In early March, two students at St Patrick’s Marist College Dundas were diagnosed with COVID-19. Principal Angela Hay tells us how the school managed it.
On Friday 6 March, Epping Boys High had to close when a Year 11 student tested positive for COVID-19. “We have close connections to Epping Boys,” St Patrick’s Marist College Principal Angela Hay said. The schools are just 15 minutes from each other. “As you can imagine, the rumours started flying around.” Over that weekend, Hay and her team were informed a parent of one of her school’s students had tested positive. There was also an unconfirmed report a second parent had fallen ill.
The school immediately contacted NSW Health and the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP). “In a pandemic, as we’re in, NSW Health has control of the situation,” Hay said. “NSW Health is in charge of quarantining, of self-isolation, of decisions around school closures and of all school communications.” The school was told to progress as normal.
But the situation changed rapidly. Early in the morning of Monday 9 March, Hay received information that one of her Year 10 students had tested positive for the virus. She immediately renewed contact with NSW Health and the diocese. Then a second student snapchatted that they had the virus. This took some verifying. “By about 7am, we had confirmation that two of our students had tested positive for COVID-19,” Hay said. By then, St Patrick’s Marist students were already on their way to school.
The next move was to call an emergency meeting of the leadership team. Shortly after 7am, the Executive Director of CEDP, Greg Whitby, was on site, as was Mark Rix, Head of the Executive Office and Communications at CEDP. On the line was the Chief Executive of Catholic Schools NSW, Dallas McInerney, and two professors from NSW Health. The team mapped the way forward.
In anticipation of anxious phone calls from parents, the first step was working with support staff. The message was simple yet sobering: “Yes we have two cases of positive tests among our Year 10 students. We are working closely with NSW Health and waiting on their advice.”