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letter from the principal 22 may

BY Mrs K. Stear

                                                                                                                                                               22 May 2020
Dear Parents and Learners
The Minister of Education announced on Tuesday that school staff will return to school on Monday 25 May 2020 and the matrics and grade seven learners will return on Monday 1 June.  However, the Superintendent–General (SG) of the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE) will be meeting with all stakeholders in a virtual meeting to be held on Saturday 23 May 2020. Until such time that the SG issues an amendment to Instruction Note 15 the following is still applicable:
- Officials, except DMTs of district offices shall work from home until further notice.
- Return of principals, SMTs and non – teaching staff is postponed until further notice.
- The return of all teachers postponed until a date is determined by the SG.
 
It is therefore the opinion of some education unions that if PPEs have not been delivered to schools and the required cleaning has not taken place by the time the teachers return on Monday, if so directed by SG, they are not to endanger their lives by entering such schools. Upon arrival at school, staff must have their temperatures taken by means of a digital thermometer scanner and be supplied with at least 2 face masks each. Where staff are expected to gather, there must be sufficient room to maintain social distancing. Sufficient soap and water and/or hand sanitisers must be available. Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of often touched surfaces such as door handles, handrails, desks, tables, windows, must also be evident. In the absence of these measures, union members are to inform the Principal or relevant district office, and the unions’ provincial offices that they are not prepared to enter or remain on the school premises. This obviously places the restarting of work for educators and school for learners in jeopardy for the dates mentioned by the Minister of Education, namely the 25th for staff and 1st for grade 7 and 12. Schools need to receive their PPEs from the Department before school can recommence.  Even though schools may have made their own arrangements to have all the required equipment in place and sanitization done, we will be bound by decisions made at the highest levels and will not be able to re-open independently from the directives we receive. 
 
There is no doubt that our pupils, parents and staff have worked incredibly hard over the last eight weeks, and I am very grateful for this. We are well aware that many parents have had to juggle many critical demands at home, and that the last eight weeks have definitely not been easy. Thank you, parents, for all that you have done, and continue to do for your child’s education.  Girls, I cannot tell you how proud the staff and I are of your efforts.  The skills you have learnt in this time will stand you in good stead in the future.
 
With regards to the phasing in of other grades, we have yet to receive official word from the Department of Basic Education on this matter, and will be in contact with all parents when further details are available. We will continue to place work on the d6 until such time as school resumes for the relevant grade.  We await word on what the implications of the curriculum trimming are for the syllabus, but expect that Grade 4 to 11 will have 20% of the year’s work trimmed off.
We are aware that many parents are understandably very hesitant and nervous to send their child back to school at this time. However, should schools reopen on the 1 June and then phased in dates for other learners, we will take absolutely every effort to safeguard your daughter’s health. The learners will be placed in large venues, where all social distancing protocols can be observed. The classes will be split into smaller groups. Cloth masks will be required at all times, and the venues will be disinfected before and after school on a daily basis. The tuckshop will probably operate on an ordering system at this time and breaks will be held on the fields, where pupils will be suitably spread out.
 
All pupils and staff will also be screened in terms of Covid-19 regulations upon their arrival at school. Sanitizers will be available at all entrances to the teaching venues.
The school has purchased:
·       A thermal thermometer and 2 hand held temperature scanners.
·       Hand sanitiser
·       Paper towels
·       Masks for staff and learners
·       Safety glasses for learners
·       Face shields for staff
·       Tape to mark spacing distances on the floor
·       Bin liners
·       Bins with lids
·       Sanitiser dispensers including 6 Automatic dispensers which are elbow operated
·       Gloves
 
We have identified an Isolation Room and a Protocol to follow should a learner or staff member present with a raised temperature. We have created a training manual to educate staff and learners on the virus and how to safeguard against it.  We have set up very detailed Operational Procedures for when school does restart for both learners and staff. We have had the school building sanitised and this will be done again before learners resume classes and then daily in the afternoons when the learners have left the building. We have created an Acknowledgement Document to be signed by all visitors to the school which also includes the visitors contact details. Visitors will also be required to be temperature screened, but visitors to the school will only be permitted if the visit is of a critical nature. A symptom screening questionnaire has been created which is to be completed by all learners and staff. A risk assessment of the school was performed.
 
