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Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 for schools and preschools

This page was last updated 5.45pm, 1 April 2020. 

Visit www.sa.gov.au/covid-19 for the most up to date information from South Australian government agencies about COVID-19.

Visit the Department of Health’s website for their latest advice.

School and preschool closures and reopenings

When are the pupil free days for public schools and preschools? 

All public schools and preschools will have 4 pupil free days before Easter. This will let them prepare online flexible teaching options for their schools, ready for term 2.

We encourage students and families to use these free days to familiarise themselves with Our Learning SA.

If children come to schools or preschools on pupil free days, principals and preschool directors will contact their families.

Pupil free days for South Australian public schools

  • Monday 6 April 2020
  • Tuesday 7 April 2020
  • Wednesday 8 April 2020
  • Thursday 9 April 2020.

Child care services

Child care services will stay open on these dates and during school holidays unless there is different advice from health authorities. These services include:

  • vacation care
  • long day care
  • out of school hours care (OSHC).

If a school closes, do lessons continue from home if practical? Or is this seen as a forced closure with no teaching or learning?

Continuity of learning is very important. If a school closes, there must be at least 2 weeks of learning materials available for students, which will be provided by their school.

The new online website Our Learning SA has curated resources for all learning areas taught in Australian schools. The resources support students, teachers and families to learn at home.

The website will complement any existing learning resources teachers have set up to deal with disruptions caused by COVID-19. This resource will work with local school arrangements.

If schools close, can staff come on site to deliver lessons and plan?

The latest health advice will determine if staff can go on site.

We are working out different ways to make sure all students have learning continuity. Schools will have different plans and abilities based on the local situation.    

Leaders will work with their staff to make sure learning continues without too much disruption.

If a site temporarily closes due to a confirmed case, will all staff be restricted access?

SA Health is notified every time someone in SA tests positive for COVID-19.  If this involves a student or staff member, the education department and affected school will be notified.

Contract tracing is done meticulously with any confirmed case. The decision to close a school is taken carefully and is based on what the investigation shows, including when the individual was infectious and their last contact.

If the school must close, it will be for at least 24 hours. Parents and guardians will need to pick up their children immediately.

Parent communication materials will be provided for distribution and advice will be provided to site leaders on staffing arrangements.

To ensure we can enact immediate support, principals and directors should immediately contact their education director.

What actions will health authorities take during a temporary site closure?

Public health officials will identify and notify any close contacts and advise on treatment and self-isolation. The site will also be subjected to a deep clean. For the safety of the wider public and the children, students and staff, the school will only reopen on the advice of health experts and when it is safe to do so.

As schools and preschools remain open, is it possible to require checking every child's temperature before they enter into the site, like what Singapore does?

Temperature screening devices are high demand items that are being prioritised for health settings.

We are exploring options to source these items in case health authorities recommend that daily temperature checks should be introduced for schools and early childhood facilities.

Who is responsible for teaching and following up with students if a school closes and the teacher is unwell, caring for others or is in isolation?

If a staff member is on leave, their responsibilities will be re-allocated by site leaders through the school’s existing process.

How will families be assisted if their child's school closes and they are unable to care for a child with complex disabilities?

The department is carefully considering its plans to support highly vulnerable children if a school or preschool closes

Corporate office closures and reopenings

Will regional corporate offices remain open?

We are guided by the advice of state and federal health professionals. As with central office, regional offices are currently open and have social distancing restrictions in place and staff working remotely where possible.

If regional corporate offices close, will there be a phone reception service expected?

If current advice changes and sites need to close, we will put technical solutions in place to ensure schools and preschools continue receiving support.

NAPLAN

Will NAPLAN go ahead this year?

Education Ministers have decided that NAPLAN will be cancelled for 2020. This will allow school leaders, teachers and support staff to focus on the wellbeing of students and prepare for the continuity of education, including remote learning options. If you have any other questions you can contact the Department for Education NAPLAN team on 1800 316 777.

