Virus fear no excuse for truancy: NSW govt

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Any children kept home from a NSW school from next week because of coronavirus concerns will be marked as absent, as full-time face-to-face teaching resumes across the state.

The warning comes as the state on Tuesday recorded its 49th COVID-19 death, a 93-year-old female resident at the Newmarch House nursing home.

The elderly woman’s death is the 17th at the Anglicare-run facility in western Sydney and takes the national death toll to 100.

Meanwhile, recreational regional travel within NSW will be allowed again from June 1, The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.

“Even if some states don’t let us travel there we’ll invite the other states here,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told The Daily Telegraph.

“If people are spending their dollars locally that has huge opportunities for us. The key is keeping people in jobs.”

NSW public schools will return to the classroom full time on Monday, two months after COVID-19 restrictions forced around 800,000 children to study remotely.

Some independent and Catholic schools will also return full-time on Monday while others are working towards a June 1 return date.

Assemblies and excursions will remain off the table, non-essential school visitors will be banned and parents have been warned not to linger at the school gate.

Principals will be in charge of ensuring pick-up and drop-off protocols, as well as recess and lunch rules, adhere to social distancing requirements.

Face-to-face learning resumed across NSW last week for Year 12 students at state and independent schools, but only for an average of three to four days a week. Other year groups were allowed to return once a week.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell says from next week, the pandemic would not be considered an adequate excuse to keep children at home.

“It’s a normal school week from next week and they need to be attending. Rolls will be marked as normal and unexplained absences will be followed up,” Ms Mitchell said on Tuesday.

“If there are any students with particular health conditions or concerns about their medical circumstances, as is always the case, they can take precautions and speak with principals.

“But the general message is that students need to return and those who aren’t there will be marked absent, with the usual processes to follow unexplained absences.”

Ms Berejiklian on Tuesday urged Sydney commuters to plan ahead and avoid public transport at peak hours as they return to on-site employment.

Students who don’t take dedicated school buses have been urged to walk or be dropped off at school.

“We want to make sure that face-to-face time in the classroom is what maintains and sustains learning through the pandemic,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“But I do say it will be common for schools to be shut down temporarily, for a specific area to be on high alert, for a particular school to take extra measures if there’s a community breakout … and we just have to accept that.”

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said the union had not been consulted before the government’s decision to return to full-time schooling.

He said teachers had already planned for the previously announced staggered return to school, with face-to-face learning gradually scaled up throughout Term 2.

“This caused a lot of concern, frustration and anger among teachers and principals across the state. They turned themselves inside out not once, not twice, but repeatedly, trying to come to terms with this crisis,” Mr Gavrielatos told ABC television.

“This is a pandemic that we find ourselves in. That’s what makes what happened last night even more important and more disrespectful.”

NSW reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday from about 5300 tests, with five people in intensive care.

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