Boarding schools

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 11:50 am 20 September 2022

The Department of Education continues to work closely with NSW Health and other key government agencies in planning and managing school operations for reducing the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. Additional risk and health advice applies in residential settings due to COVID-19 and flu spreading more easily within household environments.

Boarding schools should continue to apply additional risk mitigation measures as required, particularly when there are high levels of community transmission.

Each boarding school has communicated with their school community about the approach to managing COVID-19 and flu cases in the school, in both the residential and the day areas of the school.

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 are not a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, 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. Where access to tests is limited, please contact your school.

Students and staff who are identified as household or close contacts of a confirmed case should delay their return to school or work before the start of term until they are no longer identified as such. If students and staff are identified as household or close contacts once the term has started then they will need to follow the guidelines agreed with NSW Health. Refer to Advice for families for more information.

It is strongly recommended that all families have a plan in place with the school to manage if their child tests positive or is identified as a household or close contact.

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 and daily testing of household and close contacts in Term 3. This will continue to help minimise transmission and support staff and community confidence.

A delivery was sent to schools in early Term 3, for all staff and students to be provided with 2 multipacks containing 5 RAT kits each. The RAT kits can be used for symptomatic testing or for daily testing as part of the household and close contact requirements.

Note that students and staff in SSPs or support classes or who utilise assisted transport who are identified as household or close contacts must not attend school and learn from home.

Schools will also maintain a reserve stock of RATs onsite to support symptomatic testing in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

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
  • measures to minimise interaction between household/close contacts and other individuals
  • 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.

Mask wearing

Updated 11:50 am 20 September 2022

Mask wearing, while not mandatory, is strongly encouraged for all staff, students and visitors.

In line with community settings, masks continue to be required for staff working with students at greater risk of severe illness if they were to contract COVID-19, whether they be in a support unit or mainstream classroom.

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.

From Wednesday 21 September 2022 masks are no longer mandatory on public transport in NSW. The requirement for people to wear masks on public transport has been removed, including taxis and rideshare services, in transport waiting areas and the indoor areas of cruise terminals.

Masks remain strongly encouraged for all students, staff and visitors on school sites, particularly on buses and transport to and from camps and excursions.

Some exemptions apply. Refer to the NSW Government face mask rules.

Please note that in line with the latest advice from NSW Health, masks are recommended for students and staff who have recovered from COVID-19, completed their 5-day isolation period in mainstream and boarding schools or 7-day isolation period in SSPs, support units, Assisted Travel programs and overnight excursions and are no longer showing symptoms, for an additional 2 days.

Ventilation and physical distancing

Updated 23 April 2022

Maximising natural ventilation is an effective method for minimising the spread of COVID-19 and flu. As we move into the colder months, heating will be used in conjunction with windows and doors remaining slightly open to continue to allow natural ventilation.

Staff and students are asked 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 (such as whether parents/carers could pick up the child and take them home, or whether isolation in place or another location is preferred).

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 have completed their isolation period, 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.

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