[Saturday, 2nd May 2020]

Updated information regarding return to a Physical School Campus during Term 2

While we need to consider the rapidly changing situation of COVID-19 and remain agile to changes occurring regularly within our wider community, we also need to balance this with providing families with a forecast of our planning. All going well, our updated planning is details in the article below:

Snowy Mountains Grammar School remains in accordance with the NSW Government and adheres to the seven National Principles for School Education agreed by the National Cabinet, as we progressively transition back to a physical campus during Term 2. A return to the physical campus involves a progressive return for both Day and Boarding students, staff, and at a later time parents and visitors.

Dr Andrew Bell
Principal

[Friday, 13th March 2020]

While media and public commentary in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to raise concern, public health authorities are advising that the current risk remains low in Jindabyne. However, precautionary measures are necessary to ensure the safest possible environment for our children.

I write to inform you about some precautions we are taking regarding our procedures in order to optimise Health and Hygiene practices at SMGS.

Fourteen (14) things we all need to do to keep safe right now:

1. WASH HANDS WELL: This week, and in the coming weeks, we will instruct and remind all in our community to wash their hands thoroughly. This means washing for two verses of ‘Happy Birthday’, washing under and over the hand, and washing under the nails. It includes drying the hands properly. Using sanitiser is also encouraged, if hand washing is not possible.

In the Junior School all classroom teachers have explicitly rediscussed appropriate hygiene practices with students and stressed the importance of hand washing. The expectation of handwashing is standard practice in our classrooms, reminders will be frequent.

Boarders are being reminded at all mealtimes and before bed. Posters and activities around good personal hygiene have been implemented by staff.

2. HANDWASHING POSTERS: prompts have been situated in toilets and classrooms.

3. SUPPLIES: The School has ordered extra supplies of handwash, paper towels, hand sanitisers and tissues to accommodate these hygiene practices.

4. DO NOT SHARE personal items such as drink bottles, pens, pencils or lunch box contents.

5. DO NOT TOUCH THE SPOUT of a water bubbler or tap with your mouth or drink bottle.

6. AVOID TOUCHING YOUR FACE. It is important to avoid face touching because germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Contaminated hands can transfer the virus when people rub their eyes, scratch their nose, or touch their mouth.

7. NO LONGER SHAKE HANDS OR HUG: Whilst we are in a period of increased risk, we will not shake hands or hug. Keeping a distance of one metre from others, where possible, may also help.

8. IF STAFF OR STUDENTS ARE AT ALL UNWELL, THEY SHOULD STAY HOME: Staff and students should not come to school if they are sneezing, sniffing, coughing or have a fever. The School will send children and staff with flu-like symptoms home. We will communicate with parents of boarders about options.

9. SEE A DOCTOR TO CHECK ILLNESSES: The School expects all students and staff who have been unwell to get a medical clearance. Local medical advice is to RING AHEAD and advise if unwell with relevant symptoms.

10. VOLUNTARILY ISOLATE THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN TO HIGH-RISK AREAS: If there is any risk of transfer, please self-isolate.

11. CLEAN SHARED SURFACES OFTEN: We will look at how we can keep surfaces clean and limit transfer of any illness. Our cleaning contractors are already taking greater care and emphasis on cleaning commonly handled surfaces on campus.

12. GET THE FLU VACCINE: We encourage and facilitate a flu vaccine every year for staff. This does not stop coronavirus, but it means if a person gets the virus they are much less likely to be fighting off two illnesses. This year’s vaccine should become available from GPs in the next few weeks.

13. TELL US IF THERE IS A PROBLEM: We want to support our community. We are being open about this issue. Honesty is the best policy.

14. TO REPEAT – WASH OUR HANDS WELL: This is the most important thing you can do 20 seconds minimum.

The Executive team has met and will continue to update and inform the community about changes to our approach. We are developing a series of ACTION PLANS that will cover all aspects of an individual, cohort, boarding house or whole-school approach. This will include Health, Academic, Events and Wellbeing aspects of our community.

QUICK SUMMARY IF THE RISK OF COVID-19 INCREASES.

1. Our priority remains to do all we can to maintain normal operations. Hygiene! Hygiene! Hygiene! This helps everyone learn established patterns. We will continue to teach all students about the importance of handwashing and the correct techniques. Hand sanitiser for use by staff and students is encouraged.

2. As a result of the increased risk, some events/excursions may have their date changed or may need to be cancelled. This information is due soon as indicated in Article #4 and 5

3. If a student is displaying flu-like symptoms we ask that they remain at home. If there has been exposure or risk of exposure to COVID-19 we ask that they are tested for the virus and, if positive, the school is contacted immediately.

4. The school will continue to operate on campus with an emphasis on hygiene and thoughtfulness for as long as possible.

5. As a boarding school we will require parents to be on alert to travel (in a car) to collect your child. We will look at other ways to self-isolate international and interstate students.

6. If we do need to close, we are advanced in our planning to deliver online learning for all age groups. Leaders and teachers are already preparing for this to occur with additional online collaborative tools beyond Canvas. An Article will be published with considerable details about this next week.

In addition, if we do close, we will be soon publishing information for Boarding and Day families about this particular issue in an Article due in the coming days.

Thank you for your understanding in this unprecedented time. We are optimistic that we are working with staff and students to remain alert and manage this risk. Our aim is to keep our community safe.

We will keep you updated as changes occur.

Mrs Kelli Wilson (Director of Wellbeing) & Ms Heidi Shvetsoff (Director of Junior School)

[Monday, 16th March 2020]

This, the next article in our series, Article #4, is aimed at providing information and guidance on the issues of isolation, exclusion and potential SMGS closure.

The broader issues of COVID-19 and responses by our wider community, including government, are highly dynamic. Information is being provided to school principals every few days, and late last night a statement by Dr Kerry Chant, PSM, Chief Health Officer, NSW Health (15 March 2020) indicated that school closures are not yet being considered as an optimal choice to manage the situation. Reference in this publication stated that 15% of the general workforce and 30% of the health profession workforce would be impacted by school closures, as well as the potential impact on grandparents, who are a higher-risk segment of our population overall, caring for children.The literature also recognises that healthy children have experienced minimal impact to date with COVID-19, unlike with influenza. Though, we do have children with health conditions to take seriously and consider. We of course also have our staff and their health and wellbeing to consider too.

Just this afternoon, I have learned of two interstate independent schools voluntarily closing until the end of term. There is reference to possible school closures at a later stage of the outbreak by Dr Chant but, for now, schools remaining open appears the stance. With this said, we have all observed that the situation continues to change and evolve rapidly. We intend at this stage to be following the advice of our government about school closure, as medical experts inform them. SMGS is preparing, and will continue to prepare, for possible forced closure and we will provide information later this week on what that means for staff and for your children.

