Push for masks to be worn at school
The union for non-government schools in NSW and the ACT is calling for staff and senior students to wear masks after a coronavirus outbreak was linked to a religious school in northwestern Sydney.
Cherrybrook's Tangara School for Girls has been linked to 17 cases among staff and students in just two days, causing the senior school to shut for two weeks and forcing students and staff to self-isolate and be tested.
Mark Northam, branch secretary of the Independent Education Union in NSW/ACT, said staff wanted more input from the State Government to keep them safe during the state's latest outbreak.
"We are now calling on the Government to provide clear and decisive guidance to schools, in particular making an explicit recommendation for staff and senior students to wear masks within school settings," he said.
"This aligns with existing health advice that recommends wearing a mask in circumstances where it is not possible to socially distance. This advice must be clearly articulated and conveyed to all school leaders."
Mr Northam said students in year 11 or 12 often worked casual jobs, had boyfriends or girlfriends and were "otherwise mobile in our communities in a way similar to adults".
He said the union was concerned current messaging suggested COVID-safe precautions in the community were unnecessary behind school gates and wanted a review into COVID-safe protocols in non-government schools to ensure they were as safe as possible.
In particular, Mr Northam said all extra curricular activities should be restricted.
"The IEU would find it unacceptable if any of our members were asked to expose themselves needlessly to additional risk by participating in extra-curricular activities such as sporting trips, school excursions, retreats or other such activities," he said.
The Tangara School for Girls is not the only NSW educational institution to be hit by the virus.
In the past few days, Our Lady of Mercy College in Parramatta and Parramatta Public School have both closed for cleaning, as have two schools in Batemans Bay.
Two new cases in Jervis Bay, on the NSW south coast, have now also been linked to the Tangara school outbreak.
The outbreak reportedly follows a trip some of the senior students took to Bargo, 100km south west of Sydney, with the Eremeran Study Centre.
A Northern Sydney Local Health District spokeswoman told NCA NewsWire their first notification of the outbreak was on August 7. A second student in a different year group tested positive the day after.
"As a result of the call for testing, additional positive COVID-19 cases have been identified with the potential for further cases to be detected," she said.
"Investigation into the source and transmission of infection is ongoing and includes looking at outside school activities in which students participated."
Originally published as Push for masks to be worn at school