Only a small number of parents have pulled their children out of Ballarat schools amid coronavirus concerns, and principals say those that have are taking sensible precautions to protect vulnerable family members
The Courier spoke to principals at several schools across Ballarat who said about 10 to 15 per cent of children were absent, but parents had explained that either the children themselves were at higher risk from the virus or they had family members whose health was compromised.
In some Melbourne schools yesterday, 30 to 50 per cent of students stayed home.
At some of Ballarat's larger primary schools, including Buninyong and Alfredton primary schools, recess and lunch times have been staggered to avoid having more than 500 children in the playground at any one time and allow for more space.
"People been remarkably calm and understanding and a fair portion of that 15 per cent (of absences) have told us about circumstances at home where someone is compromised," said Buninyong principal Bernie Conlan.
"We are following department guidelines asking schools not to have more than 500 children out during break times, so when the preps to grade twos are out, the threes to sixes are in and vice versa.
"The younger children particularly love the fact there are only half as many kids and they get the run of the oval."
Most schools have also implemented procedures for parents dropping off and picking up students, asking them to stay out of classrooms and school buildings and staying in the car where possible.
In Ballarat's tertiary sector, plans are underway to move as much learning as possible online if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens locally.
"We are working closely with government agencies and health authorities in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and have implemented the recommended travel, hygiene and social distancing measures," a Federation University spokesperson said..
"Like all Victorian universities, we are a public education provider and will follow the advice of government.
"The situation is rapidly changing and we are well prepared to respond, including increasing online teaching and non-face-to-face delivery."
At Australian Catholic University campuses, including Ballarat, classes will continue as normal this week but all face to face and online teaching will close on Friday and resume on Monday March 30, bringing forward the autumn mid-semester break which previously scheduled after Easter from April 13 to 17.
"During this time our academics and professional services staff will work to adapt campus-based delivery of our units to modes of online delivery, wherever feasible. So far as possible, the university will attempt to ensure both online and physical delivery of units, to facilitate student choice," ACU vice chancellor Professor Greg Craven wrote in a message to staff and students.
"For units that continue to involve a physical presence on campus, the university will distribute protocols to ensure social distancing. If units are taught online only, every effort will be made to support student learning."
But during the closure, ACU campuses including libraries, sporting facilities, study spaces and food outlets will remain open.
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