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Marshall to release further detail on back to school plans


Premier Steven Marshall will shortly make further announcements about South Australia’s plan to return students to schools and today’s case numbers as the Education Department confirms it will not supply every classroom with air purifiers.

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Marshall will be joined by chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier at about 1pm this afternoon to outline details of the state’s back to school plans.

UPDATE: Read the latest HERE

It comes after the government yesterday announced it would adopt a hybrid school model for the first two weeks of Term 1 amid concerns about COVID-19 cases surging once classrooms reopen.

Under the plan, children of essential workers and those deemed vulnerable will go back to school on January 31.

From February 2, children in preschool, kindergarten, Reception and Years 1, 7, 8 and 12 will return to school for face-to-face learning, while students in all other grades will start school online.

All students will return to face-to-face learning on February 14. 

Earlier this morning, SA Secondary Principals’ Association CEO Peter Mader told ABC Radio Adelaide he welcomed the government’s hybrid schooling model, describing it as a “balanced response”.

“What the government is trying to do at the moment is balance the health interests of the community, the education interests of our young people and keep the economy going and that’s a really difficult balancing act to undertake,” he said.

“From a secondary perspective, it’s a pretty good fit understanding, of course, that parents at the micro level may have students spread across different levels and it will impact very differently from household to household.”

Marshall, who left quarantine last night after being identified as a close contact of his COVID-positive daughter, told ABC Radio this morning that the hybrid model would advantage students who were “most critical”.

He said there was “compelling evidence” that introducing a staggered approach to returning students to classrooms would prevent “thousands and thousands” of COVID-19 cases.

“I do apologise for the inconvenience – I’ve been saying for some time now there will be a disrupted start to Term 1 in South Australia,” he said.

“But, I think we’ve got the balance right.”

It comes as the Education Department this morning confirmed that it would not deploy air purifiers to every classroom across the state, following calls from the teachers’ union and state opposition.

In a statement, the department said it commissioned an independent trial which found air purifiers “do not reduce the amount of CO2 within education spaces in any meaningful way and provide minimal improvement to the quality of air”.

The department said SA Health supported its decision and confirmed that natural ventilation was “most effective”.

“Our approach is in line with other states and territories,” it said.

“The advice is clear that ventilation is only one of a number of risk mitigation measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

“It works best with other controls including good hygiene practices, cleaning, vaccination and the use of outdoor learning environments where appropriate.”

The Department conducted an audit of ventilation in classrooms, but it is yet to publicly release its findings.

It said this morning that it was “working closely” with preschools and schools to identify where natural ventilation could be improved.

“We have also been assessing air-conditioning systems and we are making adjustments to maximise the flow of fresh air,” it said.

Meanwhile, the State Government announced it would set up rapid antigen test distribution sites across seven metropolitan and regional council areas, including Port Adelaide Enfield, Charles Sturt, Onkaparinga, Mount Gambier, Berri/Barmerra, Murray Bridge and Port Augusta.

The exact locations and opening date for each area is yet to be announced, but it is expected they will open in the next 10 days.

Negotiations are also underway for more LGAs to become part of the RAT distribution program.

The first distribution point opened in Park 22 in the southwestern park lands yesterday, handing out about 10,000 testing kits.

Only asymptomatic close contacts are eligible to receive the free testing kits from the sites, with those who are symptomatic encouraged to seek PCR testing.

New South Wales today reported 29 COVID-related deaths and another 63,018 cases, with Premier Dominic Perrottet saying the state was tracking better than the best case scenario predicted by health authorities. 

Victoria meanwhile recorded 34,836 new COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths, while Queensland reported three deaths and 23,630 new virus cases. 

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