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A Word from our Principal - COVID Scare

This week has been one of our more challenging ones for 2021. The sudden lockdown in 11 local government areas caught out many, enforcing three and then another eight days of restricted living on many. At the time, 16 of our students were on the Sunshine Coast, representing Girls Grammar in the All Schools Oz Tag competition. The girls had prepared so well, arrived excited and confident, won enough games to challenge for the finals and then everything came to an abrupt halt. Within an hour or so of the phone call between team manager Ms Katelyn Schultz and myself, the girls were on their bus and heading north. Another of our students was at the Cheerleading Championships on the Gold Coast which also had to be cancelled before completion. I am sure there are many other members of our community who, over the weekend, had their plans changed, delayed or cancelled.

I would like to commend our students for their resilience as they accepted the cancellation of their competitions and lost their freedom of movement for at least eight days. I would like to thank all the parents for their support in responding rapidly to the changed situation, particularly in their acceptance of the new government requirement that, in addition to the students who were in the impacted areas, all associated households had to go into lockdown. In particular, I would like to thank the parents who took daughters home or who hosted girls with their own families to save them having to live with further restrictions within the boarding house. I would like to thank the boarder parents who have had to entrust their daughters’ care to another family, knowing that they needed to stay in their communities, for work, for the sakes of their families or even to keep their communities free of any potential COVID outbreak.

This week’s news that an infected individual had travelled to the region for work created further concern. The news about half of the Indooroopilly cluster includes children has also heightened fear for parents everywhere. Cases in the South East, Rockhampton and Cairns have reminded us, quite suddenly, that whilst we have enjoyed relative freedoms in Central Queensland thus far, we are not immune, and our health and freedom of movement can be threatened very quickly.

I would like to reassure our parents that we have a very well-planned and detailed COVID-response plan in place. In particular, we continue to implement a diligent cleaning process. We have been in contact with the CQ Public Health Unit who has confirmed our processes, which includes regular cleaning of high touch points, are thorough and effective. I would like to acknowledge our cleaning staff who work hard to ensure our school is thoroughly cleaned so that the girls and staff have a safe, healthy environment every day.

The school has ample sanitizer around the school and girls, staff and visitors are all encouraged to exercise good hand hygiene. We appreciate all those families who have followed the Chief Health Officer’s advice and stayed home if unwell. As a state, we are grateful to all those who have been tested, not the pleasantest of experiences, but one the CHO says gives her the assurance that she knows where the virus is.

I would like to acknowledge our staff, who have responded this week, navigating the challenges of teaching girls in the classroom and our Oz Tag girls online. I would like to thank them for their pastoral responses, to students, to parents, to their colleagues and to me.

I would also like to thank our Year 9 students and the teachers who attended the camp. With the release of the news at the weekend of the case in Central Queensland, we delayed their departure until we heard the Chief Health Officer’s update. Not only did we not want to send the girls away from home if we were about to go into lockdown, we did not want to send them into other regional areas if there were further cases within Rockhampton. I am grateful for everyone’s patience and flexibility and thankful that all was well for the girls to attend and enjoy their camp.

It is also important to acknowledge for all of us, but particularly for students, times like this week can make us fearful, anxious or just discontented. We worry about getting sick, we worry that if we did we would pass it on, we worry about when we will be able to see our families again and if we will ever experience the lives we used to know. We don’t always act our best when our emotions are taking over, particularly when we are worried. Whilst these feelings are natural, we also need some strategies for supporting our wellbeing and increasing our resilience.

One of these strategies is to recognise the small moments. Taking time to process good experiences boosts serotonin which elevates mood and promotes a sense of calm. One of our staff has been emailing me this week, sharing with me the “little happy moments” of her day. In sharing these, she has made me smile and I have appreciated her positivity. For those able to, another strategy is to spend quality time with families and connect with friends. Another strategy I have been working on in particular this year is trying to exercise self-care: getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, spending time outdoors and eating well. Not only do these strategies help promote calm, they also help to build resilience. Research has shown that when we experience positive emotions on the back of a stressful event, we bounce back more quickly.

This week has felt a little more intense than other weeks. Whilst I feel deeply for the people of SE Queensland, particularly the 6,000 people in quarantine and those who are vulnerable, I am relieved that we have had no news of further cases in Central Queensland. At the moment, at least, it would appear our relative freedom remains! For this, I am grateful.

Deanne Johnston



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