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SA schools to adopt ‘hybrid’ return as four deaths recorded

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South Australia’s schools will adopt a “hybrid” model for the first two weeks of term one, with students in years 2-6 and 9-11 learning from home, the Premier has announced, as the state records another four COVID deaths and 3669 cases.

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Premier Steven Marshall announced this afternoon that South Australian schools will be open for face-to-face learning on Wednesday, February 2 – two days later than scheduled – for children in reception and years 1,  7,  8 and 12.

However, other year levels will begin their school year learning from home.

Children of essential workers and vulnerable children – regardless of their year – will be allowed to attend school from January 31 as originally scheduled.

Preschools and kindergartens will also be open on February 2.

Despite the “significant disruption” to the start of the school year, all students will return to face-to-face learning on February 14, Marshall said.

The Premier said the advice from the Education Department and SA Health was that the students who will be allowed to attend schools have the “highest need for face-to-face learning”.

“We can’t expect receptions and year ones to be learning online from home,” Marshall told reporters today.

“We certainly know that our year 7s and 8s will be transitioning through to secondary schools so we want them to be face to face.

“And obviously Year 12s are a major priority.”

Marshall said the decision to move students to online learning would “massively” reduce the state’s number of infections in February.

South Australia today recorded another four COVID deaths and 3669 cases, slightly down from 3715 cases recorded on Wednesday.

Today’s four deaths included two men in their 80s and two women in their 70s.

The number of people in hospital with the virus has also jumped to 225, up from 190 yesterday, with 26 people in intensive care.

Marshall said “the bulk” of the State Government’s plan for schools will be released tomorrow.

“There will still be some more information and some discussion regarding the use of rapid antigen tests within that school environment as well as early learning,” he said.

“We know that term one is going to be significantly disrupted – there’s no way of avoiding that.

“What we’re doing here is trying to get the balance right.

“There were a range of options that were considered but the strong advice from the Department of Education and SA Health was this hybrid model.”

Marshall also said the State Government did not intend to close schools if a positive case was recorded.

“We think that we will have a big advantage with this staggered start,” he said.

“We believe that despite the fact that there will be positive cases in schools – whether that be with staff or students – that we’ll be able to manage that in quite a different way than we were doing under Delta.”

New South Wales and Victoria are both pushing ahead with the scheduled return of school and on-site learning in term one despite significantly higher daily COVID-19 caseloads than South Australia.

However, the Queensland Government announced last week that it would delay the start of the school year by two weeks, ahead of a predicted Omicron peak at the end of January.

The Australian Education Union said on Wednesday a majority of its members prefer for the start of the school year to be delayed for two weeks, according to a survey of around 1500 teachers, principals and support staff.

As of Wednesday, just 5.7 per cent of South Australia’s nearly 150,000 children aged between five and 11 have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The rollout for children in that age bracket began on Monday, January 10.

69.4 per cent of South Australian children aged between 12 and 15 are fully vaccinated, while 77.5 per cent have had at least one dose.

Meanwhile, more than 92,264 new COVID-19 infections were reported in New South Wales this morning – up from 34,759 yesterday – after residents rushed to post positive results from rapid antigen tests (RATs) since the start of the year.

However, NSW Health cautioned that some of the new cases included people reporting positive RATs on multiple days and possible follow-up positive PCR tests.

The eastern state reported 22 COVID-19 deaths, while 182 people are currently being treated in intensive care.

Victoria recorded 37,169 new COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths, setting a new record of daily fatalities for the state.

Queensland also recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic with 14,914 cases and six deaths, and Tasmania 1100 new cases. There were 1020 new cases in the ACT and 550 in the Northern Territory.

-With AAP

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