Q: Is the school “closing” or remaining “open”?
A: First, we need to delineate the difference between “school” and the “physical campus”. The “school” remains open because classroom learning K-12 has continued through virtual online learning platforms, with online daily face-to-face teacher-led lessons planned until further notice. The “physical campus” is closed to most students, with the exception being “essential and emergency workers’” children, and those who have no internet at home, or have a special set of circumstances where they cannot care for their child at home.
For these people, students are supervised on site, but the learning method is the same for all students regardless of where they are physically located. We have students accessing classes throughout most Australian states/territories, even overseas, and of course locally.
Note: I have been made aware by several parents that a number of larger business employers are only supporting their employees to work from home “if they can provide documentation to demonstrate the school is closed”. This is problematic because virtually all schools in all sectors are progressively keeping a skeleton staff onsite for essential works, and many schools are continuing to deliver online learning in varying capacities and are therefore “open” because learning continues, along with essential supervision. I don’t think any school is going to advise they are “closed” at this stage. The media and government are using simplistic terminology regarding staying open or closed but it isn’t that black and white from a school’s perspective, as indicated above. I appreciate this makes it challenging for employee-parents of younger children, especially, who are in this predicament. If you are completely caught in the middle and cannot supervise your children or have no alternatives, we will do our best to assist you. Also contact us if additional literature from us to explain the situation and criteria for attending school (restricted group) may assist you.
Q; How will the ‘virtual campus’ work?
A: Ostensibly, by using Zoom online software collaboration technology to host teacher-student lessons and interactions every school day. A timetable exists for all students, which is modified for Junior School and largely unchanged for Senior School. The Canvas learning management system will be used as always in addition for Years 7 to 12. Other resources that teachers will provide to students will be communicated directly by individual teachers.
Q: What technology is needed by my child?
A: K-5 need an iPad which our school can supply to virtually all Junior School students as needed. Year 5 can choose a laptop if they prefer. Year 6 onwards require the usual laptop they were already bringing to class.
We recommend headphones for any student in the same room as another student, or where external noise is an issue.
Software links for Zoom have been sent to all students. Some students require additional software and these have also been supplied.
All students will need internet access for classes. If internet is a concern, refer to the next question.
Q: What if our home internet isn’t adequate for speed or data allowances?
A: For those with no internet services available at their home address, and no access to internet elsewhere, learning at school may be the best alternative. Some opportunities to dial in via telephone line are still being investigated but this will be for sound only, not visual access, which limits some aspects of learning, in some instances.
For those with satellite-only options, depending on plans and data, the above advice may be relevant. Check with your provider for speeds and data allowances, as they vary across providers and plans.
For those with 4G-only access, most likely you will have higher speeds, but data allowance may be the issue of concern. We advise you to contact providers, as almost all have month-to-month options available to increase data for a period of time. For those in fixed contracts it is worth checking with providers to see what options exist. With adequate data, 4G is an excellent internet option. If you need a few days to sort out the limitations, we can host students in the short term.
For those with ADSL and NBN, there are ample plans available for data allowances, although speeds may be modest in this area, and this is something to monitor as the learning environment gets under way and matures over the days and weeks ahead.
Q: How can I optimise Internet limitations?
A: Lower the image quality from HD to SD on Zoom (go to settings) if bandwidth is an issue. You may choose to shut off the camera setting for some or most of the lessons, but maintain presence via microphone and speaker. The teacher may turn on your camera now and then to check on the student, but will allow it to be off where the internet poses a problem for students.
Q: Who do I contact with IT technical issues for school-related matters?
The remote online learning support team can be contacted using the following channels:
Online (Support Request): https://www.smgs.nsw.edu.au/remotesupport
Phone: (02) 6451 2460
Q: What timetable will operate?
A: Teachers will be logging on every day with their classes. The Junior School has published a timetable in Article #6b. The Senior School will be operating with its normal timetable, aside from some small changes stated in Article #6c. Please refer to these for more information.
