Schools’ vax puzzle

CONFUSION about whether local primary schools will return as planned on February 9 continues despite attempts by the Government to hose down the issue.

Last week, Premier Peter Gutwein left the door open when asked by the Opposition whether the 2022 school year would be delayed so that five to 11-year-olds could get a Covid-19 vaccination.

“If it means we need to delay a start to the school year by having children turn up to get vaccinated as opposed to going to their classrooms then we will do that if that is the Public Health advice,’’ Mr Gutwein said.

“I want to make it clear to parents that we would do everything we possibly can if we had a vaccine to ensure that their children are vaccinated, to ensure that we give them every opportunity.”
“The advice we have received and continue to receive, and the empirical evidence of what is occurring, is that Covid-19 is much milder in its impact on younger children.”

But, he added: “I will take every step that we can to ensure that if that vaccination is approved that we provide the opportunity for those children to be vaccinated before they go back to school.’’

The news of a possible delay to the start of school caused confusion among parents and the school community. The following day Opposition Leader Rebecca White quizzed Education Minister Sarah Courtney.

“When will school children, parents and school staff have certainty about when school will return next year?’’ Ms White asked.

Ms Courtney’s response was “as the Minister for Education, my expectation is that we will (be) seeing young people returning to schools on February 9”.

She said a number of measures were being put in place to reduce the potential transmission of Covid-19 in schools and other sites.

“Work underway includes natural ventilation improvements, with window assessments and repairs underway; mechanical ventilation, repairs and maintenance; air conditioning maintenance, which includes filter replacement; purchasing air purifiers, we now have 1500 on order; and promoting and encouraging all outdoor learning through enhanced facilities.

“This includes installation of shade structures, nature-based play areas, outdoor seating, court surface upgrades and refurbishment of common areas, continued physical distancing, additional cleaning, density requirements and personal hygiene and face masks.

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