Covid Outbreaks Closed Over 320 Schools Across NSW and Victoria in Past Three Weeks | Australian education



More than 300 schools in New South Wales and Victoria have closed in the past three weeks due to Covid outbreaks, with the majority of students still expected to return to class.

Between the start of the fourth quarter of October 4 and October 22, there were 234 public school closures in Victoria, according to figures from the Department of Education.

At least 20 private schools in Victoria were forced to close over the same period, but the exact number is unknown as no list is maintained by the department or by Independent Schools Victoria.

During the same period, 67 schools in New South Wales were forced to close. Of those, 48 were public schools and 19 were non-government schools, the NSW Education Department said.

On Saturday, NSW announced that seven other schools were closed on Friday for a deep clean.

The majority of closures in Victoria lasted 24 hours to allow for clean-up and contact tracing, but outbreaks have raised concerns that schools are not ready to bring everyone back to classrooms.

In New South Wales, a spokesperson for the education department said it was “our goal… that no school returns to long-term home learning”.

“A lot of work has gone into making schools as safe as possible, using expert advice from NSW Health, the Doherty Institute, the World Health Organization and ventilation experts,” said the spokesperson.

“These measures include separation of student groups (cohortation), staggered start, break and end times to reduce mix-ups and immunization requirements for all teaching and non-teaching staff.”

Schools in Victoria began a gradual return to on-site learning as early as the first week of the fourth term, which began on October 4.

As of October 11, stay-at-home orders were lifted across New South Wales. Schools returned to face-to-face learning either through ‘gradual return’ or ‘full return’, depending on the New South Wales health conditions in their area. .

It comes as new data from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, based on the NSW outbreak, predicted the number of cases in children would rise as Covid restrictions ease, but only a small number of people. infected would become seriously ill.

Over the past week, fighting has erupted in New South Wales, with P&C groups trying to buy their own air purifiers being blocked by the state government. In Victoria, some teachers have expressed concern that they will not enter classrooms with enough information to keep students safe.

As the students begin to return to class, they say they are running out of time to sort out these issues.

As of Monday, classrooms in NSW will be full again. Kindergarten, 1 and 12 students returned last Monday, while the other grades will return on October 25.

On Friday, all students in the Victoria regional area and those in Melbourne in years 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11 officially resumed face-to-face learning. The 12 years returned on October 6. A return to full-time learning will resume when Victoria hits the goal of 80% full vaccines for people over 16, which is expected to be November 5 or earlier.

Last week, 14 schools in Albury-Wodonga closed due to epidemics. A teacher in the area, who did not want to be named, said everyone was bracing for more cases.

“My school seemed very poorly prepared and apparently they now have to undertake the contact tracing on their own,” she said.

The teacher said the community was not yet sure what was wrong with so many people being affected at the same time, but that they “don’t feel good about it.” There is no ventilation at my school, just an ‘open a window’ approach, ”she said.

She said one of the primary schools isolates everyone for 14 days, but their siblings can go to other schools and their parents are allowed to work. Teachers expected more cases.

“I’m afraid this will happen every week,” she said.

The Victorian government on Wednesday announced a new plan whereby schools would generally only close for 24 hours until they had multiple cases.

“All students and staff who are not primary close contacts will usually return to school the next day,” a spokesperson for the education ministry said.

“We are taking all possible measures 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 over-mixing in schools, and the overwhelming majority of schools staff already vaccinated.

Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole said new research from Murdoch Children has shown that Covid is spread in schools, but mainly through adults.

“They concluded that most of the communication 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 have yet to arrive. In New South Wales, the government has promised to put them in some schools during air quality emergencies such as bushfires.

“Victoria made masks mandatory up to grade three and recommended them below grade three which I think is good,” Toole said.

“They are recommended [for primary school students] in NSW but not mandated.

It was inevitable that if cases increased in the community, more children would fall ill if schools were not prepared, he said.

“The more infected children there are, the more they get very sick. The more cases you have, the more children with serious illnesses you have. “



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