School services

Will additional services in schools continue?

We are limiting the movement of external services providers within our sites.

Essential services and breakfast programs will continue to operate.

Sites have been asked to suspend:

  • playgroups
  • some occasional care services
  • some external service providers.

These arrangements remain in place until further notice.

Should support services and other service providers be allowed on site?

To maintain social distancing requirements, student support services will only be going into sites for urgent critical issues. They will limit going to multiple sites where possible.

With some parents keeping their children home, will social workers support teachers to manage the wellbeing of students still attending school?

The SWISS team currently provides wellbeing support to schools and will keep doing this. We will continue to monitor the demand for extra support and put in place a secondary SWISS team if needed.

Should volunteers still be working at schools?

Schools and preschools should limit the amount of people coming on site who are not employees or essential visitors.

Are child care services still available?

Childcare services including vacation care, long day care and out of school hours care (OSHC) are open on the pupil free days (6 to 9 April 2020) and during school holidays, unless there is different advice from health authorities.

We realise there may be less demand for OSHC services and there is Australian Government funding available to assist OSHC services to continue operating. OSHC services are encouraged to access this funding to avoid reducing their services.

Where providers have vacancies, they are encouraged to open these places up to families seeking a service, even if these families haven’t used the OSHC before or go to school at a different site.

For more information about accessing Commonwealth support you can go to the Australian Government, Department of Education, Skills and Employment website and fill out this form. Information about the subsidies available for parents to access OSHC can be found at Services Australia.

Self-isolation

Should students or staff attend school or preschool if they are unwell?

We must follow:

  • the directions of public health officials about self-isolation
  • all federal advice on travel restrictions detailed on the Smart Traveller website.

If you are living with someone who is self-isolating, you should avoid contact with this person and you should both follow the self-isolation advice on the SA Health website

The SA Health website has the latest advice. To find out more, school and preschool staff can call the South Australia COVID-19 Information Line on 1800 253 787 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week).

Should students or staff be allowed to come to school if a family member has to self-isolate?

We must follow:

  • the directions of public health officials about self-isolation
  • all federal advice on travel restrictions detailed on the Smart Traveller website.

If you are living with someone who is self-isolating, you should avoid contact with this person and you should both follow the self-isolation advice on the SA Health website.

The SA Health website has the latest advice. To find out more, school and preschool staff can call the South Australia COVID-19 Information Line on 1800 253 787 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week).

What is the procedure schools need to follow after self-isolation?

Public health and education officials will make contact with people they have identified who need to self-isolate and will inform them of the steps they need to take. Anyone told to self-isolate will not be allowed back at school until they have completed the quarantine period specified by health authorities.

How should schools record student absences due to families self-isolating as a precaution?

When recording student attendance during a pandemic, schools must consider the specific circumstances when determining the use of the R-Risk code for individual students.

Families who choose to self-quarantine, but are not any experiencing symptoms or are not seeking medical advice must be recorded as F- Family. E- Exemptions or the R-Risk code should NOT be used to record these absences.

More information about recording student absences can be found on Edi (staff login required).

Do schools require medical certificates if students are absent?

Schools are required to record all student absences daily and each school sets its own process for following up absences. It is reasonable for schools to request a medical certificate if they wish, however a parent is not obliged to provide one.

Social-distancing

How should schools do social distancing?

Where possible, schools should use the social distancing practices recommended by the federal government. See the social distancing guidance information sheet (PDF 144KB).

We also encourage you to:

  • use phone or other technology for parent teacher meetings
  • hold staff meetings in large rooms or via technology such as skype or Microsoft teams
  • ask parents not to come onto the school site where possible, think about the age and needs of each child
  • stagger recess and lunch breaks
  • modify contact sports and contact PE activities so social distance is maintained.
     

How is social-distancing practiced at sites with young children, eg 5 to 6 year olds?

