Boarding schools should follow all general COVID-19 guidance for schools, as well as the specific guidelines for boarding schools on this page.
Last updated 12 pm 30 January 2023
Change to isolation requirements
Following National Cabinet's announcement in late 2022, people who test positive to COVID-19 do not need to isolate. In line with this announcement, the NSW Department of Education have worked with NSW Health to support all schools to adapt to this change while continuing to prioritise student and staff wellbeing by minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmissions.
Students and staff should continue to stay home when sick
Students, staff and visitors should only attend school when they are symptom free. We strongly encourage all students, staff and visitors to follow the guidance issued by NSW Health. We will continue to send home students or staff displaying symptoms.
Anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 is strongly recommended to monitor for symptoms and test if they have any concerns, as well as wear a mask. We will continue to support our families to use rapid antigen tests (RATs) if symptomatic or if you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19. RAT testing may help identify the infection early and is important if you are in contact with people at greater risk of serious illness if exposed to COVID-19.
Boarding schools should continue to apply additional risk mitigation measures as required, particularly when there are high levels of community transmission.
In certain circumstances NSW Health and the Department of Education may advise that certain COVID-smart measures be temporarily reintroduced at your school. Your principal will work with Health and the department and provide further details of any changes to COVID-smart measures at your school when required.
Students returning to boarding schools
Please contact your school to discuss travel arrangements. An individual assessment before returning to campus should confirm that boarders have no symptoms of COVID-19 and have tested negative to COVID-19 where appropriate. It is strongly recommended boarders also undertake a rapid antigen test before their return.
It is strongly recommended that all families have a plan in place with the school to manage if their child tests positive.
Rapid antigen testing
As part of the NSW Government’s focus on minimising disruptions to teaching and learning, the department will continue to support the use of rapid antigen tests (RATs) for symptomatic testing.
Schools will maintain a reserve stock of RATs onsite to support symptomatic testing.
Arrangements for residential areas
In line with community settings, where there are low numbers of COVID-19 cases in the community or school, the school may relax some of the COVID-19 measures in place in residential settings.
These may include removal of mask requirements in residential areas, relaxation of cohorting and staggering of meal times.
To limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission in residential areas, schools will regularly remind students and staff of the importance of rigorous appropriate personal hygiene practices, including:
- advising staff immediately if they feel unwell or have any COVID-19 symptoms
- washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water at regular intervals throughout the day
- regular and appropriate use of hand sanitiser
- respiratory hygiene – covering a cough or sneeze in the crook of the arm, not into the hand
- placing used tissues and other personal items straight into a bin, then hand washing
- avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth
- not sharing food or drink
- not sharing personal items such as mobile phones, pens and pencils
- wiping down shared surfaces before and after use.
Where case numbers increase or cases are identified in the boarding school, strengthened layered measures will be reintroduced for short periods to reduce the risk of transmission within the residential setting. This includes changes to:
- minimise the use of shared bathroom facilities where possible
- reduce group sizes and maintain physical distancing in recreational areas and when engaging in activities outside of school hours
- stagger rostered meal times
- require mask-wearing in common areas accessed by large numbers of people
- increase COVID-19 testing
- wellbeing and wellness checks and ensuring students are free of COVID-19 symptoms
- maximising physical distancing (for example, through floor markings and furniture placing) to reduce contact with other students and staff.
Masks are strongly encouraged for all students, staff and visitors to school sites while indoors, where physical distancing is not possible, and on public transport, particularly to and from school and camps/excursions.
Masks are also particularly encouraged for people who believe they have been exposed to COVID-19.
Masks continue to be required for staff, volunteers and workers who support our students who are at greater risk of serious illness should they contract COVID-19, whether they be in schools for specific purposes (SSPs), support units or mainstream classrooms.
Schools may reintroduce mask requirements for staff and students in residential areas where there is a positive COVID-19 case in the cohort or other concerns arise in the school community.
Some exemptions apply. Refer to the NSW Government face mask rules.
Ventilation and physical distancing
Maximising natural ventilation is an effective method for minimising the spread of COVID-19. As we move into the warmer months, cooling will be used in conjunction with windows and doors remaining slightly open to continue to allow natural ventilation.
With the possibility of low air quality due to smoke in the warmer months, the department has advised that schools should follow the advice of relevant authorities, depending on their specific environmental circumstances.
Staff and students are encouraged to maintain physical distancing where practicable throughout the school day. Reducing close physical contact and maintaining physical distancing between students in residential areas of the school is highly recommended.
Managing student illnesses
Schools are experienced in managing student injury and illness, including for students who reside at the school during the school term and have appropriate nursing staff and clinics in place. If a boarding student or staff member develops COVID-19-like or respiratory symptoms:
- The student will be taken to the sick bay, clinic or another appropriate area where they can be assessed and isolated immediately. All schools must identify a location where a student could be appropriately isolated.
- Schools will apply appropriate infection control measures, including wearing of masks.
- The usual assessment of the person’s condition should be carried out by trained staff wearing appropriate PPE and a determination made on whether they require urgent medical assistance. If so, an ambulance should be called immediately.
- The unwell person should remain in the clinic or other suitable location, isolated from all other staff and students and a COVID-19 test should be conducted. Parents and/or carers should be notified that the student is unwell and will be tested for COVID-19 and influenza. The school, parents/carers and health team should undertake a risk assessment to determine the most appropriate arrangements for managing the child.
Schools have planned how to safely manage a single case or multiple cases of COVID-19 within the residential facility. This may involve reintroducing strict layered measures (including mask-wearing).
The school’s approach to managing cases of COVID-19 should be communicated to families. For more information, contact your school.
Negative test for COVID-19
If the test is negative, the usual processes around supporting students and staff while recovering from illness, including personal hygiene arrangements to minimise the risk of others becoming unwell at the school, will be followed. Students with COVID-like symptoms should not attend school until symptoms clear, even if the test is negative.
Positive test for COVID-19
Students must not return to school until they are no longer displaying symptoms, and have arrangements to support their return to school.
Students who have recovered from COVID-19 should refer to NSW Health advice for self-isolation.