Including professional learning and staff rooms
What requirements are there to ensure staff rooms and other communal spaces are safe? Under what circumstances may staff activities and events proceed?
There are no restrictions to prevent the use of staff rooms and communal spaces in schools.
As far as staff spaces in schools are concerned, the PHO currently only prescribes density limits (2msq rule) for hospitality venues and nightclubs, so no density limits apply to schools.
In independent schools, operational decisions should comply with the Public Health Order, consider relevant Health advice and be based on a school’s own risk assessment processes.
There are currently minimal restrictions on school activities, including staff activities, with the emphasis on each school to plan for business as usual in a COVID-safe way by implementing school-based risk assessment processes and risk mitigation.
Schools should continue to have a COVID-Safe Plan in place outlining protocols and risk mitigation strategies for specific activities and the operation of the school.
In other words, schools have the autonomy to make their own operational decisions about staff activities balancing risk and safety measures to support the wellbeing of staff and students.
Are schools permitted to pull staff together for PL days? What steps are needed to allow this?
So whilst there are no restrictions on staff activities, schools should carefully consider the pros and cons of gathering all staff together, for example at the start of term for whole school briefings or professional learning activities.
In the same way that strategies to minimise contact between students is encouraged to minimise the risk of transmission, schools would be wise to consider similar strategies for minimising staff interactions, particularly in the context of the highly transmissible Omicron variant that is the prevalent strain at the moment.
This is particularly encouraged for the next 4 to 5 weeks of the new school year which is expected to coincide with the peak case numbers in NSW.
What might this mean in practical terms given that Omicron is so transmissible?
Schools might want to think about alternative ways of running start of year activities in the coming weeks such as:
- moving some activities online or running repeat sessions in smaller groups
- considering the use of different spaces to the ones you would normally use – to give access to increased ventilation for example or using a larger space than you would usually to allow distancing of individual or groups of staff
- perhaps having members of the same faculty split across different groups rather than being all together in case a whole faculty then becomes impacted by a positive case which might be more challenging to manage.
So the key message for staff activities is:
Whilst there are no restrictions other than mask-wearing, schools would be wise to think carefully about how to mitigate the risk of transmission at any staff gathering or activity, particularly within the next 4 to 5 weeks during the anticipated peak period of Omicron cases in the community.