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Responding to Omicron

Regulus Address // Issue 1 // May 2022

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The pandemic has resulted in a significant change of role for Chief Information Officer, Dave Hart, who in the midst of the 2022 Omicron outbreak, has become St Andrew’s COVID Officer.

Alongside the rest of the Executive Team, Dave has been instrumental in developing the Ministry of Education’s guidelines around the COVID-19 Protection Framework (Traffic Light System) setting into a comprehensive 37-page Risk Management and Logistics Plan, now a blueprint for how all aspects of College life operate under the restrictions. “We drew together all facets of College life, and asked how can we deliver our core academic programmes, and protect our community’s health and well-being, while not limiting students’ experiences in their co-curricular and other pursuits.”

By the end of Term 1, well over 800 St Andrew’s students had been off school, either due to catching the virus or being a household contact. “All of those students had at least a week off school, which is a massive level of absence. Our classroom teachers had the challenge of providing teaching and learning for those who could partake, and online resources for those who couldn’t.”

Additional plans were set up to mitigate risk, with other initiatives put in place including Continuous Learning Plans for students, professional development for teachers, and business continuity plans for the various support teams in the College.

Dave says he has ‘quite enjoyed’ becoming an unofficial expert on all things COVID-19 since the first lockdown in 2020, when he had a key role in the development of St Andrew’s Remote Learning programme. “This year has been even harder than the lockdown, as we need to balance a lot of competing factors within a hybrid environment. On any given day we have different numbers of teachers, students, and support staff either at work, sick, or self-isolating and working from home. A big team effort is going on behind the scenes to manage this.”

Having excellent data gathering and technological systems already in place at the College has assisted the response, and Dave says other systems which have been adopted during the pandemic may continue to apply well into the future.

Transparency, good communication, and guidance for students, teachers, support staff, parents, caregivers, and the wider St Andrew’s community throughout the ever evolving situation has been another important aspect, says Dave. “We try to be as visible as possible and I think our communication has been well received. One of my responsibilities was releasing daily case numbers at the College, a bit like Dr Ashley Bloomfield and his 1.00pm update.”

A lot of early work also went into gathering Vaccine Pass information from students and staff, and creating systems around contact tracing, both of which are now obsolete. “I’ve never done so much work that has become out of date so quickly. But this is the nature of COVID-19.”

Dave got to test drive the College’s COVID-19 systems and procedures first-hand when he had to isolate with his three daughters, Lorna (Year 12), Lily (Year 11) and Mabel (Year 7) when one of them caught the virus. “From my perspective as a parent it was a positive experience. The framework did the work and there was a good level of engagement from the College to check on the girls’ well-being and learning.”

The unpredictable nature of COVID-19 means the College will continue to assess, reassess, and update its planning going forward alongside the ‘really good guidance’ it receives from the Ministry of Education, says Dave. “We have become used to not planning too far in advance, and to react and respond to whatever comes up.”

Chief of Information Officer, Dave Hart, takes on new role as COVID-19 Officer at the College as we navigate unprecedented times.

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