Kids could be turned away from schools
Some state schools in Queensland have warned parents they could be forced to send their children home if they don't fit the criteria for physically coming to class, following a spike in attendance.
It comes amid an already controversial week for Education Queensland - after the State Government's learning at home sites crashed before the first day of Term 2 even began - and an ongoing national debate about whether it's safe for kids to be at school at all during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Currently in Queensland, students who are vulnerable or from families of essential workers are the only ones who should be physically attending lessons, with others expected to log on from home.
But, according to a report by The Courier-Mail, one state school in Brisbane emailed parents this week after a "large number" of students showed up, urging them to not send their children to school unless they were frontline essential workers and could not organise supervision.
"We had a large number of children today, if we grow much bigger than we may have to start sending children home or more drastically consider closing the school," the emailed letter to parents of Marshall Road State School students read.
"This is because it will not be possible to maintain safe social distancing arrangements on site as required by Queensland Health i.e. a maximum of 12 students and one teacher in a general classroom.
"If we reach 40 per cent attendance (200 students) then we will be beyond our capacity to socially distance the children safely."
A letter sent by Baringa State School Parents yesterday was a little more plain, reading: "If you are NOT a child of essential workers/vulnerable children you are simply not permitted to attend Baringa State Primary School."
Student attendance statewide increased by one per cent up to 13 per cent of all state students at schools yesterday, with ongoing issues with online learning.
A Department of Education spokesman, however, assured parents "no child will ever be put in an unsafe position" at a Queensland school.
He said schools were working with families to support learning, and it was important that students who attend school feel welcomed and supported.
"However, the department's advice around school attendance has not changed and remains consistent with the expert health advice, which is in line with the seven key principles for schools outlined by the National Cabinet.
"Only children of essential workers and vulnerable children identified by the school should be physically attending school. It's up to everyone to ensure we continue adhering to the health advice so that we can continue to limit the spread of this virus," the spokesman told The Courier-Mail.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told media yesterday it would be "absolutely irresponsible" to fully reopen schools when social distancing couldn't be practised, saying it would put teachers' lives at risk while there's still community transmission of coronavirus.
State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, who earlier this week criticised the Premier's handling of not having properly prepared for the transition to online learning this term, said all children should be able to go to school.
"This is not the fault of principals. They are simply acting under Labor's guidelines," she said.
"Threatening to turn children away and shutting schools is totally unacceptable."
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison said schools don't have to follow the "four square metres per person" rule in classrooms yesterday, students numbers still need to be limited.
"The recommendation was smaller class sizes, not smaller classrooms," the PM said.
Originally published as Kids could be turned away from schools
Essential workers Beth and Ben are juggling work on the frontline with schooling and childcare for Oliver and Elke. “For us to have the flexibility of being able to know that we can send our kids to school or be able to keep the kids at home is great for us.” #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/Iyk5pr2lcs— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) April 19, 2020