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COVID-19 operating guidelines for Queensland state schools

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These guidelines have been updated to align with Queensland’s Roadmap to easing restrictions effective 17 November 2020.

COVID-19 response

The department continues to work closely with Queensland Health and the Chief Health Officer (CHO) to ensure that all required safety measures are implemented within the school environment to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. The hard work undertaken by all Queenslanders has enabled the department to relax the risk mitigation measures in place.

These guidelines will continue to be regularly reviewed and updated to align with any COVID-19 risk mitigation measures required by Queensland Health or the CHO.


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Student safety

Schools have resumed normal attendance mode. If a school identifies students who have not returned to on-site learning, they must follow-up with parents or carers to facilitate a return to normal attendance. If a school holds concerns of risk of harm to the student, these should be addressed in line with the department's Student protection procedures.

Any adults who work with students, whether face-to-face or in an online environment and whether departmental employees or external parties (such as TAFE), must comply with the requirements set out in the department's Working with children authority procedure (PDF, 1MB).

Non-departmental employees and visitors are required to complete student protection training as deemed appropriate by the principal. At a minimum, this may include provision of the Student protection fact sheet (DOCX, 171KB). Further information about student protection training requirements is available in the department's Student protection guidelines.

Staff

In light of health advice and the easing of restrictions, school staff should attend their normal workplace unless there are specific medical or other vulnerability factors that apply. Staff who are medically vulnerable should seek their own medical advice and provide this to their principal so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

Principals and leadership teams should support and manage arrangements for vulnerable employees, with any arrangements reviewed monthly. The Vulnerable worker assessment form (DOCX, 364KB) should be completed for any vulnerable employees who wish to voluntarily return to work.

Staff working from home are required to develop a work plan (DOCX, 49KB) with their supervisor that outlines their responsibilities and duties. Staff hours of work will be consistent with the attendance arrangements already in place at each school and determined in accordance with the school's local arrangements and industrial agreements.

Schools will need to make alternative arrangements and/or engage additional staff using school funds to support teaching and learning across the school including the classes of vulnerable workers who are not able to attend work.

Attendance and roll marking

All state schools have now returned to on-site teaching and learning. Normal school attendance arrangements apply. Normal roll marking arrangements are required.

Where medical advice supports the need for a student to remain at home or be absent from the learning program, schools should continue to use Code F.

Same day student absence notification requirements remains in effect. Schools should notify parents or carers of an unexplained absence of their child as soon as practicable on the day of the student's absence, allowing time for parents to respond prior to the end of that school day.

If a parent or carer chooses to keep their child at home or out of the learning program without a reasonable excuse, schools should implement the usual student absence procedures.

Boarding school students

State school-operated residential boarding facilities are open for all students, having satisfied risk assessment requirements.

Boarding students who reside in designated Indigenous communities and have not yet returned to their boarding facility will continue to have their learning program provided by the school at which they are usually enrolled. These students may continue to access their local school where there is a documented agreement signed by both principals.

Further information regarding the operation of state school-operated boarding facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic is available in the Guidelines for state school-operated boarding facilities (PDF, 464KB).

Information regarding the operation of non-state boarding schools should be obtained from the individual boarding school.

Contractors and external workers

Schools will need to ensure any contractor, supplier or external support worker entering the school to undertake work or provide supplies complies with the on-site health and safety measures outlined in these guidelines. This includes not attending the site if unwell, maintaining physical distancing requirements and practising good health and hygiene.

Curriculum and supervision

Circumstances in which students should be supported to learn at home

School attendance is the default model and schools are not required to provide home-based learning options unless there are specific circumstances justifying the student’s absence.

Students unable to return to school or participate in the learning program due to medical reasons should be supported by their school, just as they would in the case of any extended student medical absence. The appropriate approach can be determined by the school, taking into account the expected duration of absence, the student's learning needs, available tools and resources, and the school's established approach to supporting continuity of learning.

The learning@home website will remain live.

Academic reporting requirements

Due to the unprecedented circumstances in Semester 1, schools made adjustments to their curriculum and assessment programs and their modes of delivery. As a result schools were able to adjust their academic reporting. Since then schools may have had to make modifications to their Semester 2 curriculum and assessment programs to ensure that students are progressing in their learning.

For academic reporting in Semester 2, schools will make reporting decisions based on what has been taught and assessed. The requirements for schools are set out in Reporting to parents (PDF, 1.1MB)(RTF, 8.5MB)—also found on the department’s P-12 curriculum assessment and reporting framework webpage.

Schools may wish to continue to use alternative methods, such as teleconferencing or online platforms for parent-teacher interviews or other communication with parents.

Planning for teaching and learning

As is standard practice, teachers should consider the specific learning needs of students and plan for differentiated teaching and learning aligned to the Australian Curriculum.

