Mr Walter said the school had conducted a thorough review of the potential initial exposure to the school community, in conjunction with the Department of Health.
The investigation had “revealed a number of individuals deemed to have had close contact with the staff member”.
It also found a number of individuals who have had casual contact with the affected teacher. The school announced on Tuesday that it would close until at least Sunday, after a teacher in her 50s was diagnosed with the virus.
Mr Walter said the school had contacted everyone deemed to have had close or casual contact with the teacher, including students’ parents.
Mr Walter called on parents to band together.
“I appreciate that this is disturbing news for us all as it signals an escalation of the spread of the virus within our community and call on each of you to continue to support each other as we work to bring students back on site as soon as possible,” he said.
All campuses of Jewish girls school Beth Rivkah College and its brother school Yeshivah College have also closed.
Four families, including the male teacher who became Victoria’s 21st confirmed coronavirus case, were travelling on flight QF94 which landed in Melbourne on March 7.
School principal Dr Shimon Waronker said the families were not travelling together and were on the same flight by chance.
The three other families are now in isolation, awaiting their test results.
The teacher, who is in his 50s, worked at the school for half a day on Monday while he was infectious.
A number of students at the college who had close contact with the staff member are also being tested.
The teacher flew from Los Angeles to Melbourne on March 6 on Qantas flight QF94, which was also carrying a woman in her 20s who was later diagnosed with the virus, and the three other families in the Yeshivah – Beth Rivkah community.
He was experiencing very few symptoms so went to work at Beth Rivkah on Monday morning.
At 12.15pm on Monday the school realised that he, along with the three other families, had been on the infected flight and sent them home to be tested for coronavirus, Dr Waronker said on Wednesday.
“All four families were tested on that day. Since they left on Monday, to the best of our knowledge, they have been in isolation – those on the plane and immediate family members,” Dr Waronker said. It is unclear where else in the US the four families had travelled.
The test results of the other three families are likely to be delivered later on Wednesday. The school is mapping those who were in close contact with the teacher and will decide later on Wednesday whether it will re-open on Thursday.
Dr Waronker said in the meantime “we are preparing the use of online platforms to facilitate learning”.
“This is a time when we must all come together and pray for each other’s welfare,” he said.
Dr Waronker did not answer media questions and said the school would not be revealing any personal details of affected family members, including the infected teacher.
His positive diagnosis prompted an emergency school meeting about 11.30pm on Tuesday, before they emailed parents and staff at 3.18am on Wednesday.
“Please stay at home as much as possible [on Wednesday], awaiting further instruction from the department regarding either returning to normal activities or the need to home quarantine pending contact status,” Dr Waronker’s email read.
The St Kilda East group of schools includes girls’ and boys’ primary and secondary schools, as well as an early learning centre and a synagogue. Together, there are about 1300 students at the schools.
It has also been in discussions with other Jewish schools in Melbourne, many of which are nearby.
The principal of The King David School, Marc Light, said a small number of his teachers had children at Yeshivah – Beth Rivkah and some King David parents teach at the other school.
They and their children have been instructed to self-isolate at home until further notice, Mr Light said, but there was no immediate threat to King David, which is in Armadale, about 2 kilometres from Yeshivah – Beth Rivkah.
Mr Light told The Age he had called an all-school assembly at midday to “calm everything down a bit”.
On Tuesday, Carey Baptist Grammar in Kew closed after a teacher tested positive. About 30 students have been tested for the virus, the school will remain shut until at least Sunday with weekend sporting activities cancelled.
Yeshivah – Beth Rivkah’s synagogue closed on Wednesday and religious activities this weekend are expected to be cancelled.
Updated health advice for Australians
The symptoms of coronavirus include:
- Shortness of breath; and
- Breathing difficulties
If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
Michael is a reporter for The Age.
Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.