Executive Director’s Update to Principals #95: COVID Update - 13 Oct 2021
God of rolling waters,
God of ever-flowing streams:
the skies do seem clearer,
and the air cleaner,
and the world less littered with our mess. The earth looks more itself these days,
its resilience on fuller display.
But human nature is also more evident and your warning rings loud in our ears:
May justice and righteousness bathe us,
Let us then resume our part in creation and breathe out the joy we breathe in.
~ The Corrymeela Community
Today’s Victorian press conference
In question time of today’s Victorian press conference, Professor Brett Sutton spoke about new procedures which schools will be required to follow if there is a positive or suspected COVID case at school. The new measures will be a balanced approach to maximise safety and minimise disruption to the whole school. Professor Sutton indicated that further details will be announced on this tomorrow. Watch today’s press conference.
Managing facemask refusal
After seeking advice from CECV, students are able to continue attending on-site, even if they refuse to comply with mask wearing requirements.
We ask principals and teachers to work positively with families around this issue. Guidance around mask wearing is detailed on page 37 of the current School Operations Guide.
The more students who are wearing masks will increase the safety of the classroom even if it is not all of them.
The attached template letter (Word document) may be of assistance.
There are a number of lawful reasons for not wearing a face mask, including for staff and students who are unable to wear a face mask due to the nature of their disability, medical or a mental health condition. Further details are available on the Victorian Government Coronavirus website.
A face mask must cover the nose and mouth. Face shields, scarves or bandanas do not meet these requirements.
If a student or staff member is exempt from wearing a facemask, they are able to attend school.
Schools are not required to keep a record of students or staff members who are exempt from wearing a facemask.
Clarification on facemask age group requirements
As per COVID Update #94 (11 October), the following additional directives announced by the Victorian Chief Health Officer for school settings are now operational:
- Students in Year 3 to Year 6 to wear face masks when indoors on school premises, unless an exception applies.
- Recommends that all other children wear face masks when at school, attending an OSHC program, or when travelling to and from school on public transport, taxis or ride share vehicles.
See full details on page 37 of the School Operations Guide.
Clarification on vaccinations for cleaning contractors
As per COVID Update #94 (11 October), Public Health Directions No. 6 states that the education operator must collect, record and hold vaccination information (page 2). This applies to any person contracted to work at an education facility and who will or may be in close proximity to children, students or staff, whether or not engaged by the education operator including casual relief teachers, Breakfast Club suppliers, IT personnel, NDIS providers and auditors, but does not include delivery personnel) (page 10).
We advise schools to collect proof of double vaccination from cleaning contractors when they are likely to be in close proximity to staff, students or parents.
If a principal is confident that the cleaning contractors will not be in close proximity to staff, students and parents while on-site, proof of vaccination is not required. For example, the cleaning contractor only works outside of normal school operating hours when students and staff would not be on-site. However, principals need to consider the following extract from page 28 of the School Operations Guide in allowing cleaning contractors to be on-site whilst unvaccinated:
Contaminated surfaces transmission
Coronavirus (COVID-19) can spread when secretions or droplets from an infected person land on surfaces. The virus can live on surfaces for hours or days, depending on the temperature, humidity, type of surface, and how much of the virus is present.
If you touch an infected surface, you could become infected by then touching your nose, mouth or eyes. You could also spread the virus from one surface to another and infect other people.
For more information on the science behind COVID-19 see Facts about coronavirus (COVID-19).
A combination of strategies is required to minimise transmission risk. No single strategy completely reduces risk and not every measure will be possible in all educational settings. Where some controls are not feasible, others should be enhanced. Strategies should also be adjusted over time in line with the changing risk of transmission in the community.
Taking this into account, our current advice is that principals should seek confirmation of vaccination of cleaning contractors. If this presents a particular issue, please contact Andrew Watson to discuss.
The Vaccination FAQs have arrived from CECV this afternoon and we are reviewing them to ensure they are relevant to our diocese. These will be circulated to principals later today.
School Shade Sails Fund – CCG (Vic) Ltd grant applications
Eligible schools can apply for a grant of up to $25,000 per school to provide new shade sails or shade structures to maximise the use of their outdoor learning areas and environments.
It is important that schools note the following:
- Grants are available to eligible Victorian Catholic schools. (this includes all Primary and Secondary schools in the Diocese of Ballarat)
- Applications are now being accepted via the SmartyGrants portal which is now live, and open until Friday 12 November.
- Grants are per school, not per campus.
In addition to the information provided above we encourage you to consider a variety of options when considering what shade structure will suit your school as a shade structure to facilitate outdoor learning does not have to be of the typical variety of shade sail that we tend to see predominantly over playgrounds or sports courts etc. In some situations and circumstances a type of park shelter may be considered appropriate and can also come with many advantages such as being low maintenance, have no requirement for future engineering inspections and are quick and easy to install.
To assist you with an understanding of what options are available please see attached list of some manufactures and providers of shade structures in regional Victoria for your further exploration.
Next COVID Update
We will continue to monitor the situation and advise principals of any updates. Please liaise with the COVID Support team (see left hand column) or your Education Consultant with any questions or concerns.
Stay safe and continue to look after each other…
Deputy Director of Catholic Education (Interim)