As a precautionary measure, all preschools and schools should adopt practical social distancing measures where possible. Advice from SA Health is that young children do not seem to be getting COVID-19 as much as other age groups. However, it is important to encourage children to:

  • wash their hands regularly, particularly after using the toilet and before eating
  • avoid spreading infections to others by staying home if they are unwell
  • cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue or elbow.

How do schools decide whether to cancel assemblies and excursions?

Preschools and schools should postpone all international, interstate and intrastate travel from now until further notice. This includes all school camps.

Should schools postpone parent teacher interviews?

Schools should adopt the practical social distancing measures where possible, which may mean postponing parent teacher interviews.

Consideration should be given to holding the interviews via telephone or skype instead.

What other school activities are cancelled or postponed?

From Monday 23 March, all schools and preschools will cancel or postpone the following until further notice:

  • school camps
  • excursions
  • sports carnivals and interschool sports days
  • school assemblies (non-essential)
  • concerts 
  • fetes and fairs
  • school formals, socials and discos
  • presentation nights and open days.

Schools might also begin social distancing measures, including:

  • staggered lunch breaks
  • using phone or other technology for parent teacher meetings
  • holding gatherings and meetings in larger rooms than usual
  • holding meetings  via technology such as skype or Microsoft Teams.

How should social distancing be managed on school buses?

Social distancing practises should be implemented where practical, especially where the number of children travelling on buses have reduced.

Hygiene

How can sites access adequate supplies of hand sanitiser and hygiene products?

We are sourcing hand sanitiser, soap and toilet paper for distribution to all schools and preschools through the Distribution Centre and will keep you updated on the estimated delivery date.

Stocks of hand sanitiser are low nationwide. Soap, whether in liquid or bar form, is more readily available. SA Health advises that washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microorganisms (germs) on hands and should always be encouraged over the use of alcohol based hand sanitisers in a non-healthcare setting. When soap and water are not readily available, alcohol based hand sanitisers or rubs are acceptable but only if the hands are not visibly soiled. 

Schools and preschools who are obtaining hygiene products locally are encouraged to:

  • source these through your usual suppliers first as some may have held stock for regular customers and will accommodate your needs (eg certain size toilet roll and soap dispensers).
  • ask contract cleaners who will do their best to make supplies available
  • a list of retail suppliers for you to purchase from is available on EDi.

The supply chain for hygiene is fast moving and we are monitoring the situation daily.

Please call the department on 8226 2000 if you are facing critical shortages.

What cleaning will be undertaken in schools to minimise the spread?

Cleaning services have been increased at all department preschools, children’s centres, schools and offices with an additional cleaning shift each day on top of the regular cleaning schedule. This  includes more regular and thorough cleaning of door handles, lift buttons, and wiping down common areas such as meeting room tables, administration areas (reception desks), tables in libraries and school buses.

Are there any activities or resources sites should be limiting use of due to hygiene concerns?

On the advice of health authorities, hygiene standards in our schools and preschools are critical to reducing the risk of infection. To avoid spreading the virus on objects and surfaces:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol based hand sanitiser
  • use a tissue and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze with your elbow
  • regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces with disinfectant or detergent.

Resources and posters are available from SA Health and should be displayed prominently at your site.

As a precautionary measure, all preschools and schools should adopt practical social distancing measures where possible.

What measures are in place to support sites to maintain services in the event that staff members are absent?

If employees in preschools and schools are unwell, or need to self-isolate, there is a significant pool of people we can draw on to provide back up.

Processes are being developed to ensure we can quickly support schools and preschools to move staff between sites or to engage TRT or casual support.

How will the safety of staff be maintained throughout the COVID-19 response?

The department has been planning and operating in accordance with advice from SA Health to support the safety and wellbeing of staff, students and the broader community.

It’s important that staff who are unwell stay at home and recover to avoid the spread of winter illnesses (not just COVID-19). If staff present to work unwell, managers will send them home and will advise them to attend a medial practitioner as soon as possible to see advice on the period of absence.

