Amid record COVID infections, say no to Australian school reopenings! Educators, students, parents—join the fight for rank and file safety committees! | #students | #parents

The Committee for Public Education urgently appeals to all teachers, school workers, students, and parents to unite against the planned reopening of schools across Australia in late January and early February.

Teachers protesting the dangerous reopening of schools in New York last year (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

If allowed to proceed amid unprecedented COVID infections, the beginning of the academic year will see a further explosion in case numbers, inflicting suffering and death that is entirely preventable. Working people should form rank-and-file safety committees within every school community that will take forward the fight for online teaching and learning, as an essential measure within a broad emergency response aimed at eliminating the dangerous coronavirus.

The extended summer holiday that separates the end and beginning of the academic year in Australia has coincided with an explosion of the Omicron variant. On December 17, the last day of Term 4 in several states, the daily COVID case tally in Australia was 4,004. Now around 100,000 cases are registered daily, though this is an enormous underestimate of the real level of infection.

Reopening schools in these conditions would represent an appalling social crime.

International scientists have repudiated media and government claims that Omicron is a “mild” virus and that children especially require no protection from infection. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead of COVID-19 response at the World Health Organization, recently characterised the “mild” designation as “dangerous” misinformation.

The impact on children is especially concerning. Last week saw 672 children hospitalised in the United States each day, more than double the week before. Long COVID is causing widespread suffering, with studies suggesting up to 10 percent of all children who contract the virus develop debilitating long-term symptoms.

Australian children are threatened with being herded into unsafe classrooms in conditions where large numbers of those under 12 have not been able to access vaccine due to supply shortages and related booking problems.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted that schools should operate on a business-as-usual basis. “Our objective is go back, stay back, day one term one,” he declared on Monday.

The homicidal campaign to condition the population to “live with the virus” is a bipartisan one, uniting the Labor and Liberal parties. State Labor premiers comprise the majority of the so-called national cabinet that last year coordinated the deliberate sabotage of Australia’s previous COVID mitigation measures and this year is accelerating the dismantling of even the most minimal of protections as part of its “herd immunity” policy.

Some state governments are reportedly considering delaying the start of term, following the recent announcement of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that schools there would open on February 7 rather than January 24. This measure will serve only to postpone, not avoid, mass infection of children and school staff.

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