With the ACT entering lockdown again from 5:00 pm today (12 August), no in-person schooling will occur in the ACT until at least Friday, 20 August.
With the first positive COVID-19 case in the ACT in over a year, Chief Minister Andrew Barr described it as the most serious public health emergency the ACT had seen so far.
Speaking at the midday press conference earlier today, the clear message from Minister for Education Yvette Berry was that, in line with the broader community’s lockdown, if children can be kept at home, they should be kept at home.
While she said nobody wanted to be in this space, and no one expected it so early, she reiterated that ACT public schools and the Education Directorate have been preparing for this scenario over the past year.
In line with previous lockdowns, early childhood education centres, schools and after-school care will be permitted to remain open for staff, vulnerable children and children whose parents and carers cannot work from home because they are essential workers, experiencing vulnerability or another reason.
A spokesperson for the ACT Government added that “this approach would provide more familiar settings for students and staff that needed to attend schools”.
“We also know this approach has been successful in other jurisdictions that have experienced lockdowns,” the spokesperson continued.
An exemption will also be given to students who need to attend school for a critical reason, such as year 12 exams. However, all higher education and training institutions will remain closed and will move instead to remote learning.
Ms Berry reiterated that students in the ACT public school system will not be required to undertake normal schooling over the next week while teachers and schools prepare for a transition to remote learning, should this be required beyond the week.
Over the next week, parents are encouraged to access the virtual home library at the ACT Education website where a range of educational resources will be accessible for families.
“Those students that do attend school during this time will be supported by teachers and staff to access these resources,” Ms Berry said.
She added that if children require access to electronic devices, the ACT Education Directorate will provide them.
Mask wearing will be mandatory within a school setting for teachers and school staff, and children over 12.
Following the advice from the Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman, before and after-hours care will remain open at this stage, although once again, children who can be kept at home should be kept at home, and mandatory mask-wearing and the Check In CBR app will also apply in these settings.
Ms Berry said ACT public schools and the Education Directorate will work closely with Catholic and independent schools to ensure consistent messaging across the board.
However, she encouraged parents and families from these schools to listen closely to the advice and information being released from their own school communities.
A spokesperson for the ACT Education Directorate said last week that the ACT Scaling Test (AST), which is scheduled for 31 August and 1 September, and as of last week, will proceed as planned.
The Board of Senior Secondary Studies (BSSS), which is responsible for the AST, is actively working on contingency plans to ensure the AST can proceed in a COVID safe manner in line with advice from the Chief Health Officer.