26 September 2023

Schools ready for a COVID-safe winter

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As windows and doors around the State close to keep the cold weather out, the Department of Education has launched an updated plan to keep children at school safe from COVID throughout the cold of winter.

Announced by the Minister for Education and Early Learning, Sarah Mitchell, teachers and students who are household contacts, but do not have COVID-19 symptoms, can now return to school.

“Government is taking a common-sense approach to winter school settings and is well prepared to manage potential increases in cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses in schools,” Ms Mitchell said.

“The removal of isolation requirements for household contacts will support continuity of teaching and learning in schools.”

She said the change was in line with updated rules for the general community, however teachers and students who were household contact would be required to comply with additional safety measures.

The Minister said the measures included notifying the school that they were a household contact; undertaking daily rapid antigen tests (RAT) for the following five school days; all staff and secondary school students to wear a face mask indoors and primary school students strongly recommended to wear a face mask indoors.

Ms Mitchell said families and school staff could expect another drop of free RATs early this Term to support compliance with the new settings.

“The Department is taking extra steps to ensure accredited teachers are available to cover sick leave where needed, with non-school based teachers, retired teachers and final year teacher education students continuing to be deployed into classrooms as needed,” she said.

“Recruitment of teaching staff into non-school based roles will be paused and work will be taken off schools’ plates so they can focus on core teaching and learning.”

Ms Mitchell said schools would continue to keep windows and doors open wherever it was safe and practical to do so, “because we know fresh air is an effective way to keep airborne viruses out.”

She said in a continuation of the Term 1 plan, a school-level outbreak of COVID-19 may trigger the Department to direct the effected school to adopt one or more additional COVID-smart measures for a short period of time.

The Minister said those measures may include ceasing large indoor gatherings; ceasing off-site and inter-school activities; mask wearing for adults and high school students; limiting visitors to schools; separating cohorts of students; symptomatic use of RATs; and/or learning from home.

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