Delayed school return aims to reassure ‘reluctant’ parents
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard would be "delighted" for parents to take their children back to school "as soon as they feel comfortable" - despite a government plan that would only put kids back in classrooms full-time by term 3.
With public schools starting term two from on Monday, health and education experts have declared it is safe to send kids back to the classroom because there is little evidence children can transmit COVID-19.
Monday and Tuesday are both staff development days, with students returning to online learning from Wednesday before a "staged return'' to on-site schooling from week 3.
"Our schools will be open from Wednesday for students to attend but we recognise that we want to see a staged return from week three," Education Department secretary Mark Scott said.
From week three, parents will be asked to send their kids to school for one day each week.
Health Minister Mr Hazzard said schools are "very safe," declaring the plan to transition to full-time schooling was designed to reassure some "reluctant" parents.
"Somewhere there has to be that balance of just making sure that there's a sense of confidence built right across the parent community," he said.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan last night said he wanted all schools to "get on this path back to teachers teaching in the classroom … by the end of May".
"We should all follow the medical expert advice, and that has said that it's safe for schools to be open," he told Sky News. "Our hope now is, nationally, that we will see all schools back to teaching in the classroom by the end of May."
Despite health advice declaring social distancing rules do not need to apply to children, Mr Scott said the government was "ensuring that there will be enough space in schools for students and staff to spread out during the school day".
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the staggered return "provides an orderly pathway" while allowing more safety measures.
The reassurance comes after the government released a report showing only two cases of onward infection at 15 schools across the state where COVID-19 cases had been confirmed.
National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance director Kristine Macartney said one high school student possibly caught the disease from a classmate, while one primary school student likely caught it from a teacher: "The emerging evidence is really that there's low spread between children and from children to adults."
Asked if there was any medical reason all students could not go back full-time from this week, Mr Hazzard said the staggered approach "builds time for confidence" that schools are safe. But, Opposition leader Jodi McKay said: "That's not an evidence-based approach." She is calling for Year 12 students to return to full-time on-site schooling immediately. "They have to be the priority," she said.
Originally published as Delayed school return aims to reassure 'reluctant' parents