Guidelines to support schools are: the P-12 Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Framework (PDF, 1.4MB)(RTF, 23MB), and supporting documents including Assessment and moderation in Prep to Year 10 and A whole-school approach to differentiated teaching and learning.

Advice from the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA)

The QCAA has published Principles and advice for P-10 during COVID-19 disruptions (PDF, 182KB), addressing common curriculum questions, teaching and learning, assessment and reporting.

The QCAA continues to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 on senior secondary schooling and share information as it becomes available.

Emergency management

The Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 requirements for fire and evacuation drills to be undertaken remains in place. Schools should consider a reasonable approach to drills, ensuring controls are in place to maintain safety.

As part of each school's Emergency Response Plan (ERP), alternative assembly points should be considered and physical distancing requirements for adults should be observed in evacuation drill planning. All emergency drills should be entered into MyHR WHS.

Excursions and camps

Excursions and camps are permitted to be held at locations or businesses that have approved COVID Safe Industry Plans and Department of Education Outdoor and Environmental Education Centres (O&EEC). O&EECs with residential facilities are required to follow the Queensland Government's approved COVID Safe Industry Plan for outdoor education providers.

If excursions and camps are to be held at a business or organisation not covered by an approved COVID Safe Industry Plan, the principal must ensure all measures have been taken to meet departmental and CHO requirements. An excursion/camp risk assessment taking into account approved COVID-19 control measures must be undertaken prior to approval.

Music camps for students are also required to adhere to the guidelines for Instrumental music program, ensembles and choirs and Instrumental Music Program guidelines for managing hazards associated with COVID-19 (PDF, 403KB).

Consent process

Businesses and venues (e.g. museums, restaurants, theatres, wildlife parks) are now required by Queensland Health to keep a register of contact details for all attendees on their premises to assist with contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

To facilitate this for upcoming excursions and camps, it is recommended that schools insert the following clause to the Consent section in their activity consent form (DOC, 344KB):

  • I give consent for my child's name to be given to businesses visited during this activity in compliance with the Queensland Chief Health Officer's Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction (No. 4) (or its successor)

If a student's parent/carer does not provide consent via the activity consent form, or by other means that will allow the school and venue to comply with COVID Safe Industry Plans, the student will be unable to participate.

Please note that the template for this form is part of the School excursions and international school study tours (PDF, 932KB) procedure.

When schools are at a business/venue that requires the collection of this information, it is recommended that the following information is provided for each of the students:

  • student's full name and school's name
  • school's email address
  • school's contact phone number
  • date of entry
  • time period (time in and time out).

In the event that contract tracing is necessary, public health officials will be able to seek further details from the school for each of the students in attendance.

Schools are reminded that keeping their own records for excursions and camps, such as consent forms, excursion planners, lists of students in attendance, is important at all times.

The Queensland Government provides clear guidelines on the collection, storage, use and destruction of the information that businesses/venues are required to collect and these can be found at Privacy: Collecting and storing personal information during COVID-19.

Health support procedures

All state schools including special schools must continue to implement student health plans.

Teacher aides and school staff will continue to support student health needs including performing student health support procedures (PDF, 915KB).

Advice from the Chief Health Officer indicates staff should undertake a visual assessment of the student to ensure there are no visible signs of being unwell prior to any procedure being undertaken:

  • if the student appears unwell, do not continue with the procedure, follow existing guidance for unwell students/COVID-19 suspected cases, and advise parents as soon as possible
  • where a student appears well, carry out the procedure with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as per the table below.

Where a student has excess saliva, a risk assessment should occur in each case (as it should each time there is a procedure) to ensure that the risk of body fluid exposure is minimised and correct PPE is used (for example the addition of a gown if it is required). A State schools registered nurse (DOCX, 139KB) can support this risk assessment process.

It is always important to ensure that hand hygiene is carried out at the correct points of the procedure as per the 5 moments of hand hygiene (PDF, 1.1MB).

Queensland Health advice has been used to inform the PPE requirements outlined in the table below.

Specialised health procedure PPE
Blood glucose measurement Gloves
Insulin pen injection or needle and syringe Gloves
Enteral feeding Gloves
Nasogastric feeding Gloves
Colostomy/ileostomy care Gloves. Plastic apron if risk of splashes (staff may choose)
Clean intermittent catheterisation Gloves. Plastic apron if risk of splashes (staff may choose)
Continuous oxygen administration
Gloves
Administration of buccal midazolam Gloves
Cleaning of soiling Gloves and plastic aprons
Use of asthma reliever medication with spacer Nil unless coughing then gloves, mask goggles/face shield*
Oral and nasal suctioning Gloves, long sleeved fluid resistant gown mask, goggles/face shield
Tracheostomy care Gloves, long sleeved fluid resistant gown mask, goggles/face shield

*During COVID-19, this additional PPE should be considered for asthma if the student is coughing.

