My heart, where the campus lives
2019-2020 has been an absolutely challenging and unforgettable school year. Earlier in the year we experienced the social unrest followed by a worldwide epidemic. One common impact of both was an unprecedented and involuntary school closure. On the surface it seemed that all teaching and learning activities had to be ceased. However, with the joint effort of the teaching and non-teaching staff, Josephians were still able to ‘attend’ school like never before – in a new distancing norm.
Even though teachers and students were not allowed to go to school as usual during the school suspension period in order to minimize cross infection, we could still connect with each other in different ways – parents’ notices, online assignment and lesson arrangement, sunshine phone calls, Zoom form teacher periods, and real time lessons are to name but a few.
To fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and to allow a campus suitable for providing special care to the students who came back to school for specific reasons – for example when parents were unable to tend to their children, or when students found it difficult to complete their assignments without teachers’ guidance – a lot of measures were carried out to ensure that the school campus was ready for them when necessary. Body temperature checking, sanitized carpets, hand sanitizers and infra-red temperature checking devices were a prerequisite for students and visitors every day at the entrance of the school upon arrival. The public areas inside the campus and all the classrooms were sanitized on a regular basis. Drinking fountains were closed to minimize inter-personal contact. We would rather have tried everything to carry out these safety measures as we believed that safeguarding the well-being of our students, teachers and visitors was our top priority during this critical time.
More importantly, teaching and non-teaching staff were arranged to take duty shifts at school in order to allow our students to seek support whenever they needed to come back. It was also arranged that janitors would help clean the school campus to maintain utmost hygiene.
As always, we provided a religious setting for our students. Apart from the daily prayer, the Religious and Moral Education Team arranged online formation materials for students. Parents, teachers and students were invited to view the videos at home so as to maintain their religious rituals. To celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the school, we also produced a video in March during the school suspension, encouraging Josephians to share the happy moments.
Academically, the school continued to nurture our boys through effective online measures. Teachers stayed connected with the students through daily ‘Online Homework and Lesson Arrangement’. Students completed their assignments and attended specified lessons on schedule every week. Those who failed to submit the assignments on time were recorded and parents were notified of their sons’ performance on a weekly basis. In order to help the students who had problems with the assignments, real time online lessons in core subjects were arranged from Wednesday to Friday every week. Students got support from the subject teachers concerned.
Regarding the non-core subjects, teachers prepared online videos so that students could continue learning the relevant topics in respective disciplines during their long stay at home. We also offered online Zoom lessons for interest groups, such as the School Wind Band and the School Basketball Team. By doing so, students could still maintain their training sessions throughout the school suspension period.
To cater for the needs of the Form 6 students who were preparing for the HKDSE 2020, online mock examinations were conducted in February 2020 so that students had a ‘rehearsal’ before their public examinations. A majority of the elective subject teachers arranged real time online lessons for the students as a final revision prior to the real challenge ahead. It was arranged for those who wanted to come back to school to prepare for the HKDSE 2020 to have self-study in the school hall with the assistance of teachers or teaching assistants. We made sure that the students concerned had their requests attended to and all were well-equipped for the public examinations.
Apart from the aforementioned, all stakeholders were well informed of the latest updates from the school regarding special school policies during this critical time. School managers were notified of the latest arrangements regarding online teaching and learning matters. Parents received more than sixteen notices about the online assignments and lessons schedule in order to ensure their sons would be able to complete their assignments on time. Teachers also attended the Zoom meetings (five for the Administrative Committee and three for all the teaching and non-teaching Staff). Last but not least, to cater for the needs of our students, form teachers, Counselling and Guidance Team members, social workers and I myself made phone calls directly to the students in different forms to maintain close emotional ties amidst the restrictions on physical distance. Once again, we were hoping that students would be able to emotionally connect with the campus they might have been missing every day.
We stayed in touch with the PTA and Josephian Association during this suspension period too. Old boys of 1986 donated a considerable sum of face masks to the school in February, which signified their love and care. Additionally, we received an appreciation letter from the Chairperson of the PTA in May which wholeheartedly recognized the effort of all the staff at SJACS.
Dear Josephians, at times we have felt isolated or even had a sense of loneliness when we were on lockdown at home. I am sure we will see each other again in normal circumstances soon with laughter echoing around the school. Despite social distancing, the power in our hearts means we are now closer than ever.
“How good, how delightful it is to live as brothers all together!” (Psalms 133:1)
Mr. Poon Wing Keung