ACT public school students will begin a staged return to the classroom from 18 May, but large gatherings such as assemblies will be banned and teachers and other adults will need to adhere to social distancing measures to prevent the potential transmission of COVID-19.
The decision to go back to face-to-face teaching comes after only two weeks of remote learning, on the advice of the Chief Health Officer and after consultation with school leaders, the teachers union and peak parents body.
It also comes after intense pressure from the Federal Government, echoed in the ACT by the Canberra Liberals, arguing the health advice was that children were less likely to contract or transmit the virus, and that it was safe to reopen schools.
But the ACT Government had always said the situation would be monitored in the first weeks of term and students would return to the classroom if circumstances changed.
As restrictions ease nationally and the containment measures work better than expected in the ACT, which has no current cases of COVID-19, it was always likely that face-to-face learning would resume by Week 4.
The first students to return will be those considered to be in the most critical learning years – preschool, kindergarten, and Years 1 and 2; the first year of high school Year 7; and the college years of 11 and 12, which will continue with a mix of remote and on-campus teaching.
To support teachers to return to schools, children of teachers may also attend their usual school.
They will be followed on 25 May by Years 3, 4 and 10, and then finally on Tuesday 2 June after the long weekend by Years 5, 6, 8 and 9.
By the start of Week 7 all students and teachers, except for those with compromised immune systems, should be back on site.
The nine safe, supervised sites or hub schools will cease operation on Friday 15 May and the following Monday all ACT public school sites will be operating normally, so children who have not been able to study at home, can attend their regular school.
Registrations for the hubs will close on Sunday 10 May but the Education Directorate will continue to process all registrations that have been received up until then.
In order to ensure schools remain safe environments, there will be more cleaning, and personal hygiene measures, such as hand washing, will be in place.
Extra spaces will be opened up for teachers so staff rooms can follow social distancing rules with limited numbers, and breaks will be staggered.
Students and anyone working at a school will also have ready access to COVID-19 testing if they show symptoms.
If anyone tests positive for the virus, the school will be shut down, cleaned, and contact tracing conducted, as was the case with Lyneham High.
Non-government schools, both Catholic and independent, will also be transitioning back to on-campus learning over the next month.
Education Minister Yvette Berry said the Canberra community had worked hard to contain the virus and the government would remain vigilant.
”If this situation changes again and an increase in new cases of the virus arises, the government remains ready to respond sensibly,” she said.
Ms Berry said parents and carers who could keep their children learning remotely until on-campus learning commences for their year group should continue to do so.
”We’re asking for your patience during this transition so that it is orderly and managed,” she said.
”Thank you to all the parents and carers who have been patient through this changing situation and for supporting your children through this time. I acknowledge that this has not been an easy experience.
”Thank you to our teachers, school staff and out of school hours care staff for your incredible work and going above and beyond to ensure students can access the best possible learning opportunity in extraordinary circumstances.”