Our executive team will endeavour to publish the latest advice as it occurs and to contextualise for our school community to access. As it stands today, the following information is advised as of Monday 16 March 2020:

Isolation & Exclusion Guidelines

Situation Response Required
ALL overseas travellers into Australia as of midnight Sunday 15 March All travellers into Australia are now required to self-isolate and NOT be on campus at all for 14 days. Only then can individuals return, if showing no symptoms – this includes all individuals, not only students and staff, but extends to parents, contractors and visitors. This is imposed by the Federal Government. It is worth reading the definition of self-imposed isolation.
Students or staff – becoming unwell while on campus, NOT yet known to be COVID-19 (pending medical assessment) Any student or staff member who exhibits relevant signs or has symptoms is asked to seek medical advice. Usual responsible isolation practices should occur for non-COVID19 illness cases for all SMGS community members, which is to remain home until medical advice / guidance can be gained or the illness passes free of all signs/symptoms. Boarders will be assisted in this process where required, which may mean returning home, or being supported as much as possible per usual procedures involving communicable illness (i.e. influenza).
Students or staff – if a confirmed case of COVID-19 (by medical assessment) occurs Any student or staff member should seek medical advice without delay if unwell with relevant signs/symptoms. Should an individual be tested and confirmed to have COVID-19, there is likely be a mandatory isolation and exclusion period that will need to occur. Please contact the School for the latest advice in this situation which will be in accordance with advice from the relevant government departments.

School Events

Aside from possible individual isolation and exclusion from school, we are also looking at SMGS events and activities. We will publish another Article (#5) tomorrow, which will commence specific guidance on this aspect and how we will address the situation. I can advise that there are some cancellations, postponements and amendments, and some proceeding as normal, at this stage. This information will be made available tomorrow and remains a live document in order to be agile in responding to the situation.

Boarding House Closure

I am aware that the logistics of boarding for students, parents and staff poses additional complexities beyond day school arrangements. We are working on this aspect too, separately, and in addition to the broader situation of day school. I understand additional discussions are also occurring with health and education officials about boarding schools and we hope to have access to more information soon. At SMGS we are mindful of the impact on those families who are separated by some distance interstate and overseas especially. We are also looking at isolation possibilities in residence as a shortterm arrangement in emergency situations, where parents are in the fourteen-day isolation or quarantine period if arriving in Australia.

Potential Whole-School Closure

As alluded to earlier, we have very recently been advised that high-level discussions are occurring with senior education policy-makers, government health officials and ministers. This has included consultation with a representation of school principals. At this stage, we are advised that it is less likely schools will be closed at this stage of the outbreak; however, it remains an open option by the Government to enact at any stage. In stating this, I note that in the recent hours, two independent schools have advised of their closure, voluntarily for the remainder of Term 1. Our best assessment is that this is more likely to occur more broadly at a more advanced stage of the outbreak, should that continue to evolve. We are working diligently on all options at present and specific advice will soon be provided to you to address this very aspect, again, should it occur.

If SMGS was to experience one or more specific cases of confirmed COVID -19 in the future, our position as a school would be revaluated with the appropriate authorities, School Board and executive leaders.

School Holidays and Travel

With the school holidays soon upon us, undoubtedly some families have travel plans in place in addition to those boarding families based overseas. There is general and some specific advice about overseas travel by our government departments which I refer you to (a link is on our website under COVID-19 resources). I am aware advice is to restrict all non-essential travel overseas, and it is also important to be aware that re-entry for all individuals requires a fourteen-day self-imposed isolation period and exclusion from campus.

For those with difficulties in boarding with an international base, please reach out to us individually so we can work through a case-by-case discussion to help resolve alternative arrangements for the school holidays if this is problematic for you, in the absence of alternative family members or close friends already in the country.

While many of our staff are working actively and diligently behind the scenes, we are also mindful of maintaining the status quo and ‘business as usual’ with our students. I advocate that we have ageappropriate conversations with our children and to keep in context important information without causing undue duress. Specific advice has been posted by leading psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg, and is available on our website as a video link if you are interested.

Once again, our staff sincerely appreciate the support from our staff, students, parents and carers during this very complex and challenging period of time.

Dr Andrew Bell (Principal)

[Tuesday, 17th March 2020]

As we continue to address the multitude of implications of the COVID-19 situation for Snowy Mountains Grammar School, another facet to consider is the many events and activities on the school calendar. This document contains guidance on those activities and whether or not they will continue, or, will be modified in some way.

Please Note: this list will be updated weekly on our website.

Naturally, decisions about many events and activities have been made by external providers and hosts of events. For those within our control, we have endeavoured to preserve those that can be modified with reasonability applied and that still hold high value for those involved.

We are scheduled to provide more information on the coming days on the educational delivery methodologies for Kindergarten to Year 12, should there be any need to close the physical campus, which will enact the opening of our virtual campus. Please rest assured, we have advanced plans to provide online delivery of classes, and testing is underway. The necessary protocols and practices also need developing, and this is occurring too.

We are aware that a small number of independent schools have advised their campus is closing this week and not re-opening until various times to be advised, which for some is Week 2 of Term 2 (at this stage) and others are unstated. Some independent boarding schools are sending boarding students home this week or next week. I have again checked with the information from official parties who maintain this is not their advice at this stage to schools. We are monitoring the situation constantly through the senior leaders of SMGS and considering all options for day and boarding students and endeavouring to act responsibly and flexibly.

To assist the situation, all staff have deferred external professional development and we are minimising visitors on campus, particularly from more densely populated areas where known cases of the virus exist. It is extremely likely that COVID-19 will arrive into our area at some stage. We will remain agile should that occur and be prepared to transition to our virtual campus for classroom learning for all age groups. Please keep abreast of our communication to find out more details which will flow to you very soon on this topic.

Again, my sincere thanks to all parents and carers supporting our School through the challenging conditions in which we all find ourselves.

Dr Andrew Bell (Principal)

[Wednesday, 18th March 2020]

As our next article, I write to inform you of our approach to addressing remote online learning within our new Virtual Campus being developed, should we need to enact a temporary school closure owing to COVID-19.

Our school leaders have been working diligently to ensure that our core purpose of delivering quality education remains the focus throughout this time. While we are following advice from all relevant government and external agencies regarding every aspect of a school’s response to this matter, we are also ensuring that we are creating our own approach to delivering a remote online learning experience that best fits our school context. At its core, we are innovating our educational experience to meet the needs of our students.

