Explaining ‘Close Contact”

Today, Friday, 17 July, Union High School will have successfully completed our 6th week of on-site education since the reopening of schools. To date, Union High School has, fortunately, not been directly impacted by a confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19). As the pandemic spreads, planning for the possibility of such a situation has, however, been a top priority and Union would like to take this opportunity to assure our community that in the event that this should happen, strict protocols will be followed, as per the guidelines provided to us by the Department of Education, to ensure the safety of the learners and educators.
Although the school has had no confirmed cases, we have noticed an increase in ‘close contact’ cases within the local community, i.e. people who have been in close contact with individuals who have tested positive for the virus.
The school has protocols in place for ‘close contact’ cases as well and parents are asked to please familiarise themselves with the following information to limit the risk to our school community:
What does being a ‘close contact’ mean?
A ‘close contact’ is defined as someone who has been in direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, but does not have any symptoms themselves.
‘Close contact’ means that you had face-to-face contact within 1 metre or were in a closed space for more than 15 minutes with a person with COVID-19. This contact happened while the person with COVID-19 was still “infectious”, i.e. from 2 days before to 14 days after their symptoms began. You are not a ‘close contact’ if you’ve had contact with someone considered to be a ‘close contact’, only if you yourself have been in contact with a person with COVID-19.

For example, you may be someone who:

1. Lives in the same household as a person with COVID-19.

2. Works closely in the same environment as a person with COVID-19.

3. Sat in the same classroom as a person with COVID-19.

4. Attended the same gathering as a person with COVID-19.

5. Provided direct care for a person with COVID-19 in a healthcare setting without using the proper personal protective equipment.

6. Sat within two seats (1 metre) in any direction of a person with COVID-19 case in any kind of vehicle including buses, minibus taxis, etc.

If a learner has been identified as being a ‘close contact’ of a confirmed case of COVID-19, they are required to self-isolate at home for 14 days while being monitored for symptoms. They may not attend school. No tests are needed. Just 14 days of self-isolation from last contact if you do not show any symptoms. If you do develop symptoms, you’ll be required to start another 14-days of isolation from start of symptoms.

If you have been around someone who was identified as a ‘close contact’ to a person with COVID-19, you should closely monitor yourself for any symptoms of COVID-19. You do not need to self-isolate. Parents must please notify the Headmaster immediately should their child be identified as a ‘close contact’. The Headmaster can be contacted directly on either 049 891 0262 or headmaster@unionschools.co.za

The learners will still be provided with at-home online-based educational support during their time of self-isolation to ensure continuity of education.

Parents are welcome to contact the school if they have any questions in this regard. In closing, we once again want to assure our parents of Union’s continued commitment to the well-being of our learners. We take every precautionary measure possible to ensure that our classrooms, venues and grounds are safe environments for our kids at all times.

Join G Suite

As most parents will be aware by now, Union High School has recently adopted G Suite for Education, to improve the technology we use for our online teaching support.
This is an exciting transition, as the tools available in G Suite, will make work-sharing easier, improve communication and also help teachers and learners to collaborate better.
All learners have been issued with e-mail addresses with which to access Union’s new Google classrooms.
To make the migration easier for learners and parents, we’ve put together this step-by-step instruction to help learners access the classrooms via a mobile device.
Please note:
1. Step-by-step instructions to access the classrooms via a computer has also been posted to our Facebook timeline.
2. These instructions were also sent out via the D6 Communicator and class WhatsApp groups.
3. Please contact Mr JP Kruger at 072 076 0352 should you need further assistance in this regard.

Thank You Teachers

Dear Mr Pringle and staff,

The current circumstances we live in are unknown to us all and they bring a lot of uncertainties and new challenges with them.

For this reason, we would like to express our gratitude to you on behalf of all the learners at Union High School for all that you and your team have done so far for us on and off-campus as well as for the kind and supportive messages you have sent to us all.

Even though some of us are still at home, life on campus has continued as much as possible given the circumstances. We think that it has created an even bigger feeling of community-building. That one feeling that the Union campus is known for.

We realise how much extra work it must have been for the academic staff to change the curriculum to an online format during lockdown and how much extra effort it is now, to have to do on-site teaching while offering online educational support.

To all organisational staff, we know that a big part of the school’s success is your efforts with coordination and support. For that reason, we would like to thank you and everyone else who have been involved in the preparation and continuation of the academic programme and for getting the school ready to receive learners.

Finally, we hope that this crisis will somehow be resolved in the near future and that those who have returned home will be able to return to Union soon to finish the year all together. And that if anything, we will all be able to learn something from this crisis.

Thanks again for everything, and if there is anything that we can do to help, please let us know.

