Since March 2020, when COVID-19 concerns were raised and there were discussions of school campus closures, the staff at Alia College have been emailing the school community to keep them up to date and informed on the school’s approach and operations.
Some of the emails to the community included ‘Messages from Bob’ which seemed to be calming and sometimes entertaining. Here we have compiled Bob’s messages:
22 March 2020 | Alia College Remains OPEN
Dear Alia Community,
The situation with COVID-19 is changing almost hour by hour. Every hour this email needs to change yet again; but I just have to press send at some point. A few hours ago the State Government indicated that school holidays would begin early, on Tuesday 24 March. They seem committed to taking this action. I have just watched the Prime Minister on TV saying that schools must stay open for those parents who wish to send their students to school.
Staff have been discussing at length how the school could manage classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of that included a strong desire to enable Alia students to feel connected during this time of mandated disconnection.
My major concerns right now are the preservation of lives and maintaining the education of students.
Please be aware that a number of students and staff have family members with health concerns related to the risk of contracting COVID-19. They have no real choice but to avoid people and public transport and school in general to protect the health of their family. Some staff are able to come to school to run online classes even though they have health concerns for themselves or their families. For the indefinite future it is extremely important that students with poor hand and sneeze hygiene stay home and engage with lessons online. Students who cannot maintain appropriate personal distance must similarly stay home.
Alia College will not be bringing our school holidays forward as state schools are doing. Teachers will be running their classes as timetabled, and students are expected to participate in each timetabled class. However, we will conduct all classes using the Google Suite online so students and staff who are not at school can participate from wherever they are. At this point Alia will not close on-campus classes next week (Monday 23 March – Friday 27 March). As an independent school we believe that we are not necessarily required to bring forward the end of term as the state schools are going to. We are seeking clarification on this matter. However, it may turn out that we are also mandated to close the campus by the State Government. Be ready for whatever happens.
The school campus will certainly be open at least on Monday 23 March – tomorrow. We will certainly be running classes [online at least], as per the timetable, for the rest of the week. Term One school holidays for Alia College will commence Monday 30 March, as per the Alia College 2020 school calendar.
There will be a whole school meeting at 9:00am, Monday 23 March to discuss everything that has not been clearly determined by the government(s). The meeting will be conducted with whoever is at school, and online using student and staff Alia College email connection through Google Meet using the code, “homeroom”.
Students should come to school tomorrow (Monday 23 March) to collect any books or resources that they may need in order to survive the inevitable cabin fever that may be on the way. If schools are mandated to not reopen after the school holidays then we will continue online classes next term as well.
If the way we are operating in these unprecedented circumstances is leaving you with some concern for yourself or someone close to you, please contact the office at email@example.com.
Happy equinox by the way!
3 April 2020 | Message from Bob
Dear Alia Community,
We hope everyone is doing well during the school holidays.
We finished up Term 1 starting to get the hang of our online classroom system and staff are now preparing for Term 2. If anyone had any issues connecting to their online classes, please be in touch and one of the office administrators will help you out.
This whole COVID-19 business is uncharted territory and changing hour by hour. I am sure that you are all taking measures that are appropriate to your own situation. I am just glad that we got to the end of term one with no reported cases of COVID-19 within our school community.
Teachers, students and parents have been on a serious learning curve. As Giselle [teacher]said; it’s been a wild ride to the end of term. Nevertheless it has been so impressive how everyone has been helping each other to navigate their way through the new online delivery with too many options to click on and never the one you want.
Staff and teachers in particular have been working furiously on ways to set up Alia style online classes. Normally we get a bit of a rest in term breaks with only moderate planning. This break is no break; just plenty of reorganising.
Oddly in the last week we had some surprisingly excellent meetings even for non class events such as “lunchtime” and “COAT” would you believe. Even a couple of students who find groups confronting found that the ability to join online and be in the background has been useful.
