While schools are closing across the planet owing to COVID-19, NSW schools remain open, for now.
Yet are they fully equipped to deal with the deadly virus?
The United Workers Union, who represent cleaners contracted to NSW schools, said on March 19 that, ‘The extra funding announced by the [Coalition] Berejiklian government for school cleaning is too little and too late. It does not repair eight years of cost savings and cuts to cleaning hours by this government.
‘This continued cost cutting has put the safety of school cleaners, students, teachers and staff at risk.
‘The government and the four cleaning contractors working across our schools have been deliberately driving down wages and direct cleaning hours on school grounds. This cost-cutting has been continuing during the coronavirus outbreak, creating an inexcusable and downright dangerous situation’.
And according to the union that represents NSW teachers, the government’s advice on social distancing (1.5m between persons) cannot be implemented owing to the ‘design of many of our schools, and the size of our classrooms.’
Teachers Federation president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said on March 17 that ‘Beyond social distancing measures, teachers have raised serious concerns about a lack of resources necessary to ensure satisfactory levels of cleaning and sanitation to maintain good hygiene.
Lack of clarity
‘The lack of clarity, consistency and, at times, conflicting advice and opinions expressed by the medical community and elected leaders is creating considerable stress for teachers and principals.’
♦ The NSW Education Department were contacted in relation to the United Workers Union claims.