The prohibition notice barring Calwell High School Year 7 and 8 students from attending campus has been lifted and all students will return on Monday (16 May).
That cohort of students has spent four full weeks learning remotely. They were initially sent home on 31 March.
The Territory’s work health and safety regulator was called in after the teachers’ union raised concerns. After attending the school last term, inspections revealed critical issues around violence, bullying and staff shortages.
Parents were initially told their children would need to stay at home for the last week of term one because of COVID-19 concerns but later learned about the extent of violence at the school through media reporting.
All students were subsequently banned from attending campus for the first week of term two.
In a letter to parents, school principal Megan Altenburg said staff members would spend the week reviewing work health and safety procedures, completing required training, and planning for a smooth return of students to campus.
The school was supported by the ACT Education Directorate and worked alongside the unions and WorkSafe ACT.
Extra resources have since been introduced, including two more classroom teachers, another school leader, professional development and ongoing training for staff and improved monitoring of workforce impacts due to staff absences and impacts of COVID-19.
Ms Altenburg wrote to parents today (13 May) to tell them they could expect changes, including more frequent parent communication and greater consistency around how incidents are managed and communicated to the community.
“As we welcome the return of our Year 7 and 8 students, we will continue our focus on student and staff safety. The health and well-being of everyone at Calwell High School is our priority. When everyone feels safe and welcome at school, the best learning can happen,” she said.
Minister for Education Yvette Berry said she was pleased the prohibition notice had been lifted and Year 7 and 8 students could return to campus.
“I know this has been a challenging period for the school community … We want every ACT public school student and staff member to thrive, and that is why we will continue to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of our school communities,” Ms Berry said.
Since the issues at Calwell High School first came to light, Ms Berry has faced and survived a no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition.
It was also revealed the regulator had attended five ACT public schools throughout term one, although little information has been provided about these visits.
As of yesterday, eight ACT public schools had moved to partial remote learning in response to teacher shortages being exacerbated either by COVID-19 or other illnesses.
Those schools are Latham Primary School, Namadgi School, Amaroo School, Palmerston Primary School, Macgregor Primary School, Franklin School, Black Mountain School and Caroline Chisholm School.
Three schools last week moved some cohorts to remote learning as well.
It’s understood no independent or Catholic systemic schools have yet had to move cohorts to remote learning.