Parents have also been advised to keep their children home if they are unwell.

Maintaining personal hygiene standards are critical to reducing the risk of infection, and staff are encouraged to:

  • wash their hands regularly, particularly after using the toilet and before eating
  • avoid spreading infections to others by staying home if they are unwell
  • cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue or elbow.

A reminder that support is available to all employees through our employee assistance program

Please continue to monitor your own wellbeing and that of your colleagues and students during this time.

Will fleet vehicles be equipped with sanitising wipes or cleaning products?

Fleet SA have a number of hygiene and cleaning protocols in place for all dealers, maintenance suppliers and crash repairers.

Once you hire a vehicle, it is your business unit or school/preschool’s responsibility to ensure the vehicle is maintained to an acceptable standard. This includes providing any sanitising products and ensuring that high-touch surfaces, such as steering wheel, gear shifter, indicator/wiper stalks, dashboard, door handles, key fobs and fuel cards are regularly cleaned with anti-bacterial wipes or spray.

What are the cleaning requirements on school buses?

School buses, whether they are a contracted service or owned by the department, are maintained to a clean and hygienic standard at all times.

Student learning continuity

What resources are available for schools to deliver online learning?

Our Learning SA is a new online curriculum website that has been set up for South Australian students to access learning resources. Our Learning SA will support their education at home.

The website will support students, teachers and families by complementing their classroom education. It links to curated curriculum resources across all learning areas taught in Australian schools and preschools.

The new easy-to-use website supports:

  • continued learning between school and home
  • students – with opportunities to work independently
  • parents and caregivers – with resources and guidance to support learning at home
  • teachers – with resources to teach the Australian Curriculum.

Free video conferencing capabilities will be made available for all schools and teaching staff. 

Teachers will be able to create an individual online learning space to run live video lessons and learning content. They can invite students to join the virtual classroom using a calendar meeting request or web link. Students can then collaborate with their teacher and peers through voice, video and content sharing, using PowerPoints or documents.

What will occur if Stage 1 and 2 assessment is impacted?

We are working with the SACE Board to ensure measures are in place to minimise any impact on senior student learning outcomes.

How much work must schools give students who are kept at home by their parents voluntarily?

Leaders and teachers are asked to make sure that:

  • students and parents have access to at least 2 weeks of learning to be continued off site
  • students take home the required materials and resources to support their learning at the end of each day
  • teachers take home key teaching resources at the end of each day and have a forward plan for at least 2 weeks’ worth of work.

Online learning tools and resources are on the department’s Our Learning SA website.

It's vital that all leaders can contact all parents/carers at short notice, ideally via email. Please make sure these contact details are up-to-date.

ICT services

What ICT support is available to schools and preschools

Use the edIT portal as your first point of contact for ICT related assistance and support.
You can also call the ICT service desk on (08) 8204 1866 (metro) and 1300 363 227 (regional) for any critical support.

Can I work from home if I don't currently have VPN access or a laptop?

Yes. EdWorkspace (requires staff log in) provides remote access for staff from their personal devices and works on both PC and MAC.

Child care services

What do child care services need to do?

Services will stay open unless there is different advice from health authorities. 

Child care services have been asked to:

  • suspend playgroups
  • consider suspending occasional care services.

This would help limit the number of adults going onto the site.

Personal hygiene standards should be maintained at all times. All children and staff are encouraged to:

  • wash their hands regularly – particularly after using the toilet and before eating
  • avoid spreading infections – stay home if they are unwell
  • cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue.

What rebates are available for families that choose to self-isolate?

Regular rebates apply for families who choose to keep their child home. 

What should services do if they have financial issues?

Closures due to public health

If a service has to close because of public health advice and chooses to keep charging families, a period of local emergency under Family Assistance Law will exist.

