Executive Director’s Update to Principals #10: COVID Update - 16 February 2022
God of the branches, God of the vine, God of the fruit that will last,
when much of the familiar is pruned away,
the work routine, the school run,
the certainty of our day – may we see what is good and true blossom in reassuring ways:
colleagues working as one,
children learning from home,
May these days of great disruption bear out what is always true:
that we can reach others with the love you provide
when we remain in you.
Continuity of Learning Protocols
Over the past week, we have seen a significant increase in positive cases of COVID in our schools and we would like to acknowledge the outstanding efforts you are making on a daily basis to maintain an effective educative environment in your schools. As positive cases continue, we understand that one of the critical challenges is related to staff shortages.
In Executive Director’s Update to Principals #5: COVID Update - 28 January 2022 we published protocols to work through in the event of staff shortages. There are also some very basic pieces of correspondence to adapt, should class groups or year levels be required to stay home. As always, please reach out to your Ed Con if there are specific contextual concerns.
While your hard work to ensure continuity of learning continues, you may consider revisiting in your newsletter over the coming weeks that the school may be required to make decisions regarding your ability to provide quality learning and teaching and an adequate duty of care in the event of a high number of staff absences.
A sample statement may be:
COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Facilities) Order
To limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) within the population of school settings, Victoria’s Minister for Health has released COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specific Facilities) Order 2022 (no. 5) (the ‘Order’).
The Order, as updated from time to time, impose obligations on DOBCEL as the operator of Catholic primary and secondary schools in the Diocese of Ballarat in relation to the vaccination of employees, contractors and volunteers.
The Order requires DOBCEL to:
- collect, record and hold certain vaccination information about all education workers, including principals, deputy principals, secondary school business managers, teachers (including emergency teachers and pre-service teachers), support staff, contractors and volunteers
- take reasonable steps to prevent entry of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated workers to the specified facility for the purposes of working.
All education workers are required to provide evidence of their fully vaccinated (boosted) vaccination status in accordance with the following key dates:
- for education workers that became fully vaccinated with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine on or before 25 October 2021:
- be fully vaccinated (boosted) with three doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine by 25 February 2022, or;
- have a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner and submitted to Services Australia.
- for education workers that became fully vaccinated with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine after 25 October 2021:
- be fully vaccinated (boosted) with three doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine by 15 March 2022, or;
- have a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner and submitted to the Australian Immunisation Register.
- Where a new or existing employee is unable to meet the required deadlines to be fully vaccinated (boosted) with an approved COVID-19 vaccine, they will be deemed to be either partially vaccinated or unvaccinated and will not be able to attend for duties on-site.
- DOBCEL remains committed to supporting the best interests of the physical health and psychological wellbeing of the students, employees and families in our schools in conjunction with appropriate government recommendations or directives to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and wider community.
- Updated guidance and supporting materials will be provided to principals in due course to assist in implementing the Order, including the requirements to collect, record and hold vaccination information for all school staff who are, or may be, scheduled to attend a school managed and operated by DOBCEL by the fully vaccinated (boosted) dates.
- By 25 February 2022, all education workers fully vaccinated with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine on or before 25 October 2021 are to be fully vaccinated (boosted) with an approved COVID-19 vaccine, unless a medical exemption applies, and to show evidence of their vaccination status.
- By 15 March 2022, all education workers fully vaccinated with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine after 25 October 2021 are to be fully vaccinated (boosted) with an approved COVID-19 vaccine, unless a medical exemption applies, and to show evidence of their vaccination status.
DOBCEL Principals should:
- ensure all school staff are directed to review the Weekly Newsletter (issued Wednesday 16 Feb 2022), or make available to all staff, contractors or volunteers engaged by the school the Memorandum regarding the Vaccination Mandate and Frequently Asked Questions.
- communicate the COVID-19 vaccination (booster) key dates to all school staff.
- exercise flexibility in enabling employees to make and attend third dose vaccination appointments.
