In an effort to get on top of the rapid and fast-moving Omricon infection sweeping across the state, the Queensland school year will now start on Monday, February 7 instead of January 24 and it is hoped that delaying the start of the school year will see students return after the peak of the infection and will allow more time for younger people to receive their vaccines.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said modelling showed the likely peak of Omicron cases would be in the last week of January and the first week of February.
“This is a common-sense move to avoid students heading back to primary or secondary school just as the rapidly rising number of Omicron cases in Queensland hits its peak,” the Premier said.
“As the Chief Health Officer has said, there is no way to completely stop this virus from spreading.
“But we can take steps to protect the community – including our children – as much as possible.
“I know parents are concerned about sending children back to school at a time like this, so I want to assure them that delaying the start of the school year by just two weeks is a sensible solution.
“This is especially important to give more time to vaccinate 5-11 year olds, who only just this week eligible to be vaccinated from Monday, January 10.”
Education Minister Grace Grace said students will not miss out on any essential content due to the delayed start of term, with teachers to review lesson plans to deliver the curriculum accordingly.
Ms Grace said schools would still open for vulnerable children and the children of essential workers. Years 11 and 12 students will participate in learning from home from January 31 and to ensure other cohorts do not miss out on learning, the end of the school year will be extended for them by one week until December 16.
“Principals will implement staffing arrangements to ensure only the minimum number of staff are on-site, but we will ensure vulnerable children and children of essential workers can still attend,” Ms Grace said.
“This the first time most of us in Queensland are experiencing widespread community transmission of COVID-19, and it’s challenging for everyone.
“I have been working closely with my Department and key stakeholders on a number of plans and scenarios for months, but the emergence of the Omicron variant has seen cases rise much more quickly than expected.
“An extensive range of resources and activities will be available to students via our comprehensive learning@home site.
“However, school staff – like the wider workforce – are likely to be significantly impacted by the number of COVID cases, so directed remote learning won’t be offered at this stage other than for years 11 and 12.
“Parents and carers can decide what their children do over these two weeks.
“Staff who are able to work will be carrying out a range of duties, just as they would on other student-free days.
“The Department will continue to work closely with key stakeholders and will ensure that our school communities, parents and carers are kept informed.”