Schools can purchase PPE from suppliers. A list of suppliers who can provide PPE is available on the OnePortal COVID-19 procurement page.

Information about how to put on and take off PPE is available on the OnePortal COVID-19 Therapy and nursing page.

All clinical waste relating to COVID-19 must be disposed of in clinical waste bins provided as per the Queensland Government's Clinical and related waste guideline (PDF, 484KB).

For information regarding Clinical Waste Bins please contact Infrastructure Services Branch, Facilities Procurement: procurement.facilities@qed.qld.gov.au.

Instrumental music programs, ensembles and choirs

Instrumental music programs, ensembles and choirs are able to rehearse and perform in the school environment provided the following safety protocols are in place:

  • at least 1.5 metres between singers/players/audience members in all directions and no more than 1 person per 2m2 (excludes choirs)
  • choirs or bands that usually use a stage may need to move down to the hall floor to maintain physical distancing. Podiums/platforms with risers should not be used
  • where possible, choir practice and performances should be held outdoors. If it is not possible to hold these outdoors, open windows and doors or ensure air conditioning is on
  • ensure students wash hands before and after the lesson, rehearsal or performance
  • ensure instruments are not shared
  • students should not face each other when singing or playing wind instruments
  • students playing wind instruments should have their own spit rag, which is placed under the instrument while it is being played. The spit rag should not be handled by anyone else and should be kept by the student in a zip-lock bag or container
  • a record of all persons—including performing students, staff and audience members—should be kept.

Inter-school rehearsals or performances can be undertaken at a school site, ensuring the risk mitigation measures outlined within the Instrumental Music Program guidelines for managing hazards associated with COVID-19 (PDF, 403KB) are complied with.

External venue performances and rehearsals (including inter-school performances and rehearsals) can be undertaken if the external venue is operating under the Live Performance Venues/Theatres approved COVID Safe Industry Plan (PDF, 1.3MB). If the external venue is not operating under the approved COVID Safe Industry Plan they must either comply with the approved COVID safe event checklist (PDF, 323KB), or have in place a COVID Safe Event Plan in accordance with the Industry framework for COVID safe events in Queensland (PDF, 1.4MB) that has been approved by the Queensland Chief Health Officer.

The Instrumental Music Program guidelines for managing hazards associated with COVID-19 (PDF, 403KB) provides guidance regarding risk management strategies and hygiene requirements that must be in place.

International travel

As directed by the Director-General on 15 March 2020 there is a current travel ban on all DoE international travel until further notice.

The directive accords with decisions taken in other Australian education systems and is a further protective action to contain the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimise the risk to Queensland students and staff.

Any change to this directive will be messaged through the appropriate DoE channels.

Meetings within the school

Meetings, including staff meetings and P&C meetings, can occur within school grounds, including indoor and outdoor areas, ensuring physical distancing requirements are maintained and other COVID-19 control measures are implemented.

On-site health and safety measures

Under the Queensland Chief Health Officer Directive, any student who is unwell must not attend school and students should remain at home until well. The school must ask parents/carers to collect their child from school if they are unwell.

In accordance with Stage 5 of Queensland's roadmap to easing restrictions, schools are required to maintain appropriate health and hygiene measures:

  • regular handwashing and hand sanitising, particularly before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
  • increased cleaning of school classrooms, particularly high frequency touch points including water fountains or bubblers
  • regular cleaning of playground equipment and play materials
  • physical distancing of adults.

Physical distancing within schools

Schools will ensure staff, parents and other adult visitors maintain 1.5 metres physical distance in line with Stage 5 restrictions. Local measures can be put in place to limit gathering of adults before or after school, in the car park, at drop-off and pick-up time, outside classrooms or at the school gate.

Staff should also maintain physical distancing, practise good hygiene and stay home when sick.

Confirmed case management

The Public Health Unit will directly contact a school to confirm the presence of a confirmed COVID-19 case and will advise of any additional measures such as self-quarantine/contact tracing. Schools should continue to report confirmed COVID-19 cases through existing reporting channels. As per usual department protocols and in accordance with health authority advice, schools may be closed for a short time if there is a confirmed case. This time will be used to support contact tracing and specialist cleaning as required.

Hygiene supplies

Schools should actively monitor cleaning and hygiene supplies and reorder in advance of needing additional materials. If schools are having difficulty obtaining cleaning chemicals, hygiene products (such as soap and sanitiser) or Personal Protective Equipment (required to perform specialised health procedures), please contact Procurement Services on 1300 366 612 or by emailing Procurement.OCPO@qed.qld.gov.au.

Cleaning—facilities

School cleaning should continue to prioritise frequently used areas with extra attention on high frequency touch point surfaces such as door handles, light switches, desks, toilets, taps and sinks. This should also include sick rooms and student service areas.

