With Christmas holidays wrapping up and Kempsey kids set to go back to school in the coming days, questions have been raised questions in regards to how COVID safe these institutions are.
As the pandemic continues to rage on, the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) has demanded that more preparation needs to be done.
NSWTF president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said they have been insisting in their discussions with senior education officials on the upgrading of risk mitigation strategies at all schools.
"Regrettably, there will be a lot of disruptions with the commencement of school year 2022. There is no avoiding it. The modelling and experiences from overseas tells us that there is likely to be high levels of infection in our schools and, as a result, high levels of absenteeism, which may render schools non-operational," Mr Gavrielatos said.
"One of those risk mitigation strategies is the use of rapid antigen testing. We have recommended that they be used as a 'surveillance' approach, where both teachers and students are tested each week."
This booster plea comes at the same time as the state begins shipments of 24 million rapid antigen tests as a part of a back to school program that will require students to be tested twice a week.
"While rapid antigen tests are an important line of defence, we need to ensure that masks and mask-wearing requirements are as such that they maximise protection in our schools. We also need to look again at improving ventilation and air quality to ensure schools are as safe as possible," Mr Gavrielatos said.
An Education Department spokesperson said they are working very closely with NSW Health to finalise school settings for the start of the new school year, and detailed advice for Term One will be made available to school communities shortly.
"To support schools in managing staffing impacts related to COVID-19, the department has published guidelines for the backfilling of staff, which include the use of the casual teaching workforce," they said.
"Schools will be made COVID safe through a combination of physical distancing, mask wearing, strict hygiene practices and frequent cleaning of schools."
The education department explained that rapid antigen test kits are a significant part of the department's plan, and that school closures are a last resort.
"Keeping our schools open is important for our young people's mental wellbeing and for our most vulnerable students schools are the safest place for them to be," the spokesperson said.
Kempsey mother of two, Jasmine Abigall said that "the show must go on".
"I've got a daughter who is going into year one, and she only knows disrupted schooling. She doesn't know that parents can attend assemblies, pick up from outside of the classroom. I think it's time we try and get back to normal," Mrs Abigall said.
"I completely understand that if a child has a compromised immune system, we need to look after them, but the rest of us need to move forward."
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