FAQs – Term 1 2022

RETURN TO SCHOOL FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION SCHOOLS

Will schools be returning to on-campus learning?

Yes. ACT Catholic Schools are preparing to commence face to face learning in term 1 2022, with COVID-19 safety plans in place. While the COVID-19 context is changing, schools have already implemented comprehensive strategies to minimise transmission of COVID-19. These strategies will continue into 2022 and be refreshed as health advice evolves over the course of the school year.

Is it safe for my child to return to school?

Catholic Education is closely following the advice of the Education Directorate and ACT Health to ensure on campus learning is conducted in a COVID-safe manner.

All ACT schools will follow the Health Guidelines for Schools and Early Childhood Education and Care (including OOSCA) endorsed by the ACT Chief Health Officer. It sets out a series of measures to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 in schools, early learning centres, and out of school hours care. All public and non-government schools are required to follow these guidelines.

Many of the measures in our Back to School arrangements for Term 1 are very similar to the measures that were in operation in schools during Term 4 of last year.

Measures include:

  • COVID safety plans for each school
  • compulsory use of masks indoors for all adults and for students in Years 7-12
  • masks for Years 3-6 encouraged
  • cohorting of children and staff and staggered timetables to allow for this
  • maximising outdoor learning and ventilation in classrooms to ensure good circulation of fresh air
  • increased cleaning across the school, including high touch surfaces
  • revised drop off and pick up arrangements
  • restrictions to visitors on site during school hours, parents and carers will only be allowed on school grounds for scheduled appointments
  • restrictions of school events – events that bring cohorts of students together will not go ahead
  • restrictions on excursions – only essential excursions and activities (that form a core component of the curriculum) involving individual classes or year groups will be allowed
  • no interstate excursions at this time, with exceptions to be considered later in Term 1 for camps and excursions that are necessary to a student’s study program
  • provision of rapid antigen tests (2 per week) for all school-based staff and students for the commencement of the school year (first 4 weeks of school).

Can my child remain at home if I am not comfortable sending them back to school?

Children and young people learn best in person and for the majority of students it’s important to return to on campus learning with their peers.

Schools will continue to support students who have a medical vulnerability which requires them to learn from home. Students will receive a modified learning program that will be developed with their school.  A letter from your medical practitioner will support your school in making reasonable adjustments for your child. This applies to students, or members of their family, who are medically vulnerable to COVID-19.

Will my child be marked as an ‘unexplained absence’ if they don’t have a medical certificate?

Parents/carers can notify the school that their child will be absent from school and rolls will be marked accordingly. If parents/carers do not inform the school, then students will be marked with an unexplained absence and normal contact procedures will occur.

Will Catholic Education be putting COVID-19 positive teachers in classrooms?

No. If a teacher tests positive to COVID-19, they will need to go into isolation like other COVID-19 cases and not return to face-to-face teaching duties until they have recovered.

Will there be a shortage of teachers?

With the level of transmission in the community, we know that we will have teachers who will contract COVID-19 and therefore won’t be able to teach for periods during 2022. We believe we will be able to cover absences through a variety of strategies that will be implemented at the school level.

Will teachers put their face to face classes online for students at home?

Teachers will not offer simultaneous online and face to face classes, however some learning content will be available online for students to access at home.

Teachers will only be able to teach students who are at school on campus.

What support will schools provide if my child stays at home?

For those who remain at home, the following options are in place for term 1:

Preschool to year 2

  • Students in Preschool – year 2 will be able to access a range of learning resources through the Education Directorate’s Home Learning website. These resources are aligned with the Australian Curriculum and updated each Friday afternoon.
  • Learning material will include daily lessons in English, mathematics and one other learning area.
  • This learning will not be formally reported on in the semester 1 school report.
  • A wellbeing check-in will be conducted once a week by a staff member from your child’s school.

Year 3 to year 6

  • Students in years 3-6 will be able to access, at a minimum, one English, mathematics and one other curriculum area each day through Google classroom or an alternative learning package provided by their school. This may be organised as a weekly program. The work provided will be similar to the work done at school in these subject areas. There will be no explicit instruction for students learning remotely.
  • Students can submit completed work for feedback and some of this learning may be reported on in the semester 1 school report.
  • A wellbeing check-in will be conducted once a week by a staff member from your child’s school.

Year 7 to year 10

  • Students in years 7-10 will continue to access the curriculum that teachers would normally provide through their Google classroom. This may include tasks or assignments, but it will not necessarily cover the full curriculum that is available through on campus learning. There will be no explicit instruction for students learning remotely while on campus delivery is available for their year group.
  • Students can submit completed work for feedback or assessment and this learning may contribute to the semester 1 school reports.
  • A wellbeing check-in will be conducted once a week by a staff member from your child’s school.

