From the Principal: 27 April 2020

From the Principal: 27 April 2020

Isolation: to separate or put apart from others. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the planet and requires society to go into isolation, it also requires us to reflect upon the importance of community and affiliation. We may be physically apart and separated, however, as Principal, I am witnessing a coming together albeit in a virtual setting. Daily, I meet via Zoom or via phone conversations with different groups across our community and there is a warmth and care that defines our School. Our recent virtual Parents Association Meeting enabled the highest participation we had ever had. Indeed, everywhere I look I see the humanity of neighbourliness. We are phoning loved ones, sharing poetry, enjoying reading and podcasts, trading fresh produce and home cooked meals. Anzac Day was a clear example of this as we stood in our driveways at dawn, reflecting and remembering. Our membership, relationship and connection are important to us all.  

The burden of COVID-19 is of concern for all of us at Melbourne Girls Grammar. These are tough times and we are mindful of the impact of this pandemic on community health and the impact on the social, family, and financial wellbeing in our school and the wider community. I understand that the impact for many our families has been enormous and we are committed to supporting our families as much as possible during this challenging time. With our recent billing cycle, we received many questions around our determination regarding Term 3 fees. The decision to offer no fee remission for our Middle Years and Senior Years was thought through carefully and discussed at length by the School Executive and Council and involved robust financial modelling. The final decision was purposefully agreed to and based on distinct reasoning. We are well prepared to deliver a full curriculum to both Middle Years and Senior Years students utilising our embedded, and innovative digital platforms. We have invested in this blended learning over many years and our students are well equipped to move to a remote learning model. In planning for Term 2 we invested again in our infrastructure to ensure that our systems are robust, meet Child Safety Standards and that our teachers have received the professional learning to deliver at an exceptional level. We are confident that the MGGS model for remote learning is of the highest level. We have retained our valued workforce to support your daughter. Additionally, we are conscious of the importance of being staffed and prepared for a return to physical school at the appropriate time and I believe that this will be sooner than we had at first anticipated. I am dearly missing our students and the ‘buzz and hum’ of Merton Hall, Morris Hall and the Barbara Tolson Centre. With Australia’s successful flattening of the curve, it is my hope that before too long we will be inviting students and staff back to our campus when we are recommended to do so by the Victorian government and medical experts. We are currently modelling what that may look like, with the possibility of a staged approach, prioritising our VCE students.

We value your understanding that these factors are complex and that as a school we need to continue providing an outstanding virtual education and reactivate quickly back to a full physical school environment when possible.

Additionally, there has been a lot of comparison to other schools’ fee remission and it is important to keep in mind that each school operates differently and makes purposeful decisions based on their unique settings. Many schools are following similar principles in determining fees to our own, while some others are offering short term discounts. This can be driven by factors such the online learning arrangements or other situations unique to their school. I understand that this has caused distress for some of our community and I encourage you to communicate with us if you need support. As a school, we value feedback and with this Messenger there will be a short parent/guardian survey. These will be distributed fortnightly to coincide with each Messenger. I encourage you to take some time to respond. Furthermore, during our Remote Learning, Student Engagement Surveys will go out each Friday for our Middle and Senior Years students so that we can closely monitor their wellbeing and progress. 

I have been amazed with the many innovative ways our staff are engaging with and looking after the wellbeing of our Grammarians, to complement the academic program. Some of these include our virtual Senior disco, Find Your 30+, the Virtually Amazing Race and the Morris Hall drive-through Library pick up initiative. Our School Captains and the Student Executive Council have been busy creating a fortnightly newsletter titled ‘News Blast’. I loved reading the first edition! It was full of great ideas, and inspirational messages for all Grammarians. Additionally, our Anzac Assemblies across the whole school were truly special with our very own MGGS historian, Mrs Pip O’Connor looking back to the time when MGGS retreated to Marysville during WWII and Anzac history academic and MGGS critical friend, Dr Mark Cryle, weaving our story into the history. So, although we are in lockdown, the vibrancy of our school shines through.

Three new arrivals have happened since our last Messenger; our MGGS family continues to grow. I am delighted to congratulate the following staff members and their partners: Dr Jessica Priestly on the birth of baby boy, Robert; Ms Aimee Langton on the birth of baby boy, Tommy; and Ms Kerry Bacon on the birth of baby girl, Frankie. We wish them well at this special time.

In the spirit of connection, many in ours and the wider community are looking for ways to link us together. I recently received an email exchange titled Poetry Exchange. I shared my poem and sent it out into the ether and was delighted when my email inbox was flooded with multiple poems. I took the time to read each. Carefully. Slowly. Reflectively. I cannot remember the time when I felt I could do this. This was one I received, written by Fr. Richard Hendrick OFM, written on March 13, 2020.

Lockdown 

Yes, there is fear. 

Yes, there is isolation. 

Yes, there is panic buying. 

Yes, there is sickness. 

Yes, there is even death. 

But, 

They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise 

You can hear the birds again. 

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet 

The sky is no longer thick with fumes 

But blue and grey and clear. 

They say that in the streets of Assisi 

People are singing to each other 

across the empty squares, 

keeping their windows open 

so that those who are alone 

may hear family around them. 

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland 

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound. 

Today a young woman I know 

is busy spreading fliers with her number 

through the neighbourhood 

So that the elders may have someone to call on. 

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples 

are preparing to welcome 

and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary 

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting 

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way 

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality 

To how big we really are. 

To how little control we really have. 

To what really matters. 

To Love. 

So, we pray, and we remember that 

Yes, there is fear. 

But there does not have to be hate. 

Yes, there is isolation. 

But there does not have to be loneliness. 

Yes, there is panic buying. 

But there does not have to be meanness. 

Yes, there is sickness. 

But there does not have to be disease of the soul 

Yes, there is even death. 

But there can always be a rebirth of love. 

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. 

Today, breathe. 

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic 

The birds are singing again 

The sky is clearing, 

Spring is coming, 

And we are always encompassed by Love. 

Open the windows of your soul 

And though you may not be able 

to touch across the empty square, 

Sing. 
 

Take care everyone. Be safe. Keep communicating. 

Author

Dr Toni E. Meath, Principal