Hon Sue Ellery BA MLC

Hon Sue Ellery BA MLC

Minister for Education and Training

Hon Simone McGurk BA(Arts) BA(Comms) MLA

Hon Simone McGurk BA(Arts) BA(Comms) MLA

Minister for Child Protection; Women's Interests; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence; Community Services

    High caseload measures for schools and childcare

    7/02/2022 3:15 PM
     
    • Additional measures to keep schools and childcare settings operating safely in a high caseload environment
    • New testing and isolation protocols begin tomorrow, reducing isolation to seven days
    • New health measures to reduce movement and exposure risk on school sites
    • Indoor events prohibited, cohorting and expanded mask wearing for parents

    High caseload protocols for schools and childcare settings to be introduced from Tuesday February 8, to help manage the higher number of COVID-19 cases while minimising transmission of the virus on these sites.

     

    In line with the high caseload settings announced last month, the new close contact definition and new testing and isolation protocols will take effect from tomorrow (February 8).

     

    A specific school and early childhood and education centre close contact definition for a high caseload environment will be in place. It will be similar to those that apply to the general community, to safely reduce the number of staff and students considered a close contact.

     

    These revised protocols take effect ahead of the 'very high caseload' environment protocols for schools and childcare centres, which were announced last month but will be implemented in the future.


    Close contact definition changed to:

    • a household member or intimate partner of a person with COVID-19 who has had contact with them during their infectious period; or
    • someone who has had close personal interaction with someone during their infectious period, where that interaction involved:
      • at least 15 minutes face-to-face contact where a mask was not worn by the exposed person and the person with COVID-19; or
      • greater than two hours within a small indoor space or classroom environment, where masks have been removed for this period by the exposed person and the person with COVID-19 (note: others wearing masks in this scenario would not be a contact); or
      • someone who is directed by WA Health that they are a close contact.

    Additional measures will also be implemented to minimise the risk of COVID-19 entering or being transmitted on school grounds, including prohibiting indoor face-to-face events, cancelling or postponing school camps, cohorting to limit mingling of groups, and modification to timetables, break times, and pick-up and drop-off times where practicable.

     

    In the event of exposure, staff working in schools or childcare centres are encouraged to get a PCR test to confirm if they are COVID-19 positive, especially while demand at clinics can be managed.

     

    Parents will be permitted on school sites for drop-off and pick-up in outdoor locations only, gatherings of parents on school sites should be avoided, parent-teacher interviews will occur online or over the phone and mask wearing for parents will be expanded to outdoors where physical distancing can't be maintained in regions with existing mask mandates.

     

    In childcare settings, where very young children and babies are involved, early childhood and education centre operators should facilitate outdoor drop-off and pick-up where practicable.

     

    Under a high caseload environment, the testing and isolation protocols will be the same as those that apply in the general community.

     

    The new protocols complement the range of baseline measures in the McGowan Government's Safe Return to School Plan, which includes a ventilation strategy, enhanced cleaning services, workforce and remote learning contingency plans, mask wearing in accordance with existing mandates and mandatory vaccinations for school employees and regular visitors.

     

    Comments attributed to Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery:

     

    "Keeping our schools open and providing face-to-face learning to students is so important to children's learning, social and emotional development, overall wellbeing and physical and mental health.

     

    "Ahead of Term 1, our Safe Return to School Plan put in place a range of baseline measures to minimise the entry and transmission of COVID-19 in schools.

     

    "These revised testing and isolation protocols take our plan to the next level, with additional restrictions introduced to limit risk of exposure on school sites as we halve the required isolation time for asymptomatic students or teachers who return a negative test.

     

    "The number of staff and students considered a close contact is also likely to reduce, minimising the impact on the operations of schools so face-to-face teaching and learning can continue wherever possible.

     

    "I would like to thank teachers, school staff and families for their efforts as we take the necessary steps to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and respond to the impact of cases on schools and student learning."

     

    Comments attributed to Community Services Minister Simone McGurk:

     

    "Early childhood education and care provides a vital service, not only for children's development and socialisation, but also for parents, the wider community and the economy.

     

    "We understand early childhood education settings are a high contact environment which cannot be avoided, and under-fives are not yet approved for vaccination. It is crucial that as COVID-19 case numbers rise, early childhood education centres can continue to safely operate.

     

    "These updated measures will provide greater certainty for working parents and relieve the pressure on childcare services if their staff are required to isolate.

     

    "As always, children's safety is the number one priority, and the revised testing and isolating protocol along with these other common-sense measures will ensure this continues.

     

    "I would like to thank all early childhood educators for their understanding and willingness to adapt as the situation evolves - we will continue to work closely with the sector to ensure safety and minimise disruption to children, employees and parents."

     

    Education and Training Minister's office - 6552 5700

    Community Services Minister's office - 6552 6600