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Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 for schools and preschools

(This page was last updated 21 July 2020.)

This COVID-19 advice is for government school and preschool leaders and staff.

School operations

What happens when a school or preschool is temporarily closed due to a case of COVID-19?

The Department for Education will enact its closure and reopening protocols and follow SA Health advice if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 identified in a staff member, student or child in one of our sites.

If a school or preschool must temporarily close:

  • SA Health will notify the Department for Education.
  • Principals and preschool directors will contact their education director and the department’s work health and safety team.
  • The department will provide parent communication materials for distribution and advice.
  • Parents and carers will need to pick up their children immediately.

The school or preschool will be temporarily closed for a minimum of 24 hours.

This will allow public health officials to identify and notify any close contacts and advise on treatment and self-isolation. 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.

The site will undergo a thorough clean. It will only reopen on the advice of health experts and when it is safe to do so.

If there is a temporary closure, does learning continue from home?

Schools will support students to continue their learning at home while the school is non-operational and must ensure families have access to learning materials to use at home.

The department is carefully considering its plans to support highly vulnerable children, including those with complex disabilities, during a temporary school or preschool closure.

Will NAPLAN go ahead this year?

All NAPLAN testing has been cancelled for 2020. For more information contact the department’s NAPLAN team on 1800 316 777.

Where can school and preschool employees find out about staffing and leave?

School and preschool staff can look on the department’s intranet COVID-19 leave arrangements EDi page (staff login required).

Hygiene

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

If a student is sick, they must not go to school. They must be kept at home and away from others. Teachers and school staff should not come to work if they are sick or in a vulnerable category.

How should schools do physical (social) distancing?

We know that physical (social) distancing is a challenge in school environments. The AHPPC’s latest advice is that maintaining 1.5m between students and the ‘venue density’ rule of no more than 1 person per 2 square metres is not appropriate or practical in classrooms or corridors.

AHPPC believes that adults in the school environment should practice room density measures (such as in staff rooms) given the greater risk of transmission between adults.

Families and employees should be encouraged to maintain physical distancing from other parents and teachers when attending school, including when dropping off and picking up children.

What school activities are cancelled or on hold due to social distancing?

The following list of activities are on hold. They can resume from Monday 29 June, which is Step 3 of the South Australian Government’s roadmap to a COVIDSafe state:

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

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. 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.

We must also adhere to the state government’s travel advice which has details about restrictions relevant to South Australia.

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 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.

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.

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

Regular local suppliers should be able to provide hygiene and cleaning supplies. The department is also holding stock of hygiene products and supplies and can organise distribution to schools and preschools who need it. 

See cleaning, hygiene products and supplies on EDi for details (staff login required) for a list of alternative hygiene suppliers or to contact the COVID support team. 

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

We have increased cleaning services at all South Australian public schools, preschools, children’s centres and offices. There is now an extra cleaning shift during the day on top of the regular cleaning schedule. It includes more regular and thorough:

  • cleaning of door handles and lift buttons
  • wiping down of common high touch surfaces such as meeting room tables, administration areas (reception desks), tables in libraries and school buses.

What cleaning is done on school buses?

Enhanced cleaning protocols have been put in place for all buses.

Will fleet vehicles have sanitising wipes or cleaning products?

Fleet SA have hygiene and cleaning protocols in place for all dealers, maintenance suppliers and crash repairers. Once you hire a vehicle your business unit, school or preschool must make sure the vehicle is maintained to an acceptable standard.

This includes:

  • providing any sanitising products
  • making sure that high-touch surfaces are regularly cleaned with anti-bacterial wipes or spray. For example, the steering wheel, gear shifter, indicator and wiper stalks, dashboard, door handles, key fobs and fuel cards.

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

Our staff have displayed professionalism and flexibility during these unprecedented times. We are supporting the safety and wellbeing of staff in line with advice from SA Health.

We are advising staff who are unwell to stay at home and recover. Staff who present to work unwell are being sent home and advised to see a medial practitioner for advice on the period of absence. Parents have also been advised to keep their children home if they are unwell.

A reminder that support is available to all employees through our employee assistance program (staff login required). Please continue to monitor your own wellbeing and that of your colleagues and students.

School services

What school services are running?

For term 3, activities are permitted as long as government health advice, physical distancing and density requirements are strictly followed by all adults. Activities include:

  • parents, volunteers and other service providers may again enter school and preschool grounds
  • school assemblies (no maximum capacity)
  • class photos
  • all intrastate camps and excursions (see more information on the camps and excursions EDi page, staff login required)
  • all school sport competitions, sports days and carnivals, including inter-school competitions
  • inter-school choirs, bands and other performing art activities
  • school formals, socials and discos 
  • playgroups and occasional care
  • larger face-to-face professional learning activities.

Are support services and other service providers allowed in schools?

Student support services will only go into schools for urgent critical issues. This is to maintain physical (social) distancing requirements. They will limit going to multiple schools where possible.

Facilities management and building works activities at all education sites will continue to operate under set protocols. See site access during COVID-19 on EDi for details (staff login required).

Are childcare services still available?

Yes. Childcare services are available including:

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

More information is on our OSHC and childcare services page.

The Australia Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment website has information about funding and childcare services during COVID-19.

Information about the subsidies available for parents to access OSHC can be found at Services Australia.

Child care services

See the OSHC and child care services page for more information.

Mental health support 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 employees

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

Detailed information about supporting governing council operations is on the department’s intranet – JobKeeper advice for governing councils EDi page (staff login required).

Travel advice

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

There are current restrictions on travel into South Australia. You should read and become familiar with them. See the travel information on sa.gov.au. The Smart Traveller website has details about international travel. Travel restrictions might change so we encourage you to check these websites regularly.

Are camps and excursions cancelled?

Small group excursions, camps and outdoor education can resume where it’s a necessary part of a student’s education program, such as relevant SACE components.

Appropriate hygiene measures should be followed and adults must continue to maintain physical distance (1.5m) and density (4sqm) requirements. Students, teachers and supervisors must not attend if they are unwell.

More information

Parents and carers should contact their school or preschool at first.

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

Call the South Australia COVID-19 Information Line: 1800 253 787 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week)

For COVID-19 information in a different language:

You can use Google translate to help translate information on our website.

Contact

COVID-19 (coronavirus) team

Emaileducation.covidcoordination [at] sa.gov.au