After fierce backlash, majority of WA students expected to return to school
Apr 29, 2020
By Lauren Pilat and Marta Pascual Juanola
Thousands of extra teachers, support staff, and cleaners have been deployed to West Australian schools as students return to the classrooms for the start of term 2 on Wednesday.
Education Minister Sue Ellery said more hours had been offered to 7000 part-time staff, including cleaners, and extra teachers had been called in to cover gaps due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have centralised relief and part-time staff and in addition to that we have recruited, so we are well covered in that respect," she said.
The pick-up and drop-off will also be different this term as parents and carers are not allowed to enter school grounds.
It won’t be the only difference to the end of term 1, with attendance not compulsory and schools continuing to provide remote learning opportunities for students studying from home.
While attendance for the more than 450,000 school students across the state may not be essential, early school surveys indicated the majority would return to class this week.
But WAtoday's own reader survey of about 7000 was an almost even split; 51 per cent of respondents said they would not send their children back, while 41 per cent said they would.
Among those choosing to keep their children at home was mother-of-two Andrea Pike, who said her son Bailey, 17, and daughter Jessica, 14, would remain home from independent public school Darling Range Sports College because they both were asthmatic.
Year 12 student Bailey said he was nervous about the new challenge of remote learning online, but said it was the right thing to do.
"I wish I could be at school, I don’t dislike school like some people, I think it's fun seeing my mates," he said.
"I would probably be OK if I got coronavirus but if I gave it to somebody else who wasn’t then that’s not OK. Just because I want to see my friends I shouldn’t be going to school."
Principals’ Federation of WA president Bevan Ripp said preliminary surveys by individual schools showed between about 60-80 per cent of students would return to the classroom.
Some of those schools included Willetton Senior High School, Mt Hawthorn Primary School, Halls Head Primary School, and Karrinyup Primary School.
Willetton SHS expected 75-80 percent of its 2500 students to attend and for its whole school timetable to resume, according to the school website.
Karrinyup PS principal Leonie Clelland said results from their survey indicated about 56 percent, or 301 students, would return, with more expected from Monday.
Independent public school Southern River College's principal Everal Eaton said they expected about 60 percent of their 980 students.
Mr. Ripp said the numbers weren’t surprising but agreed with Ms. Clelland that more parents would be inclined to send their children back from Monday as this week was just three days.
“It all depends on families' own personal circumstances,” he said. “I am confident schools will be well prepared for what’s coming though, they’ll be able to manage the logistics around it because that’s what they’re good at.
“I would ask parents to be patient, particularly when dropping kids off and picking them up, and to support their school staff in terms of the planning they have in place.”
Many of the state’s more than 1100 schools will stagger their start and break times in an effort to reduce contact between students and an increased cleaning regime will be implemented, with all schools to have cleaning staff working throughout the day.