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Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 for parents and carers

This page was last updated 4.15pm, 31 March 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 present at 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).

Are there any plans to close schools?

Schools and preschools in South Australia will stay open, including out of schools hours care (OSHC).

We are following the Australian Government’s advice and we will let you know if this advice changes.

Individual schools will only be temporarily closed if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19. We will follow our protocol in line with SA Health.

Will school holidays be changed or moved?

School holiday dates in South Australia will not change.

Holidays will start on the Good Friday public holiday on 10 April 2020 and will resume for term 2 on Monday 27 April 2020.

Sending children to school

Do I have to send my child to school?

If your school is open and your child is well, it is safe to send your child to school. You can also choose to keep your child at home.

If a parent or close family member is diagnosed with COVID-19, does the child need to stay home?

It is important that we continue to follow the directions of public health officials for self-isolation.

Parents who want more information should be encouraged to call the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080, or visit the SA Health school and preschool advice webpage.

Should parents be entering schools or preschools when they drop off their child or should they stay at gate?

We are encouraging parents not to enter school or preschool grounds, but understand this needs to be adapted based on the age and needs of children. If a parent or carer needs to get a message to their school or preschool, we encourage them to ring or email the message through, rather than coming into the front office or into classrooms.

Student learning

What is being done to support students to learn from home?

We are providing support through the new online curriculum website Our Learning SA.

A large number of South Australian parents have now taken responsibility for the supervision of their children’s learning at home. We support parents and carers who choose to keep their children home during this time.

Students can access learning resources to 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.

Along with this new website, we are doing everything we can to minimise disruption to student learning.

How are students still attending school being supported?

Many other South Australian children, including children of essential workers, vulnerable children, and a number of others, will need to continue attending our schools, preschools and early childhood services.

No child will be turned away.

We are looking at how to deliver learning in a flexible way so students can learn from home and at school. We are working towards a model that lets our education workforce teach students in a way that is flexible but doesn’t compromise learning.  This will mean:

  • Learning from home – a mix of hard copy learning materials, supported by increasing online delivery.
  • Learning at school – an option for families who choose to keep their children coming to school or preschool.

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.

Temporary site closures

What happens if there is a confirmed case in a school?

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.

Staff and students will be contacted and advised when they can resume school as normal.

Affected school services

Will additional services in schools continue?

We are limiting the movement of external services providers within our schools. Essential services and breakfast programs will continue to operate. Schools have been asked to suspend the following:

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

These arrangements remain in place until further notice. Please contact your school to enquire about which services are running.

Will my child’s music lessons/speech pathology sessions/sports clinic continue?

Individual schools are making decisions to continue or temporarily stop their school services and programs. Please contact your school to enquire about which programs are running.

Are child care services still available?

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

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.

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

Health and hygiene practices in schools

What health and hygiene practices are occurring at schools?

Cleaning services have been increased at all South Australian public schools, preschools, children’s centres 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.

We are sourcing additional hygiene supplies such as hand soap, hand sanitiser, toilet paper, tissues and paper towels.   

Resources are being made available to teachers to talk to their students about COVID-19 and explain good hygiene practices. This includes reminding students to:

  • wash their hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze 
  • avoid touching their faces
  • limit physical contact when greeting people
  • limit physical contact in the playground.

Schools have infection control procedures in place, which they will apply as needed.

What about schools that don’t have enough soap or hand-towels?

We are contacting all schools and preschools to find out their current stock levels of hygiene products. We will then organise distribution of supplies to schools and preschools who need it.

A hotline has been established for schools to contact the department if they are running low on hygiene products.

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.

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).

This includes:

  • using phone or other technology for parent teacher meetings
  • holding staff meetings in large rooms or via technology such as skype or Microsoft teams.
  • staggering recess and lunch breaks
  • asking parents not come onto the school site where possible, but thinking about the age and needs of each child.

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.

Health and safety of staff

What measures are being taken to ensure the health and safety of school staff?

Our staff have displayed professionalism and flexibility during such unprecedented times, and we are focussed on ensuring the health and safety of our workforce. In addition to increased cleaning at all schools, we are providing all schools and preschools with extra hygiene products.

We are also looking at flexible arrangements on a case by case basis for staff whose health or personal circumstances prevent them from working at a school, such as caring for a vulnerable family member.

Employees of school governing councils and management committees

What advice is there for parents and carers employed by school governing councils or management committees?

If a government school or children’s centre has to close for cleaning due to a confirmed case of COVID-19, these employees can take different types of leave or work from home if practical. 

For OSHC services and children’s centres, work from home could include: 

  • online training and development
  • program planning 
  • joining team meetings through video or teleconferencing.

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 well-being 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.

SACE

What will happen with this year’s SACE?

Information from the SACE website. 

The SACE Board of South Australia has made a promise to students that they will learn in the SACE. They are focussed on continuing the learning, while backing teacher judgement on using the flexibility of the SACE.

Watch the SACE video for teachers and parents.

Watch the SACE video for students.

Parents and Carers

What can parents and carers do to help?

Parents and carers can help by:

  • making sure your school, preschool, or children’s centre have the correct contact details for your family
  • making sure you’ve installed your school’s communication apps on your device
  • encouraging your child to practice good hygiene
  • keeping your child home if they are unwell.

How can I talk to my child about COVID-19?

Children can be distressed by hearing repeated stories, so monitor how much your child is being exposed to television and social media and encourage them to talk to you about what they are seeing and hearing. 

Help your child remain calm by reassuring them. Take care to listen to their concerns and answer their questions as honestly as possible, including correcting any misunderstandings. This will help you child to understand what is happening. It is helpful to provide information in words that are appropriate to the age of your child. 

Stay up to date with facts from reliable sources so you can keep conversations calm, considered, and constructive. 

More information

If you have any questions about managing coronavirus in your child’s preschool or school, please contact the principal or director in the first instance.

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.

You can also check our website regularly for updates.

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