- record the necessary vaccination information via the locally maintained updated Vaccination Information Register. You may choose to simply add the new columns (additional information) to your current register.
- ensure that the vaccination status of employees is also updated on the CEVN PRS either by the employee or centrally by the school.
Principals are not able to provide staff with health advice and should encourage employees who have any health concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccination to speak with their general practitioner and to consider the information at www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au regarding COVID-19 vaccines/testing.
RI/MPJP principals are encouraged to use any of these resources or processes if you feel they enhance or support your approach.
Update to Pandemic Orders
The Victorian Government has made several changes to the Pandemic Orders. The majority of the changes reflect the current practices in place by schools.
Additional Industry Obligations Order
The Additional Industry Obligations Order has been amended (now no.6) to include ‘schools’ and ‘childcare or early childhood services’ as part of the list of industries to which the Order applies.
This means that schools and childcare or early childhood services are recommended, but not mandated, to:
- carry out surveillance testing on workers.
- direct staff who test positive from a RAT to self-isolate.
- direct an employee to undertake a PCR test if they have 2 successive invalid RAT results, and immediately self-isolate until a negative PCR test is received.
- keep records of surveillance testing.
Specified Facilities Order
The Specified Facilities order has been amended (now no.4) to clarify booster deadlines. The Order has been amended to clarify the exceptions with regard to being fully vaccinated with a booster.
Division 2, Section 11 allows for an employer to allow a worker who is not boosted by 25 February 2022 or 15 March 2022 to work onsite where:
- the worker was unable to become fully vaccinated (boosted) before the relevant deadline because they were in self-quarantine or self-isolation under the Quarantine, Isolation and Testing Order; and
- the worker has a booking to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that will cause the worker to become fully vaccinated (boosted), within 14 days of the end of the period of self-quarantine; or;
- if the worker was in self-isolation because they were a diagnosed person (PCR) or they were a probable case (RAT) and they received a positive result from a PCR test undertaken during the period of self-isolation, and has a booking to receive a booster within 4 months of the end of the period of self-isolation.
Local Register - Updated Requirement for Reporting
The Department of Health (DH) have received the first report from the Diocese of Ballarat for weeks 1 to 3 of Term 1, 2022. Thank you for providing this information to CEB to enable us to respond to this reporting request.
DH have requested that we report weekly the daily case numbers separately for students and for staff for each school location, not a total for the week. A reminder, we are happy to receive a copy of your local register to avoid duplication of effort. CEB will redact all staff/student names to ensure only de-identified reporting.
To ensure DOBCEL meets the reporting requirements for Board and Government, all schools in the Diocese of Ballarat are required to email their local register to Catholic Education Ballarat (CEB) via firstname.lastname@example.org by 10.00 am Friday 11 February 2022.
Third Dose Vaccinations Now Available to Ages 16-17
COVID-19 third dose vaccinations are now available to 16-17-year-olds who had their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine three or more months ago.
The response of our young people to the call to get their first and second dose vaccinations has been outstanding, with 95.68% now having received their second dose.
The Victorian Government is seeking support to encourage students, parents, carers and guardians of young people aged 16 and over to book in third dose vaccinations for their children as soon as possible.
We are providing several resources that you can share with students and families, if you determine that this may be beneficial for your school community:
- Letters for students encouraging vaccination
- Letters for parents encouraging vaccination
- Template newsletter content
If you have concerns about sending this letter because of anti-vaccination campaigning in your school community, please contact your Education Consultant.
Air Purifier Cleaning and Filter Requirement
General advice on Air purifiers, their placement and use can be found pages 27 and 28 of the existing Operations Guide. In short, the filters should be cleaned twice a term and this is a routine process outlined in the operation guide. There was a question last week regarding sourcing the replacement HEPA filters as they become due (every 6-12 months). This is addressed in the School Operations Guide which says that schools will be provided with replacement filters as this time approaches.
Thank you for everything you are doing to keep our school communities safe.
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…
Assistant Director: People and Development