Teachers are urging NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to reconsider plans to allow Year 12 students to return to face-to-face learning in August, despite a mass vaccination plan for students in hotspot areas.
NSW has set August 16 as the date for a return to the classroom for students completing their final year of high school.
NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos told AAP he was “deeply concerned” by the safety risk posed by COVID-19 to students and teachers.
Ms Berejiklian outlined plans on Friday for a stadium in Sydney’s west to be converted to rapidly vaccinate 20,000 Year 12 students in five days from August 9.
The Olympic Park stadium usually plays host to musicians and sporting events.
Asked whether Year 12 teachers will also be vaccinated at the hub, the Premier said: “There is nothing stopping teachers getting vaccinated now.”
“We’re calling on anybody over 18 years of age to come forward and get vaccinated. The AstraZeneca is available,” she said.
Reconsider, Premier, please
But Mr Gavrielatos asked the Premier to “reconsider her decision to allow Year 12 to return to face-to-face teaching with such a high number of infectious cases in the community”.
Students last year began returning to the classroom when there were only five local transmitted cases and the health and safety of teachers and students should remain paramount, he said.
A total of 170 new locally acquired cases were recorded in NSW on Friday, with at least 52 infectious while in the community.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said her department was working closely with NSW Health to ensure the return of HSC classes and the subsequent exams happened in a COVID-safe way.
“I find it disappointing that organisations, who should put the interests of students first, are effectively lobbying for the HSC cohort in Greater Sydney to stay at home and miss out on the opportunity for face-to-face learning, particularly when health experts have advised that students are able to return with the measures we will have in place,” she told AAP.
Meanwhile, the decision to stock the students’ vaccination clinic with Pfizer shots redirected from regional and rural areas has faced opposition in the state’s west.
Two western NSW health districts – serving communities including Orange, Broken Hill, and Bourke – confirmed those waiting for their first dose of Pfizer will have their bookings delayed for weeks.
Resident Sonya Thornberry said Orange, Blayney and Cabonne recently endured, and complied with, a hard lockdown to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
Indigenous at risk
“Yet, the city has not endured a hard lockdown, nor complied with the lockdown rules, and regional NSW is expected to forfeit their right to a vaccine therapy to subsidise the city’s population – unfair to say the least,” she posted on Facebook.
Murray MP Helen Dalton also derided the decision.
“It is absolutely outrageous that the most Indigenous district in NSW is having to suspend their bookings so that vaccines can be sent to Sydney,” the Shooters Fishers and Farmers member told AAP.
“Far West NSW have the worst health outcomes in the state. That’s because the NSW Government continue to treat them like second class citizens.”