With kind regards and best wishes,


Sakhe Booi – Headgirl
Bowen Langmead – Headboy
Brett Amsterdam – Deputy Headboy
Laetitia Theron – Deputy Headgirl

A Letter From The Headmaster

We have now completed a month of on-site schooling for our Grade 7 and 12 classes, and we are so grateful to have negotiated this time successfully and safely.
It has not been easy for our learners and staff, and, no doubt, for our parents.
The new normal for our school is foreign and uncomfortable, but the protocols that we have in place have kept us all safe and it is our strict adherence to these safety protocols, i.e. the regular sanitising of hands and the school building, the wearing of masks and face shields and social distancing, that has enabled us all to be safe.
Please note that, following a statement issued by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, on Thursday evening, 2 July, the immediate phasing in schedule for grades has been changed, with only our Grade 6 and 11 classes to resume schooling on Monday, 6 July.
It is expected that the Grade 10s will be phased in during the month of July. We hope to have more clarity in this regard soon.
We trust that those returning to school on Monday have worked hard while at home during their lockdown period and that they will quickly adjust to the systems at school upon their arrival.
Please be assured that anyone who enters the school campus is thoroughly screened before admission. No unauthorised person is permitted to enter the campus, for any reason. All learners have their temperatures taken three times per day, and anyone who shows signs of illness is encouraged to stay at home.
We have been inundated with appeals from parents, sports coaches etc to open our campus and sporting facilities for public use. Unfortunately, departmental safety regulations prohibit us from permitting this until further notice.
Grade 6 and 11 learners should take note of the following:
1. Learners who are exhibiting any symptoms of the Coronavirus (cough, fever, fatigue, sore throat, shortness of breath) should be kept at home.
2. Learners who have chronic illnesses must inform the school and special arrangements will be made.
3. Learners will be expected to pay special attention to personal hygiene – washing of hands, sanitizing, social distancing, wearing of masks (compulsory at all times), except when eating or drinking.
4. All learners are expected to have their own sanitizing spray or disposable anti-bacterial wipes each day. Learners must arrive at school with their own face mask and/or face shield.
5. Learners will initially wear civvies to school each day – clothing must be washed daily. The Clothing Shop will not be open for hand-to-hand purchases, but will take online orders at clothing@unionschools.co.za and parcels of orders will be delivered to your homes. Payment must be made in advance and proof of payment should be emailed to Mrs Clegg.
6. It is envisaged that from 3 August, we will allow learners to wear school uniform on Monday and Friday, school tracksuits on Wednesday and civvies on Tuesday and Thursday. This will allow parents an opportunity to ensure that all learners wear clean clothing each day.
6. Warm clothing should be worn, as it is the winter season and all windows will be open in all venues for ventilation purposes.
7. Learners will be permitted to carry their mobile devices at school so that parents are able to communicate effectively with their children. Strict control will be enforced and no devices may be visible or in use during teaching time.
The following protocols will be observed at school:
1. A Covid-19 Management Committee has been established and will ensure your children’s safety at all times.
2. School hours will run from 08.00 – 14.00, and afternoon catch-up sessions will take place to assist learners who have a backlog.
3. No assemblies or large gatherings will be held.
4. No extra-mural activities may occur.
5. The school building is thoroughly cleaned daily to prepare for the following day.
6. Every classroom is equipped with hand sanitizers. Educators will ensure that learners’ hands are sanitized before entering and leaving the classroom.
7. As far as possible, learners will remain in one venue and one desk for the entire day, except for specialist subjects, such as CAT and when combination classes must be taught. Intensive sanitising of desks by staff is needed once a day. This will also minimise the movement of learners around the school.
8. At breaktimes at different times, staff on duty will monitor social distancing. No hugging/shaking hands/elbow bumps etc.
9. All educators will continue their online/distance learning. All educators will still be available for questions for the distance learning classes.
10. The tuckshop will not be open for business. Learners are to bring sufficient food and liquid refreshments each day.
11. The bathrooms are thoroughly sanitized daily, and throughout the day.
12. We have organised additional PPE for learners and signs regarding safety issues.
13. We have drafted a Procedure Policy should a learner or staff member have a high temperature or becomes ill during the course of the day. We have allocated an “isolation room” for this purpose.
Arrangements for 6 July 2020:
1. All learners are to make use of the pedestrian gate (Bruce Maree Gate) in Caledon Street. Learners will be screened by staff upon arrival.
2. Latecomers will not be tolerated as temperatures need to be taken daily before entering school.
3. No parent, guardian or visitor may enter the school premises at any time. All communication with the school should be telephonic (049 891 0262) or via email (secretary@unionschools.co.za).
4. Learners need to leave school and be fetched immediately upon school closing.
5. The school grounds will be securely locked at the end of each school day to ensure the safety of those who reside in our boarding houses. Day scholars may not return to school in the afternoon to make use of recreational facilities.
Yours faithfully,
Mr W.E. Pringle