The timetables for the Grade 12 and 7 classes are being adjusted.  We will ask that our Grade 7 and 12 girls have a pen in hand on their arrival at school to facilitate the filling in of forms and to acknowledge receipt of their personal protective equipment.  We will ask that they honour the 1.5 metre physical distancing at all times and that the excitement of being back at school not result in physical contact.  We will be asking that learners wear civvies each day until we announce the start of wearing of school uniform.  A different outfit should be worn each day and the clothing washed on return from school. We appeal to learners and parents to ensure the clothing is comfortable and conservative. We need our learners to understand that violating the Covid-19 procedures would be a serious disciplinary offense and we reserve the right to request parents collect their daughter if there are repeated violations of the protocol.  We encourage our learners to practice the wearing of a mask and familiarize themselves with the spatial dimensions of a 1.5 metre physical distance. 
 
We request that parents of Grade 7s and 12s send an email to info@riebeekcollege.co.za if your daughter/s will not be returning to school due to comorbidities or safety concerns.  Please provide as much detail as possible in this email if there is a medical condition to allow us to have documentation on hand should the Department of Education require this. 
 
We also request that parents ensure that the school has the correct contact details for the parents and guardians.  Should your child present with a fever, it will be imperative that we are able to reach you with urgency. 
 
Riebeek College will not take any chances with the lives of our girls and staff.
 
Lockdown is difficult. We are all dealing with fears, stresses and uncertainties. It is even more difficult for families who are under financial pressures, who are dealing with physical or mental illnesses, who share a space with an abusive person, who live in a small space, or who have very few resources. Parents, you can help your children by heeding the following:
·       Generally, your children will cope as well as you do.
·       If you want your children to be calm and coping, then you have to try to be calm and
              coping.
·       Children of all ages will react to your actions and attitudes, not just to what you say.
              Because of this, you need to find some private time and space to talk to other adults      about your own fears, worries and stress. Do not let your children hear these    discussions.
·       If you do not have anyone to talk to, reach out to one of the many helplines available.
·       You must try to regulate your own moods and anxieties, in order to present the best
              model possible for your children.
·       Your children must feel that you are in control and making the best decisions possible for their well-being.
 
We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to so many parents who are making every possible effort to honour their school fee obligations at this time. We currently receive funds from the Department of Basic Education which amounts to a very tiny percentage of our annual school budget. We therefore are completely reliant on school fees to run the school. Over the years the school has made every effort to keep the school fees at a very reasonable level (as can be seen when comparing the school fees to similar schools in the metropole). As a result of the current financial difficulties faced by so many, including the school, we are drastically reducing our expenses for the remainder of the year, and will only allow the absolute essential costs to remain. As mentioned previously, school fees are the lifeblood of the school. If any parent is in a situation where they require assistance to pay their current fees, please contact our bursar’s office on finance@riebeekcollege.co.za. I also request that where possible, for parents to pay the school fees directly into the school account by eft. Bank – FNB            Acc Name- Riebeek College GHS       Acc Number – 53971284352   Branch code – 210316    Reference – learners’ name and surname and fees
 
Please remember that the school is blessed to have the services of a consulting psychologist and we encourage that our parents consider engaging with her if there is any concern about the mental well-being of your precious daughters.  Grade 9 and 12 learners should also consider her services in making subject and career choices.  Miss Loock can be reached via email at nerinewp@gmail.com and on her cell at 0845156878.
 
Thank-you once again for your incredible support of the school at this time. Please continue to take care of yourselves and your families. We, as a school, have really missed our interactions with our families and it has been difficult for our teachers not seeing their pupils on a daily basis. Every family is in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult and uncertain time.
 
Best Regards
 
Mrs Kieran Stear
PRINCIPAL
 

 May 22, 2020
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2020
Mrs K. Stear

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