19 May 2022

UPDATED: First Catholic school goes partially remote, ACT records 60th pandemic fatality

| Lottie Twyford
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Saint Francis Xavier College in Florey

Year 7 to 10 students at Saint Francis Xavier College in Florey will learn at home for one day a week for the next four weeks. Photo: SFX.

UPDATED 1 pm: Year 7 to 10 students at Saint Francis Xavier College in Florey will move to remote learning for one day a week for the next four weeks.

It’s the first Catholic systemic school to move to temporary remote learning this year.

It’s unclear when the arrangements will commence but Region Media understands a letter will be sent to parents later today (19 May) to outline the plan.

Year 11 and 12 students will continue face-to-face learning at this time, a spokesperson for Catholic Education Canberra and Goulburn said.

Staff absences due to COVID-19 this term have meant an average of 10 per cent of ACT public schools are impacted on any given day.

Yvette Berry

Minister for Education Yvette Berry deflected questions about how independent and Catholic systemic schools are managing to avoid moving to remote learning. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

12:30 pm: A man in his 70s has become the 60th person to die with COVID-19 in the ACT and hospitalisations have hit another record high.

The Territory recorded 997 new COVID-19 infections in the 24 hours to 8 pm yesterday and new data has shown how many public school teachers were absent due to the virus last term.

In term one this year, an average of 109 teachers or school-based staff took COVID leave every day – up 2625 per cent from term one last year.

On average, 239 teachers were on personal leave every day, down 13 per cent from the same period last year. In total, 348 teachers were absent every day.

There are around 4004 teachers working across 90 public schools in the ACT.

A spokesperson for the directorate said this data included all school-based staff with Classroom Teacher, Executive Teacher, Deputy Principal and Principal classifications.

Staff can access COVID Leave if they have been impacted by a public health direction to quarantine/self-isolate and cannot work from home. It may also be used to attend COVID vaccination appointments or provide care for dependents due to school/childcare closures.

Wanniassa School

Wanniassa School Year 9 and 10s are among the latest students to move to remote learning. Photo: File.

The data has been released as multiple ACT public schools have been required to send some cohorts of students home for periods of remote learning.

Select classes at Cranleigh School and Years 9 and 10 at Wanniassa School have become the latest cohorts to start learning remotely.

Student cohorts at 12 public schools are now learning remotely.

No Catholic systemic or independent schools have yet been required to make these transitions.

Minister for Education Yvette Berry was asked yesterday how this was possible but refused to answer, instead suggesting questions of that nature should be directed to those school systems.

“We’ve taken the view in our public schools that we had systems and planning in place about how we would manage the impact of COVID-19, particularly as we come up to the flu season, and that was by moving to remote learning temporarily,” she said.

“We have excellent resources in place to ensure children and young people continue to get a good education, but we also need to make sure we take the health and wellbeing of our staff into account.”

Ross Fox

Catholic Education Archdiocese of Canberra & Goulburn Ross Fox. Photo: Catholic Education.

Catholic Education Canberra Goulburn Director Ross Fox said schools have been affected by staff and students contracting the virus and being required to isolate.

But these absences have been managed by adjustments to school operations.

“Overall, Catholic schools have been able to cover absences with the cooperation and commitment of all school staff, including casuals and some staff based at our central office,” Mr Fox said.

“Teaching continues to be demanding this year.”

Catholic schools will have two extra pupil-free planning days this term.

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Opposition spokesperson for education Jeremy Hanson has accused the government of significantly underfunding and under-resourcing schools over a long period.

“At the moment, this system appears to be very ad hoc and, as a result, our hardworking teachers, students and parents are paying the price because the minister has failed to manage the school system,” he said.

“The recent Productivity Commission report on government services shows school funding in the ACT has been cut by 3.3 per cent in real terms over the last decade by Labor and the Greens. As a result, we see an education system in crisis.”

Ms Berry refuted these claims.

“That’s simply not true. Our investment in public schools is the highest in the country … so I suggest the Canberra Liberals check their figures on that.”

She said feedback had been good from parents so far, “apart from their frustration with an ongoing pandemic”.

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The additional 997 COVID cases (504 PCR and 493 RAT) recorded overnight bring the total active caseload to 6074 (2966 PCR and 3108 RAT).

A total of 122,718 (75,299 PCR and 47,419 RAT) COVID-19 infections have been recorded locally since March 2020.

The number of COVID-19 patients in the Territory’s hospitals has hit 82 – a record. Four of these people are in the ICU and two require ventilation.

Yesterday, 1098 COVID-19 cases were reported and 74 people were in hospital.

The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population remains 97.2 per cent and 76.1 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have now received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 67.2 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.

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Interstate, NSW has reported 22 deaths overnight and 10,964 new cases of COVID-19.

There are now 1283 people in hospital with the virus and 46 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported 14 deaths overnight and 13,201 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 512 people hospitalised with the virus, while 32 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.

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