As parents and teachers, we are shepherding young people through a time of great uncertainty. We can rationalise and be grateful for our situation by concluding that we are better off in Geelong than Melbourne, in Victoria than New South Wales, and in Australia than many other parts of the world. Being rational and grateful is important but it can still be difficult for us to remain upbeat and positive in our current context.

The world has changed with the arrival of the COVID era and none of us can be certain exactly what this means for us in the long term. Many things will return unchanged, some things will return changed and some things will not return. This uncertainty is particularly difficult for our young people and they need reassurance from us as their parents and teachers.

Listening to how young people are feeling, acknowledging their feelings of loss and confusion, and being open about our own concerns… including about what we are doing to keep ourselves well and forward-looking are important. It is not helpful to remain stoic and pretend we are unaffected ourselves.

Among the many significant changes imposed on our students is the necessity of expanding their learning repertoire to include learning remotely. Most students coped reasonably well with the early iterations of remote learning however many have found it difficult to maintain their enthusiasm engagement as the novelty has worn off.

Both Mark Kennedy and Lisa Pope have provided some important guidelines to help students operate effectively in remote learning later in this newsletter. It seems highly likely that at some stage we will be asked to shift to remote learning again so I encourage you to go through this advice with your son and help and encourage him to implement these guidelines.

While we remain at school we are guided by our COVID safe plan. The core elements of this are wearing a correctly fitted mask at all times, maintaining social distancing where possible and undertaking basic hygiene and hand sanitising measures. Our teachers report enormous difficulty having students consistently comply with expectations regarding masks. We all know masks are uncomfortable and none of us enjoy wearing them, but they are an important safety measure.

It is becoming increasingly clear that vaccination and mask-wearing are the two most important elements in maintaining a safe environment for all. We expect that vaccination will become available to secondary-aged students in the coming months. In line with scientific and medical advice, we will be strongly encouraging everyone in the St Joseph’s school community to access vaccination as early as possible. In the meantime, we would appreciate your support in emphasising to your son of wearing a mask correctly at all times.

At St Joseph’s we take pride that every College event is organised thoroughly and well in advance. With the current restrictions and the knowledge that these can change quickly, this is extremely difficult. We are currently planning multiple scenarios for each event and are leaving a final decision on each event, both whether it can run and under what restrictions, until as late as possible. I apologise for any additional uncertainty that this creates for students and families.

I am pleased to report that important infrastructure developments are progressing well. The ground floor of the Peter Chanel Centre is progressing on time and we expect to have occupancy next month. Site set up has commenced for the construction of change in toilet facilities on Carey Oval, a long overdue improvement! We expect completion early in the New Year. The College also recently purchased the property in Leslie Lane behind our Heritage Centre and adjacent Zampatti Oval. While there are no immediate plans for this property this long-term strategic purchase completes the current College footprint.

Stay well and God Bless