Update, 13 March 2020

Dear Parent and Local Support People

I write to you to provide you with anther update about the Novel Coronavirus.

The safety, health and welfare of our students, staff and parents continues to be our highest priority. As such Melbourne Grammar School’s response continues to be informed by the advice provided by the Australian Government Department of Health and the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services (DDHS). This advice is regularly updated and can be viewed here and here to assist you in your understanding of the virus, how the situation is being handled, and where you can get further information. In the interests of your family, our school and the wider community we urge you and the rest of our school community to regularly revisit the Government Health departments’ websites and adhere to the advice provided; specifically:

  • People with Coronavirus may experience fever, flu like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and headaches and have difficulty breathing. We have asked our students and parents to stay at home until fully recovered should they or their children present with these symptoms. Similarly, if you experience these symptoms, we ask you not to visit the School or attend School events until you have recovered from the illness. The Australian Government Department of Health’s current advice is “If you become unwell and think you may have symptoms of coronavirus, seek medical attention. Call ahead of time to book an appointment. Tell your doctor about your symptoms, travel history and any recent close contact with someone who has coronavirus. If you must leave home to see your doctor, wear a surgical mask (if you have one) to protect others”.
  • DDHS advice is that students, staff and close community members should self-isolate from the School if the following applies:
    • The person is a confirmed case of COVID-19
    • The person is a close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • In the best interests of the health and welfare of you and your family, you are urged to carefully consider the implications of overseas travel. You should also consider the potential for a quarantine or isolation period that may be exercised upon your return and your capacity to travel should various governments enact decisions around access, restriction and border control. Please regularly review the latest advice from Smartraveller www.smartraveller.gov.au
  • Please continue to practise good personal hygiene.

We have consulted with our school doctors. They and the government Health Departments advise a common-sense approach.  We will continue to carefully monitor our students and those who present with flu like symptoms will be sent home and instructed to seek, and adhere to, medical advice. It is up to the student’s doctor, and not us, to make any diagnosis and recommend treatment. 

We appreciate the anxiety that exists in our school community, made worse by some unhelpful and unnecessary hysteria. The staff and I adopting a business as usual approach, are calming any speculation and providing good pastoral care.

We also need to keep some perspective; specifically:

  • Australia has an excellent history of dealing with infectious diseases and has a world class medical care system.
  • Early data suggests that of those who develop an illness, the great majority will have a mild-to-moderate, but a self-limiting illness – similar to seasonal influenza. It is, however, also clear that a relatively small minority of people who get COVID-19 will develop complications severe enough to require hospital care, most often pneumonia. In only a very small proportion of these, the illness may be severe enough to lead to death. So far, the data suggests that the risk of severe disease and death increases amongst elderly people and in people with underlying health risk conditions (in the same way as for seasonal influenza).
  • Based on current data, overall illness is less common and usually less severe in school children and teenagers. So, our students are not currently classified as an ‘at risk’ population.
  • The majority of people with COVID-19 have recovered without the need for any specific treatment, as is the case for the common cold or seasonal flu – and they expect that the vast majority of cases will best be managed at home, again as with seasonal colds and influenza.

We are closely monitoring the provision of overseas trips organised by the School. We will cancel or postpone any trip should we feel such a trip will compromise the safety, health or welfare of the students and staff. We will continue to liaise with our travel agents and insurers to asses each trip and minimise any health or financial ramifications of a delay or cancellation. We will advise our students, staff and parents as soon as practicable of a decision to cancel or postpone a trip.

In adopting a business as usual approach, we are keen to run the normal school program in which the classroom learning and student support are prioritised and to limit unnecessary exposure to our school community. This morning the APS Heads have met and have decided that with the exception of 1st Team Sport, all other levels of regular APS sporting competitions (including Year 5 and 6 fixtures) will not proceed for the remainder of Term 1, 2020. A decision was made to continue with 1st Sport and Rowing this weekend as many fixtures are in progress. We ask members of our community involved in 1st Sport to adhere to the health and safety precautions recommended by your respective school communities.  The Scotch Mercantile regatta is proceeding under the jurisdiction of Rowing Victoria.

APS Heads will reconvene on Monday, 16 March in respect to reviewing the decision on 1st Sport for next weekend, APS Swimming and Diving Finals and the Head of the River. A further communication will be distributed following this discussion.

The APS Heads appreciate the support of our APS community as we continue to navigate these uncertain times.

Next Monday our School Executive is meeting to monitor the situation, review the latest relevant government advisories and review our program of concerts, assemblies, camps, interstate school trips and meetings. 

We are also mindful some schools have had to close on a temporary basis due to Coronavirus. Any decision to temporarily close any school section at Melbourne Grammar would be made by the Whole School Executive in the best interests of the welfare and health of our school community and after considering advice from the DDHS. Under such circumstances, we all wish to minimise the impact of any temporary closure. In the event of a temporary school closure, please be reassured by the following:

  • We wish to minimise the impact on our students’ learning. Our staff will do everything practicable to provide support for the continuation of student learning that is age and stage appropriate. This may include using email and the School’s on-line learning portals.
  • The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) has advised that special provisions will be in place so that no VCE student is disadvantaged as a result of the Coronavirus.
  • Upon returning to school, the School will support any student who misses school due to the above requirements, to minimise any impact on his or her education and progress.

I trust our students, staff and parents will exercise a degree of flexibility, patience and understanding which are required under these unique circumstances.

The impact of the coronavirus is of concern to all of us. However, to avoid any unnecessary distress to our students, parents and staff, I ask that we remain calm, keep the situation in perspective and be reassured by our plans that have been informed by government Health Department advice.

We will continue to keep you informed of any significant developments. Please do not hesitate to contact your Head of School or me should you wish to discuss this further.

I thank you in anticipation of your ongoing understanding and support.

Yours sincerely

Philip Grutzner