In this situation, the Child Care Subsidy will still be paid direct to services on behalf of families. This will give services and families some continuity.

In this same situation, services will not have to recover gap fees between now and 31 December 2020.

See periods of local emergency and absences for child care providers and services to find out more.

Services with financial issues due to decreased enrolments or closures can apply for a grant. This Australian Government grant is called a ‘Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstance Grant Opportunity’.

Rural communities

What support is available to country schools that need relief staff?

If employees in preschools and schools are unwell, or need to self-isolate, there is a significant pool of people we can draw on to provide back up.

Processes are being developed to ensure we can quickly support schools and preschools to move staff between sites or to engage TRT or casual support, which will include rural areas.

How will regional preschools and schools be supported if public transport is affected?

We are looking at factors that may affect regional communities and will provide further advice.

With high absences currently in rural care, should educators try and fill these available spaces or leave spaces vacant?

Educators can continue filling available vacancies. Services are operating as usual.

School communication

How will school be notified of a confirmed COVID-19 case and who will provide direction?

The Department for Education has well-practiced disaster and emergency management protocols and a clear process for reporting and managing notifiable diseases.
People who are being tested for COVID-19 are asked to self-isolate by their medical practitioner, in line with the Australian Department of Health protocol.

Please ensure you self-report if you are diagnosed as positive for COVID-19. We need you to immediately contact your line leader, who will then advise their Education Director or corporate Director but will only release your identity with your permission.

The relevant Director will then contact the Director Work Health & Safety to instigate support, and ensure we work with SA Health to identify close contacts in the workplace and take appropriate action.

Remember, not everyone in the workplace will be considered a close contact and therefore we will manage the situation based on the health advice.

Resources

What resources can schools use to support staff, families and their school communities?

The following resources can be useful to help schools respond to the mental health impact of COVID-19:

School governing council and management committees

How should schools manage employees of school governing councils and management committees?

Public schools and children’s centres use their governing council and management committees to employ: 

  • OSHC educators
  • canteen workers 
  • child care educators. 

This includes the department’s integrated preschool and long day care child care services.

If a school or children’s centre has to close for cleaning due to a confirmed case of COVID-19, governing councils and management committees should find solutions that work for the individual employee. This could include taking leave or working from home if practical.

See the Fair Work Ombudsman website to find out more. 

Budget impacts

Cancellation and postponements of events have impacts on school budgets where providers are not providing refunds eg excursions, school formals. What support is available to affected schools?

We do not yet have the full picture of any financial impact on schools. We will be assessing this and will provide further advice.

Travel advice

What travel advice is there specific to South Australia that schools and preschools should know?

There are current restrictions on travel into South Australia that you should read and become familiar with. See the travel into South Australia fact sheet (PDF 216KB).

What advice is there to manage families who have travelled overseas?

Families should follow the advice provided by health authorities in relation to travel. These directions are about supporting the effort to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Parents seeking more information should be encouraged to call the South Australia COVID-19 Information Line on 1800 253 787 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week) or visit www.sa.gov.au/covid-19.

What should leaders be advising staff on travel?

Preschools and schools must cancel all international, interstate and intrastate travel from now until further notice.

We must follow all federal advice for travel restrictions that are outlined on the Department of Home Affairs website. See  the Smart Traveller website for details about international travel.

Travel restrictions are subject to change so we encourage you to check these websites regularly.

Camps and excursions

Preschools and schools should postpone all international, interstate and intrastate travel from now through until further notice. This includes all school camps.

As a precautionary measure, and in an effort to help you plan ahead and minimise disruption for families, as of Monday 23 March, the Department for Education also asks you to cancel all excursions, and sports carnivals such as interschool sports days. This is purely a precautionary measure to protect those most vulnerable in the community.

More information

General members of the public can call the South Australia COVID-19 Information Line on 1800 253 787 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week) or visit www.sa.gov.au/covid-19

Visit the Department of Health’s website for their latest advice.

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