“Avalon has already stood down many staff and may be forced to close if there isn’t a practical solution put in place to bring an entry flow of international students through a quarantine system soon.”
Mr Dooley said quarantining children and teenagers in hotels for two weeks “was not going to work” and some schools had the capacity to do it themselves. He said Avalon could quarantine its own students and those enrolled at other schools.
Brighton Grammar, Geelong College, Mentone Grammar, Firbank Grammar and St Leonard’s College are believed to be among schools pushing the federal and state governments to allow school quarantine.
“Personally, I think Avalon offers a really good solution because we have a large boarding house where we can monitor the student and they can do their online learning,” Mr Dooley said.
“They can have limited contact with a staff member who is designated to assist them, meals brought to them, recreation at a separate time.
“Avalon already has [a] relationship with schools who use us for English language preparation.”
Avalon College charges $1500 a week, or $30,00 for a typical 20-week stay at its school near Avalon airport. Students are aged between 10 and 17 and typically from China, Thailand and other Asian nations. Quarantine charges are substantially lower.
Once a student’s English is good enough, she or he is sent to an Australian school, such as Geelong Grammar, Melbourne Grammar and University High.
But with borders shut, Avalon College has slashed its workforce by three quarters and student numbers have dwindled to 26, from its usual 70 at this time of year. Mr Dooley said enrolments had “basically stopped”.
“We accept students every week here on a normal basis throughout the year but because the borders are closed … students are waiting to see what is happening until they jump on board,” he said.
Under a plan put forward by Australia’s eight most prestigious universities, students from countries with COVID-19 infection rates under control would be permitted to enter Australia and go to designated quarantine accommodation on arrival, subject to pre-flight isolation and health tests.
The Department of Home Affairs said the government was considering re-opening international student travel but did not answer whether it would consider in-house quarantine for schools.
Victoria had more than 9500 international school students in 2018, primarily from China, Vietnam and Cambodia. Almost two-thirds attended government schools.
Mr Dooley said the government had left prospective students in the dark about when they could begin or resume their Australian education.
“Leaving everyone in the dark is very detrimental to our students and disrespectful to their parents who have invested many tens of thousands of dollars in their child’s Australian education plan,” Mr Dooley said.
Madeleine Heffernan edits The Age’s Monday education page