Our focus, should we need to act on a decision to move to remote online learning, will be to address three key considerations:

Continuity – It is our goal to continue to provide, as well as possible, an experience for our students that remains consistent, with regular, at-school lessons. Through careful timetable planning and integration of industry-leading technologies, our students will potentially engage with their learning in a new way. This will assist in maintaining their workflow for the duration of any transition from the physical campus to a virtual campus. To assist in providing this continuity, our Junior School students from Kindergarten to Year 4 will be loaned school iPads with pre-installed software. Year 5 will have the option of a loan iPad or own device. Our students in Years 6-12 will continue to use their own laptop device to access all online learning content and to access virtual teacher-class interaction.

Curriculum Content – Our teaching staff are equipped with the skills and tools needed to deliver their curriculum through remote online learning. Our students will engage with their learning using web-conferencing software which will be complemented by a range of creation and storage platforms that our school is adept at using already. Primarily, these include Microsoft Office 365 and Seesaw for Junior School. This will involve students connecting into a virtual classroom in real time and be taught particular lessons by their teacher, as a class. The approach will blend some independent tasks to complete work and connecting as a whole class. More details will be provided soon in another specific letter for Junior School parents.

For the Senior School, students will continue with the Canvas learning pages, as always, but will also add Zoom software for virtual classroom integration with their teachers. It is important to note that remote online learning would be based on live timetabled interactive lessons with classroom teachers that requires student interactions with both their classroom teacher and their classmates. The curriculum will continue to be immersive and led by quality teaching, delivered differently.

Connections – It is imperative that we provide our learners with opportunities to connect, not just with curriculum content but, arguably more importantly during this time, should it arise, with their teachers and their friends. Through technology we are able to, with good conscience, feel that our students will stay well connected should we transition to a remote online learning environment for a prescribed period of time.

Of course, this development of our virtual campus has called for a rapid response to an unprecedented event. To that point, we have been and will continue in the days ahead to trial our technologies and approaches with teaching staff and students. This involves student training for the new software integrations whilst at school in readiness, and should we need to enact the virtual campus at any time, we will be ready. We are doing our best to provide our students with the skills and confidence to work within a remote online learning environment.

I encourage you to take the time to read our comprehensive information as it becomes available to you on education delivery and remote online learning as part of the series of articles we have been sharing recently on COVID-19.  

We have also created a Remote Online Learning Centre hub where information will be stored and which allows our students and families to access a portal for logging all enquiries related to remote online learning. Please visit – smgs.life/rol or https://www.smgs.nsw.edu.au/remotelearning

In addition, please feel free to contact:

Mr Scott Frize, Director of Learning Innovation – scott.frize@smgs.nsw.edu.au
Dr Darryl Nelson, Director of Curriculum and Academic Development – darryl.nelson@smgs.nsw.edu.au
Ms Heidi Shvetsoff, Director of Junior School – heidi.shvetsoff@smgs.nsw.edu.au
Mrs Ashleigh Pratt, Head of Teaching and Learning – ashleigh.pratt@smgs.nsw.edu.au

The next letter will continue to provide more details of how this will work in practice and should be online soon for you to access. We will also be communicating new protocols around the learning environment at home to guide all students, parents, and staff too.

We want to ensure that you feel comfortable with your understanding of how we will address remote online learning for your child and reassure you that we will continue to deliver the quality education that you expect at Snowy Mountains Grammar School.

Scott Frize (Director of Learning Innovation)

[Thursday, 19th March 2020]

Our Junior School is well prepared to maintain continuity should we need to transition to remote online learning within a virtual campus. Through careful planning and technology integration we can provide a remote online learning experience that allows our students to feel connected and engaged with their learning and with their peers and teachers. Our approach is much more than “Learning from Home”, which is a term / model that some schools are communicating to parents where an emphasis is on the student completing their work in their home environment with written instructions and without live direct teacher interaction. The following information outlines our approach to engaging with remote online learning in the context of the Junior School.

Remote Online Learning for the Junior School

In the case of the Junior School moving to remote online learning, live lessons will be undertaken using Zoom software technology. Zoom is an industry-leading web-conferencing application that allows us to create live online lessons that are hosted by our teachers. This platform is highly interactive and enables an effective lesson, from explicit direct teaching through to group activity experiences. To complement live Zoom lessons, students will undertake, on a daily basis, a variety of tasks overseen by their teacher. In addition to Zoom, students will use a blend of other digital platforms such as Seesaw and online subscriptions.

Daily Timetable

Daily timetables and Zoom links will be available through a student’s Seesaw inbox in Years K-5 and Microsoft Office 365 Outlook email for Year 6. For ease, we have designed the day to consist of three Zoom sessions. Within a live Zoom lesson, students will watch and interact with their teacher and course content. As with the physical classroom, the virtual classroom will consist of explicit teaching at times throughout a lesson, combined with independent and collaborative tasks. We have ensured that our approach does not require a student to interact with a screen at all times throughout the day.

Zoom Session 1
9:00am – 10:45am
  • Class Wellbeing meeting and outline of the day
  • Literacy and/or Numeracy
  • Fruit break together within the session, allowing for students to interact informally with each other or time spent with parent/carer
  • Teacher-Modelled Reading
  • Morning Sit with Ali Cuthbert (Wednesday/Thursday)
  • End Zoom session 1.
Recess
10:45am – 11:15am
  • Morning tea and physical activity break.
Zoom Session 2
Offline Session*
11:15am – 1:05pm
  • Offline session briefing – work set may include: History, Geography, Science or Physical Development and Health
  • Teachers will be available in the Zoom session to assist where needed
  • Students mute microphone and video features and return, if needed, to their screen if they need teacher assistance with any aspect of the set work
  • Upload physical complete work to Seesaw. Teachers will be available to instruct students on what and how to upload. Online work will be checked within each application
  • End Zoom session 2.
Lunch
1:05pm – 1:45pm
  • Lunch and physical activity break.
Zoom Session 3
K/1: 1:45pm – 2:30pm
2-6: 1:45pm – 3:00pm
K/1:

  • Complete all set tasks for the day – teacher-guided.
  • Class Wellbeing meeting
  • End Zoom session 3.

Years 2-6:

  • Review tasks worked on during offline session
  • Continuation of time for teacher-instructed lessons across key subject areas
  • Complete all set tasks for the day – teacher-guided.
  • Class Wellbeing meeting
  • End Zoom session.

* Specialist German and Visual Arts lessons will occur once a week and be integrated into the daily timetable. Music and Physical Education will be supported through specialist teacher weekly recommendations of tasks to undertake.
* Year 3 Violin lessons with Mrs Simpson will continue via Zoom as scheduled each Friday morning at 9:30am.

