As coronavirus restrictions ease, thousands of Canberra private school students are returning to the classroom
About half of Canberra Grammar School students returned to the classroom today.
(ABC News: Tahlia Roy)
Students at some Canberra private schools have returned to the classroom this morning, a week ahead of their public school peers.
Burgmann Anglican School, Canberra Girls Grammar, Daramalan College, Marist College, Canberra Islamic School, Radford College, Canberra Grammar, Covenant Christian School and Trinity Christian School have all started the transition back to face-to-face learning. While most of those schools are doing staggered returns, Marist has welcomed back all its students. Association of Independent Schools of the ACT executive director Andrew Wrigley said the schools were working closely with health authorities to ensure the safety of students and staff. He said extensive social-distancing practices were in place with restrictions on some activities like assemblies, and there would be extra cleaning of high-traffic areas. "School cleaning plans have been put in place. In most cases there would be sanitising products for individual classrooms for the use of students and staff," Mr Wrigley said. "The schools will, as they can, be agile and adapt to anything that needs to be modified or changed."
No students will be attending Canberra Grammar School on Wednesday while the school is given a thorough clean.(ABC News: Tahlia Roy)
Canberra Grammar is one independent school that is adapting by having students return in stages, with kindergarten and years 2, 4 and 6 attending Monday and Tuesday, and grades 1, 3 and 5 attending Thursday and Friday.
The school will be closed for a "deep clean" on Wednesday.
While some public school teachers and parents have raised concerns about about a lack of consultation, Mr Wrigley said "everyone" from parents to teachers at independent schools had a say in when and how schools reopened. "All of the schools … gathered feedback from the parent community in some way, shape or form and there was overwhelming support for schools to be transitioning back to the classroom," he said.
"Teachers are very excited to see students back in the classroom."
But one independent school teacher, in a text message to ABC Radio Canberra, said they had not been consulted.
"At no time have we had an opportunity to have input into either the closing or opening of school or what protocols will be now students are back. We have been supplied with wipes and hand sanitiser. Do the maths on how many students will pass through a door/at a desk of a high school with 28 students per room with that room being used for up to six lessons per day with different classes moving through those rooms. But the wonderful work of teachers will continue, and we will go and do our job without any PPE unlike other 'essential' workers.
Some parents of Marist College students said they were in favour of sending their children back to school. The school fully reopened to all age groups on Monday. "I think it's probably about time," one parent, Simon Wilson said.
"I think the teachers have done a wonderful job trying to educate them during the time off and I'm just glad they're back and hopefully not spreading too many germs."
Another parent, Robert, said he felt that the students were lacking the social interactions they needed and said he was worried they were getting bored and unsettled at home. "My son has been hanging out to go back to school," he said. "It's the first time ever I think, but I think it's time [to return]."
Catholic system in sync with public schools
Catholic Education director Ross Fox says adults in schools will need to continue social distancing.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)
Canberran's 28 Catholic systemic schools will begin face-to-face classes next week and, like the government sector, many will stagger the return over two weeks. All Catholic schools will be open on Monday, though some will adopt slightly different schedules. The archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn's education director, Ross Fox, said Catholic secondary colleges would prioritise the return of students in years 7, 11 and 12. Other schools would do what worked best for teachers and parents, he said.
"In our primary schools, sometimes this will involve fully returning [on Monday], where they're able to do that and they think it makes sense, working with their staff and parent communities," he said.
"Other larger primary schools, in particular, will stage their return over a couple of weeks."
Canberra's public school students will also start to return to classrooms next week under a staggered reopening of schools. Students in preschool, kindergarten and years 1, 2 and 7 will be the first to return next Monday. Years 11 and 12 students will also begin to return to classroom work, for those students enrolled in subjects that need it. A week later, on May 25, students in years 3, 4 and 10 will join those who have already returned. All students will be back in the classroom from June 2, with years 5, 6, 8 and 9 the last to return.
Any student with a chronic health condition or compromised immune system can continue to learn remotely.
Parents who are particularly anxious about their child returning will also be allowed to continue to educate their children from home.