We’re at the end of the school year and what a year it has been right up until these last weeks! In South Australia, we were plunged into lockdown and then withdrawn from that unexpectedly. Fortunately, Westminster was in a state of readiness and even with the urgency of the situation, we were able to move somewhat seamlessly into online learning. While every family made the call as to how best manage lockdown together, we were at least able to offer online learning as a meaningful option. It seems most South Australian schools were not in a similar position.
During this time of year when our calendar is normally brimming with events, we have had to make some hard decisions about what would be possible. At the top of this list is our Prize Giving Ceremonies and Graduation ceremonies, which, from Year 12 down, have been revisited more than once. We have had to pass up on Christmas Lights and subsequently our replacement Carols Night. The Foundation and School Community groups often host end of year events and again, we have had to pull back significantly on what is normal. The understanding of our community has been greatly appreciated as we are not in the business to disappoint our students and families – far from it in fact!
Now we need to shift our focus on what has been possible and what is still to come. While disappointment was widely felt for our graduating Year 12s, we are focused on our Valedictory events proceeding Wednesday 9 December at the Entertainment Centre where numbers and distancing can be matched. Even with an impromptu ’Zoom Valedictory’ during lockdown, we remained determined for our most senior of students to share their Class of 2020 graduation with family and friends, even if some weeks later than usual. The Junior Play went ahead, amazingly against all odds, particularly as many other productions in SA schools were apparently cancelled. It was a triumph, carefully managed within the guidelines and a hugely important achievement for students involved. With it now firmly locked away in their vaults of Westminster experiences, we cannot underestimate how important this production was to each and every student. The last week of school sees a modified ELC graduation and Preparatory School Certificate Ceremony that will be celebrated in a very different format, and we have been approved to host the Cricket Intercol with Pembroke over the final days of term.
Just as we reach the end of the year and school life begins to slow down, we are commencing our next major project. This year our fantastic new Inquiry and Innovation Hub and Thomas Pavilion were opened; the Carter block is being rejuvenated into studios for Creative Arts and Digital Media; and we dramatically increased our capacity to provide our own electricity with our solar energy project. Now the southern end of the Michael Murray Centre for Performing Arts is being prepared for the next stage of our Campus Masterplan. It starts with the demolition of the old changerooms and Music Centre in favour of a new three-level facility to house our School Dining Room, café and gallery space on the ground floor; the Library on the middle level; and having the top level for Music and Drama. The demolition and construction zone about to be defined is significant and will impact on pedestrian and vehicular traffic in 2021. There will no vehicle access to the Sports and Swimming Centre and Thomas Pavilion from the main School Gates - access to these facilities will be through Gate 4 along Barry’s Lane. Pedestrians will have limited access to this area from the Senior School but able to use a fully enclosed walkway on the northern side of the Sports and Swimming Centre. The blue outline in the photo shows the extent of the building zone. We are very aware of traffic around the School campus and ensuring our grounds are always safe for students and other pedestrians. When we return in 2021, we will update our families on progress and with an important reminder of our traffic management and conditions. In 2021, we will also commence the Preparatory School Improvement Plan and I look forward to sharing more about this with you next year.
As we finish 2020 together, I hope that the final days of this year bring with them a heightened level of understanding and community mindedness. I take any opportunity to promote our challenges of being kind, grateful and useful – never have these been more important to all of us. The video below is a review of the year that was initially created for the first ‘version’ of our Prize Giving Ceremony (in replacement of Speech Day). It was shown this week at our Years 7 to 10 Prize Giving Ceremony:
Next year the School celebrates its 60th anniversary. Before school recommences, you will receive a Westminster News with details of how we would like to celebrate this as a community throughout the year. We are also getting ourselves back on track with Reflections 2019 being printed during the holidays and having made a start on our 2020 Reflections, which may look a little different to reflect the year we have had.
Please enjoy your Christmas and seasonal festivities with your families and make the most of enjoying South Australia and our nation too, if you are heading across the borders. I hope you can indulge in the activities that help you relax in the most effective and recuperative manner. Stay safe and healthy over the break as we know that COVID-19 still has the potential to create more havoc in our lives. If we continue to follow the pertinent advice of our health authorities - wearing masks when appropriate to do so; sanitising hands as we need to; being mindful of distancing when in large gatherings - our collective efforts will help arrest the pandemic. Wouldn’t we all like 2021 to be just that more ‘normal’ than what we have experienced in 2020.