Year 11 and 12

  • Colleges have worked closely with the Board of Senior Secondary Studies to apply flexibility around attendance and assessment schedules for year 11 and 12 students as required over the past two years and already utilise Google Classroom for all students.
  • We encourage all families to maintain contact with their child’s school.

VISITORS

Can parents and carers enter school grounds?

Parents and carers are allowed on school grounds for scheduled appointments only. Otherwise, we ask that you do not enter the school unless there is an emergency, such as needing to collect an unwell child. These visits must be arranged in advance.

Special arrangements will be made for children starting at a new school or early childhood service in 2022, or children with special needs who require transition visits prior to the commencement of the new school year. Schools will have COVID safe plans in place for parents or carers to attend onsite.

Can I enter school grounds to drop off or pick up my child?

Please remain outside of school grounds when dropping off or picking up a child. This does not apply to those who need to sign their child in or out of early childhood education and care, or out of school hours care.

Special arrangements will be in place for pre-school and kindergarten students who need additional wellbeing support. Please check with your school if you are unsure.

Who can visit schools?

Visitors to school remain restricted during school hours.

Some examples of visitors able to attend are:

  • tradespeople
  • food and drink services
  • allied health professionals and legal services
  • music tutors

These visitors must check in, wear masks and practise physical distancing. Masks can be temporarily removed, if necessary for example during a speech therapy session. But if a mask comes off the visitors must observe physical distancing. 


COVID-19 CASE AT SCHOOL

What happens if there’s a positive case in a school?

Each school uses approved plans for managing a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, based on the health guidelines.

If a person displays symptoms:

Children and young people at schools, early childhood education and care services who are experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) will be isolated in an appropriate space with suitable supervision and collected by a parent/carer as soon as possible.

Symptomatic staff and visitors will be advised to travel directly to their home. The person with symptoms must  wear a mask while waiting to be picked up or while returning home.

Staff supervising symptomatic students will wear appropriate protective clothing (PPE) and practise COVID safe behaviours, including carrying out frequent hand hygiene, and practise physical distancing.

Will I be told if there is a COVID-19 case at my child’s school?

In line with revised reporting approaches across ACT Government, schools will not be listed as exposure sites in the way they were in Term 4, 2021.

Where a COVID-19 case in a school leads to students and staff being assessed as at risk of exposure, those impacted will be informed by their school about what they are required to do in line with ACT Health requirements. If the exposure is considered low risk, students and staff will continue to be able to attend school while closely monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms.

Schools will base their assessment off the ACT Health Guidelines for Schools.

Extensive risk mitigation strategies are in place in our schools. Schools have their own COVID safety plan that is tailored to the school environment, student cohort and staffing arrangements.

Do I have to stay home with my child if they have COVID or are assessed as being at higher risk of contracting COVID from their interactions at school?

If your child has COVID, you need to stay home as a household contact of a COVID case.

What about my child’s siblings?

The siblings of a positive COVID case should quarantine as household contacts

Am I eligible for financial support if I have to stay home to look after my kids due to possible COVID exposure?

Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for the Commonwealth Government’s Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment. More information can be found here.


VACCINATIONS

Are all teachers vaccinated?

The ACT has one of the highest vaccination rates of any city in the world and this is reflected in our teaching workforce.

COVID-19 vaccinations are mandated for staff working across our ELCs, primary schools, and Out of School Hours Care programs, or schools that share campus space with students in Year 6 or below.

Vaccinations are just one measure to manage transmission of COVID-19. A comprehensive set of health guidelines for schools have been in endorsed by the Chief Health Officer, which have been implemented by all schools, early childhood education and care providers, including out of school hours care.

Are teachers required to get a booster vaccination?

All eligible school staff are strongly encouraged to get their booster vaccination, but this is not currently a requirement of their employment. School and early childhood education and care staff have been prioritised for their boosters to ensure their safety and the safety of school students.

Do parents and carers need to be vaccinated when they come onto school grounds?

Parents do not need to be vaccinated to enter school grounds. The vaccine mandate only applies to workers and volunteers at schools with students in year 6 or below who are in direct contact with children. It does not apply to parents and carers.


MASKS

Does my child have to wear a mask if they attend school?

Students in Years 7-12 must wear a reusable or disposable face mask at all times while indoors. Staff and visitors to all ACT schools must also wear masks indoors.

