which we apologise.
Separate cohorts within the school
We will operate 5 cohorts:
- Year 1
- Year 2 (including 1/2S)
- Stage 2
- Stage 3 (including 4/5H)
Cohorts will be designated a specific area of the playground at break times, to minimise mixing between year and stage levels. Cohorts will be scheduled to use different playground areas on different days, to ensure variety and satisfy the playground preferences of different children.
Children in 1/2S and 4/5H will be permitted to play outdoors with their peers in the same year group, although they may be in a different cohort to their class (this has been approved by the network Director). The Library and the Zen Zone will not be open at break times.
Otherwise, we will endeavour to minimise mixing between students from different cohorts and the staff working with them. All classes will take place in the home classroom. Shared spaces such as the library, the hall, community languages and music rooms will not be used at this time.
Specialist teachers (including Drama, Music, Library and Languages) will provide relief from face to face teaching for one cohort only. Learning and Support Teachers and School Learning Support Officers will be working across 1-2 cohorts.
Drop off and Pick up Routines
Year K-2 students can arrive at school from 8:30am.
Year 3-6 students can arrive from 8:45am.
Children walk directly to their classroom, where they will be supervised by their class teacher prior to lessons commencing.
All gates will be open and children may enter through any gate. No parents or carers are permitted to be on the school site at this time, except for exceptional circumstances (ie picking up a child who is sick or injured).
Gates will be supervised by staff members.
Year K-2 students finish school at 2:45pm and parents should be at their assigned gate by this time. The Kiss and Go Zone at the Library Gate on Holt St will operate between 2:45 – 3:00pm.
Year 3-6 students finish school at 3:05pm and parents should be at their assigned gate by this time. The Kiss and Go Zone at the Library Gate on Holt St will operate between 3:05 – 3:20pm.
Pick up locations will be allocated by surname, as per 2020:
- Oval Gate (Cavendish St): A-F surnames
- Back Driveway (Cavendish St): G-L surnames
- Heritage Gate (Cambridge St): M-R surnames
- Garden Gate (Cambridge St): S-Z surnames
Masks will continue to be mandatory for all staff members in all settings on school sites. Masks are strongly recommended, but not mandatory, for primary school students.
We are strongly encouraging parents to send their children to school with a mask labelled with their name each day. We also have child size masks in classrooms, which will be offered to children who do not bring one.
Children will be asked to wear a mask in the classroom, and provided with a zip-lock bag to store it in their lunchbox during break times. Classes will eat lunch outdoors in designated, shaded, supervised spaces. We will not be encouraging children to wear masks in the playground, but will accommodate any child who prefers to do so.
All staff members and contractors working on site from October 18th are required to be fully vaccinated. This includes all school staff, OOSH workers, cleaners and all maintenance providers.
There is no requirement for students who are 12 years old to be vaccinated, or for parents or family members of children attending school to be vaccinated.
Next week, contractors will be working to ensure functioning windows in all spaces across the school. The goal is to have at least 1 operational window in each classroom space, and 2 or more if possible. The windows will be fitted with stoppers to ensure they meet health and safety codes. Windows cannot be opened to their full extent, as this will cause the ducted air conditioning systems to break down.
The air conditioning systems in sealed schools (such as Stanmore PS) bring fresh, filtered air into classrooms from outside, so the ducted system and the open windows need to work in combination to ensure maximum fresh airflow into classrooms. The school has also purchased HEPA air purifiers for every teaching and office space.
Hygiene and physical distancing
Classrooms will be set up to enable students to physically distance, as best possible given the size of the space. Children will be reminded to regularly wash their hands and apply hand sanitiser. All classrooms will have supplies of hand sanitiser and antiseptic wipes.
Sharing of devices and classroom equipment will be minimised wherever possible. Parents are requested to provide a small pencil case labelled with child’s name, containing lead pencils, some coloured pencils, a sharpener and an eraser. Students in Stages 2 and 3 are encouraged to bring their own device as part of the school’s optional BYOD policy.
The bubblers will be turned off, so it is essential that children bring a sturdy water bottle, clearly labelled with their full name and class. The canteen will not be operating this term, so all food will need to be supplied from home.
Our staff are very conscious of how challenging the return to school may be for some of our students. After a long time in lockdown, returning to the school environment will pose challenges for all of us at different times, in different ways.
Our teachers will have a strong focus on student wellbeing in their classrooms. Opportunities to reconnect with peers in a supported environment, fun and engaging activities which promote friendships and social connections, and explicit teaching of positive social behaviours will all be a key part of return to school programs.
I encourage you to start having conversations with your child about how they are feeling about returning to school. What are they looking forward to? What are they worried about? How will your family manage the changes to routines? Listen without judgement and don’t feel like you have to provide solutions or make things better.
I recently participated in a webinar for The Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney about supporting children’s return to school. You can watch it here →
Thank you for reading this far, and for your ongoing support. We will continue to keep you updated through all our communication channels ahead of the staggered return to school commencing on 18th October. Please contact the school via email if you have any further questions or concerns and we will be in touch as soon as possible.
Until next week,