ACT students in staged return to school

Public school students in Canberra will return to their classrooms in stages over the next four weeks after schools shut due to coronavirus.

The ACT will begin the slow return to normal learning, with certain year levels filing in from mid-May and all students returning by June.

Parents and carers can choose to keep their children at home to continue remote learning.

ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said Canberrans had worked hard to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“If this situation changes again and an increase (in) new cases of the virus arises, the government remains ready to respond sensibly,” she said on Thursday.

Preschool, kindergarten, year one, two and seven students, as well as years 11 and 12, will be the first back on May 18.

By June 2, the ACT government expects all students to have returned to class.

Non-government schools will also begin a phased return over the next month.

Ms Berry said the ACT government had consulted with teachers, unions and parents on the phased return.

School campuses will undergo extra cleaning, with any adults on campus required to follow social distancing measures.

This would include staggered breaks for staff and limits on how many people were allowed in staff rooms.

Victoria and Tasmania remain the last two jurisdictions where schools mostly remain closed.

Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said everybody wanted students to get back into classrooms, but the federal government’s messaging had been confusing.

“What parents would really like is one clear message about whether they should be sending their children to school,” Ms Plibersek told Sky on Thursday.

“I think the real problem here is that there’s a fight between the commonwealth and … some states.”

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan welcomed the news out of the ACT, saying the federal government had been consistent in its messaging.

“The re-opening of schools will be a critical step in Australia’s transition out of COVID-19 enforced lockdowns,” he said.

The ACT has recorded 107 coronavirus cases, including three deaths and one case currently considered active.

Canberra had been declared coronavirus free late last month before it reported the active case on Monday.

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