Schools in Western Australia will be open to all students for term two.
WA Premier Mark McGowan made the announcement late on Friday, saying the state’s schools would start term two with a “soft opening”.
April 27 will be a public holiday for Anzac Day, while April 28 will be a student-free day for teachers. School will begin on April 29.
“All parents and carers can choose to send their children to school,” Mr McGowan said.
“If parents don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to school for whatever reason, they will not be obligated to do so. However year 11 and 12 students are strongly encouraged to attend.”
There are arrangements for children who need to learn online, and for those with complex medical needs.
In other measures to control the spread of the coronavirus in schools, the WA government will spend $43 million on rigorous cleaning in all schools, and parents will have to drop children at the school gates.
Canteens will be open only for takeaway food and drink, school swimming pools will be closed and excursions and inter-school activities will be banned. Schools will also be able to impose staggered starts and meal breaks.
Mr McGowan said the plans were about striking the right balance.
“This approach allows us to school students back into the classrooms
cautiously and sensibly, which allows Western Australian students to receive the best education without risking the health of students, staff and parents,” he said.
He also said the WA’s tough coronavirus restrictions would be further reviewed in coming weeks to see if more could be eased.
WA has closed its borders to all arrivals – including returning residents.
Also on Friday, the death was announced of a crew member from the coronavirus-plagued Artania cruise ship, taking Western Australia’s toll to seven.
The man, who was in his early 40s, died at Royal Perth Hospital on Thursday.
But the state’s number of new coronavirus infections remains relatively low. On Thursday it had three new cases for a total of 535.
“We continue to receive encouraging (coronavirus) test results and health advice,” Mr McGowan said.
“This means we can slowly and carefully return to some level of normalcy – but we won’t take unnecessary chances.”
Victorian students started term two this week, with Premier Daniel Andrews committed to online learning.
But NSW also has plans to return students to classrooms in term two.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday she wanted some students to return to face-to-face learning from week three of term two, which begins on May 11.
On Friday, she said that did not mean schools would go “back to normal”.
“Unfortunately it will be a very long time before we get back to normal,” she said.
“We are considering our options around a rostering system, which will have some students go back on a particular day to increase that level of face-to-face [teaching].”
“Because the alternative is that unfortunately students could face up to a year or longer at home and we don’t think that’s appropriate.”
Arrangements in other states:
ACT: Term two starts April 28. Online learning for most students, schools open for the children of essential workers
Northern Territory: Starts April 20. Students expected to attend, unless school has been informed of their absence
Queensland: Starts April 20. Schools open for children of essential workers and vulnerable students. Advice to be reviewed by May 15
South Australia: Starts April 27. Schools, preschools and early childhood services will remain open but parents can keep children at home
Tasmania: Starts April 28. Teachers are preparing for online learning, but schools will be open for those who must attend