"It's impossible to be categorical about this," said Council President, Kirsty McGovern-Hooley. "Every family's circumstances and challenges are different. Some of our members absolutely believe that schools should be open now, however the majority of our members fully support social distancing - and that means the majority of students not attending school."
"Simply, while social distancing measures are in place elsewhere, parents don't feel schools should be any different. What parents see, hear and feel is that cinemas and playgrounds are closed, we are working from home because we have to, we are lining up 1.5m from other people at the supermarket and at the chemist or the GP we are confronted with masks and gowns. Given that, it doesn’t make sense to parents that schools are safe. Many parents are in close contact with family members who are at risk and don’t want to take the risk", she explained.
"We saw this before schools closed - absences increased as people kept their kids at home - and in the drop in attendance across the public education system from 10% down to 2% over last term's pupil free period."
"The unanimous position of the elected Council Executive is currently to support remote learning for the start of Term 2 with school sites provided for any families who need it," said Ms McGovern-Hooley. “It seems a reasonable and sensible approach to a difficult situation.”
"We have listened to ACT Education, unions and other stakeholders when considering the complexities of the situation – how to keep students, teachers and staff safe while also providing options to attend school for those who need it. We are very supportive of teachers in this situation."
"Remote or online learning was in trial before the holidays, and we are yet to see the full roll out. Our schools are well set up to commence next week. But there are no perfect solutions in this crisis. Very few parents like or welcome remote learning from home, but still consider it a better option than potential exposure of themselves and families to COVID-19," she said.
"For students attending school sites, it's going to be weird and difficult - different morning routine, students being nervous and unsure, parents not knowing the staff or who is who. It's like the first day of a new school, without ever having gone to open night or orientation!"
"We encourage parents to ask for supports that are needed. We are currently advocating for families who need additional transition opportunities to these new sites," said Ms McGovern-Hooley. "We expect the staff at those sites will be doing everything they can to welcome students and are pleased to hear that Tuesday will begin with orientation for students and parents. And we hope that once students log on, they will find their class mates and teachers and things will feel more familiar.”
"Looking further forward, we expect that as social distancing measures are lifted, we will step back to schools in a structured way that supports our students and families, and will work to drive that forward," she said.
"The situation is changing quickly and we encourage all parents to feed back their views and concerns. Each ACT public school P&C has an elected delegate to Council. Parents should provide their views and feedback to their P&C so that the delegate can represent them at Council's General Meeting early next term. From that feedback we will determine the future direction of Council’s lobbying efforts and activities."
Released April 24, 2020