Schools and early childhood education and care

Last Updated: 04 May 2022 4:43pm

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Public Health has developed COVID-19 guidance for parents/carers, schools and early childhood education and care settings in Tasmania.

Contacts

There are two types of COVID-19 contacts in relation to schools. It is important to understand the difference between close contacts and school contacts.

Close contact

  • anyone who lives with or stays overnight in the same premises as a confirmed case (which is someone who has tested positive for COVID 19 using a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) or Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test)
  • anyone who has spent more than 4 hours in a residential setting with a confirmed case during their infectious period* (over a 24 hour period)

*The infectious period of a case is two days prior to developing symptoms or two days prior to when they tested positive if they did not have symptom  until release from isolation.

School contact

Any child, student or staff member who spent more than four hours cumulative (in any 24-hour period) in the same room as  a case in a school setting during the case’s infectious period, in a school or early education and care setting.

There are three outbreak management stages:

Stage 1: Prevent and prepare

Public Health has worked with the Department of Education, Catholic Education Tasmania, Independent Schools Tasmania and the Early Childhood Education and Care sector to develop and implement practical, workable measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and minimise the risk of outbreaks, while supporting ongoing education in classrooms.

These measures include:

  • Vaccination: Children aged 5+ years will continue to be encouraged to be vaccinated – vaccination is not mandatory for a child to attend school. All Department of Education staff, including volunteers and contractors, are vaccinated.
  • Face masks: All adults and children over 12 will continue to wear face masks, however, teachers may remove their masks if required to assist clear communication when teaching (for example, to meet the needs of a student with disability). Primary school students still do not need to wear face masks, but can if they choose. Secondary school students must continue to wear face masks. Medical exemptions apply. Face masks are available at school, if needed.
  • Ventilation: Air purifiers will continue to be used in classrooms, with schools supplied with additional units for Term 2, as well as use of open windows if cool climate allows.
  • Outdoor learning: Schools will continue to take advantage of outdoor learning opportunities where possible, dependent on cool climate.
  • Physical distancing: All adults will continue to keep a physical distance of 1.5 metres from each other.
  • Hygiene practices: Regular handwashing and sanitising will continue.
  • Cleaning: Frequent cleaning will continue, particularly on high-touch surfaces.
  • Safe site management: Non-essential visitors will continue to be limited, and schools will regularly review their COVID-19 safety plans.
  • Groups: Mixing of students and staff will continue to be limited where possible. COVID-safe ways of bringing students together to participate in learning activities will be considered.
  • Providing rapid antigen test kits (RATs) so all children/students and staff can get tested immediately if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms (note, most self-administered RATs are not recommended for use in children under the age of two years). PCR is the preferred testing method where RAT is not suitable. Learn more about COVID-19 symptoms.

For more information visit the Department of Education website.

Stage 2: Responding to cases and outbreaks

Response to individual cases

  • The school will:
    • identify and notify school contacts
    • inform school contacts of the actions to take (typically in the absence of an outbreak this is to monitor themselves/their child for symptoms for the next seven days; and isolate and get tested if symptoms develop).
  • Families and staff must:
    • register positive RAT results
    • inform the school/early childhood education and care service if their child tests positive for COVID-19 on a RAT or PCR test
    • ensure that cases stay at home for their isolation period, and follow Public Health instructions
    • identify their close contacts and instruct them to follow the close contact rules
  • Learn about what close contacts need to do.

Boarding schools

As a mix of educational and residential premises, boarding schools and boarding houses have extra precautions in place.

Close contacts in school boarding houses

In the situation of school boarding houses, close contacts are:

  • Students who have shared sleeping spaces with a case during the case’s infectious period.
  • Students who have spent more than four hours (cumulative, over 24 hours) in shared spaces with a case during the case’s infectious period – this is assessed by the Boarding House staff in consultation with Public Health; and
  • Other people who have been identified by Public Health in consultation with the boarding house, where the risk of transmission is considered particularly high.

The Boarding House will notify students and families who are Close Contacts and they must follow the close contact rules. Read more about advice for close contacts.

Testing can be performed by RAT or PCR.

All other students in the Boarding House are defined as “Boarding House Contacts’ which is similar to ‘School Contacts’.

Parents/guardians of boarding house contacts will be informed by the school of the exposure.

Outbreaks in boarding schools

Boarding School Contacts can keep attending school as long as they have no symptoms, do not test positive and do not become a close contact with a household member or a boarding school student.

An outbreak in a school boarding house is defined as two or more cases in students or staff at that facility within 72 hours.

  • If a school boarding house outbreak is declared, all boarding house contacts must be tested, regardless of symptoms. The testing is recommended to continue every 2-3 days for a total of 3 tests in a 7-day period.
  • Students and staff who are symptomatic should isolate and get tested.
  • If symptoms persist and the initial test is negative, the person is advised to repeat testing after 24 hours. If the second test is negative and they feel well, they may return to work/school. If they are unwell, or symptoms change or increase, medical assessment is recommended.
  • Testing can be performed by RAT or PCR based on test availability and public health advice.

All cases identified in the boarding house will be recorded by the school and reported by the school to Public Health. Boarding house staff will inform families and together they will decide on the most appropriate location for the student to isolate. This may be at the Boarding House or the student may return to their home or other suitable premise off site. The student may be enrolled in the COVID@home program.

Unusual circumstances

Cases or outbreaks linked to schools or students with unique circumstances will be assessed on an individual basis by Public Health.