ACT students went back to school this week for what promises to be the last few weeks of distance learning.
School systems have planned ways they can make campuses safer and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission when students gradually return.
Here are some of the ways in which the school is adapting to the current phase of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Will students and teachers wear masks?
Masks will be mandatory for year 7 to 12 students and all school staff on campus.
They are allowed to take it off to eat and drink, communicate with someone who is hard of hearing, exercise vigorously when alone or in an emergency.
Children ages 3 to 6 are encouraged to wear a mask at the discretion of their parents or caregivers, but this is not mandatory.
Children in preschool to year 2 should not wear a mask as it poses a choking hazard and is likely to be used incorrectly.
Some students with disabilities may not be able to wear a mask.
Ventilation is an important aspect to reduce the risk of airborne transmission of the virus in indoor spaces.
The Australian Health Principal Protection Committee (AHPPC) has said that improved ventilation, either by opening windows and doors or through well-designed and maintained HVAC systems, should be used in conjunction with other infection control measures.
About 400 high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters were installed to keep forest fire smoke out of schools.
ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said the current advice from the AHPPC was that HEPA filters would not be necessary if airflow through schools was adequate.
“If the health counseling changes that we have to deliver [HEPA filters], then we will definitely consider them, but we have all systems in place right now. “
What happens if there is a case at a school?
The Minister of Education said that if there was a positive case of COVID-19 at a school site, a response team would be set up to collect information for contact tracing.
They will provide the public health team’s site maps and duty schedules so the health chief can determine who has been exposed to the virus.
“Earlier we saw that the ACT health director classified the whole school as a close contact point, but part of the plan to go back to school is about keeping students and different age groups separate as much as possible, so the answer may be different in those circumstances. , ”Said Berry.
“Of course, we communicate directly with families about test and quarantine requirements as it arises.”
In previous school-based exposures, staff and students have been referred to be tested at specific times and at specific test centers.
It is likely that schools will be closed in whole or in part for cleaning, but it is hoped that longer school closures will be avoided.
ACT is also looking at how NSW and Victoria plan to manage school outbreaks in the future.
What else is being done to make schools safe?
Schools will look for ways to reduce mixing between cohorts, so if there is a positive case, the number of close contacts will be kept to a minimum.
Lunch breaks can be postponed and the canteen can be changed.
Visitors to the school’s sites will be restricted while excursions, contact sports and camps are kept on hold.
Physical distance between children is not possible in most school settings, but it is expected that adults maintain a space density of one person per day. Four square meters in rooms not used by students.
Activities that generate aerosols, including singing and playing on fans, should be performed outside.
In general, parents are not allowed to pick up or drop off their child on the school premises unless there is an in / out procedure for outside school hours or early childhood services.
What if parents do not want to send children to school?
Some parents are reluctant to let their children return to the classroom because they or someone in their household has a health condition that makes them more vulnerable to the virus.
Ms Berry said parents in that situation should talk to their school if they want to keep children at home.
“The education of the young people will be different from what they are experiencing now because we can not expect teachers to offer both distance learning and on campus at the same time.
“It’s just unfair of us to expect that from these educators, but what we can do is support these families to ensure that they and the young people are supported as much as possible.”
Students in years 3 and over who stay home for medical reasons have access to work through the Google Classroom and preschool for year 2 receives tuition at the Directorate for Teaching English, Mathematics and another learning area each day of the week.
However, the Directorate of Education wants the majority of students to return to school.
When will children under the age of 12 be vaccinated?
Pfizer announced positive results from its first trial in children aged five to 11. They were given a lower dose of the vaccine, which was well tolerated with similar side effects to 16- to 25-year-olds.
However, the study had a relatively small cohort of 2268 participants. More results are expected by the end of this year.
An experiment with the Moderna vaccine is also underway.
It will be up to the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia to approve a vaccine for younger children.
Until then, the best way to protect under 12s is for the people around them to be vaccinated to reduce the risk of becoming infected and infecting the virus.
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