Meer as 300 schools across Nieu-Suid-Wallis and Victoria have closed down in the last three weeks due to Covid outbreaks, met die meerderheid studente wat steeds na klaskamers moet terugkeer.
Between the start of term four on 4 October and 22 Oktober, daar was 234 closures at government schools in Victoria, figures from the Department of Education show.
Ten minste 20 private schools in Victoria were forced to shut in the same period, but the exact number is unknown because a list is not kept by either the department or Independent Schools Victoria.
In the same period 67 schools in NSW were forced to shut. Van daardie, 48 were public schools and 19 were nongovernment schools, the NSW education department said.
On Saturday NSW announced a further seven schools were closed on Friday for deep cleaning.
The majority of the closures in Victoria were for 24 hours to allow cleaning and contact tracing to occur, but the outbreaks have raised concerns that schools are not prepared to have everyone back in classrooms.
In NSW, a spokesperson for the education department said it was “our goal … that no school returns to extended learning from home”.
“A lot of work has gone into making schools as safe as possible, using expert advice from NSW Gesondheid, the Doherty Institute, World Health Organisation and ventilation experts,”Het die woordvoerder gesê.
“These measures include separating student groups (cohorting), staggering start, break and finishing times to reduce mingling, and vaccination requirements for all teaching and non-teaching staff.”
Schools in Victoria started a staged return to onsite learning from the first week of term four, which began on 4 Oktober.
Van 11 Oktober, stay-at-home orders were lifted across NSW. Schools have been returning to face-to-face learning either through a “staged return” or “full return”, depending on NSW Health conditions in their area.
It comes as new data from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, based on the NSW outbreak, predicted that the number of cases in children would rise as Covid restrictions ease, but only a small number of those infected would get severely ill.
In the last week, fights have erupted in NSW, with P&C groups who are trying to buy their own air purifiers being blocked by the state government. In Victoria, some teachers have expressed concern they are going into classrooms with not enough information to keep students safe.
With students starting to come back to classrooms, they say they’re running out of time to have these issues addressed.
From Monday, classrooms across NSW will be full again. Kindergarten, year 1 and year 12 students returned last Monday, while other years will return on 25 Oktober.
All students in regional Victoria and those in Melbourne in years 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 en 11 officially returned to staged face-to-face learning on Friday. Year 12s returned on 6 Oktober. A return to full-time learning will resume when Victoria hits the 80% fully vaccinated target for those over the aged of 16, expected to be on 5 November or earlier.
In the past week, 14 schools in Albury-Wodonga closed due to outbreaks. A teacher from the area, who did not want to be named, said everyone was bracing for more cases.
“My school seemed very unprepared and apparently they have to undertake contact tracing by themselves now," sy het gese.
The teacher said the community wasn’t sure yet what went wrong for so many to be hit at once, but they’re “not feeling great about it. There’s no ventilation in my school, just an ‘open a window’ approach," sy het gese.
She said one of the primary schools has everyone isolating for 14 dae, but their siblings can go to other schools and their parents are allowed to work. Teachers were expecting more cases.
“I’m worried that it’s going to happen each week," sy het gese.
On Wednesday the Victorian government announced a new plan where schools would generally only close for 24 hours as long as they didn’t have multiple cases.
“All students and staff who are not primary close contacts will generally return to school the following day,” a Department of Education spokesperson said.
“We’re taking every possible measure to make schools a low-risk environment and further reduce any spread – with air purifiers arriving in more schools every day, strict Covid-safe plans to prevent excessive mixing in schools, and the overwhelming majority of school staff already vaccinated.”
Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole said the new Murdoch Children’s research showed Covid spread in schools, but mainly through adults.
“They concluded most transmission was between teachers and staff and staff to children,” Toole said.
In Victoria, the state government has promised air purifiers in every classroom – but many are yet to arrive. In NSW, the government has promised to put them in some schools during air quality emergencies such as bushfires.
“Victoria has mandated masks down to grade three and recommended them under grade three, which I think is good,” Toole said.
“They’re recommended [for primary school students] in NSW but not mandated.”
It was inevitable that if cases in the community rise, more children will get sick if schools aren’t prepared, hy het gesê.
“The more kids that are infected, the more that get very sick. The more numbers of cases you have, the more kids with severe illness you get.”