SA Lockdown – Our Response

Can you remember back to last weekend? On Saturday my wife Debbie and I were preparing for our Christmas in July dinner party with our closest friends. It’s always a great excuse to celebrate Christmas cheer with our friends in July. We prepared the dining room and lounge with Christmas decorations and set the table with blue and silver bonbons to match our theme. I had queued up the Christmas carols playlist on Spotify. We cooked pork with crackle, turkey roll, ham glazed with our special Rijken recipe and roasted vegetables. We had the Rijken pea and ham soup for entrée and my wife made her special sticky date pudding with caramel sauce. It was a wonderful celebration. Sunday was a day of cleaning up and doing chores around the house in preparation for going back to school on Monday.

Monday morning came and I was running a bit late, coffee in hand. Staff had arrived at school early in readiness for our two-day professional development. The program was exciting – our first keynote speaker was Helen Connolly, the Commissioner for Children and Young People. She gave us an overview of young people in SA and shared some interesting observations about what they share with her about life. She said that the youth of today are very different to us when we were young. Their thinking is advanced, they want to be heard and have the agency to make a difference in life, they want to find relevance in what they are doing, they are extremely well-skilled in using technology and multi-tasking and they want to belong. The take-away message was that as educators we need to listen more closely to what young people are saying about life, what they value and how they see the future. The sessions after morning tea involved staff undertaking several different workshops ranging from High Impact Strategies for Classrooms, Differentiation and Productive Classrooms, Universal Strategies for Positive Behaviour Support to Autism workshops and Microsoft Outlook training for our ESO staff. These sessions were led by an expert team from Flinders University and staff from Cardijn College.

By mid-morning, we got wind that restrictions were going to be imposed from midnight on Monday and we quickly had to readjust the program for Tuesday to an online platform so that staff were not meeting in large numbers. At the same time, we began thinking about what it meant for students returning on Wednesday under Level 4 restrictions. Staff went home that night preparing for these new restrictions, but to be honest it did not dawn on me that we would be in lockdown within 24 hours. That night I went to the gym to meet my personal trainer as gyms would be shut down from midnight. My trainer worked me extra hard just to make sure I had plenty of exercise in the bank.

On Tuesday we commenced our online keynote and staff were all interspersed in classrooms and their offices and at their own campuses. We got wind that the Premier was making an announcement by mid-morning and that we were going into lockdown. When the announcement was made, I got all staff on Teams and quickly spoke to them about what was happening and asked them to go home by 2pm to prepare for the seven-day lockdown and we would communicate instructions by email. By now, the communication team was preparing communication for families and the leadership team moved at pace to prepare the instructions for students. Everyone sprung into action and there was a level of calm and confidence that we would be fine. There was great communication by all leadership team members and all aspects of school were quickly arranged so that staff would be on-hand to supervise children the next day and to ensure all services were still available such as ICT support, pastoral care, access to resources, information and maintenance. Wednesday was a staff preparation day with a few students attending and Thursday and Friday saw the start of our remote learning phase. All students responded well by checking in for attendance and engaging with their teachers and the learning intentions. Any ICT issues were quickly resolved as were issues navigating SEQTA for the secondary students and Seesaw for the primary students. In times of emergency, I just cannot believe how our community comes together. The competence and leadership from the Cardijn staff, the resilience and adaptability of our students and the terrific support from our families. The many emails and text messages, Facebook posts and other communications were so heartening and makes me feel so privileged to be working here at Cardijn.

We will get through this emergency well and we will learn more from it again. We will catch up on all those important milestones such as the special welcome to nine Reception students starting school for the first time, 21 new students starting at Marcellin and four new students at Cardijn. We will focus on our #Together priority to again get through this stronger and better.
Our response has been first class!

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, an R-12 co-educational Catholic school in the Marist tradition, deeply inspired by the method of College patron Joseph Cardijn with a foundation built on the three pillars of his teachings; to See, Judge and Act. Educating and inspiring students in the beautiful Southern Vales region of Adelaide since 1984, Cardijn has grown to encompass three schools, each with distinct offerings. Cardijn College Galilee at Aldinga offers Reception to Year 7, expanding to include Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. Cardijn College at Noarlunga Downs offers Years 7-12 and is renowned for academic excellence and a vibrant extra-curricular program. Cardijn College Marcellin at Christie Downs provides a wide variety of vocational education and training opportunities for students in Years 10 – 12 and beyond, with relationships that extend well into their careers. With a current enrolment of 1750 students and 240 staff, Cardijn College is an institution which strives to be a beacon of faith in the community, with students who have enormous influence and impact on both a local and global level. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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