Access to Technology

All Junior School students will have access to technology, either through a compulsory dedicated loan program that will include a school iPad for Kindergarten to Year 4 (Year 5 optional iPad loan or own device) or through the BYODT program for Year 6. School iPads will be pre-loaded with all required applications. Students will be required to connect to their home internet service via the WiFi options within settings. If a student chooses to use headphones as part of their live Zoom sessions, regular headphones will be suitable. There is no need to use headphone sets with a built-in microphone.

Student Expectations During Remote Online Learning in the Virtual Classroom

The virtual classroom will be managed similarly to that of the regular classroom, where students will be expected to actively participate in their learning. Opportunities will be provided for discussion, collaboration and independent work. There will be times during the day where a student will be assigned offline tasks. The teacher will remain within the session and be available should a student need help with a task.

In preparation for the virtual classroom, we suggest that students prepare for their day as they would a regular day at school. While they are not required to wear school uniform, students are expected to dress appropriately for the virtual classroom. We strongly suggest students have access to a table or desk as a workstation. Protocols that exist in the physical classroom will continue in your child’s virtual classroom. There is a hand-up feature within Zoom if a student needs to communicate with the teacher and this would include needing to temporarily leave the lesson for any reason. If a teacher is talking, the students are actively listening. Regular behavioural expectations within a physical classroom will exist within the virtual classroom. This aspect of the learning experience will be navigated professionally by the Junior School staff as they use their teacher judgement to best manage the virtual classroom.

Submitting Work and Feedback

Work samples will be uploaded to student journals using Seesaw. Timely feedback will be provided, both during live Zoom sessions and through Seesaw.

Educational Support

Students who currently access the Educational Support team can contact Ms Taylor (K-3) or Mrs Pratt (Years 4-6) for support, when needed.

  • Ms Tavia Taylor – tavia.taylor@smgs.nsw.edu.au
  • Mrs Ashleigh Pratt – ashleigh.pratt@smgs.nsw.edu.au

Troubleshooting Technology Issues

Online Self-Help

A full set of self-help tutorials and videos will be provided that will show staff, parents and students how to operate in the online learning environment. This will be available from the following link:

https://www.smgs.nsw.edu.au/remotelearning

This will form the first level of support and will help resolve most issues.

Remote Online Learning Support Team

If the issue cannot be resolved using the online help material, parents and students can contact the remote online learning support team, which will consist of the following staff:

  • Craig Moore (IT Manager)
  • Kylie Metselaar (Data Manager)

The remote online learning support team can be contacted using the following channels:

Online (Support Request): https://www.smgs.nsw.edu.au/remotesupport
Email: remotelearning@smgs.nsw.edu.au
Phone: (02) 6451 2460

To assist us in responding to support requests in a timely manner, the following guidelines should be used:

My device is able to connect to the internet I am unable to join a remote classroom session
  • Log a support request online
  • Email
I am unable to access school resources such as Canvas, Seesaw, etc.
  • Log a support request online
  • Email
My device is unable to connect to the internet A school-issued device is unable to connect to the internet
  • Phone

Remote device support will be available through the TeamViewer app for school-issued devices and the Microsoft Teams app for personal devices. This will allow support staff to remotely connect to the device and troubleshoot. Limited support will be provided for personal devices to assist students in connecting to remote learning content.

Family Controls and Content Restrictions

Students with family controls or content restrictions placed on their devices while at home may have trouble connecting to remote learning resources. Limited support will be available to assist parents with configuring these restrictions for use with remote learning resources but, in the event that access cannot be configured easily, parents may be required to temporarily remove the restrictions.

Parent/Teacher Communication

Communication between home and school will continue through Seesaw and email.

  • Ms Heidi Shvetsoff – heidi.shvetsoff@smgs.nsw.edu.au
  • Mrs Rosheen Nikora – rosheen.nikora@smgs.nsw.edu.au
  • Miss Brooke Kennedy – brooke.kennedy@smgs.nsw.edu.au
  • Mrs Christine Philpott – christine.philpott@smgs.nsw.edu.au
  • Mrs Julia Cane – julia.cane@smgs.nsw.edu.au

We trust this has given you some additional insight into the remote online learning environment that we are preparing for students. Should we revert to a virtual campus environment, our Junior School team will be ready to lead the transition for your child. Children have been receiving some training in class as part of our preparation for this transition, given it is likely to occur at some stage.

Mr Scott Frize (Director of Learning Innovation) & Ms Heidi Shvetsoff (Director of Junior School)

[Thursday, 19th March 2020]

Our Senior School is well prepared to maintain continuity if we need to move to our Virtual Campus. Through careful planning and technology integration, we can provide a remote online learning experience that allows our students to feel connected and engaged with their learning and their peers and teachers. Some schools have advised a “Learning from Home” model; however, our approach is much more interactive, involved and comprehensive, to ensure quality learning is occurring with active teaching. The following information outlines our approach to starting our Virtual Campus in the context of the Senior School.

Virtual Campus

Operation of the Virtual Campus

In the case of the School switching over to its Virtual Campus, the Director of Curriculum and Academic Development would implement the specially prepared COVID-19 Senior School Timetable. The Virtual Campus consists of Canvas with the integration of Zoom software for live, interactive classes. The timetable is almost identical to the current timetable, but the lessons are forty-five minutes (instead of fifty-five minutes) long to allow the changeover of Zoom sessions, though this may become more efficient in time.

All regular classes would begin at the times on the current timetable except for the following courses which will not run:

  • STEM (Years 7 and 8)
  • Religious Education (Years 7-10)
  • Stage Meetings (Years 7-12)
  • Chapel / Assembly (Years 7-12)
  • Sport

These lessons would become study periods. For all Senior School students who have study periods, it is an expectation that they are working independently when no Zoom session is scheduled.

It is an expectation that students would participate in every scheduled class. Absences and lateness will be recorded. Student timetables will be emailed via a student’s Microsoft Office 365 account to confirm class times.

As part of our commitment to continue with wellbeing learning, tutor time will be modified so that each group consists of students of a common cohort and will take place on Mondays. Positive Education will take place on Wednesdays.

Assessment Tasks

Classwork will continue as normal, but will be modified depending on the subject and the nature of the work. Assessment tasks that are not in-class or practical tasks, will continue as normal for Years 7-
12. These dates are published in each student’s assessment schedule and in their Canvas classes.

Year 7-10 assessment tasks designed for the physical classroom may be modified for the virtual classroom. The nature of the modification will depend on the subject.

Year 11 and 12 assessment tasks that are examination-based will be modified using NESA guidelines. Assessment tasks that have no in-class component will continue as per the assessment schedule.

