- Students and staff will be welcomed back to WA schools for Term 1
- New Safe Return to School Plan includes air purifiers and carbon dioxide monitors
- Education staff must be double dose vaccinated by January 31 and have a third dose vaccination within a month of becoming eligible
- Schools will continue to follow the public health advice to keep students and staff safe
Western Australia's new Safe Return to School Plan will see almost 477,000 students safely welcomed back to classrooms at public and non-government schools next week, as planned, for the start of Term 1.
As part of the Department of Education's robust planning for the commencement of Term 1 2022, all 900 public education facilities in WA have been inspected to check the ventilation of every classroom. This has informed the development of a ventilation strategy for classrooms in all public schools.
WA's Safe Return to School Plan includes the following measures for public schools:
- Ventilation strategy - 12,000 air purifiers fitted with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are being provided to schools State-wide, where required;
- CO2 monitors - 1,500 monitors will be provided to schools state-wide to monitor classroom CO2 levels as required;
- Enhanced cleaning services - increased frequency of cleaning of high-touch surfaces and equipment including doorhandles and desks in classrooms;
- Mask wearing - in line with the mask mandate currently in place for Perth, Peel and the South-West, masks will be worn by school staff and secondary students;
- Vaccinations - staff and regular visitors must be double dose vaccinated, and receive a third dose within one month of becoming eligible, and students are encouraged to be vaccinated as soon as possible;
- Hand sanitiser and face masks have been made available to schools;
- Physical distancing of staff and other adults, where possible;
- Learning contingency plans are in place for remote learning, if required, including hardcopy learning packages, access to online learning resources; and
- Arrangements to temporarily replace teachers and other school staff who are required to isolate due to COVID-19.
Currently masks are required for students in Year 7 and above in Perth, Peel and the South-West, however based on advice from the Chief Health Officer, once a high caseload environment is reached, masks will become mandatory for students in Year 3 and above.
A key strategy to keeping our students and staff safe is the mandatory vaccination requirements. Education staff must be double dose vaccinated before the start of Term 1 (by January 31) and have had a third dose vaccination within a month of becoming eligible.
Regular visitors to school sites are required to be vaccinated. Parents do not need to be vaccinated to drop off or pick up their children at school, attend assemblies and sports carnivals or have a parent-teacher interview.
Schools and education systems have contingency plans in place to minimise disruption to student learning, including hardcopy learning packages, access to online learning resources and arrangements to temporarily replace teachers and other school staff who are required to isolate due to COVID-19.
Significant work has been undertaken to deliver a teacher in front of every classroom as the school year progresses, including using a flying squad of teachers, having a significant pool of more than 5,000 fully vaccinated casual teachers, outreach to retired teachers and having vaccinated support staff on standby.
Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:
"The start of any school year is important for staff, students and their families.
"In the world of COVID-19 there are many more preparations and precautions we all have to make, but parents can be reassured with our COVID-Safe Schools Plan in place for Term 1.
"School staff are well supported to respond to any incident related to the pandemic and have a range of measures in place to minimise any potential disruption to learning.
"Vaccinations for staff are vital to help ensure the safety of their colleagues and students, and to allow student learning to continue.
"Our vaccination clinics are accepting walk-ins from teachers and school staff so they can have their mandatory third dose before January 31, if they are eligible.
"It's also important students get vaccinated. There are appointments available for children aged 5 to 11 and I encourage parents to book their child in for a vaccination as soon as possible.
"Vaccines are safe and effective - and offer the best protection for our children."
Comments attributed to Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery:
"Keeping schools open is important to children's learning, social and emotional development, wellbeing, physical and mental health.
"Teachers and school staff have responded well to the mandatory vaccination requirements and I'm pleased we are on track to open schools next week.
"This year will no doubt present challenges, but I want to reassure parents that we have been working hard over the summer break to prepare our classrooms for the new school year.
"Schools have contingency plans in place to minimise disruption to student learning, including hardcopy learning packages, access to online learning resources and arrangements to temporarily replace teachers and other school staff required to isolate due to COVID-19.
"For students and families that are vulnerable, we have additional arrangements in place to modify educational needs as required, including the option for video calls and home visits to be arranged where student attendance is not possible.
"We will continue to adapt and respond to any issues posed by the pandemic, based on the advice of the State's Chief Health Officer.
"I encourage parents to add to their back to school checklist, hand sanitiser and masks for themselves and their children to use when necessary."
Premier's office - 6552 5000
Education and Training Minister's office - 6552 5700