Cancel camps and keep schools closed if necessary, unions say as disease bites

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“The main thing for me… [and] parents and guardians is that schools are open and students are learning face-to-face with their peers,” Merlino said.

To ensure face-to-face learning continues, schools are relying on air purifiers, staff and student vaccinations and shade sails to encourage outdoor lessons to minimize transmission and keep campuses open.

Restrictions have eased in schools. Students no longer wear masks, asymptomatic household contacts may be present, and students receive rapid antigen tests but are no longer required to test themselves regularly.

The Independent Education Union said members were reporting ‘increasing levels of fatigue and burnout – and as winter approaches it is likely that the number of cases will increase and staff absences will be worsened by other seasonal illnesses such as the flu”.

“Schools are already booking all the occasional substitute teachers they can find, and in most schools, members of the management team are taking whatever extras and classes they can fit into their increased workloads” , General Secretary Debra James said in an email. members newsletter.

“There are more steps schools should (and in many cases already) take, in consultation with staff.

“These include minimizing meetings, suspending any curriculum reform measures or new initiatives, postponing or canceling camps and other extracurricular activities, offering overtime to part-time staff, reduce reporting expectations, schedule individual year levels or other cohorts of students for regular days off, [and] full days of school closure.

Knox School in Melbourne’s east and Damascus College in Ballarat are among the non-government schools that have opted to send year-rounders home for days of remote learning to control infections. In addition, 11 public schools have briefly switched to distance learning since the start of the year.

The department said it is helping schools stay open and continue face-to-face learning with occasional substitute teachers, department staff who are registered teachers and its new group of retired teachers, on hiatus from career and initial training.

It is unclear how many times this pool – of nearly 1,000 people – has been used by schools.

Schools are also being urged to contact the department for additional funding to hire occasional substitute teachers, amid complaints that many have already exhausted their funding to cover the extraordinary staffing gaps.

More than 101,000 air purifiers have been installed in Victorian schools so far, with another 9,000 expected to arrive next week.

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Balwyn High School principal Deborah Harman said her school had experienced dozens of sick staff but managed to minimize disruption to education.

“We haven’t reached that stage of rejecting the year’s levels,” she said. “Some grade 12 classes we were unable to cover, the vast majority of students will either follow their provided lesson plan or be able to go home if supervised there.”

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