$500,000 for hand sanitiser: the cost of making schools COVID-safe

Dominic Giannini 12 July 2020 2
Child washing hands

The ACT Government has spent millions of dollars preparing to safely send children back to school. Photos: Region Media.

While parents across Australia breathed a sigh of relief when children went back to school after weeks of learning from home, education departments had to ensure schools were COVID-safe.

For the ACT Government, that meant spending almost $500,000 to supply public schools in the ACT with 6,000 half-litre bottles of hand sanitiser every week for 10 weeks.

The Education Directorate issued the contract with Chemworks a week before ACT school kids started their staged return to the classroom between 18 May and 2 June.

The order is part of a larger expenditure to ensure the health and hygiene of children heading back to school, including $6 million on 180 extra cleaners and building support officers, and a further $2 million on extra cleaning supplies.

The school cleaning plan for term three, which commences on 20 July, will continue to include daytime cleaning, with an emphasis on high-frequency touchpoints like door handles, handrails, taps and desks.

Education Minister Yvette Berry says extra steps are being taken to ensure the cleanliness of ACT public schools during the pandemic. Photo: Region Media.

In late March, Lyneham High School was pupil-free for three weeks due to a confirmed COVID-19 case at the school.

There have been no COVID-19 incidents in ACT schools since then and the ACT has been one of Australia’s best-performing jurisdictions when it comes to controlling the spread of the virus.

Measures announced on 23 June for the return of students in term 3 by the Education Directorate to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 include:

  • Schools can welcome back families for scheduled events, including parent-teacher interviews and small assemblies (with physical distancing and hygiene measures in place).
  • Onsite discos and celebrations can go ahead with no limitations on student numbers and parents/carers can attend.
  • Fundraising events will also be able to proceed but with limitations on numbers in line with broader community restrictions.
  • Parents and volunteers will be able to attend school sites with physical distancing and hygiene measures in place.
  • Interschool sport is also planned to resume within the ACT region with groups of under 100 (including adults).
  • Overnight excursions will be allowed to go ahead at Birrigai and interstate excursions and camps can resume where they are a necessary part of a student’s education program. Schools must adhere to COVID-19 rules within the state they are travelling.

“The ACT Government has been taking extra steps to make sure public schools remain safe for students, families and staff for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Education Minister Yvette Berry said.

“Public schools have been really creative in getting the kids engaged in personal hygiene through songs and games and it’s been great to see kids really take it on board.”

Plans for ACT school students to return to the classrooms for term three are still in place despite the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria resulting in an extra week of holidays in the state and the closure of the NSW and ACT borders for Victorians.

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2 Responses to $500,000 for hand sanitiser: the cost of making schools COVID-safe
Travis Harvey Travis Harvey 8:46 pm 12 Jul 20

Worth every penny. The stress on parents to try to educate their children at home whilst also trying to hold down their regular jobs was enormous.

Bianca Rossetti Bianca Rossetti 7:18 pm 12 Jul 20

To me schools opened too soon.. I would prefer to put health before wealth

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