letter from the principal 11 september

BY Mrs K Stear

                                                                                          11 September 2020
Dear Parents and Learners
We have all been thrown into the deep end by the COVID-19 pandemic and I am immensely proud of the efforts that the Riebeek family has made to keep our school ethos and work ethic afloat.  When we first went into lockdown nobody expected that the initial three weeks would turn into an almost six month on/off for schooling.
I would like to say a huge thank you to our staff. They have rallied in these stressful times, worked together and supported each other. The spirit of the staff has been phenomenal. I am humbled by their absolute commitment, their efforts to keep everyone safe and their determination to educate holistically and finish their syllabuses. Our school staff have been through the same pandemic experiences that everyone has and then, additionally, had to plan and execute school work to ensure that our children do not fall behind. This they did admirably, having to do distance teaching and also cope with their own families, some with young children who could not be left alone.
In order to reach as many of our learners as possible, the staff made use of a variety of methods to teach, bearing in mind that more than 52.2% of our families do not have access to any Wi-Fi at home and only 37% had more than 5GB a month, with 61.4% having limited data. 84% of our households indicated challenges with accessing printers to print the notes which were so diligently prepared and sent through. Many families do not own a computer. This led to the hybrid system used, from e-mails, the d6, WhatsApp to telephone calls and also the hard copy collection days. All of these were aimed at getting as wide a coverage of our learners as possible. We have received mainly very positive feedback and it appears that the system that was followed served its purpose very well. We are aware that some parents did expect more virtual intervention, but, as shown herewith, many of our parents do not have the facilities or financial means to access a virtual platform only. This means we would have been excluding a huge percentage of our learners and Riebeek supports inclusive education. It is very easy to criticise when you have not walked in a person’s shoes.
The Grade 9 learners were finally welcomed back to school this week! They were full of spirit and smiles. I would like to thank them for their co-operation and positive attitude. The Grade 7 and 5 learners also attended school this week and they have become so accustomed to the programme here that all is running very smoothly.
On Monday, 14 September, the matric trial examinations begin. We wish all our matrics the best of luck and urge them to put the stresses of COVID-19 to the back of their minds while writing and let us, the staff, worry about that on their behalf. Focus now, matrics, and I am convinced you will make us proud in these very uncertain times. The matric trial exams extend from 14 September to 7 October. ID cards must be brought with to gain admittance to the exam venue. 
The State President and Minister of Education have asked that all parents continue paying school fees. School fees are a statutory cost, unless parents have a full exemption for the payment of school fees. The costs of running a school have not reduced in this time, and there are many costs to be borne by the school, such as the salaries of teachers who have been working throughout this time, even if from home initially. I again urge parents to continue with their school fee payments. However, we also realise that some parents’ financial circumstances may have changed drastically during this time and I request those parents to get in contact with the school in order to apply for a full or partial exemption for the payment of school fees. Times are extremely challenging and the school has suspended all capital projects and all fees are going towards salaries, curricular and municipal costs.
I remind parents of the following dates and events when the various grades will attend school:
·       14-18 September: Grade 4, 6, 9.
·       21- 23 September: Grade 5, 7, 8, 10.
·       No school on 24 and 25 September (Heritage Day public holiday and school holiday).
·       28 September – 2 October: Grade 4, 6, 8, 10.
·       5-9 October: Grade 5, 7, 9, 11.
·       Matric Trial Examinations end on 7 October and matrics are at home on 8 and 9 October.
·       12-16 October: Grade 4,6,10, AND GRADE 12. It is essential that Grade 12s attend school for Trials Examination feedback and remedial instruction.
·       16 October - final day of school lessons for 2020 for Grade 10.
·        Grade 4 and 6 will have their last day of term 3 on 16 October.
·       Monday 19 October is the final Grade 12 Life Orientation examination.
·        Wednesday 21 October is the CAT P1 Practical final exam.
·       19-23 October:  Grade 5, 7, 11, AND GRADE 12: It is essential that Grade 12s attend school for Trials Examination feedback and remedial instruction.
·        22 October is the final day of school lessons for 2020 for Grade 11.
·        Grade 5 and 7 will have their last day of term 3 on 22 October.
·       There will be no school on Friday 23 October for any other grades except Grade 12 who will mark their last day of formal schooling in a special Valedictory ceremony.
·       23 October: End of Term 3.  Reports will be handed out for Term 3 and we will communicate to you what the procedures for this will be in due course.
·       2 November: Start of Term 4.  We anticipate that Grade 8 and 9 will each have two weeks at school in Term 4 and we will also look at the length that the juniors will be at school in Term 4 and let you know as soon as we are able to.
·       2 – 6 November: Start of Grade 10-11 examinations.
·       5 November: Start of final Grade 12 examinations.
I am very concerned that some learners have not written tests or handed in projects or assignments required for their SBA marks. I have to emphasize that learners will not be automatically progressed to the next grade because of the impact of COVID-19. Learners HAVE to participate in all assessments. Should there be no valid reason for a learner’s absence, she will have to face the consequences. Fortunately, at Riebeek the number of these learners is very much in the minority. Learners have to ensure that the quality of the work they submit is of their best ability and not a slap-dash effort in the mistaken belief that the marks do not matter. 
Where parents have submitted documentation for full or partial exemption from school attendance, the onus is on the parent to ensure the grade head is informed, the work is collected weekly, work is submitted weekly and that learners are working at home.  Grade 10 and 11 learners who have been working from home will be expected to write the final examinations at school.  Learners working from home in Grade 4 to 9 will receive notification of when to be at school to do their assessment tasks. 
We will periodically ask that certain grades or certain subjects return to school for a day during the time period where they are not allocated to be at school, such as in an off-week.  As schooling is compulsory and in a normal year would run from Monday to Friday weekly, we are well within our rights to expect learners to attend school when we are able to accommodate them and where we see a need.  Excuses of it being the learner’s week off or not having transport are not valid, as these extra lessons or SBA tests are within normal school hours and are a legitimate part of schooling. 
We have noted with concern the opening of a shop in the residential area across the road from our school entrance.  This places us in a difficult position in this time of the pandemic. When parents or transport providers drop off girls at school, the learner becomes the responsibility of the school but we cannot be responsible for them at the shop. Therefore, we request learners do not visit the shop unless accompanied by a parent or an adult authorised by a parent to accompany them. At the end of the school day, learners must be collected promptly; yet we have learners leaving the school grounds to go to the shop and then returning to the school grounds to wait to be collected.  An added complication to the lateness of them being collected is that they should be rescreened and our sanitation procedures repeated on returning from the shop. Note that the shop does not appear to follow Covid regulations. This is placing other learners in danger of contamination.  We must therefore insist that if learners leave the school grounds, they leave and not return to the school grounds if they go to the shop. 
We would like to congratulate the Kruger and Goeiman family on the birth of beautiful baby girls. We congratulate Miss S. du Preez on her engagement.  We also congratulate Mrs Stark on the engagement of her daughter, Catherine, a Riebeek Old Girl. This is a second engagement in the Stark family this year. Mrs du Plessis is a granny again!  Mrs Ferreira’s daughter graduated with a B Ed degree. The Stear family celebrated the 21st birthday today of my second youngest daughter, Kate. We also note with sadness that seven of our staff members have lost close loved ones since the start of this year.
I wish to make it very clear that regardless of the Lockdown Level and other circumstances, including negative attitudes related to SBA tasks due, we will not ease our protocols nor drop our expectations or standards.
It is my hope that you all remain safe and in good health.
Kind Regards
Mrs K Stear

 September 11, 2020
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