Marshall to release more details on back-to-school plans

Prime Minister Steven Marshall will make further announcements soon on South Australia’s plan to send pupils back to schools and today’s case count as the Department for Education confirms it will only provide no air purifiers at all classrooms.

Marshall will be joined by Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier around 1 p.m. this afternoon to outline details of the state’s back-to-school plans.

UPDATE: Read the latest HERE

It comes after the government yesterday announced it would adopt a hybrid school model for the first two weeks of term one amid concerns over rising COVID-19 cases once classrooms reopen.

Under the plan, children of essential workers and those deemed vulnerable will return to school on January 31.

From February 2, children in preschool, kindergarten, reception and years 1, 7, 8 and 12 will return to school for face-to-face learning, while students in all other grades will start school online.

All students will resume face-to-face learning on February 14.

Earlier this morning SA Secondary Principals’ Association CEO Peter Mader told ABC Radio Adelaide he welcomed the Government’s hybrid tuition model, describing it as a “balanced response”.

“What the government is trying to do right now is to balance the interests of the health of the community, the interests of the education of our young people and keeping the economy going and that’s an exercise very difficult balance to undertake,” he said.

“From a secondary point of view, it’s a pretty good understanding, of course, that parents at the micro level can have students spread across different levels and that will have a very different impact from household to household. .”

Marshall, who left quarantine last night after being identified as a close contact of his COVID-positive daughter, told ABC Radio This Morning that the hybrid model would benefit students who were “the most critical.”

He said there was “compelling evidence” that introducing a staggered approach for getting students back into classrooms would prevent “thousands and thousands” of COVID-19 cases.

“I apologize for the inconvenience – I’ve been saying for some time now that there will be a rocky start to Quarter 1 in South Australia,” he said.

“But I think we have the right balance.”

It comes as the Department for Education confirmed this morning that it will not be rolling out air purifiers to all classrooms in the state, following calls from the teachers’ union and the opposition of State.

In a statement, the department said it commissioned an independent trial that found air purifiers “do not significantly reduce the amount of CO2 in educational spaces and provide only minimal improvement in the quality of the air”.

The department said SA Health supported its decision and confirmed that natural ventilation was “most effective”.

“Our approach is consistent with that of other states and territories,” he said.

“The advice is clear that ventilation is just one of many risk mitigation measures aimed at reducing the transmission of COVID-19.

“It works best with other controls, including good hygiene practices, cleaning, vaccinations and the use of outdoor learning environments where appropriate.”

The Ministry has conducted a ventilation audit in classrooms, but has not yet made its findings public.

He said this morning he was “working closely” with preschools and schools to identify where natural ventilation could be improved.

“We have also evaluated the air conditioning systems and are making adjustments to maximize the flow of cool air,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state government has announced it will set up rapid antigen test distribution sites in seven metropolitan and regional areas including Port Adelaide Enfield, Charles Sturt, Onkaparinga, Mount Gambier, Berri/Barmerra, Murray Bridge and Port Augusta.

The exact locations and opening date for each zone have yet to be announced, but they are expected to open within the next 10 days.

Negotiations are also underway for more LGAs to be part of the RAT distribution program.

The first distribution point opened yesterday at Park 22 in the Southwest Park Lands, distributing approximately 10,000 test kits.

Only asymptomatic close contacts are eligible to receive the sites’ free test kits, with those who are symptomatic being encouraged to request a PCR test.

New South Wales today reported 29 COVID-related deaths and 63,018 other cases, with Premier Dominic Perrottet said the state is tracking better than the best-case scenario forecast by health officials.

Meanwhile, Victoria has recorded 34,836 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 deaths, while Queensland has reported three deaths and 23,630 new virus cases.

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