NSW Chief Health Officer's advice to schools for Term 1
The NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, has written to the heads of Catholic Schools NSW, the Association of Independent Schools, and the NSW Department of Education, providing advice for schools in preparation for the start of Term 1.
In light of the recent COVID-19 cases in NSW, Dr Chant has reiterated to the heads of schools across the state the need for continued vigilance. Currently, the operating health advice for all NSW schools (metropolitan and regional) remains consistent, but this could change if new or localised clusters emerge.
Dr Chant has advised that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) is currently reviewing its advice for schools. The updated guidance will be provided when this advice is finalised. Members and school leaders should refer to the NSW Department of Education, NSW Health, and nsw.gov.au websites for further information.
Current advice states that it is essential that schools:
- continue to exclude students and staff with even mild symptoms of COVID-19 and encourage them to seek testing immediately. Parents of symptomatic children should provide evidence of a negative result prior to returning to school. In circumstances where children have other medical reasons for recurrent symptoms a letter from the GP is sufficient to negate the requirement for a negative test.
- ensure visitors, staff, parents and students regularly review the latest COVID-19 locations in NSW (and interstate). Remind attendees to check the locations list as a routine part of interschool sporting activities, excursions, overnight camps and entry to boarding facilities.
- have COVID-19 Safety Plans and record keeping procedures in place for school events
- promote physical distancing for staff and adults within the school, at school events and at drop off/ pick up
- minimise mixing of student cohort groups (class, year group, or stage) to limit close contacts where practicable
- follow specific public health advice as outlined below
- support school-based access for NSW Health services including immunisation and dental programs.
Students over the age of 12 and staff must comply with the Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Order 2021 when travelling to and from school and during school excursions by public transport, or by chartered/private transport services. There is no requirement to wear face masks at schools, but staff and students may do so if they wish.
Group singing and chanting remains a high-risk activity for COVID-19 transmission. The existing restrictions will continue, but the need for these restrictions will be monitored.
In secondary schools, no more than 5 performers should sing indoors. There is no recommended cap on performers singing outdoors. All performing singers should face forwards and not towards each other, have physical distancing of 1.5m between each other and any other performers, and be Sm from all other people including the audience and conductor, where practical. In indoor areas, audience members should not participate in singing or chanting. In outdoor areas, audience members older than 12 years should wear masks if singing or chanting.
In primary schools, in-class educational activities such as group repetition, chanting, recitation, or singing activities are permitted with no cap provided these activities take place outdoors or in large, well-ventilated classroom settings with windows and doors open where possible.
School swimming carnivals are permitted. Students should stay within their cohort group (class, year group, or stage) during the carnival to limit close contacts. All teachers, support staff and other adults must maintain physical distance from each other where possible (1.5 metres). If high school students are expected to sing, chant or cheer as part of the event, then all spectators should wear masks while in the grandstand or other seating areas.
Pool operators should close the pool and spectator area to the general public while a school carnival is taking place unless there is clear delineation across separate areas of the facility. The number of parents attending should be determined by considering the capacity of the venue. As a general rule, venues should aim for 25% of indoor seated capacity or 50% of outdoor seated capacity in spectator areas. Except for physical distancing for students and record keeping, pool operators should comply with the COVID-19 Safety Plan requirements for swimming pools.
Parent drop off for new students
To support settling of young students into a new school environment at the start of the year, parents in early learning, K-2 years and Year 7 orientation can walk children to class and pick students up from class, providing physical distancing is maintained .
Parents of students commencing at a new boarding school can also walk children to their rooms to help them settle in, providing physical distancing is maintained from others.
School activities permitted in Term 4 may continue . Gatherings of parents and/or community members for school events (such as working bees or P&C meetings) must comply with the gathering limits prescribed by the Public Health Orders.