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Will Covid surge stop schools reopening next year?



The “clear preference” remains for a return to face-to-face teaching but schools are ready to move to online learning if necessary.Premier Steven Marshall said it was too early to say exactly what, if any, changes to Covid restrictions at school would be needed.“We’re looking at what our options are,” Mr Marshall said, with the issue to be discussed by state Cabinet.Education Minister John Gardner and Education Department chief executive Rick Persse met on Thursday but did not announce any changes to existing rulings.From the start of term, all teachers and other workers at schools and early childhood settings must be double vaccinated unless medically exempt but a previous requirement for secondary students to wear masks inside was withdrawn late in term 4 of 2021.“With Omicron cases increasing in South Australia, we’ve been working through a range of scenarios for the start of the 2022 school year,” an Education Department spokesman said.“Our plan and response continues to evolve along with the Omicron situation here in SA.“But our focus continues to be the safety of our children, students and staff.“We will continue to work closely with our counterparts in SA Health as the start of the school year approaches, and will provide more information to the community as soon as possible.“Our clear preference is for face-to-face schooling, however we are prepared for periods of online learning if required, as we demonstrated last year.”Mr Marshall said children aged 5 to 11 would be eligible for vaccinations from January 10.Doses for young children were different than for older age groups and would be distributed statewide by the due date and there would be an eight week gap between the first and second doses, he said.“I don’t want to speculate on that,” Mr Marshall said when asked on ABC about the possibility of schools not resuming as expected. Further information was required, he said.SA had an enviable record of maintaining face-to-face lessons in contrast to other states.“We are ready, we’ve got all contingencies in place if we need to enact them but it’s too early to say at this stage,” he said.Fewer than 300 of the Education Department’s 30,000 staff have said they do intend being vaccinated.Some staff who are on extended leave have not declared their position but the department spokesman said the government was “very confident” of having sufficient staffing levels.

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