Mandurah teachers express safety concerns as WA schools return in Term 2

Teachers across the Peel region have shared their safety concerns after the McGowan government announced the reopening of schools in Term 2.
Teachers across the Peel region have shared their safety concerns after the McGowan government announced the reopening of schools in Term 2.

Teachers were left shocked at the State Government's announcement to re-open WA's public schools despite restrictions on social distancing and non-essential services remaining in place.

Public schools will reopen on Wednesday and parents and carers have the choice to either send their children back to school or allow them to learn from home.

State School Teachers Union WA president Pat Byrne said police and the Premier had been adamant about statewide social distancing restrictions but they were backflipping the rules just for schools.

"Teachers were surprised, and quite frankly felt a strong sense of betrayal given they had [been] preparing for a particular scenario," Ms Byrne said.

"There is a lot of anger from teachers around that particular situation."

Ms Byrne warned a reopening would cause "a lot of anxiety, a lot of chaos and a lot of disorder at the beginning of term".

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Despite the government implementing protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among schools, many Mandurah public school teachers have said this would be impossible to follow in a classroom environment.

"We can not guarantee social distancing measures, as there are too many students per square metre of classroom and PPE is non-existent unless we provide it ourselves," a Mandurah teacher, who did not want to be named, said.

"We are being told to remain vigilant to stay ahead of this virus so why does this then not apply to schools, teachers and all staff in a school setting?"

Another Mandurah teacher expressed frustration over being in the same room as dozens of children yet not being allowed near his own family.

"What I don't understand is why it is safe for me to teach children yet it isn't safe for me to see my own grandchildren," he said.

"Also how are schools safe yet it is unsafe for the children to mingle and play with each other after school."

Although the McGowan government has listed a number of safety precautions for schools during COVID-19 many public school teachers are concerned these are not being met in their classrooms. Photo: Shutterstock.

Although the McGowan government has listed a number of safety precautions for schools during COVID-19 many public school teachers are concerned these are not being met in their classrooms. Photo: Shutterstock.

The state government plans to spend $43 million to clean and disinfect all high contact items every one to two hours, as well as regularly clean school play equipment.

Parents would be required to drop children at the school gate and not enter the school grounds.

Canteens could provide takeaway services only, school swimming pools would be closed and assemblies, camps, excursions and interschool activities would not be permitted.

Schools could also implement staggered start, break and meal times to reduce contact in common areas and staff rooms.

Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery said it was critical students continued to have access to their teachers which is why teachers would be in the classroom.

Premier Mark McGowan said they carefully considered options for the start of Term 2, based on the best health advice.

"This soft opening is about transitioning students back into our classrooms in a responsible manner, to receive the best education, without risking the health of students, staff or parents," he said.

Several Peel private schools are continuing with plans for all students to learn from home.

Children from kindergarten to Year 10 in Catholic schools will do remote lessons for the first three weeks, whether at home or at school.