Boarding schools

Last updated 9:40 am 18 October 2021

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 restrictions and advice apply for travel and in residential settings due to the ease with which the SARS-CoV-2 Delta strain spreads within household environments.

Considerations for 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 not attended a venue of concern, are not a contact of a confirmed case, have no symptoms of COVID-19 and have tested negative to COVID-19. Where access to testing is limited, please contact your school to discuss this.

Arrangements for residential areas

To limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission in residential areas, schools will:

  • 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
  • regularly remind students and staff of the importance of rigorous appropriate personal hygiene practices, including
    • 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
    • advising staff immediately if they feel unwell or have any COVID-19 symptoms
    • 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
    • maximising physical distancing (including through floor markings and furniture placing) to reduce contact with other students and staff.

Mask wearing

Last updated 9:40 am 18 October 2021

NSW Health advice requires that all staff must wear a face mask or covering at all times when indoors. This includes adults in all early childhood education and care settings, including when caring for and educating children.

While on schools sites masks are required indoors for all staff and all students Year 7 and above. Masks are strongly recommended indoors for primary students.

Mask supplies are a back-up for schools. Staff and students should bring their own mask where possible.

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

In residential areas, a person over 12 years must wear a mask in common areas accessed by many people, such as a shared foyer or lobby, lifts, stairwells and corridors and shared laundry facilities. However, boarding schools may relax mask-wearing requirements to support student wellbeing in small residential cohorts where access to areas is staggered.

Masks are mandatory on public transport. This applies to staff and students aged 13 years and over, when travelling to and from school and during school excursions by public transport or by chartered or private transport services. 

Physical distancing

Although students are not required to maintain physical distancing at school, reducing close physical contact and maintaining physical distancing between students in residential areas of the school is 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 develops COVID-19-like symptoms:

  • The student should be taken to the sick bay, clinic or another appropriate area to be assessed and isolated immediately. All schools must identify a location(s) where a student(s) could be appropriately isolated.
  • Schools should comply with appropriate infection control.
  • The usual assessment of the student’s condition should be carried out by trained staff wearing appropriate PPE and a determination made on whether the student requires urgent medical assistance. If so, an ambulance should be called immediately.
  • The unwell student should remain in the clinic or other suitable location, isolated from all other staff and students and arrangements made for a COVID-19 test to be conducted if they have mild symptoms including:
    • cough
    • shortness of breath
    • sore/scratchy throat
    • fever
    • loss of taste of smell
    • chest pain
    • headache, usually with fever.
  • Where possible, the person conducting the test should come to the school to avoid unnecessary transportation of the student. Each school should have an established process in place, either through a local pathology provider or the local Public Health Unit, to conduct on-site testing if required.
  • Meals should be delivered to the student in isolation using disposable plates and cutlery during this time without direct contact with the student. Staff collecting dishes such as plates from the student’s room must be wearing PPE.
  • Parents/carers should be notified that the student is unwell and will be tested for COVID-19. The school, parents, and health team should undertake a risk assessment to determine the most appropriate arrangements for managing the child (such as whether parents could pick up the child and take them home, or whether isolation in place or another location is preferred).

Negative test for COVID-19

If the test is negative, and unless the student is a known contact of a confirmed case, usual processes around supporting students while recovering from illness, including personal hygiene arrangements to minimise the risk of others becoming unwell at the school, will be followed.

Positive test for COVID-19

Students must not return to school until the Public Health Unit or Health & Safety Directorate confirms they are no longer infectious and arrangements are in place to support their return to school.

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