ACT public schools could still return to face-to-face teaching in Term 2, according to Education Minister Yvette Berry, who today named nine school sites across the Territory which will stay open as the system readies for remote learning next week.
The school sites (or hubs) selected to cater for children who cannot stay at home are:
- Caroline Chisholm School
- Charles Weston School
- Gordon Primary School
- Mawson Primary School
- Amaroo School
- Majura Primary School
- Kingsford Smith School
- Maribyrnong Primary School
- Red Hill Primary School.
Other specialist settings will continue to operate as per usual including the Muliyan Off-Campus Flexible Learning Program, Murrumbidgee Education and Training Centre, the Cottage and the Hospital School.
By Wednesday, families had registered 2663 children and the Education Directorate is preparing for 1900 students a day, with capacity to take another 1000 across the nine sites. There is no cut-off, and families can continue to register for on-site learning.
No child will be turned away, and families who go to their normal school will be directed to the appropriate hub site.
The Education Directorate will contact parents who have registered their need to attend a school site about which one they should go to.
The community sector, whose organisations already provide staff for before and after school care, will be contracted to supervise children across the day, while teachers and learning assistants will be on hand to support students taking their online lessons, the same as their peers at home.
Communities@Work CEO Lee Maiden said her organisation provided services at five sites, and Communities@Work and Woden Community Service, Community Service#1 and YWCA had been in talks with the directorate for weeks.
She stressed their staff were not teachers but would support directorate staff in any way they could.
”We will all work together between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm to support those children,” she said.
Social distancing would still be practised on-site and children would be separated into small manageable groups.
Ms Berry moved to reassure parents that the sites would not just be child-minding centres.
”They’ll be supervised sites; however, it won’t be an ordinary class-led education, it will be the same remote education that will be delivered online to students at home,” she said.
Ms Berry said the hub approach would allow all students to have equitable access to high-quality remote learning experiences, and provide the opportunity for intense cleaning and maintenance at school sites that were not operating.
She said the ACT would press on with remote learning despite calls from infectious diseases experts such as Professor Peter Collignon that it was safe for schools to reopen, but stay flexible as circumstances changed.
The ACT would continue to assess the situation and monitor NSW’s phased return to the classroom but the Territory was able to take cautious and careful approach as it had planned so well to deliver remote learning, she said.
”We’ll keep going with the process to keep everyone safe,” Ms Berry said.
”It’s been really difficult for people, on the one hand saying keep your social distancing, stay at home, do the right thing, it only takes one person [to infect many], and on the other hand thousands of persons that can gather together in a school, so we’re just trying to work through those contradictions, making sure everyone feels safe, and make sure we can deliver a great education as well.”
Ms Berry said the government also had to take into account the teachers and other adult staff who may be vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
She said it was very easy to go pupil-free but much harder to resume face-to-face teaching quickly, and the Directorate also had to be prepared for positive diagnoses in schools and new waves of COVID-19 in the ACT as winter approaches.
”That’s why we can take the time now over the next four weeks to have a look at what’s happening around the country, take a very considered approach and put some plans in place about what will happen if a school has a positive diagnosis, how we contact trace, do that intensive clean and support that school community,” Ms Berry said.
She said the government wanted the process to be as consistent and uncomplicated as possible.
The directorate had so far provided 600 families with wifi services and distributed thousands of devices to ensure a level playing field.
Ms Berry said the remote learning experience would be monitored and data collected so the lessons learned could be applied in the future.
”We are well ahead of the game providing remote education,” she said. ”Teachers have been really innovative and taken up the challenge.
“So much has been learned in our education community about delivering education differently using technology that we already have in the ACT.”
Ms Berry also had a message for parents about the other lessons their children would be learning outside the curriculum.
”They are learning a whole lot about our community that might not have learned in classroom, about resilience, strength of a united community, about the extraordinary circumstances we’re going through right now, living it and being part of it,” she said.
For more information about the Term 2 school arrangements, visit the ACT Education Directorate.