Q: Are there exceptions to students staying home to learn online in our Virtual Campus?
A: Yes. By default, we have asked students to learn from home (see Article #10) utilising our Virtual Campus – remote online learning platform (see Articles #6b, c and d). However, not everyone can do this, and we accept and understand this.
We recognise that some ‘essential and emergency services’ parents cannot look after their children as they provide essential services to our community. Also, some families live in ‘black spots’ for internet coverage. In addition, some families have unique circumstances that we need to take into consideration. For all these families, we are providing supervision on campus for a limited number of students who are in genuine need of daily supervision that cannot occur at home.
Please note that for these students, the experience is exactly the same – via remote online learning as stated elsewhere. The only difference is that they are sitting at school and being supervised by some staff (teacher’s aides in Junior School, boarding staff and our librarian in Senior School) who are not their classroom teachers – some school leaders are also assisting with supervision. This service is available for those in need and we will provide it for as long as we are able to do so.
Q: Who will be supervising my child if they have to come to school?
A: Article #10 covers this information – teachers will all be busy teaching their classes online. Therefore, they are not available to supervise students at the same time. Instead, students who need to come to the campus will be primarily be supervised by teacher’s aides within the Junior School. For the Senior School, boarding supervisors, our librarian and some administrative staff will primarily supervise students in the Library building. In both cases, a skeleton teaching staff will also supervise where possible and senior leaders will oversee this process and also be working from campus in most instances. The teachers and leaders will take overall responsibility for the supervision.
I need to emphasise that we do not have the quantity of teachers to teach online explicitly in a scheduled timetable situation and additional teachers to supervise those learning online from school. Students can access their teachers online for all questions and assistance requirements. Most teachers will be working remotely.
Q: What do students wear in their online lessons or at school for those attending?
A: Students learning at home may wear non-school uniform, attired appropriately at all times. Students learning on campus must wear either the sports uniform or day uniform.
Q: What happens if my child does not attend their online class as scheduled?
A: Teachers will still mark the roll every lesson. If your child is ill or absent for any reason, please still advise the school reception (or leave a message) so we can mark them accordingly on our master system which all teachers access to determine if they consider the student to be ‘in class’ online.
If students are marked present on the master system, and then absent for one individual class (i.e. they are missing from that particular class), the teacher will flag that to the school reception and school leaders for appropriate follow-up, much the same as is always practised.
For ongoing unexplained absences, school leaders may need to contact parents to alert and discuss concerns about daily online attendance.
Q: Does my child still do tests, examinations and assignments?
A: Assignments, yes. Unless advised otherwise, assignments remain as scheduled and these were previously communicated earlier in Term 1. For class tests, teachers have autonomy liaising with Heads of Faculty and the Director of Curriculum to modify some in-class tests. Formal examinations are presently being considered and academic leaders will advise soon of any decisions made.
Q: What about NAPLAN?
A: NAPLAN has been cancelled in 2020 by ACARA for all schools in Australia.
Q: What about the HSC?
A: The HSC is continuing. Discussions are occurring by authorities who administer the HSC. If any changes occur at all, we will advise you immediately. For now, we advise all students to continue to focus and keep on with their learning and assignments. More information will be provided to our HSC cohort in due course.
Q: Will my child still have access to Educational Support?
A: Yes. However, this will be quite different in most cases as the learning environment has changed dramatically and quickly. Our educational support staff are working with teachers to provide advice where current support can be maintained without modification and where modifications are required. All teachers of individual students have a copy of the Individual Support Plan (ISP) / Individual Educational Plan (IEP) and know of all modifications to implement and transition those to the virtual learning environment.
Q: Will my child have access to our School Counsellor or wellbeing initiatives?
A: Yes, if needed. Please contact our school counsellor for more information. In relation to wellbeing initiatives, our teaching staff are providing opportunities for students to connect daily with their peers for social discussion. Some of these will be guided by teachers.
Q: Will Academic Endeavour and Academic Honours still be awarded?
