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School's out: Three weeks off for Easter as Govt shifts stance

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South Australian schools will close early for Easter holidays, with four new pupil-free days and the Good Friday public holiday meaning the student break will now extend for three weeks as authorities grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

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Education Minister John Gardner announced this morning that public schools and preschools would be closed from Monday April 6 to Thursday April 9, to “assist the state’s educators to plan and prepare to transition to flexible learning, ready for Term Two”.

“With the increasing number of children absent from our schools, our teachers need this time to prepare for the difficult challenge of meeting the needs of learners who are at home,” he said.

He maintained the Government’s determination to keep schools open, however he backtracked on Steven Marshall’s strong rhetoric last week, when the Premier “discouraged” parents keeping children at home.

“Children should go to school here in SA and around the country…. not to do so doesn’t diminish the risk – it increases the risk and reduces our response as a nation to tackle the coronavirus,” Marshall said at the time.

However, Gardner now says: “For those parents and carers who are able to keep their children at home, well supervised and in an environment of learning, we support this.”

He said the Our Learning SA website was “providing support for those families” and “will be built upon every day”.

“Our schools, preschools and early childhood services do also need to remain available to support children of families in different circumstances, including people in our communities who cannot do their necessary work from home, along with a number of vulnerable children who need the opportunity to be supported at school,” he said in a statement.

“These pupil free days, which are consistent with the Prime Minister’s announcement on Tuesday night, will ensure our teachers are best prepared to deliver lessons regardless of whether the student is in the classroom or learning from home.”

He said the Government would continue to act on the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) “in keeping our education sites open to those families who need it”, adding that “options for vacation care during the pupil free days and school holidays” were currently being developed, with details to be communicated directly to parents.

Gardner expected Catholic and Independent schools to implement similar arrangements to government schools.

Independent Schools Association SA chief Carolyn Grantskalns said private schools were not compelled to close early but suggested many would.

“Each school will look at its circumstances – some are already very well placed in terms of their preparation for home learning and others will welcome the four days now available for them to prepare better for the move for more education at home,” she said.

“It’s not moving holidays forward so much as providing an opportunity for staff to develop the resources that will best serve for altered learning next term.”

It comes as Adelaide University notified students and staff late yesterday that a student has tested positive to COVID-19.

In an email sent after 5pm, the uni said: “As this student has not been on campus or in contact with staff and students since they contracted the virus, we do not need to take further action… however, we will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed.”

Adelaide was the last of SA’s three major universities to move all of its tutorials and lectures online in response to the coronavirus crisis, following the lead of Flinders and UniSA.

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