A number of NSW private schools are moving classes online to safeguard staff and students from the coronavirus outbreak
So far, there have been 450 Australians infected with COVID-19, including 210 infections in NSW, 78 in Queensland, 94 in Victoria, 30 in South Australia, 28 in WA, 7 in Tasmania, 2 in the ACT and 1 in the Northern Territory. Five Australians have died.
There are almost 500 private schools and campuses in NSW, educating almost 210,000 students or one in six NSW students.
The chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools NSW (AISNSW), Geoff Newcombe said the Association is continuing to advise independent schools to follow NSW Department of Health advice, while recognising that schools each have different contexts.
“Boarding schools, in particular, would be required to close their boarding houses if a COVID-19 case is confirmed. Almost all boarding schools in NSW are independent schools,” Dr Newcombe told The Educator.
“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, NSW independent schools have been planning ahead and reviewing their preparedness to adjust if and when the need arises”.
Some independent schools have advised AISNSW that they will start to change their mode of teaching this week. Dr Newcombe said these decisions have been taken “in the best interests of students and the broader school community”.
“The change will involve remote teaching of students at home. Some schools with the capacity and bandwidth to do so will teach students online, while others will set tasks and assignments using email,” he said.
“Students will have tasks to complete by set times and/or be online where attendance will be marked. Teaching and learning will continue while students are at home”.
In a letter to parents, Knox Grammar’s head of boarding Brian Sullivan announced the school is closing its boarding house as a “precautionary and voluntary measure”.
“We recommend that Boarders return to their parents or guardians and continue as day students for the foreseeable future,” Sullivan wrote.
"This would ensure that Boarders could be with family or friends should there be a quarantining of our boarding houses”.
The school is supporting boarders to work from home through online learning experiences and says further detail regarding online learning will be provided shortly.
“We recognise that internet access for some families may be difficult and we will work with those families to ensure students are well supported,” he said.
Meanwhile, many parents are feeling worried and confused due to “mixed messages” being sent out by governments about the impact of the virus on education.
“It is hard to know who to listen to,” Jennifer Rickard, Australian Parents Council (APC) president, told The Educator.
“Some of the arguments about keeping kids in schools seem to be more about keeping parents at work rather than keeping children safe, and while the government is saying keep schools open, independently lots of health professionals are saying schools should be closed”.
Rickard said parents are also uncomfortable that teachers, many of whom are also parents, are “being asked to put themselves at risk”.
“The impact of school closures on working parents will be huge, but the priority for parents will always be the wellbeing of their children,” she said.