Australian state government pushing for school reopening despite Sydney COVID crisis | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian last Wednesday announced that schools in Sydney would begin their first week of Term 3, beginning today, with mostly online learning.

The measure comes amid a worsening COVID-19 Delta variant outbreak and was revealed as part of a one-week extension to the previous two-week semi-lockdown of Greater Sydney, covering approximately five million people.

The Berejiklian government clearly did not want to suspend normal school operations, despite the serious health risks in doing so during the rapid growth of multiple coronavirus infection clusters.

The so-called lockdown itself is inadequate and was belatedly imposed. For more than a week, Berejiklian resisted calls by medical experts for the introduction of emergency measures, allowing the virus to spread across the Sydney area with hundreds of venues on the coronavirus hotspots list. Non-essential workplaces remain open, including every variety of retail store. The interests of big business remain prioritised over public health.

This week’s suspension of normal school operations is also of a limited character. Senior Year 12 students completing practical assignments for their final year examinations will be allowed to attend school for in-person learning. Schools remain open to children not just of genuinely essential workers but to any parents unable to work from home, including those now working in obviously non-essential retail shops. Some government messaging has been broader, with schools declared “open for families who need it.”

The suspension of normal school operations was triggered by the ongoing growth of daily infection numbers. From a single case registered on June 16, there are now 678 locally acquired COVID-19 infections.    A record 112 were announced this morning, with warnings that tallies in the multiple hundreds could be recorded in the coming days.

Berejiklian last week outlined that a week of online learning was required “to stop literally hundreds of thousands of adults moving around and interacting with each other inadvertently as they drop kids off and pick kids up.”

There is no doubt that the government’s move was motivated by fears of triggering further opposition among teachers and school staff, potentially including industrial action outside the control of the teachers’ unions.

Throughout the pandemic, teachers in Australia and internationally have been regarded by governments and the corporate elite as sacrificial lambs, functioning as child-minders to allow working class parents to attend their workplace and keep profits flowing. Working in run-down crowded classrooms and offices where social distancing is impossible, usually without adequate protective equipment, teachers have been compelled to risk their own health with the possibility of spreading infection to their families.

Sydney teachers’ anger over the possibility of being forced back into the classroom amid a growing pandemic was expressed on social media.

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