A New World For Teachers

In these unprecedented and uncertain times, it is normal for people to experience higher levels of stress and anxiety, teachers included.
From one day to the next, our teachers have found themselves having to give lessons at school, while managing virtual classrooms, communicating with their learners over social media platforms and learning by doing as they provide education from a distance as well as on campus.
Now more than ever teachers need socio-emotional support to face the extra pressure being put on them to deliver learning in a time of crisis as well as to enable them to support their learners’ emotional needs.
Union High School would, therefore, like to express our sincere appreciation to Mrs Paula Kingwill for facilitating a staff development session with our educators on Wednesday afternoon, 1 July.
The session dealt with simple, yet effective solutions and insights to help our educators navigate through the plethora of challenges they face while trying to teach during the pandemic, while also giving them the tools to support the emotional resilience and wellbeing of their learners during and post-lockdown.

Saying Goodbye

Union High School honoured Mrs Christine Scott, a seasoned educator who is leaving the school to pursue another career, at a special farewell tea held on Tuesday afternoon, 30 June.
Mrs Scott has served the school for the past 12 years, first as a music teacher, then as a Life Orientation educator and school guidance counsellor.
Mrs Scott literally dedicated all her time to the well-being of the learners of Union High School. Her passion to help people in times of crisis and need was what motivated her to always assist when needed.
Union High School would like to express its sincere appreciation to Mrs Scott for the commitment and dedication that she has shown towards the staff and learners at the school over the past 12 years.
Her calling is undoubtedly to work with young people and the care and love that she displayed was testimony to that.
As from today, Wednesday, 1 July, Mrs Scott, a certified Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) practitioner, will be available on a full-time basis for ILT consultations and sessions in Graaff-Reinet.
Developed by Educational Psychologist, Dr Shirley Kokot, ILT strives to uncover the root causes of children’s learning difficulties and behavioural challenges in order to help them overcome them.
Mrs Scott encourages parents of children who experience learning and behavioural challenges to contact her at 079 408 7813 or via email at rocscott30@gmail.com, or to visit the ILT website at www.ilt.co.za to find out more about the efficacy of ILT.
Union wishes her well in all her future endeavours.

Thank You!

Union High School is pleased to be the beneficiary of washable cloth masks crafted by the ladies of the New Horizons sewing cooperative.  New Horizons is a Graaff-Reinet-based sewing enterprise founded by Ms Hanna Makoba in 2011 to help single women make a living for themselves.  Union High School extends its grateful thanks to Ms Makoba and her team for their generous contribution of skill, time and materials in order to help our school continue to safely serve our community.
Seen here is Ms Makoba, assisted by Ms Lynese Taho, presenting the masks to Union’s headmaster, Mr William Pringle.

Drive-by Farewell For Aunty Pam

With the ongoing pandemic thwarting an in-person party, the staff at Arthur Kingwill House, one of Union’s boarding houses, had to get creative in saying goodbye and congratulations to a beloved member of staff who is retiring after a long career at the school.
The moment was therefore celebrated, from a distance, on Sunday, 14 June, in what is becoming an increasingly more common way to “get together” – a drive-by.
After having first all gathered at AK House, the friends and colleagues of Ms Pam Hector then drove to her house, with each of them stopping to tie a balloon to her fence and to wish her a well-deserved rest and an enjoyable retirement.

‘Aunty Pam’ as she was affectionately known, has worked for the Union Schools’ boarding houses for the past 34 years and has always been regarded as a very kind and dear lady.
Her gentle nature was appreciated by both the adults and the young AK House gentlemen alike.
The boys have always spoken very highly of her and the House’s superintendent Mr Donald Kingwill and his wife Alet will always remember her for her gentle nature and friendliness.  As a retirement gift from her friends and colleagues, Aunty Pam was presented with a beautiful king size blanket made up of squares, knitted by the ladies who worked at AK House during the winter of 2017, that was recently crocheted together.
Happy retirement, Aunty Pam. You will be missed!

Outdoor Learning

A Breath Of Fresh Air

Whenever the weather (and a lesson’s subject matter) permits it, the educators at Union love moving their lessons outside into the school’s green space.
Taking full advantage of the sunny day on Monday, Mrs Nelia Read took her Grade 12 Tourism class to the ‘outside classroom’.
While soaking up the bit of warmth the winter sun offered, the learners could be heard having a lively discussion about the impact of the Covid-19 Coronavirus on the world’s tourism industry, in particular, the effect that it has on world-famous icons and attractions.

Word Of Thanks

Dear parents and guardians,
In Union High School’s 101-year history, we have never faced a challenge quite like the one the Coronavirus pandemic has presented us with these past few months.
We are immensely grateful to our Union community, and to our parents especially, for the support we have received throughout.
We are confident that with your continued support, we will rise above this challenge and maintain our strong commitment to quality education.
Please see the attached word of thanks from Union High School’s Governing Body and Management: