QUEENSLAND Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced schools would close from next Monday to all but the children of essential workers in order to ease pressure on schools amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The change applied to Catholic schools, independent schools and state schools.
Ms Palaszczuk said schools would move to pupil-free days from next week but parents could still send their children to school if they were working.
“Queensland schools will move to student-free days next week as we work to limit the spread of coronavirus,” she said on Facebook.
“Schools will remain open in a limited capacity until the end of term on April 3, to allow for the children of essential workers to remain at school and for teachers to prepare to move to remote learning from home.
“This is not a normal school break and it’s not a holiday.
“It is vital that parents take responsibility for their children during this time.”
Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry said Catholic schools had been planning for the possibility of implementing learning from home options and were ready to support students in a variety of learning environments in Term 2.
“The scale of the pandemic response is new territory for all schools,” Dr Perry said.
“The way Catholic schools are responding is focused on providing students and families with the support they need to keep young people engaged with their learning and maintain their wellbeing.
“Schools continue to also carefully manage those staff who may be at high risk from the virus and to provide appropriate arrangements for them.
“Every Catholic school will meet the coming challenges in the best way for the needs of their students and staff.”
Dr Perry said if schools needed to remain closed after the holidays these extra student-free days, would further assist in ensuring they were well prepared to implement other forms of teaching and learning taking account of a range of factors such as the age of students, access to technology and the capacity of digital networks.
“The contingencies Catholic schools have in place depend on their individual needs,” she said.
“Learning outside the school grounds would look very different from school to school and year level to year level.
“QCEC continues to work closely with health and education authorities in supporting Catholic schools to navigate these uncharted waters.”
Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland and Northern Territory branch secretary Terry Burke said today’s announcement was critical in addressing the needs of vulnerable workers in schools as well as in providing teachers and school support staff time to develop the remote learning modules and programs needed to facilitate ongoing student learning given the new reality facing our communities.
Mr Burke said vulnerable school employees included those with underlying health conditions, those aged 60+, First Nations peoples aged 50+, those who were pregnant and those who provide care for elderly relatives within their own household.
“There must also be an orderly transition to emergency schooling arrangements,” Mr Burke said.
The change comes as ABC reported St Rita’s College, Clayfield shut its doors for a deep clean this week after a parent was diagnosed with coronavirus.
It was reported there was no risk to students.
The schools change was part of increased measures taken on by the Queensland government as the community outbreak continues to grow.
At this time, 2676 Australians were reported with the virus while 11 had died.