Is It Safe To Send My Kids Back To School?
- Parents Only
From May 25th, schools in NSW will welcome their students back for full-time face-to-face teaching. The government has consistently maintained that schools are safe for children, and of course, that hasn't changed.
Returning our kids back into the schoolyard will be a welcome relief for some. Kids have missed out on weeks of social interaction and wrestled with the challenge of keeping up with the curriculum in a whole new way. It has also placed enormous pressure on parents who were tasked with their new educational role.
Do I Have To Send My Kids?
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has announced that yes, attendance will be mandatory unless there are genuine health concerns.
“We will be returning back to normal learning from next week, the remote learning units that we’ve been having will no longer continue,” Mitchell said.
“We expect students to attend. It will be a normal school week from next week and they need to be attending. Rolls will be marked as per normal and unexplained absences will be followed up.”
However you wouldn't be alone in thinking, is it really safe to send my child back to school...
The Good News
The data that the PM has been clinging to is that there is little evidence of transmission of COVID-19 between children at school. A study by NSW Health concluded that the spread of COVID-19 within NSW schools has been very limited, and transmission is considerably less for the virus than for other respiratory viruses like the flu.
Statistics show that school-aged children in NSW represent only 4% of all COVID-19 despite making up approximately 23% of the population, and there was no evidence that students spread the virus to adults. Closing schools was also not attributed to controlling transmission.
Based on this latest evidence, the government maintains that it is safe for children to return to school and that it is, in fact, the best place for them to be.
They assure us that strict hygiene measures and distancing will be in place. This includes increased cleaning, access to hygiene supplies and compliance with hygiene practices.
The Bad News
On the flipside, Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, conceded during a recent press conference, that “school can be a risk for adult-to-adult transmission, from parent to teacher, teacher to teacher”. With this in mind, mitigations have been recommended to limit the potential risk among adults, including keeping vulnerable teachers away, physical distancing in the staff room and minimising face to face contact between staff and parents.
School But Not As We Know It
While our kids are returning to school, it isn’t quite business as usual, as they continue practising physical distancing in line with current health advice (which actually suggests that guidelines for children are different from adults) and minimising risk.
Parents are also being warned that it will be “common” for schools or individual classes to be temporarily shut down as the threat of a second coronavirus wave looms.
Keep It Clean
Schools must continue to encourage good health and hygiene practices including frequent hand washing and limited physical contact.
NSW public schools must also safeguard their physical environment and are regularly and professionally cleaned, with enhanced hygiene measures implemented across the state. Schools are being sent additional provisions of soap and hygiene supplies, such as hand sanitiser.
It's Just A Phase
The Department of Education ensures they can balance the varied needs of students and staff, and respond quickly in the unlikely event of an outbreak.
The Department has also published comprehensive advice for families asserting that the wellbeing of their staff, students and school community is their primary concern and that NSW schools are safe, clean and secure.
Obviously, the best educational outcomes for our kids will come out of the classroom and, while physical school attendance represents a very low health risk, it gets us all on the road to normality!
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