Additional cleaning funding has been provided to schools and will continue until further notice. The principal will work with their Infrastructure Services Branch representative to appropriately allocate resources to meet COVID-19 requirements.

Use of shared equipment or loaned resources

Shared equipment such as Industrial Technology and Design (ITD) resources, musical instruments and sports equipment used within the school, or equipment loaned to students to take home, will require appropriate cleaning and hygiene management including:

  • washing hands or using hand sanitiser prior to cleaning or using equipment
  • cleaning equipment prior to and after use
  • cleaning equipment prior to it leaving the school grounds and upon return.

Further information regarding cleaning and disinfecting of this equipment is available in the COVID-19 cleaning of equipment for practical subjects (PDF, 272KB).

The loan of equipment other than books must be considered and assessed by each school on a case-by-case basis. It is recommended that these items are loaned on a long-term basis.

Outside school hours care

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) and vacation care services on school sites will continue to be delivered.

Playgroups and ECDPs

Programs such as playgroups, early childhood development programs (ECDPs) and KindyLinQ that involve parents on school sites need to follow Queensland's Roadmap to easing restrictions. Physical distancing requirements for adults remain in place.

Local school decisions around these programs are best made by the principal on a case-by-case basis to ensure any updates to health and hygiene measures, including physical distancing requirements, are met.

Please continue to encourage families to visit the Playgroup Queensland website and earlylearning@home for ideas, activities and resources they can use with their children at home.

School assemblies

School assemblies may occur with the principal ensuring that physical distancing requirements are maintained for all adults, maximum room density requirements are not exceeded and other COVID-19 control measures are implemented.

School functions

School functions such as formals and graduations are permitted to be held at businesses that have approved COVID Safe Industry Plans.

If functions are to be held at a business or organisation not covered by an approved COVID Safe Industry Plan, including in a school venue, the principal must ensure that a COVID safe event checklist (PDF, 323KB) has been completed. This includes the requirement for all participants’ details to be captured for contact tracing purposes.

In considering maximum numbers for school functions, the occupant density restrictions of one person per 2m2 must be adhered to. Physical distancing of 1.5 metres must be maintained between adults at all times.

Dancing is permitted at formals and end of year events.

Indoors: Dancing is permitted amongst all students (Prep to Year 12) at end of year events and formals hosted indoors at a school premises or at a restricted business, on the basis that not more than one person per 2m2 is in the dance area.

Outdoors: Dancing is permitted amongst all students (Prep to Year 12) and guests, in an outdoor space, on the basis that not more than one person per 2m2 is in the dance area.

Further information can be found in the Queensland Health Fact Sheet: COVID Safe School Events (PDF, 532KB).

School sports

Schools are able to participate in intra-school, inter-school and representative competitions for both indoor and outdoor sports, including contact sports.

Queensland School Sport's Sports during COVID-19 page provides resources, including FAQs and a calendar of state championship events, to support schools planning for return to school sport.

School transport

Transport arrangements will continue to operate for students including specialist school transport for students with disability.

Physical distancing requirements are exempt for public transport (including buses) and travel for school related activities such as inter-school sport, excursions and camps. Physical distancing guidelines should be followed at bus interchange locations pick-ups and drop-off and on other shared transport services.

Transport operators will ensure buses and surface touch points are cleaned according to COVID-19 cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

Due to the customised nature of delivery, specialist school transport (minibus, taxi or supported bus travel) requires:

  • parents/carers to directly inform operators if students are not travelling
  • school leadership teams to have electronic and hard copies of student travel arrangements for quick access
  • school-provided, individual escort arrangements to continue being supported.

Use of facilities and school amenities

Principals may negotiate the use of their facilities for external users if the external user has met the requirements of Queensland Health approved COVID Safe Industry Plans. As the facility owner, the principal should be involved in the assessment process and be provided with a signed Statement of Compliance.

If external organisations, businesses or community groups not covered by an approved COVID Safe Industry Plan want to access school facilities, the principal must ensure all measures have been taken to meet departmental and CHO requirements. A risk assessment taking into account approved COVID-19 control measures must be undertaken prior to approval.

Rental and hire fees

In April, the Premier announced that rent relief (PDF, 138KB) was to be provided to businesses that rent premises from the Queensland Government until 31 December 2020; however, businesses or groups that lease or hire facilities should now pay their full rent for the premises if they have not been materially impacted by COVID-19.

Visitors

Schools will need to ensure any visitors, including parents, carers, adult volunteers and visiting specialists, entering the school grounds to deliver additional programs at the school, comply with the on-site health and safety measures outlined in these guidelines. This includes not attending the site if unwell, maintaining physical distancing and practising good health and hygiene.

Last updated 27 November 2020