For practical subjects and major works in Years 11 and 12, Heads of Faculty will work with teachers to modify as needed. Students must abide by the requirements of the HSC All My Own Work Program. Students must sign off, confirming any practical tasks were the result of their own work. Teachers may require students to provide evidence to substantiate this. Heads of Faculty and teachers will discuss these requirements with students in these subjects.

When an individual is unable to attend regular classes owing to contracting an illness that prevents them from attending virtual classes, it is not expected that they complete schoolwork during this period – as per usual practice. Any assessment tasks they miss should be covered under illness and they can collect a medical certificate for this purpose, again as per usual practice.

NAPLAN
NAPLAN is scheduled for Week 3 of Term 2. At this stage, it will be going ahead. However, government and education authorities are presently reviewing this situation. We will advise further in due course, once we know ourselves.

Educational Support

As needed, students who currently access the Educational Support team can contact the Head of Educational Support (see below) who will arrange for follow-up from one of the team members.

Mrs Melissa Bell
Head of Faculty, Educational Support
E: melissa.bell@smgs.nsw.edu.au

Accessing Zoom

Zoom is integrated into Canvas. Students need to access their regular class on Canvas and click Zoom on the subject menu. In order to ensure Zoom works as planned, each year level will test this technology over the coming days whilst still at school. This will enable us to deal with most issues that students encounter using the platform. Students do not need any additional peripheral hardware to engage within the Virtual Campus, assuming they have a camera built into their laptops, which virtually all do. If a student needs to use headphones as part of their live Zoom sessions, regular headphones would be suitable.

Student Expectations in the Virtual Campus

In preparation for the virtual classroom, we suggest that students prepare for their day as they would a regular day at school. While they are not required to wear school uniform, students are expected to dress appropriately for the virtual classroom. We strongly suggest students have access to a table or desk as a workstation. Protocols that exist in the physical classroom will continue in your child’s virtual classroom. There is a hand-up feature within Zoom if a student needs to communicate with the teacher and this would include needing to temporarily leave the lesson for any reason. If a teacher is talking, the students are actively listening. Regular behavioural expectations within a physical classroom will exist within the virtual campus. This aspect of the learning experience will be navigated professionally by the Senior School staff as they use their teaching judgement to best manage the virtual classroom.

Troubleshooting Technology Issues

Online Self-Help

A full set of self-help tutorials and videos will be provided that will show staff, parents and students how to operate in the online learning environment. This will be available from the following link:

https://www.smgs.nsw.edu.au/remotelearning

This will form the first level of support and will help resolve most issues.

Remote Online Learning Support Team

If the issue cannot be resolved using the online help material, parents and students can contact the remote online learning support team, which will consist of the following staff:

  • Craig Moore (IT Manager)
  • Kylie Metselaar (Data Manager)

The remote online learning support team can be contacted using the following channels:

Online (Support Request): https://www.smgs.nsw.edu.au/remotesupport
Email: remotelearning@smgs.nsw.edu.au
Phone: (02) 6451 2460

To assist us in responding to support requests in a timely manner, the following guidelines should be used:

My device is able to connect to the internet I am unable to join a remote classroom session
  • Log a support request online
  • Email
I am unable to access school resources such as Canvas, Seesaw, etc.
  • Log a support request online
  • Email
My device is unable to connect to the internet A school-issued device is unable to connect to the internet
  • Phone

Remote device support will be available through the TeamViewer app for school-issued devices and the Microsoft Teams app for personal devices. This will allow support staff to remotely connect to the device and troubleshoot. Limited support will be provided for personal devices to assist students in connecting to remote learning content.

Family Controls and Content Restrictions

Students with family controls or content restrictions placed on their devices while at home may have trouble connecting to remote learning resources. Limited support will be available to assist parents with configuring these restrictions for use with remote learning resources but, in the event that access cannot be configured easily, parents may be required to temporarily remove the restrictions.

Subject Content Enquiries

If you have any enquiries regarding the content being delivered via Zoom or on Canvas, please contact the relevant Head of Faculty as follows:

Head of Faculty – English and Creative Arts (English, German, Creative Arts)
Mrs Catherine Batson
catherine.batson@smgs.nsw.edu.au

Head of Faculty – Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics
Dr Adam Lloyd
adam.lloyd@smgs.nsw.edu.au

Science (for Years 11/12 only)
Dr Darryl Nelson darryl.nelson@smgs.nsw.edu.au

Head of Faculty – HSIE (History/Modern History, Geography, Commerce, Business Studies, Legal Studies)
Mrs Susan Plum
susan.plum@smgs.nsw.edu.au

Other Enquiries

Deans of Students

The Deans of Students are available to assist with any wellbeing issue for your child in the Virtual Campus.

Dean of Students Years 7 and 8 – Ms Emma Smith (emma.smith@smgs.nsw.edu.au)
Dean of Students Years 9 and 10 – Mr Tim Bland (tim.bland@smgs.nsw.edu.au)
Dean of Students Years 11 and 12 – Mrs Sue Sell (sue.sell@smgs.nsw.edu.au)

Executive Team

Director of Curriculum and Academic Development (curriculum enquiries)
Dr Darryl Nelson
darryl.nelson@smgs.nsw.edu.au

Director of Learning Innovation (remote learning enquiries)
Mr Scott Frize
scott.frize@smgs.nsw.edu.au

Director of Wellbeing (general wellbeing enquiries)
Mrs Kelli Wilson
kelli.wilson@smgs.nsw.edu.au

Director of Activities (co-curricular and sport enquiries)
Mr Martin Philpott
martin.philpott@smgs.nsw.edu.au

We trust this has given you some additional insight into the remote online learning environment that we are preparing for students. Should we revert to a virtual campus environment, our Senior School team will be ready to lead the transition for your child. Children have been receiving some training in class as part of our preparation for this transition, given it is likely to occur at some stage.

Mr Scott Frize (Director of Learning Innovation) & Dr Darryl Nelson (Director of Curriculum and Academic Development)

[Sunday, 22nd March 2020]

The following schedule has been created to keep you informed of the preparation that has already taken place and will continue to happen in readiness for us to move to a virtual campus. The transition to a virtual campus appears more likely to occur than we had earlier anticipated, based on updated advice to us today by educational authorities and publicised Government contemplations. As we write, it appears that at this stage, it is no longer a case of if we need to operate our Virtual Campus but when. Just moments ago, we have confirmation that ACT schools will close from Tuesday so that staff can prepare their online lessons while students stay at home. We understand Victorian schools will also close from Tuesday.

We have remained opened when some other independent schools have closed. It is a matter we take most seriously in its own right, and we will be guided by what is in the best interests of our community with the health and wellbeing of people our highest priority above all else. We appreciate moving to a virtual campus is difficult for some families. More information will be forthcoming should this decision be enacted. Our purpose is to again advise of this possibility, even likelihood, sooner rather than later as a distinct possibility enforced by the NSW Government. This facet is part of our focus over the coming 24-48hrs.

