Teacher and principal associations are torn over new close contact rules affecting schools.
The Health Department announced Wednesday teachers who have been classified as close contacts but are asymptomatic are able to return to the classroom, providing they return negative daily RAT tests and isolate when not at school.
Under the new rules, which came into effect on Thursday, it will be up to principals to ask teachers whether they consent to continue teaching face to face if they are a close contact.
Students identified as close contacts will also now be allowed to attend school, providing they are asymptomatic and no member of their household has tested positive.
Since the beginning of term one 17,000 students and 1400 school staff across WA have had to isolate due to testing positive for COVID-19 or being identified as a close contact.
Western Australian Secondary School Executives Association president Armando Giglia welcomed the changes and says schools are spending a lot of time and resources identifying close contacts within their student bodies.
“From the very beginning we were just knocking kids over left, right and centre by saying you’re in the same class as the [positive case], so the whole class has to stay home, which is ridiculous,” he says.
Mr Giglia says he is pleased these rules prioritise keeping kids and teachers in classrooms.
“It’s always better to have face to face learning than trying to do something else.”
Western Australian Council of State School Organisations president Pania Turner says many parents have welcomed the new measures being put in place but concedes some may still be hesitant to send their kids to school.
“You still have a level of anxiety in the community. Parents are definitely concerned about how their children are coping and their child’s attendance at school,” she says.
However the Principals Federation of WA is taking a more cautious stance.
PFWA president Bevan Ripp told The West Australian face to face learning is important but he wasn’t sure whether asymptomatic teachers would want to continue teaching in person.
Mr Giglia says schools will need to continue to adapt as COVID cases rise.
“We’ll need to take a common sense approach when the case numbers get really really high, and they will,” he says.
WA recorded 4535 new cases of COVID-19 to Thursday morning, with modelling by the Department of Health estimating we could be hitting our peak number of daily cases in the next week.