ACT schools on track for return to class but decision to be made next week | Canberra time

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Public schools still plan to welcome ACT students back on the first day of term next month, but a final decision will be made next week. Chief Minister Andrew Barr said education authorities were working to get school back on time pending further analysis of the COVID situation in the ACT next week, but there was a plan B in place. “We have all of these systems in place, but the preference is for Plan A. That’s what we’re working towards,” Barr said. Schools could move to remote learning with in-person support for children of essential workers if needed, but the expected return date is expected to come after the peak of the Omicron COVID wave in the ACT. “We’re waiting another week to make that decision so we can get another week’s data and get an idea of ​​the number of cases, hospitalizations, etc.,” Barr said. “Obviously we will have more data because we will have faster antigen test data.” Mr Barr said vaccination remained “the most effective weapon to combat the virus” and vaccination rates among students and teachers would be taken into account in planning. “We’re moving forward. We’re national leaders, almost double the rest of the country in attendance. Another metric for me is, ‘What are the forward bookings?’ the first booking was January 24,” he said. Over 15% of children aged 5 to 11 in ACT received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Over 28% of ACT people aged 18 and over received their third dose.Barr said the timing of the Omicron wave of COVID-19 infections would also help plans to get students back to class on time. “It helps, of course, that it’s summer, so we can do more outside. You can open windows and all that sort of thing. It’s not like we’re dealing with that in the middle of winter, which would be a different set of challenges,” he said. READ MORE: Meanwhile the union representing independent school teachers in the ACT has sharply criticized a national cabinet decision to exempt staff from COVID isolation rules. The Independent Education Union of Australia’s NSW and ACT branch acting secretary, Pam Smith, said the move was a “dismal failure of public policy”. “This means that our members will be forced to work knowing either that they are a close contact and could infect others, or that they are working with close contacts and could be infected and pass the disease on to their own family. It only adds to the current anxieties,” Ms Smith said. “Watering down occupational health and safety provisions in the third year of the pandemic because the government has failed to plan is unacceptable. Mr Barr said on Thursday the ACT government would work with unions and business groups to ensure exemptions – with voluntary arrangements – work for employers and employees. “The guidelines will outline employers’ responsibilities that exist under relevant occupational health and safety laws in their jurisdiction. Any testing performed in the workplace must be done at no cost to the employee. This is also the case for the provision of other forms of [personal protective equipment]”, he said in a statement. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that the national cabinet had agreed that schools should be the first thing to open and the last thing to close under any health restrictions.” If schools don’t open, it can add another 5 per cent to workforce absenteeism,’ Mr Morrison said. Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe had expressed concern about how schools would return, saying they could become super-spreading sites. Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this COVID-19 outbreak in the ACT is available to everyone for free. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you can, please subscribe here. If you are already subscribed, thank you for your support. You can also subscribe to our newsletters for regular updates. Our reporters work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. Here’s how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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