‘Clear your lockers’: Schools plan for coronavirus closures
AN ELITE private school has told students to clear their lockers to prepare for a "possible'' coronavirus closure.
Brisbane Girls' Grammar parents were emailed yesterday that the school "is preparing for the possibility of a school closure''.
"As a precautionary measure only, all students and staff will be asked to take laptops and any other essential materials home with them today,'' the Friday memo states.
"Should a school closure be required, we will communicate this to parents via email and SMS.
"Our primary concern is to take reasonable steps to provide for the health and wellbeing of students and staff.''
A Girls' Grammar spokeswoman said there were no cases of coronavirus at the school.
"Given the fast-evolving nature of the coronavirus situation, the school has chosen to take a conservative approach to ensure students have access to their learning materials should anything change in terms of health authority advice over the weekend,'' she told The Courier-Mail.
"There are no cases of coronavirus at the school.''
Queensland school students may have to study online in "virtual classrooms'' if any state schools are shut down, as happened at Epping Boys' High School in Sydney on Friday.
And Year 12 students who fall sick or are quarantined may be given extra time to finish assignments, or have their exams postponed.
Education Queensland, which operates schools that teach two-thirds of Queensland students, would not release details of its coronavirus contingency plans today.
The Courier-Mail asked the department if schools and childcare centres will close if a student or staff member is infected with the virus, and whether all parents will be notified.
The department issued a statement that: "Any decision to close a school or early childhood centre is not taken lightly and would be based on advice from the Chief Health Officer, including a full assessment of any risks to the health and welfare of staff, students and children.
"Continuity of learning is an extremely important consideration in our response planning and, as in other disaster and emergency management events, the department has online learning materials and virtual classroom capability that can be used by schools where appropriate to support sustained curriculum delivery.''
Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) chief executive Chris Rider said senior students affected by a coronavirus illness or closure could be given extra time to finish assignments.
He said the QCAA had contacted principals about special provisions for ill or absent students.
"It is essential that students experience relevant teaching and learning before they complete any assessment,'' he said.
"Adjustments could include extending the due date of an assignment or allowing a student to sit a comparable paper if they miss a test.''
Brisbane Boys' College headmaster Paul Brown said the school was reviewing its excursions.
"Like many schools, the College is being proactive in reviewing our planned 2020 Tours and Excursions in line with Smart Traveller (DFAT) advice and planning for the continuation of educational services should health authorities determine the need for school closures,'' he said.
Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said private schools would follow the advice and directions of Queensland Health to manage any cases of coronavirus.
"Independent schools are reviewing their own risk management policies and procedures in light of the escalation of cases in Australia,'' he said.
"This would include how they could continue to provide a level of education continuity for students based on their own local circumstances and operational capabilities.''
The Queensland Catholic Education Commission said it would work with the State Government "to ensure impacts on students are managed in the most effective way''.
Australia's biggest childcare chain, Goodstart Early Learning, said it had excluded staff and children who had travelled to high-risk countries.
A spokeswoman would not say if a centre would be closed if a child or staff member caught coronavirus.
"We are communicating regularly with our families and closely monitoring Government advice and will continue to take a very cautious and conservative approach to the health and wellbeing of children and staff,'' she said.