A: In the Senior School, where this exists, there are no plans not to continue with this award structure. However, we will need to review results for the term and semester ahead and evaluate the data carefully to ensure the full integrity of results is maintained, as always. Regardless, students should seek to do their best and remain intrinsically motivated to do well.
Q: Will sport continue on Wednesday afternoons?
A: No. Sport has been suspended until further notice. It will resume when the physical campus re-opens.
Q: How do I know if other events and activities are occurring?
A: We are working on this daily behind the scenes. Most events have been suspended and some cancelled, often owing to providers not being available. With our transition to the virtual learning environment, there may be the opportunity for some special events to proceed, though not many. All advice on events and activities can be found under this section on the website. Please check weekly as we aim to update this at least twice per week.
Q: Will my child’s Year 3 Violin program continue?
A: At this stage, yes. We are working to continue this program as part of our virtual learning environment and the plans are to continue with this approach. Details will be provided to Year 3 parents.
Q: What about other Music tutorials?
A: Our specialist lessons with visiting music tutors are a matter for our tutors to arrange with parents. I understand this is in the process of being considered and communicated directly to parents by our music tutors for specialist lessons.
Q: I haven’t received any information – what is happening?
A: The following articles have been sent out via direct email to parents, and also placed on this site on our website for parents to access. Please note that on the website the articles of the same #number are refreshed from time to time, so that the latest information is easily accessible. A full record of articles should be in your email inbox to refer to as needed. Numerous additional resources are on this site too.
Article #1 – Site creation: This effectively was the dedicated site creation and set-up
Article #2 – This is the cover page which is updated now and then with new major General Information and Developments
Article #3 – Health & Hygiene – this has been refreshed
Article #4 – Isolation, Exclusion, Potential Closure & Visitor Protocols -this has been refreshed
Article #5 – Events on the SMGS Calendar – this has been refreshed numerous times
Article #6 – Virtual Campus Information for both Junior and Senior School – several editions exist (#a to d)
Article #7 – Educational Delivery – additional information and planning for implementation
Article #8 – Questions and Answers (revision of key elements of articles)
Article #9 – Financial Information – not yet published and is currently under development
Article #10 – Moving from the Physical Campus to the Virtual Campus decision and implementation.
Q: As a parent, where can I get more information on how to use Zoom?
A: We have collated resources for parents and will be placing them on our website. These are aimed at helping parents learn how to use the Zoom software to, in turn, help children (especially younger children). Please check the Resources section in this site area as this is soon to be added.
Q: Can I still borrow books from the SMGS Library?
A: The purpose in shifting to a virtual campus is to minimise the number of people onsite and reduce the health risks to members of our school and wider community. If we have students and parents coming and going to borrow books, we again increase the risks.
However, if students need to borrow books from our Library, we have an alternative method to utilise in this interim period while students work off campus. Please telephone or email our Librarian, Chris Ryrie, to liaise with her regarding what specific books, or genre of interest, you are seeking, and we will then mail these out to you at the address on our system. We will cover the cost of postage of sending them to you. You can then return the books via the same method (you will need to pay the postage on return). If you live locally, please contact our Librarian or school reception to see if it would be suitable to collect (and return) them from reception.
Q: Is the Uniform Shop still open?
A: No, not until we resume our full physical campus operations. If there is a need for an urgent item contact Allison Ware directly at Allison.firstname.lastname@example.org to see what can be done.
Q: Is Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) service still operating at SMGS?
A: Due to the current situation, this service, operated by Gidgillys, is being suspended from Tuesday 24th March until further notice.
Q: Do you have other questions for us to answer?
A: If so, please email these in to email@example.com and we will do our best to post answers here to as many questions as we can.
Q: Where can I get more information as a parent for online safety guidelines to assist my child learning from home?
A: A number of resources exist including our Article #11 which provides a summary of some key strategies as well as links to the eSafety website. This site has specific strategies for parents, students and schools with downloadable PDF documents and variety of information for parents to read and utilise for the express purpose of keeping your children safe online. Now is the ideal time to access this information.