NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has revealed the back-to-school plans for students, parents and teachers.
A key plank of the plan will be the use of rapid antigen tests for students and staff, to be taken twice a week, the premier told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.
Up to six million tests are being sent to 3000 public, Catholic and independent schools across NSW ahead of the start of term.
Once the tests are delivered to schools by Wednesday, parents will be able to arrange a time to pick up the kits once they are contacted by school staff.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell on Sunday revealed schools would no longer be closed once a positive case was identified, and contact-tracing would not be completed.
“If you are testing negative that’s great, come to school, but if you happen to get a positive test you need to let your principal know that you have tested positive to Covid,” Ms Mitchell said.
“You also need to let NSW Health know through the Services NSW app but we will no longer be closing schools when there is a positive Covid case in that community and we will not be conducting contact tracing anymore.”
“We are really moving schools in line with what we see in community settings, but parents and carers and family members will be notified if there is COVID in your school community.”
Schools will be required to carry out an improved cleaning regimen, while limited visitors will be allowed on school grounds.
Face masks will be made mandatory for all teachers and high school students, but not primary school children.
Air purifiers are being installed in “problem areas” and windows in older buildings are being repaired to ensure they can be opened and allow appropriate airflow.
School staff will have to be double-vaccinated, while music, school sport and assemblies have all been given the green-light to go ahead.
Overnight camps are also allowed with “risk planning” and parental consent.
The premier said he highly recommended students in Year 3 and above wear masks and said visits would be limited to schools to ensure the Covid-safe plans could be undertaken.
“We are incredibly confident that while there will be disruption, as we move through this period of time and as we know through this wave of the latest outbreak of COVID, there will be challenges that come our way,” Mr Perrottet said.
“We need to make sure that we have kids back in the classroom in a safe way, and I think the work that has occurred right here in our state with the Department of Education, it has been a significant effort.”
Mr Perrottet said he understood some parents may be “anxious” but said kids “do better” in the classroom.
Some children have already missed a quarter of their schooling, he said.
“It is what is best for mental health and social outcomes,” Mr Perrottet said.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said while she supported face-to-face learning, there was expected to be some infections in schools.
“We are calling upon all parents to ensure that any children with symptoms are not sent to school,” Dr Chant said.
“We are likely to see some transmission in schools, but the strategies that have been put in place by Education, in conjunction with Health, are strong.”
Dr Chant is urging parents to minimise their children’s activities in the first four weeks of schooling, such as sleepovers and “other activities that might drive infection” to preserve face-to-face time at schools.
The testing regimen will be in place for the first four weeks of term before being reviewed for the future.
Teachers and children at day care centres will also be offered RAT kits for testing twice-a-week.