The exceptions to mask wearing are:

  • while eating or drinking
  • when communicating with a person who is hard of hearing
  • when exercising vigorously
  • or in an emergency

Masks must be put back on when the activity is completed.

  • Students in Years 3 to 6 are encouraged to wear a mask when indoors at school if they are comfortable doing so (at the discretion of the student and their parents or carers).
  • Children in Preschool to Year 2 are not advised to wear masks as they are likely to be worn incorrectly and may present a choking hazard.
  • Students with disabilities do not need to wear a mask at school and will not be required to produce a medical certificate or wear a wrist band to indicate they don’t have to wear a mask.

PHYSICAL DISTANCING

Will students need to socially distance? If not, why not?

Physical distancing between children and young people is not always possible, particularly in single classrooms in early childhood education and care settings and schools. However, steps are being taken to minimise physical interactions where possible.

Children are encouraged to remain seated during class. Schools are staggering the use of common social spaces, like playgrounds, and indoor communal areas such as corridors, entry and exit points, canteens, school library and staff and common rooms.

Groups of students who do not normally learn together are being restricted from mixing, although this does not apply to siblings.

While some staff are required to provide essential services or teaching to students across year groups, this is being minimised where possible.

All adults at early learning centres and school sites must observe physical distancing. The one person per two square metre rule applies in non-student areas. Signs must be displayed to  ensure physical distancing requirements are clear.


VENTILATION

Why do we need to ventilate classrooms and other learning spaces?

ACT Health has advised schools to optimise fresh air circulation to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The risk of transmission is higher in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces where people spend long periods of time together in close proximity.

What’s the evidence that it reduces risk?

The Chief Health Officer, the AHPPC, World Health Organisation and Safe Work Australia all recommend good indoor air quality to reduce the chance of COVID-19 transmission.

What are the ways to improve ventilation?

The quickest and easiest way is opening windows in classrooms, adjusting the heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system and turning on exhaust fans in rooms that have them.  Other actions include reopening windows that have been fixed or painted shut – where it’s safe to do so.

Outdoor learning will be encouraged wherever possible. 

Do we need HEPA filters and air purification units in ACT Catholic Schools?

Safe Work Australia and the AHPPC advise air purification units and HEPA filters can be useful in spaces where ventilation is measured to be inadequate. Fortunately ACT Catholic Schools do not have many rooms without enough ventilation and these rooms are typically not teaching spaces.

Can schools accept donations of air purification units from parents/parent groups?

We appreciate the generosity of school communities in offering air purification units, or fundraising for them. These units however, are not currently part of our air quality and ventilation plans for ACT Catholic Schools. In line with expert advice, we are maximising ventilation by opening windows in classrooms, adjusting HVAC systems and turning on exhaust fans in rooms that have them. If you would like to make a contribution to your school, please speak with your Principal about which types of donations would be most welcome. 

Will every school have shade sails for outdoor classes before kids return?

Schools already have outdoor under cover spaces. ACT Health has advised that schools should maximise outdoor learning to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19, noting the requirement to be Sun Safe.

 Why are schools increasing the number of outdoor classes?

Outdoor learning is part of our return to school plan to reduce the risk of COVID transmission.

Schools will, where possible, schedule activities and classes so they are held outside. They will also minimise the mixing of classes and years groups. Where mixing of classes or year groups must occur, outdoor classes will be preferenced. 


RAPID ANTIGEN TESTING

How will rapid antigen tests be used in schools and early childhood education and care services?

As part of our risk mitigation strategies for the commencement of the school year for the first 4 weeks of school, the ACT Government will provide 2 rapid antigen tests per week for all on campus students from pre-school to year 12 and all school staff in all schooling sectors – government and non-government.

The rapid antigen tests will be available for all teachers, school based staff and students to help students and staff safely return to school. This will help us ensure we are testing of anyone symptomatic and to help identify cases as early as possible.

Rapid antigen tests will be strongly recommended for students and staff, and early childhood education and care staff, twice-weekly at home before school or childcare. This will help us ensure we are testing of anyone symptomatic and to help identify cases as early as possible. However, testing will be voluntarily.

Tests will be available from schools from the end of the first week of Term 1, with further information about collection of tests to be provided to school communities in the coming days.

The tests will be supplied to Catholic Education who will facilitate a contactless collection point for their staff and students. Further information on these arrangements will be provided directly to school communities in the coming days. 

When should children, early childhood education and care and school staff do a rapid antigen test?

