Yesterday two private schools in Sydney’s eastern suburbs had to evacuate, after one student in each school tested positive to COVID-19. One is a Year 5 student at Moriah College and another is a Year 7 student at Waverley College. Both colleges had resumed face-to-face teaching last week. Other schools which have had to be temporarily closed due to COVID cases being identified are Epping Boys High School, Normanhurst West Public School, Warragamba Public School, St Mary’s Senior High School and St. Ignatius College Riverview.
The NSW Government recently decided that all Public Schools should return to normal functioning from 25 May 2020. While we do understand and appreciate that this is in line with the efforts of the government to bring the economy back on track, we are also worried and anxious.
My son currently studies in a selective high school in an eastern Sydney suburb and he needs to use public transport for a part of his journey. A large number of high school students in Sydney travel by public transport and their average daily commute one way is about an hour. The announcement by the Premier to restart the schools full time is a major cause for concern for us. These children who live far away, cannot walk to school nor do their parents have the school drop-off/pick-up option. Hence, they are exposed to a higher risk of COVID-19. The same applies to parents who cannot drop off and pick up their children due to other reasons.
As part of the preventive measures to avoid COVID-19, we are being constantly asked as a community to maintain social distancing. Research data shows that the risk of transmission is low amongst young people. Assume that this could be applicable to primary school children. However, it is difficult to establish that the risk of transmission is any different in high school going children than in adults. Researchers are divided on whether children are less likely than adults to get infected and to spread the virus. Keeping this in mind, how come social distancing is not compulsory in high schools and even in primary schools (even though the risk is low)?
The question is, even if the risk is low, it does exist. Why would any parent want to expose their child to any kind of risk? Especially when their life itself is at risk.Whether a child is in primary school or high school, all parents must have the choice to decide whether they wish to send their children to school or not.
Here’s a request from parents: could we please have the option of online learning for our kids? Government can resume full face-to-face learning for those students who wish to attend full time school. For those parents who do not wish to take the risk to send their kids to school, the online learning option should be available. We do not want to increase the duties of our teachers, so we’re not requesting for a parallel online unit of learning. The Deputy Principal of my son’s school has agreed that he has no objection if my son wishes to access school work from the online platform, subject to the approval of the government. I have submitted a request to the NSW Premier’s Office requesting this.
Last but not the least, just as we applaud the efforts of all our frontline warriors, we are very grateful to our principals, teachers and school administrative officers for their extraordinary efforts in these unprecedented times.