Mixed feelings as Gladys Berejiklian confirms NSW students will return to school in three weeks

School students in NSW will begin a staggered return to the classroom from May 11, leading up to a full-time return to face-to-face learning from term three.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian Source: AAP

School students across NSW will start going back to school from 11 May, one day a week initially while building up to a full-time return to the classroom from late July.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday said public, Catholic and independent schools were all on board with the plan, but families and teachers have expressed concern over the plan.

Schools are currently open amid the coronavirus pandemic but students are recommended to learn from home.

Current restrictions will remain in place for the first two weeks of term two through to 11 May, when students will need to attend school one day per week.

No more than a quarter of the school cohort will be on campus at one time.

The government would aim for a full-time return to school in term three, starting in late July.

"Will it be the same as kids going to school under normal circumstances? No, it won't," Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday.

"We've made sure we've used this time not just to build up our online capacity but we've also made sure we have enough hand sanitisers, soap, and all those things which make a school community feel safe."

A file photo of children sitting in a classroom during a lesson.
A file photo of children sitting in a classroom during a lesson. Source: AAP

Schools will also have the ability to temperature check students where appropriate and cleaning protocols will be ramped up.

But the president of the Australian Teacher's Union Correna Haythorpe said a better response would be to "manage parents expectations about which parents can actually attend school".

"That's been much more helpful for our members in managing social distancing requirements in schools," she said.

"Our schools are not shut, they are delivering remote learning, remote teaching and learning online for the majority of children across Australia, but the message has been very confusing in terms of what 'open' means and which children are actually attending face to face in our schools."

Meanwhile, Sydney parent Rose Thanh said she was hesitant to send her son, Ethan, back to school when the doors reopen.

"Kids are carriers, and I could be a carrier and we wouldn't even know if we had the coronavirus. If he picks anything up from school, then we're all done, I'd be impaired, it would just be a whole big thing in the house and we'd be restricted," she said.

"I'm not too sure if I'm going to send him to school, but so far it seems like I'm going to keep him back."

Six new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed on Tuesday in NSW, taking the state total to 2969, with 21 people in intensive care.

It's the second consecutive day in which six new cases have been confirmed.

"We can now see a definite trend forming in terms of the reduced number of cases. But I do also want to stress that sometimes it just takes a handful of people to do the wrong thing to have all this hard work go to waste," Ms Berejiklian said.

More than 1750 people have fully recovered from COVID-19 in the state, chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant told reporters.

For NSW health authorities, stopping the spread of COVID-19 cases linked to a nursing home in western Sydney where 42 people have become infected remains the focus.

On Monday evening, a 92-year-old female resident of the Newmarch House nursing home in Caddens became the third resident to die as a result of the outbreak. 

Newmarch House is home to about 100 people, with 28 residents and 14 staff infected with coronavirus as of Monday night and strict isolation protocols in place.

A worker with very mild symptoms entered Newmarch House on six consecutive days, leading Dr Chant to warn even those with minimal symptoms should avoid work and get tested.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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4 min read
Published 21 April 2020 at 8:40am