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10 February, 2022

COVID-19 safe back-to-school rules

What steps are in place for our students to stay COVID safe?

By Emily Middleton

School’s been back for a week, and 2022’s kindergarteners have graced the playground, but what steps are in place for our students to stay COVID safe? Parents will probably be across this by now, but there is a lot of changes: don’t feel too disheartened if you’ve missed any. From the beginning of term one, 2022, all NSW schools will be operating under a number of COVID- smart measures, developed by NSW Health.

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Use of rapid antigen tests (RAT) by staff

These tests have been provided to all students and staff by their schools, and for the first four weeks of term one, students are recommended to take a RAT twice a week. Even if the child has only mild symptoms, they are to be tested immediately, and they must isolate until they receive a negative test result.

If these symptoms continue, they are to stay at home and take another RAT in 24 hours. On top of this, staff and students who return to school after recovering from COVID-19, do not participate in rapid antigen test surveillance for 28 days, following release from self- isolation. “This is due to NSW Health advice that peo- ple who have recovered from COVID-19 have a low risk of contracting it again in the following 28 days. After 28 days (from week five after recovery) staff and students may resume participation in RAT surveillance,” as clar- ified by the NSW government website.

Students and staff in support classes are recom- mended to conduct daily testing for the first four weeks of term one. An initial two-week supply of RATs (10 tests) has been supplied for staff and students in support classes.

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Ensuring all staff on school sites are fully vaccinat- ed against COVID-19

The NSW government strongly recommends that all eligible students, and their families, who are five years and older to get vaccinated.

“COVID-19 vaccination is the best protection against severe illness and reduces the risk of spreading it to others. All staff on school sites are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and are expected to access their booster shot when they become eligible.”

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Wearing surgical masks indoors

All primary and secondary school staff are required to wear surgical masks indoors. It has been specified that vented or cloth masks should not be worn. Secondary school students will be provided with surgi- cal masks as a backup when needed, which they must wear when indoors.

Masks are also strongly encouraged in outdoor set- tings where you cannot physically distance. Primary school students are str-ongly recommended to wear well-fitted masks indoors, and in outdoor settings where you cannot physically distance, and removal of the masks are permitted when eating, exercising, or playing a musical instrument.

•••

Other measures in place include:

• Using cohort arrangements, meaning students interact with who they need to,

• Maximising ventilation, having opened windows and being outside where possible,

• Encouraging regular hand washing and continuing enhanced cleaning of schools,

• Strictly limiting visitors on school sites,

• Assessing high risk activities and applying appro- priate safeguards, and

• Learning from home where face-to-face learning is not possible. 


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