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 2:00 pm 9 October 2023

Staying home when sick

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 HealthExternal link.

Anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19External link is strongly recommended to monitor for symptoms, and follow the guidance issued by NSW Health (Advice for people exposed to COVID-19 | NSW Government). 

We will continue to support our families through providing 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 the Department of Education’s Health, Safety and Staff Wellbeing Case Management team may advise that some COVID-smart measures be temporarily reintroduced or enhanced at your school. Your principal will work with the department and provide further details of any changes to COVID-smart measures at your school when required.

Students returning to boarding schools

An individual assessment before returning to campus should confirm that boarders have no symptoms of COVID-19. It is strongly recommended boarders also undertake a rapid antigen test before their return.

Students and staff who are symptomatic must stay home until symptom free, including if this means delaying a return to school or work.

It is strongly recommended that all families have a plan in place with the school to manage if their child is symptomatic and/or tests positive.

Rapid antigen testing

The department will continue to support the use of rapid antigen tests (RATs) for symptomatic testing and anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19. This will continue to help minimise the disruption to teaching and learning, minimise transmission and support staff and community confidence.

Schools will maintain a reserve stock of RATs onsite.

Arrangements for residential areas

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 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.

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
  • recommend mask-wearing in shared areas accessed by large numbers of people
  • wellbeing and wellness checks and ensuring students are free of COVID-19 symptoms
  • maximising physical distancing where possible to reduce contact with other students and staff.

Mask wearing

Masks are recommended 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 recommended for people who believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Masks are recommended 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 are positive COVID-19 cases in the cohort or other concerns arise in the school community.

For more information, refer to the NSW Government guidance on wearing face masks.

Ventilation and physical distancing

Maximising natural ventilation is an effective method for minimising the spread of COVID-19. To support thermal comfort, schools may use heating or cooling in conjunction with windows and doors remaining open to continue to allow natural ventilation.

There will be times where maximising natural ventilation won’t be a suitable option to implement in teaching spaces, due to outdoor air quality in local areas. This may include times where backburning or bushfire smoke is impacting a school community. In these circumstances, schools will follow advice from the relevant authorities.

Staff and students are recommended to maintain physical distancing and reduce close physical contact where practicable throughout the school day.

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 recommendations on wearing 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, and a COVID-19 test may 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

Students with COVID-like symptoms should not attend school until symptoms clear, even if the test is negative.

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.

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 that test positive to COVID-19 while at school will be managed to minimise transmission risks and potentially sent home if they are symptomatic. The school will contact the parent or carer and make the necessary arrangements for a risk assessment discussion with the parents/school/health team to ensure they are able to receive the required and necessary treatment and support until they have recovered from the illness.

Students who have recovered from COVID-19 should refer to NSW Health advice for managing COVID-19 safely at home.


  • Health and safety

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