Victoria braces up to begin new academic year with full Covid-safe measures

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As students, staff and families across Victoria prepare for the beginning of the school year, the Victorian Government is making sure school and early childhood education is as safe as possible in 2022 – with a full suite of COVIDSafe measures to protect communities and minimise disruption to learning.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Education James Merlino today announced a plan to keep education settings open while taking every measure to protect students and staff – with surveillance testing, ventilation, vaccinations and comprehensive workforce planning to ensure a successful 2022 school year.
Under the plan to safely welcome students back to the classroom – which was devised as a result of working closely with the NSW Government – rapid antigen testing will be in place for at least the first four weeks of Term 1.
The Government will deliver more than 14 million rapid antigen tests to schools and early childhood education and care services, including 6.6 million tests to be delivered in the first week of term.
This surveillance testing will be strongly recommended for all primary and secondary school students and staff, and early childhood education and care staff, twice-weekly at home before school or childcare.
Students and staff at specialist schools will be recommended to test five days each week due to the higher risk of severe illness for medically vulnerable children.
At the end of Term 4, 2021, more than 99.7 per cent of school staff were double-vaccinated – the school workforce knows how important vaccination is in protecting school communities and vulnerable children.
School and early childhood staff will be added to the list of workers in key sectors who must receive a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 25 February if they are already eligible, or within 3 months and 2 weeks of receiving a second dose to continue working in education settings.
The Chief Health Officer (CHO) has advised a third dose will help ensure continued protection for this workforce, most notably individuals with significant underlying health conditions. He also noted that a mandate may help to mitigate against the risk of outbreaks in these settings.
The CHO has further said education settings are likely to be linked to a significant number of cases once the academic year commences after the holiday period.
Improving ventilation is a key measure to slow the spread of the virus around schools, particularly in high-risk areas like staff rooms, music rooms, indoor canteens and other high traffic areas. All 51,000 air purification devices that were ordered will be delivered to government and low-fee non-government schools for the first day of Term 1.
More than 1,800 schools have applied for a Shade Sail Grant, with grants progressively being rolled out and shade sail construction already underway at more than 300 ofthese schoolsto allow more classesto learn safely outdoors.
Premier Daniel Andrews said, “Face-to-face learning is the best option for our kids’ learning and wellbeing – that’s why we’ve done the work to get students safely back in the classroom from the start of Term 1, and make sure they stay there.”
Minister for Early Childhood Ingrid Stitt said, “Early childhood services are critical in our kids’ early development – these measures will reduce disruption to their
learning.”