We’re back – students return to school

Schools across NSW have put their COVID-safe plans in place to create safe learning spaces for Term 4, writes Jim Griffiths.

Image: Masked up: Year 12 students at Randwick Girls' High School.

There were smiles galore and welcome back flags were fluttering as the State’s public schools welcomed back all students for Term 4.

Schools big and small have been fully stocked with sanitiser and face masks, have established groupings of student years and worked out physical distancing options on site to minimise the risk of transmission.

Today’s return of all students was the last stage in the staggered return of students, which began at the end of Term 3 with the return of some regional students in areas not under lockdown orders.

Government pre-school, Kindergarten, Year 1 and HSC students also returned last Monday.

Randwick Girls’ High School principal Lucy Andre explained how her school would operate under its COVID-safe plans.

She said school communities were expert planners and masters of logistics.

“We have separated our students into junior and senior groups, meaning we can designate junior and senior areas of the playground, group lines at the canteen, and which school gates they should enter and exit,” Ms Andre said.

These areas were all clearly signposted, along with posters reminding students and staff when and where to wear masks. Three electronic notice boards would also be used to communicate to the whole community.

The school of approximately 945 students would also have hand sanitiser in each of its more than 100 rooms and corridors, and QR codes for any visitors allowed on site.

“The physical preparation is quite easy, really. What is crucial is clear communication to all our stakeholders, and we will be communicating with our parents about how they can support a safe return to school,” Ms Andre said.

“It’s important to stay calm, follow the health advice and remember that together we can do this –as we have demonstrated for the past 18 months.

“Parents should have confidence in sending their children back to school and we’re happy to talk to any parent or carer with concerns.”

Parents are encouraged to look at their school website, Facebook page or newsletters to learn about COVID-safe plans for their school, such as changes to parents’ access to school grounds, drop off and pick up points as well as safety and hygiene rules. 

Following a comprehensive audit of all windows, fans and ventilation systems in more than 150,000 spaces across all NSW public schools, the department is confident that the spaces in schools can be adequately ventilated through natural and mechanically assisted ventilation, and will work with individual schools to enable the continued safe use of their facilities.

Ventilation is only one part of the return to school plan. There is a comprehensive range of measures in place, including vaccinations, use of masks, outdoor teaching, additional hygiene supplies, continuation of enhanced cleaning and servicing and cleaning of air conditioning systems.

To date, more than 74,000 teachers have declared themselves to be fully vaccinatedand the vaccination rate of students aged 12-15 is growing, with more than 75 per cent of students having received their first dose.

For updated information on the return to school and restrictions, visit the Advice for Families page. 

Wellbeing support and advice is also available online. 

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