Regarding our preparation for students and teachers, we are in the advanced stages for our transition with implementation training continuing tomorrow for all students, Monday 23 March.

We also remind students to be mindful to take home physical resources as early as tomorrow, just in case and only bring essential items to school should we continue over the coming days. In the Junior School, this will include physical textbooks and all personal stationery. Students in the Junior School who will be loaning school technology be sent home with this on the last day of operation of the physical campus, once that day is established.

We will officially confirm our status of operation in writing the moment any decision is made through the Principal, Dr Bell in consultation with the School Board, as information is updated by the NSW Government in particular. In the meantime, we will continue our advanced preparations for the transition to our Virtual Campus.

Please see the table below which details preparation of implementation continuing tomorrow.

Preparation – What has already occurred before Monday 23rd March:
  • Executive meetings to prepare for the potential of operating the Virtual Campus
  • Licences secured to run Zoom as our platform for live delivery
  • Transition to Zoom for all staff and Committee meetings
  • Technology considerations developed
  • IT support channels designed and deployed
  • Hardware for Junior School prepared and ready for roll-out
  • Zoom demonstrations underway across most year groups (K-12)
  • Senior School classes interacting with Zoom – class pilot tests
  • Stage meetings focusing on the Virtual Campus
  • Junior School using Seesaw and Zoom within lessons last week to familiarise students with the platform including logging in and interacting with the classroom teacher
Preparation continuing tomorrow, Monday 23rd March:
All year groups (K-12) will have scheduled sessions that will address the following aspects of the Virtual Campus:

  • Support for download of Zoom (all BYODT devices)
  • Canvas integration and logging into Zoom lessons (Senior School only)
  • Zoom log in procedures (ongoing for Junior School)
  • Protocols of student use – This will include dress code, suitable learning environment, names on screens, general online behaviour, responsible use of Zoom conferencing features, recording considerations
  • Ongoing trial Zoom lessons to familiarise all students with responsible and productive interactions within the Virtual Campus
Date Year Group Period Facilitator
Monday 23rd March K/1 4 Ms Nikora
2/3 1 Ms Shvetsoff
4 3 Miss Kennedy
5 2 Ms Cane
6 1 Ms Cane
7 5 (7B English) Mr Frize
7 5 (7Y Science) Mrs Pratt
8 1 (8B Mand. Tech.) Mr Frize
8 2 (8Y Mand. Tech) Mrs Pratt
9 3 (9Y PDHPE) Mr Frize
9 4 (9B Skills) Mrs Pratt
10 1 (10B Careers) Mrs Pratt
10 4 (10Y RE) Dr Nelson
11 2 Dr Nelson
12 3 Dr Nelson
Tuesday 24th March and Beyond

The current event we face strengthens our resolve to provide our students with a quality learning experience reflective of the exceptional community to which we all belong. We will remain open in our communication and will do our best to assist each family during this time.

Mr Scott Frize (Director of Learning Innovation) & Mrs Ashleigh Pratt (Head of Teaching and Learning)

[Saturday, 21st March 2020]

The next article in our series, Article #2a, is aimed to provide general updated information and guidance on the issues related to COVID-19 relevant to Snowy Mountains Grammar School. I do hope that to date, you have felt well-communicated with as our team of senior leaders are working hard to ensure we keep you as informed as we possibly can through this difficult period.

An Important Note: The topic of “School Closure” -clarifying our position

Before proceeding further, I do want to clarify an important piece of information that may have been miscommunicated or not received as intended for some parents. SMGS is not “closing the school” and cutting students off from ongoing learning. We may, however, at some stage have to switch from a physical campus where students are taught by staff in person onsite, to a virtual campus, where students are taught by staff online.

We are not using semantics over the use of “closure” at all. Our excellent and highly dedicated team of educators at SMGS are committed to continuing learning via a virtual environment and will be conducting live online video conferencing with all their regular classes. A great deal of work is occurring by staff in addition to their usual workloads. We have also upgraded our digital licence subscriptions substantially to ensure all students and staff have access to various software programs.

This is an important point because not all schools are adopting this approach, as some are merely asking students to ‘learn from home’ with a daily or weekly email from their teachers to indicate the work to be completed, in some cases for up to two weeks, with no video conferencing. What we will be providing is completely different and far superior in educational quality. Not only does it involve academic learning, but our staff are ensuring students from Kindergarten to Year 12 have opportunities to connect pastorally as part of our ongoing commitment to wellbeing.

Work in this space is at an advanced stage and you will receive more information soon on the details in addition to what has already been provided. A few parents have expressed a sentiment involving their children “no longer being taught…if we close”. SMGS is not closing, we will be open regardless, but we anticipate that we will need to deliver our learning differently for a period of time. I would like to reassure all parents that your children will have access to explicit teaching ostensibly aligned to current timetabled classes. We are particularly mindful of students doing the Higher School Certificate and their need to continue with a rigorous education.

At this stage, we do not know when such a shift to our virtual campus learning environment might occur, though we are monitoring and evaluating the situation constantly and we will communicate immediately should any decision be made.

Isolation, Exclusion and new Visitor Protocols

Two new articles are also being updated on the above topic of Isolation, Exclusion and adding new Visitor Protocols. One is aimed at our whole school and another is more finely tuned for our Boarding House context only. Please keep an eye out for these two articles as updates will soon be released. We continue to prefer to write shorter articles and updates, rather than extensively detailed long letters. We feel these are easier to access and digest, more convenient to find relevant targeted information on our website when required, enable us to be more agile in our content creation, and allows us to share the load more effectively across various senior leaders. We hope that this meets the needs of our parent community.

Educational Delivery

In addition to the above articles soon be to be released, another in the series of Educational Delivery is also underway. This will further detail the ‘how’ our teaching and learning will be delivered online for our students, , also a matter relevant for parents, particularly of younger age groups where some assistance may be required in the use of their devices for our virtual campus. Our Junior School will be included in online learning, although naturally, the approach will be more sophisticated for Senior School. Accompanying this process, information will also be available in that correspondence to indicate the schedule of trials and upskilling that is currently occurring as well.

NAPLAN 2020

Yesterday, we were advised that NAPLAN 2020, in all forms (paper and online) has been cancelled by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) nationally for this year. Testing was due to be held in May. NAPLAN will resume in 2021, though we have no more detail at this stage and don’t expect to for some time.

