“I’m writing actual communication to the parents now,” she said. “If they’re working from home then I would expect they keep their kids at home. The COVID-19 Delta variant is different, contagious, we need to protect our staff and parents need to protect themselves. If they are working from home then their kids should be at home.”
However, Ms Berejiklian said school was important for vulnerable students. “We have to accept that some children are in very vulnerable situations,” she said.
Some workers sent their children to school because the productivity demand from their bosses was so high. One kindergarten parent, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said her employer had not reduced her workload at all despite the circumstances.
“The level of supervision required for small kids is just not possible if you need to juggle a full-time job, even if working from home,” she said.
The principal of Chester Hill’s Salamah College, Wissam Saad, said he had personally contacted his students’ families over the past five days, encouraging them to keep their children home if possible.
Ten per cent of his 400 students turned up today, but that included 22 year 12 students to sit mock trial exams (their official HSC trials are due to begin in five weeks). “We’re still assessing whether or not to continue with that,” he said.
Many high schools are watching the situation carefully before making a final decision on whether to postpone HSC trials. The CSSA – formerly known as the Catholic Secondary Schools Association – trials, used by 500 schools, have been postponed by two weeks.
At Clemton Park Public School, which lies in the vast local government area of Canterbury Bankstown, about 15 students in kindergarten to year 3 entered through the back gates just before 9am and headed to the library.
Parents described the drop-off area as a ghost town, but were pleased with the availability of parking. Several said they worked as nurses, teachers and tradespeople, while others had more children – either toddlers or teenagers – learning from home and were grateful school had finally opened after two weeks in lockdown.
A government spokesman said no schools in the Bankstown, Cowpasture, Fairfield and Liverpool school networks reported more than 10 per cent attendance except a school for special purposes, which had 21 students.
Families’ experiences of the first day of remote learning was just as varied as attendance. Some said it went more smoothly than last year, as students sat in Zoom classes all day, completed activities online and received voice-recorded feedback.
Others had technical issues logging on or executing tasks or found the hard-copy tasks their children had been given barely filled an hour. One said her children were back to filling out worksheets and speaking to their teacher once a week.
“I will be sending my children to school from tomorrow because they are not engaged by worksheets overseen by parents trying to keep a handle on their own work at home,” she said.
Teachers working in the south west are also waiting on a link that will allow them to sign up for Pfizer vaccines at a new hub, which is due to open on Friday.
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