If the student in your family is having a problem with the online system of classes then welcome to the club. I’m a member! But with a little help from a few of my students and staff I’m getting there.
Parents will be able to join in the fun for the parent/student/teacher meetings early next term. Even the optimists aren’t predicting a return to normal by then.
I seem to have found what might be a silver lining to this cloud. While fumbling for far too long to work out how to mark the roll, the peskier talkative students chatted so much that I was wondering if I would be able to shut them up to start the lesson when I was ready. That actually was ok; but later I thought that even the quiet kids were able to hear and relate if they wished.
As far as the various online events go you don’t have to get it right. The main way to sort things out and to find new tricks is to forge ahead regardless; screw stuff up; pay attention and learn from it. So, allow yourself some space to create and be kind to yourself when it flops.
A couple of students decided that they can take a pic of their work and email it to me. That led me to finding that I can annotate it and return it. This is all still a developing process pushed by students and staff who decide to try something different. This process looks as though we may be able to personalise the courses even more than we normally do at Alia.
I have only had a few calls and emails. Thank you to those parents who have communicated. Usually the matter is about their own young person; but the incidental comments have been so valuable to us here in giving us the energy to steam on; more or less in the way that we are normally trying to provide to students.
So thank you to everyone for recognising that so many other parents, students and teachers all over Australia are also stressed out of their minds trying to figure out expectations, find logins, manage drop-outs and glitchy sound, do assignments and all the rest. [Actually, the sound has been pretty good and no drop-outs at my end so far!]
Please don’t avoid the stress. Focus on it. Name it. Put it out there as I am trying to do. Don’t leave it as a nameless invisible cloud threatening to devour you/us. Misery apparently loves company so share the misery!?! OK there might be a limit to that; but at least don’t suffer in silence. Someone presumably very smart said something like ‘Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow something bad might happen.’ Enjoy the apocalypse. And do all that now in case it all fixes and goes away faster than we expect. It will make a great story in the future for those who live to tell the tale.
Above all remember to laugh or you’ll cry.
13 April 2020 | Term 2 – Students Commence Classes on Wednesday 15 April
Dear Alia Community,
Welcome to term two of the new order of the world at least as it relates to Alia. I hope that you have been able to find creative and valuable ways to manage your self-isolation. Please share your experiences. I also hope that you have not already rubbed your hands raw nor been driven crazy by those you are stuck with.
How the world changes! Just recently the pundits were trying to remove all electronics from the classroom. Don’t you just love it?
Let’s do what we can to savour this remarkable situation. It may go on for a while, but it may also seem to have finished before we have properly experienced this weirdly unexpected circumstance. Many years ago, I went on a six weeklong road trip through the desert outback with no electronic diversions. It was hours between pubs, sights, events, etc. When we were two days into it I thought “What have I done? How will I survive weeks of this?” However, the die was cast and by the end of week one we had settled into our lovely new zen existence with such acceptance that when it was interrupted by a town there was almost a feeling of annoyance at the disturbance. So, enjoy the strangeness before it starts to fade.
To the details:
Alia College will commence classes as per our timetable on Wednesday 15th April.
We will run substantially as we did in the last few days of last term. Students are expected to participate in each timetabled class either online from home or online at school. Classes will be conducted using the Google Suite online, students and staff can participate from wherever they are. Nobody in government seems to know clearly how things will work nor for how long online learning systems may continue. Be ready for anything.
Students, staff and anyone else in physical attendance at school will be expected to maintain stringent hygiene including lots of handwashing, avoiding certain areas, keeping two arms lengths from everyone and not touching anything that you don’t have to.
Some students may want to collect resources from school. Some teachers may provide materials by email, or by Google Classroom or even, heaven forbid, by ye goode olde snail mail.
Hang on for whatever is left of the ride.