IT Licences and Resources

Our teaching staff been working extensively to develop appropriate online resources in anticipation of a move to a virtual campus, and we have been upgrading numerous aspects of our IT resources. This has included significant additional purchases of individual licences for devices to roll out to students and staff, as opposed to single campus licenses. We have purchased a suite of new iPads for our Junior School to use to bolster existing device numbers with additional software included on them, and these are now ready to go with in-class training currently occurring for students.

For Senior School, Zoom individual licences have been purchased and these are now embedded directly into Canvas for all students for convenience and ease of use, with training also occurring.

We are also creating an IT Help Desk and adding resources for the online learning environment for any matter that relates to the school systems and software interaction. However, please be advised that our resources are limited and we cannot be assisting individuals with all issues with personal devices that pertain to the manufacturer. We advise to have this information at hand so you can contact the supplier or manufacturer for those type of hardware or device-specific software performance issues. We need to prioritise our resources for our own learning environment assistance.

Events and Activities

As you are aware, we published a schedule of upcoming events and activities our students were to be involved with. We are reviewing this daily and we aim to update the list on our website twice per week. The next scheduled update is early next week, as a number of events have had a change of status since the previous publication. Typically, we are finding more providers are cancelling or postponing and we will advise you of these updates as the arise.

Closing Borders within Australian

You would be aware of the Federal Government Australia closing Australian borders as of last Friday. Further consideration is being given to also close state and territory borders, as I understand. If this eventuates officially, this will impact on some of our boarding families, so I advise interstate and overseas boarding based families to keep a close eye on this development in particular. We too will continue to monitor the situation.

In conclusion, we endeavour to keep you informed on a regular basis during this unprecedented event.

Dr Andrew Bell
Principal

[Wednesday, 26th March 2020]

As we transition to a fully immersed online remote learning environment under the broad umbrella of our Virtual Campus, we all need to be aware and alert regarding online Child Protection issues – collectively as teachers, students and parents of Snowy Mountains Grammar School.

Resources to access:

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides for a variety of age-appropriate resources to draw on for students, parents and schools in order to support online safety. The eSafety Commissioner has recently launched a suite of additional resources which support safer online environments. The resources are known as the Toolkit and can be accessed at esafety.gov.au/toolkit-schools. Students and parents can access these too.

These resources are free and available for all to use. They are evidence based and support a nationally consistent approach to preventing and responding to online safety issues. The resources sit within four categories: Prepare, Engage, Educate and Respond. Each contributes to creating safer online environments for school communities.

In the tables below, we have adapted and enhanced some of these to be more practical, specific and relevant to our current school learning context. We encourage parents to read through the table below for what you can do to assist in keeping all our children safe online. Further below, we have identified some of the practices our teachers (who have been provided with more in-depth information, training and access to policies on Child Protection) are adopting.

If we all work together, we increase the safety of the online environment for all children in our care.

Strategies to enhance online safeguarding for parents
Parents can support their children during online learning by:

  • Establishing routines and expectations for the virtual learning environment set-up;
  • Ensuring that their child follows the school’s dress requirements for online learning;
  • Making sure they are on time for lessons;
  • Supervising children’s online engagement when not in structured lessons with teachers;
  • Never posting images online that can identify the name of a child (never have the name and image together in a post) and avoid identifying the location too;
  • Ensuring location services are turned OFF on some social media sites, otherwise the geo data can be accessed by anyone and they can identify the address the image was taken from – imagine the vulnerability if a stranger has access to the image/name/school attending/specific address of a child;
  • Having beginning and end-of-day check-ins to stay abreast of transactions online and work completed – ask your child to show you what they did or tell you about their experiences;
  • Taking an active role in helping children process their learning;
  • Monitoring communications from teachers or other adults;
  • Monitoring total screen time, especially with online school learning – it is more important than ever to encourage children to play and exercise outside after lessons are over (or in between for ‘recess and lunch’);
  • Assisting children to maintain and manage their social networks by coaching them through difficult conversations with peers and challenging interactions;
  • Ensuring that their child’s computer is placed in a shared or visible area of the home for online lessons, or at least the screen faces the (open) doorway if it must be in the bedroom;
  • Using ‘safe’ search filters on internet search engines to help manage their child’s online access;
  • Teaching their child how to manage any material or communication that worries or concerns them, including telling an adult immediately, and how to close a web page or turn off a screen;
  • Restricting access to devices overnight, leaving them outside the bedroom; and
  • Reporting any concerns to the school.

What SMGS is doing to enhance student safety online:

  • Adjusted software, online products and tools to have the highest safety, privacy and security standards possible;
  • Working to advise all students, staff and parents to avoid sharing personal or sensitive information online;
  • Setting protocols and guidelines for students around where they should be situated when learning from home, and what they should be wearing;
  • Monitoring student dress in lessons, with teachers switching off cameras and insisting students return attired appropriately, if not already, for each lesson;
  • For Senior School, our Deans of Students are the contact for students and/or parents in the first instance if they are concerned about the misuse of online communications – contact details are on our website with direct links: https://www.smgs.nsw.edu.au/our-school/our- staff/ (N.B. for Junior School, contact the Director of Junior School);
  • Reminding students and staff that the school’s codes of conduct, child protection and social media policies apply when they are communicating online at home or at school;
  • Ensuring parents and students have access to relevant information, protocols and guidelines on home learning;
  • Providing information and clear instructions to students on what to do if they feel unsafe online;
  • Providing clear instructions to students about the responsible use of technology and using devices at home in accordance with the school’s social media policy and student code of conduct;
  • Making known and available the eSafety Commissioner’s ‘Activities for Students’ to take the lead in online safety – this program provides a range of activities for students across all year level to help cultivate safe online environments;
  • Providing ongoing communication and support to staff during periods of online learning, whether they are at school or teaching from home;
  • Prioritising the management of and response to incidents that involve misuse of online platforms and/or communications;
  • Reminding staff, students and parents that incidents involving bullying, sexual harassment, child abuse or reportable conduct, unlawful behaviour or the crossing of professional boundaries should be reported to the School Executive team and/or Principal; and
  • Seeking further external expert advice in response to serious incidents online.

Hopefully, this information provides a basis from which to assist parents and students working from home in relation to our student online learning experience and keeping our children safe. This is not an exhaustive list of strategies or practices and we encourage parents to use your own judgement to contextualise for your own family situation. There are many more resources available on the eSafety website for parents to access – https://www.esafety.gov.au/parents – and we strongly encourage all parents to view these resources. These also include downloadable PDFs with specific information – https://www.esafety.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-09/English%20-%20Parents%20guide.pdf – on a range of topics.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our school as we make the transition to full immersion in the online learning environment.

