Staff and students return to St Pius X High School, Adamstown and St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton following enforced isolation

Staff and students from schools in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, St Pius X High School, Adamstown and St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton who were directed by NSW Health to self-isolate for 14 days, may return to school this week.

St Pius X High School was forced to close its doors on the evening of Wednesday 5 August, after one its students returned a positive result for COVID-19. Following its closure, NSW Health conducted contact tracing, and the school received a deep clean. Staff and students identified as close contacts of the infected student were instructed by NSW Health to self-isolate for 14 days from their last date of contact, which occurred on Monday 3 August. All other staff and students were allowed to return to the school when it reopened on Monday 10 August. The isolation period for close contacts who attend the high school expired at midnight on Monday 17 August. Accordingly, the school’s principal, Bob Emery, welcomed remaining staff and students back to the Adamstown campus from Tuesday 18 August, pending good health.

In correspondence issued to the school community, Mr Emery communicated his gratitude to staff, parents and students for their calm, supportive and cooperative response during what he described as a “challenging situation for everyone.”

“Our experience in implementing our COVID-19 critical incident management plan will be shared with schools across the Diocese to ensure any ‘lessons learned’ help to fine-tune procedures should there be another confirmed case,” he wrote.

St Francis Xavier College closed its doors on the evening of Thursday 6 August, after one of its students - a household contact of the infected Pius X student, also returned a positive result for COVID-19. Following its closure, NSW Health conducted contact tracing, and the school received a deep clean. Students and staff identified as close contacts of the infected student were instructed by NSW Health to self-isolate for 14 days from their last contact, which occurred on Wednesday 5 August. All other staff and students were permitted to return to the school when it reopened on Tuesday 11 August. The isolation period for close contacts who attend St Francis Xavier College expires this evening, at midnight.

In a letter issued to the school community by the college principal, Greg Ptolemy, he described his ‘delight’ when referring to the imminent return of staff and students instructed to isolate.  

“To the relief of many, at midnight this evening our students and staff in this scenario will complete their isolation and resume regular activities,” he wrote.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of these people for following the advice of NSW Health so diligently in order to protect the wider community,” Mr Ptolemy continued.

With the isolation period drawing to a close NSW Health today contacted the Diocese’s Catholic Schools Office. Officials advised that despite a significant increase in testing numbers across the region since the two students, and another household contact received a positive diagnosis, no further cases have been detected.

“The apparent failure of the virus to spread more widely in our community thus far, suggests that we are doing a terrific job in acting appropriately on a daily basis,” Mr Ptolemy said, while also reinforcing the need for continued vigilance. 

The safety and wellbeing of staff and students are of paramount importance to the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. All of its schools continue to adhere to advice from NSW Health and implement the Diocese’s infection control procedures which include; daily cleaning in accordance with established protocols; the promotion of healthy hygiene habits; and, making sanitiser freely available to all staff and students. 

Media contact:

Elizabeth Snedden
M:        0404 005 036
E:         elizabeth.snedden@mn.catholic.org.au

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Lizzie Snedden

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.