P. S. I can’t resist a little advertorial.
Various levels of government are providing statements which are both varying and conflicting. On one hand this provides a serious indication of a failure to be able to deliver on the promise of strong and effective leadership; on the other it demonstrates the value of an environment like Alia where students are encouraged to gradually develop their ability to discuss difficult problems so that they can work out, in conjunction with others: their own ideas; their own moral compass; and their own willingness to make responsible decisions and take action in the face of the eternal uncertainty of the universe.
Bureaucrats love to organise everyone and everything. They are highly confident that they or their masters have it all sorted out. They set our world in order often usefully; but usually quite rigidly; and then they cheerfully ignore the few who find their strictures intolerable – unless of course it gets into the media! Now with the rigidities causing potentially lethal problems there is a need to adjust and most have no idea how. [This goes on; but I’ll stop here. You get the idea.]
24 May 2020 | Return to Campus Post COVID-19 Shutdown
Dear Alia Community,
I hope that you have all been coping well with the shutdown, especially now that it is winding down. I most particularly want to thank all staff, students & their families for their efforts to make things work as best as possible during the difficult pandemic circumstances.
From our end we have noticed that many students have found the shutdown very difficult, while a few have been doing far better with online learning.
On Tuesday 12 May, the Victorian Chief Health Officer advised that it is safe for the community to return to Victorian government schools in a phased return to classrooms. From Tuesday 26 May, Victorian government secondary schools will have their VCE students return to the classroom, and from Tuesday 9 June, the Year 7-10 students will return.
Alia will do likewise. We will also provide a parallel online learning environment. The online component will last at least until the end of this term and possibly longer. Clearly, many will have reservations about physical attendance based on personal considerations. Please respond to our survey to indicate when you are likely to come. You may change your preferences anytime. Just respond to help us plan better.
Of course, students are still welcome to come to school now as they have been throughout the shutdown. Some have done so already. Mostly they have come for a day, a few hours or just to collect work.
So, students can do a test run to see how they manage and particularly to check out the public transport situation. Most public transport seems to be almost completely empty for the time being. That will change probably a little on the 26th of May, and more on the 9th of June.
Everybody who visits the school will be expected to engage in physical distancing and good hygienic behaviours. Students whose behaviour creates too great a concern in the matter of hygiene will be required to stay home and attend online.
The school continues to remain open for any to attend. At this time no government department has attempted to compel students to return to school. The Federal Government has demanded that schools “have a plan” to reopen by 1st June. We find that mildly humorous given that Alia has remained open. Feel free to do your test run before the rush potentially begins on the 9th of June. Just please let us know that you are coming by completing the survey.
Incidentally, final Year 12 exams have been pushed back about a month and NAPLAN has been cancelled for this year.
13 July 2020 | RETURN TO SCHOOL Tues 14 July
How quickly things change!!!
I hope you all had a relaxing break because here we go again with nice clear information until the next variation – probably five minutes after we press send on this email.
Almost everyone is stressed out and sometimes overloaded as well, including other students, parents, teachers, school principals, school administrators, bureaucrats, and bless their souls – politicians. The main stress seems to be that nobody is really sure exactly what to do because no-one has ever read the book on “what to do in pandemics”.
The teachers and admin staff are working hard to figure out how to make Alia run as smoothly as possible for everyone. Let us know by email of anything that you think we should pay attention to.
If you are stressed the main thing to keep in mind is that you don’t really have to do much. Do what seems useful to keep yourselves happy or at least not totally miserable. That might mean doing not much and vegging out on your favourite time wasters. You will get tired of that eventually and you might even get desperate enough to actually do some schoolwork – maybe on your favourite subject. Yes I know that is probably not maths; but I’ll cope.
If you are concerned about school work – let us know.
Also if you’re in VCE do your best remembering that masses of other students are in the same boat as you.
All you can do is what you can. Remember other non-VCE students aren’t even back yet so go easy on yourselves. If you have any spare time, give a thought for the poor examiners who are wondering how they are going to make things work, especially if and when the next lot of changes happen.
Now here are some housekeeping details.