If children and staff are unwell, even with mild symptoms, they should do a rapid antigen test. Staff and families can also consider whether they might do a rapid antigen testing on the same weekdays each week, for example, on Mondays and Wednesdays, and get a negative result before attending school or work. 

How long will rapid antigen tests be available for from schools or childcare services?

Rapid antigen tests will be available for students for the first four weeks of term 1 

Do parents need to provide my child’s rapid antigen test result to their school?

Parents are required to report a positive rapid antigen test to ACT Health. You can find more information on how to do that on the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website. They are also required to report a positive COVID-19 to their school. They do not need to report a negative rapid antigen test to their school. 

What do parents do if their child gets an invalid result?

If both rapid antigen tests have returned an invalid result and a child has no symptoms, they can go to school. If a child has symptoms, parents will need to take them for a PCR test.

What do parents do if their child tests positive in the rapid antigen test?

Parents will need to register a positive COVID-19 rapid antigen test with ACT Health via an online form and follow the instructions and advice. Parents also need to notify their child’s school or early childhood setting. Their child will need to isolate for at least 7 days from the date of their positive test and cannot leave the house or go to school.

If a child has tested positive, should their siblings also isolate and stay home from school?

Yes. Close household contacts must have a test as soon as they can and quarantine for seven days from the date of collection of the positive COVID-19 test result of the first case in a household. More information is on the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website. 

Do parents have to stay home with their child if they have tested positive to COVID-19?

Yes. Close household contacts must have a test as soon as they can and quarantine for seven days from the date of collection of the positive COVID-19 test result of the first case in a household. More information is on the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website. 

What if schools and early childhood education and care services run out of rapid antigen tests?

As you may be aware there are short term supply issues with rapid antigen tests. If children or staff have symptoms, they should ensure they are tested at an ACT Health COVID-19 testing clinic. 

Will schools provide additional rapid antigen tests if there is a positive case at a school?

Due to the limited supplies of rapid antigen test, only two tests will be supplied each week to each child. If children have symptoms, they should be tested at an ACT Health COVID-19 testing clinic.

Is it compulsory for staff and students to do rapid antigen tests twice a week?

No, it is not compulsory for students or staff to do a rapid antigen test. These tests are provided to support students and staff to identify if they have COVID-19 as early as possible.

Is a negative test required before children can start school?

A negative test before starting school is not be required in the ACT.


WORK EXPERIENCE

Will work experience resume this year?

External training and work experience opportunities, including Australian School Based Apprenticeships, can be supported in the local community where they are necessary to a student’s program of study and operate in line with Public Health Directions. Employers should have COVID-19 Safety Plans in place.


CANTEENS, UNIFORM SHOPS & FUNDRAISING

Can canteens and uniforms shops be opened?

Canteens and uniform shops can open, including for counter service, with COVID safety measures in place including one person per two square metres. Pre-ordering and delivery/click and collect may also continue.

Can I still hold fundraisers for my school?

P&C-run contactless fundraisers can go ahead on school sites with COVID safety measures in place, with the minimum number of volunteers necessary to be on site.


EVENTS

Can schools host events like fetes, concerts or assemblies?

No. Events that bring cohorts of students together in one place cannot go ahead at this time.


EXCURSIONS & CAMPS

Are excursions permitted?

Yes, essential excursions and activities involving individual classes or year groups are allowed, where these form a core component of the curriculum. A COVID-safe plan should be developed ahead of any excursion.

Are interstate excursions and camps permitted?

Not at this time. Exceptions will be considered later in term 1 for camps and excursions that are necessary to a student’s program of study (eg. outdoor education).


OUT OF SCHOOL HOURS CARE

Is out of school hours care operating?

Yes. Out of school hours care is operating as normal, with COVID safe measures in place.


LIBRARIES

Can school libraries continue to operate, including those shared with the community?

Yes, libraries may operate including those shared with the community with COVID safety measures in place and frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces.


SCHOOL SPORT, MUSIC AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

Are sports classes permitted at school?

Only students from the same class or the same cohort group can be involved in a sporting class or activity. Contact sports and indoor sports, including activities like dance classes, are permitted.

School sporting teams can train together and participate in community sporting competitions.

Are school sports carnivals permitted?

No swimming and athletics carnivals will be allowed in Term 1. Schools may consider alternative ways to run intra-school competitions (eg. competing within small cohorts only).

Can dance classes, school choirs, band and orchestras go ahead in term 1?

Students from individual classes or cohort groups can participate in a dance class, school choir, band, or orchestra. Singing and playing wind instruments are allowed with appropriate physical distancing to be maintained.