schools in virus fear

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Some parents were already withdrawing their children from schools this week.
Camera IconSome parents were already withdrawing their children from schools this week. Credit: Warren Hately

The State Government remains adamant schools will stay open, but it looks likely the evolving COVID-19 pandemic might undermine those plans.

School attendance rates took a hit this week as some parents withdrew children out of precaution.

The Times understands class numbers were down about 10-15 per cent across the Capes, while about one in five students were withdrawn in the city.

Privately, local teachers also expressed concern about the potential for contamination with students and teachers working together in classrooms.

This year’s NAPLAN testing was already heading towards cancellation along with everything else in the region.

Meanwhile, local schools have informed parents about stringent measures to contain the spread of the virus. In line with advice to limit public gatherings, all school assemblies, carnivals and workshops have been stopped.

Margaret River Primary School’s car boot fundraiser, autumn fair, sports carnival and all excursions will be postponed. Margaret River Senior High School also cancelled a careers night on Monday and followed suit, ending all excursions, assemblies and gatherings.

MRSHS principal Andrew Host said students would not be penalised for non-attendance, with notes from parents accepted. Dunsborough Primary School principal Garry Jones said attendance had dropped and he urged parents not to isolate kids because the Health Department recommended keeping children in school.

“We have a range of preventative measures in place including hygiene education, hand sanitising and distancing desks,” he said.

Education Department deputy director general Stephen Baxter said students on leave for medical reasons could continue learning from home.

“I would like to give a shout out to teachers,” he said.

“We have 25,000 teachers in public schools, but also marvellous teachers at Catholic and independent schools because they’re all doing a fantastic job at the moment.

“We’re certainly in an evolving situation and while much is uncertain, one thing that remains the same is our focus on the welfare of students and staff in our schools.

“The focus – at the moment – has to be on the absolute duty of care for the students who are attending school,” Mr Baxter said.

“Second, the focus must also be on those students with medical conditions which means they are safer being at home than at school or in the wider community.

“Absolutely schools will support those students and their continued learning at home.”

Schools using the Connect portal would provide online learning materials for absent students.

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