Covid-19 school shutdowns likely to return after NSW students go back to classrooms

Anton NilssonNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Parents are living in “la-la land” if they think homeschooling is over once classrooms open back up, a virus expert has warned.

NSW schools are preparing to go back to face-to-face learning this month, which will be a welcome relief for many parents and students who are sick of studying from home.

Under the back-to-school plan kindergarten, grade one and year 12 students will return to classrooms on October 18, with the rest to follow one week later.

But it will be a bumpy road ahead and further temporary school closures are all but certain, University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely says.

EDUCATION STOCK PICS
Camera IconAll NSW students will be back to classrooms before the end of the month. NCA NewsWire/Nikki Short Credit: News Corp Australia

“Those bumps will be, occasionally, your kids will be back at home, occasionally there’ll be, if not a lockdown, you’ll be asked to work at home if you possibly can,” Mr Blakely told NCA NewsWire.

“The fact is, schools will probably need to close from time to time if there’s a sizeable outbreak in the school. Or you might be living in a suburb where (the virus) is just raging, so it doesn’t make sense to send the kids to school.

“The key point here is, you’re in la-la land if you think that we’re suddenly going to go back to normal.”

Several NSW schools are shut for deep cleaning as a result of infections, including Hillvue Public School in Tamworth.

“I would like to confirm with you that a member of our school community has tested positive for Covid-19,” the school’s principal wrote to parents this week.

Epidemiologist Tony Blakely
Camera IconEpidemiologist Tony Blakely said the road to Covid-19 recovery would be bumpy. Alex Coppel. Credit: News Corp Australia

“Our school will be non-operational effective immediately for the on-site attendance of students and staff to allow time for contact tracing and cleaning.

“All staff and students are asked to self-isolate until you receive further advice.”

Such short-term closures are in line with the government’s procedures for dealing with school infections, an Education Department spokeswoman said.

“We always follow the expert health advice when Covid restriction are imposed,” she said.

“If NSW Health applies restrictions that necessitate a school returning to learning from home, we will follow this advice.”

NSW Teachers Federation senior vice president Amber Flohm said schools had been told shutdowns would be decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on the level of exposure and the vulnerabilities of individual school communities.

She said proper ventilation and mask-wearing indoors could help mitigate the Covid-19 risks.

“Masks for children under 12 are not mandatory, but we believe that would provide an additional measure of safety,” she said.

NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole, who is a former school teacher, labelled mask mandates for school students in Victoria crazy and ludicrous.

Originally published as Covid-19 school shutdowns likely to return after NSW students go back to classrooms

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