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Back to School

The Revd Peter Laurence OAM | Chief Executive Officer, Anglican Schools Commission

Happy New Year to all Anglican Messenger readers!
In general, I’m a ‘glass half full’ person … first looking at the opportunity and not the impediment. So, you may be surprised to read that I sense a lack of the usual excitement and buzz of a new school year commencing here in WA this year. Optimism and hope have been replaced with uncertainty and anxiety.

The school year ended with much hope of borders opening and Delta abating during 2022. We hope that both are occurring, but they do so in the context of the ‘O’ word. Omicron changed everything over the Christmas holidays.

With the WA border remaining closed, families and friends from Australia and around the world must wait a little longer to be reunited. Some people have not seen their parents, children or other loved ones for over two years.

We are also eagerly awaiting news on the return of international students. We look forward to welcoming them back to our schools when border restrictions allow. They form a highly valued part of our communities, enriching the life and culture through the diversity they bring.

What none of us know is how this year will play out, with the Omicron variant now starting to spread in Western Australia. In a sense, this will be WA’s ‘first wave’. January gave us an insight into what to expect, as we saw numbers climb rapidly in all states and territories apart from our own.

Schools will be taking every precaution to be Covid-safe places for both students and staff. But we know that primary school aged children are largely unvaccinated (or have one dose) and that, with young people being in close proximity to one another all day every day, the environment is such that schools will be places where Omicron is spread.

What have we learnt from the past two years of the pandemic? Many things of course. We know that, if necessary, we can pivot to home learning at very short notice. Everyone hopes that this isn’t necessary over the coming months, but schools are ready for such an occurrence. We also know that it’s important to plan, but not too far ahead as things change rapidly in Covid-times. We need to be flexible and open to change at short notice. We need to communicate with our people – our staff, our parents and carers, and our students. If there is a vacuum of information, it is filled with stories of fear and uncertainty. Let in truth and light through regular and open communication.

Most importantly, the past two years of the pandemic have taught us that we will get through the challenges of the next few months together. Schools and parishes are resilient places.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go
(Joshua 1:9).

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