Free shuttle buses will operate on Wednesday between the new hub schools and students’ regular schools after a day of chaos for parents who cannot keep their children home for remote learning.
Many parents have given the ACT Government’s school hubs solution a fail on the first day of Term 2 when they discovered their children did not have before and after school care as promised.
Parents whose children could not study from home, such as essential workers, were under the impression that they would be catered for at the nine hub schools announced by Education Minister Yvette Berry on Friday, with out of school hours care provided by community sector groups.
Unfortunately, compliance issues meant some parents were told their children would need to go back to their original school’s after-hours program at 3:00 pm.
”Sure I’m going to leave work at 2:30 pick up the kids, drop them to after school care, then go back to work. What sort of nonsense is that?” one parent posted on the ACT Schools Facebook page, which displayed a host of incredulous comments.
”Please review and open all schools for those who have kids needing to attend – parents transferring kids from one school back to afters at their original school is silly,” another parent commented.
Some parents were told that buses would be made available to transport children but one said her after school care provider knew nothing about it.
President of the ACT Council of P&C Associations Kirsty McGovern-Hooley said this situation was untenable and the hub model would fail if it wasn’t rectified.
“Parents expected this week to be difficult, with kids going to an unfamiliar school site with unfamiliar staff, but without after school care services at these sites, it’s more than difficult – it’s untenable. Some families are left stranded by this. Some parents have not been able to turn up for work today – missing shifts,” she said.
“Parents in essential services cannot stop work at 3:00 pm and drive kids from their hub site to their usual school for after school care. And some local afters services had planned to be closed.”
The issue emerged over the weekend when parents were sent an email saying that after school care would not be provided for children using those hub schools unless they were already a client of the provider operating there.
Ms McGovern-Hooley said she understood it was a very complex area, with many providers, duty-of-care considerations and Federal funding impacts.
”But families using these sites need a solution. Without a workable after school care solution, hub schools will fail the families who need them,” she said.
The proposed solution appears to be the use of shuttle buses to ferry children between their regular school and the hub school every morning and afternoon so they can be cared for but only if the out of school hours care provider is still operating a service at the regular school.
An Education Directorate spokesperson said parents were asked to complete an online registration form for transport services when they attended their hub school for the first time this morning.
Families can register for these transport services at any time by contacting the Education Directorate.
The spokesperson said the Directorate had been working with providers and the Federal Government to overcome regulatory and funding restrictions to use current out of hours care places and open up new places in the hubs.
”This has required a range of solutions depending on family circumstances,” the spokesperson said.
Families with an existing enrolment with the out of school hours care provider at a hub school can attend as per normal.
Parents with students enrolled with an out of school hours care provider at their usual school, which is the same provider at the hub, can contact their provider and ask for enrolment to be transferred to the hub site.
Families can also continue using their current provider at their regular school, if they are operating, and use the shuttle buses.
”For safety and care reasons, parents need to register their children for shuttle bus services. This will allow us to make sure children are safely transferred onto bus services at the start and end of each day,” the spokesperson said.
Ninety-seven per cent of ACT public school students began Term 2 at home, with no significant issues reported, the spokesperson said.