Dr Andrew Bell (Principal)

[Friday, 17th April 2020]

As we complete the first week of the school holiday period, I do hope that all members of your family remain in good health. The global through to the local effect of COVID-19 has impacted on all families without exception, although the nature and depth of the impact varies quite considerably, even among our own school community. I remain cognisant of not making any assumptions about individual family circumstances and please know that you remain firmly in our hearts and minds as we take on this challenge together.

Our School Board and senior leaders continue to remain alert and attentive to the whole COVID-19 situation, with reviews and evaluations occurring multiple times each week in a range of areas. With the National Cabinet meeting until late yesterday, further references by the state and federal governments regarding schools returning to a physical campus in Term 2 are in focus, as reported widely in the media. I will be writing to all parents in more detail next week in this context once we know more ourselves. Presently, I am receiving considerable information from a variety of sources, where dynamics are changing frequently on this topic. What I can advise right now, is that we will be commencing Term 2 as we concluded Term 1, with online learning in the virtual campus environment on Monday 27 April. We all look forward to a return to the physical campus, though this needs to occur safely and in a considered way.

Regarding financial circumstances, as a community we are fortunate that a number of families have been able to retain their employment, with some also having businesses that have been less impacted, while others have creatively repurposed businesses temporarily. Others, unfortunately, have lost positions of employment entirely, or have been stood down temporarily or had hours reduced, while some business owners have suffered very significant downturns. I remind all parents of Snowy Mountains Grammar School who have been adversely and significantly impacted and need additional short-term help, that we remain committed to supporting you. Payment plans or payment extensions are the first considerations for those who require them. Anyone who requires financial support that is additional to these first steps should also complete the form referenced below which enables us to contact you for further personalised discussion.

By clicking on the link below and completing a two-minute form, this will enable a process to commence regarding financial assessment and to inform a review of the current arrangement. You will then be contacted within a few business days to progress the review on an individual case-by-case basis. The process will be reviewed by the Principal and treated in the strictest confidence throughout.

https://www.smgs.nsw.edu.au/community/family-assistance/

The link to the above website page also includes some external resources such as government financial relief information.

Term 2 Tuition Fee Statements

We have delayed issuing the Term 2 Tuition Fee Statement; however, we now need to send these to all families. Regular sports, excursions and many co-curricular activities for Term 2 are not occurring until further notice. Unless we return to the physical campus prior to the end of term, where reassessment would occur, there are therefore no charges for these activities. Should any credits for camps or other activities that did not proceed be outstanding, they will be credited to individual accounts as and when those decisions are finalised, which has already occurred in some instances.

It has been suggested to me on one or two occasions that Snowy Mountains Grammar School should reduce the tuition fees because the learning environment has changed to an on-line teacher-led classroom platform. This is quite a different situation to the short-term individual affordability constraints of families arising from the bushfires and/or COVID-19 impacts addressed above, and importantly requires a separate elaboration, as follows.

Our aim is to do all we can to enable all students to remain at Snowy Mountains Grammar School. To achieve this, we aim to provide assistance to families in need (evidence-based) who have been most impacted by these almost concurrent and compounding situations. ‘Discounting’ the fees for every student, although no doubt helpful to all households, would render us unable to assist families with a deeper need during this period. It also would not allow us to continue the high-quality delivery that has occurred, as we would have to reduce the employment of staff to achieve this, impacting adversely on the educational delivery to all students. We are considerate of passing on any net savings should they be experienced; however, time is needed to determine this accurately. As a not-

for-profit organisation, all income is required to be held and managed in trust, and to be applied toward our constitutional purpose – the education of children. Thus, we do not have ‘profit margins’ to draw from. I will be more accurate and state that our budget will be in considerable deficit in 2020 specifically so that we can address the needs of this particular crisis, although there is a limit to the extent to which this can occur. It is important that our own fiscal responsibilities are carefully managed during this difficult period – coupled with our desire to be compassionate in our approach to ensure consideration is well placed for those with the greatest needs. It is challenging to manage the process without knowing the end point of the crisis just yet.

We are not a virtual school and our costs are predominantly fixed from the physical campus structures. We are required to maintain the employment of staff for both on-line teacher-led classroom learning, and also to be ready to continue as soon as we return to a physical campus, to ensure a seamless transition at that time. We are proud of our educational delivery and our care for the wellbeing of students, thanks to our staff, and we have done all we can to maintain a high-quality education in all contexts, which we aim to continue for all students.

It is important to avoid the somewhat over-simplicity of comparing us to other schools, independent or otherwise, or to view us as a virtual organisation – we do already keep our fees as low as possible in accord with our educational purposes and expectations of benefiting families all year round. Some independent schools have much higher fees than ours, and some charge a premium for all sports and activities as a one-size-fits all approach included in their ‘tuition fee’. We don’t do either, instead we tailor our additional costs (i.e. sports, excursions, camps) as a user pay system and as indicated we won’t be charging for these as they are not occurring at present. Therefore, we don’t have those additional premiums as a ‘margin’, although if we did, those portions would rightly be distributed back to parents.

Our recently announced Master Plan, including planning for a capital works program in coming years, was based on a significant bank borrowing and awaits the outcome of external grant assistance, which also has been postponed. Many factors have been considered in determining our approach and we will continue to evaluate the full situation on a regular basis.

My purpose in elaborating on this particular viewpoint that some have expressed, which I certainly do appreciate and understand, is to endeavour to respectfully outline some additional perspectives to consider and to reassure you that we are working on providing solutions to many complex issues. I hope this assists somewhat without getting too granular and I reassure all parents we remain open, agile and flexible to the whole situation and we will re-evaluate the needs and circumstances as they continue to evolve over time.

Boarding Fees

As previously advised, there will be no charges for boarding accommodation and catering until further notice, as this is not a service we can currently provide. It is not known when a return-to-boarding date will be available, whether it is part-way through Term 2 or not. The intention for boarding fees is to reinstate them when the Boarding House re-opens, which may be a staggered start for the different year levels, potentially. Should this occur, fees for each year level will only commence once the relevant year level is eligible to return.

Once again, I extend our gratitude to all staff, students, parents and carers who continue to support our school so strongly during this difficult time for everyone. We are grateful for your assistance and will value this throughout the current period and beyond, as we come through this with a greater appreciation of what it means to support each other as a community, working together.

Dr Andrew Bell (Principal)

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
Email: remotelearning@smgs.nsw.edu.au
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.ware@smgs.nsw.edu.au 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 admin@smgs.nsw.edu.au 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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Department of Education, Skills and Employment 

Information for students, parents, and education providers to make informed decisions about managing risk associated with COVID-19.

Launch Site
If you planning to attend a medical practice and are showing ANY cold like symptoms, remember to ring ahead and NOT just turn up.

Reference Material