Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

As families prepare for the school year, some parents have expressed concern about the South Australian Education Department’s plans for a “staggered hybrid model” back in the classroom.

Mother Bella Esposito said she and many others find the idea of ​​the model, which was unveiled Thursday and Friday, “very stressful”.

According to the plan, schools will open from January 31, but only for vulnerable students and children of “necessary workers”.

Formal classes begin on February 2, in person for reception and grades 1, 7, 8 and 12, with students in the other classes learning from home for fourteen days.

Mrs Esposito works four days a week as an accountant, while her husband works full-time in communications – none of which is classified as a significant employee.

Occasionally, they have to juggle the homeschooling of their oldest child, Alexandra, who starts year 4 this year, while their youngest, Hugo, starts reception in the classroom without having received his first vaccination yet.

“I’m not sure how many weeks I would be happy for it to be pushed back, but I find this staggered and hybrid model, the thought of it, very stressful,” Mrs Esposito said.

“It’s a difficult time, I think for all parents and also for teachers. We really feel for them.”

She said it would be difficult for Hugo to start school without his big sister there to support him.

“I empathize with them and for the young children, the reception children, starting with an adult who is masked and there is not the same emotional connection,” she said.

“It’s amazing, I guess the health benefits of wearing a mask, but again, it starts the year in a weird way, and for little people, I think it would be great to do it as normally as possible.”

With their first priority being to prevent their children from becoming ill, Mrs Esposito said it would be a good thing to make rapid antigen tests available to staff and students if there had been a positive case at a school.

“We would hope that child was quarantined and then we would probably take Hugo out of school until we could be sure we were not spreading a virus through him,” she said.

Students take air quality tests in their own hands

Meanwhile, with South Australia’s Department of Education confirming that it would not follow NSW’s and Victoria’s lead of installing air purifiers in classrooms, Lobethal Lutheran School is taking a different approach.

A young boy in a striped school polo shirt smiles as he stands next to his principal, a woman in a black jacket and gray dress
Lobethal Lutheran School Principal Stephanie Kriewaldt with 6th year student Brody.(ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

It has installed carbon monitors to see how old the air is in the classrooms.

“Some of our classrooms were secure – about 400-500 – and some of them were quite worrying, about 1,500 [parts per million]”, said principal Stephanie Kriewaldt.

Adelaide Hills Elementary School students can see the data and see what a difference it can make by opening the windows and turning on the fan.

“If we see CO2 doubling or tripling at the start of a school day, we know we can do better with the building’s ventilation,” said occupational physician Erich Heinzle.

Three young boys wearing striped polo shirts and blue shorts sit around a table with a technical device and wires sitting on it
Brody talks to his fellow students about the air quality apparatus.(ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said opening windows and doors was much more effective than using air purifiers.

“What you really want to do is get an exchange of air, so you have to get fresh air in and the stale air out,” she said.

“Air purifiers do not provide a satisfactory improvement, a significant improvement, a valuable improvement in air quality that would justify putting them out in the classrooms,” she added.

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