Parents face dilemma over sending children to school during Perth lockdown

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Perth parents say they are having sleepless nights over whether to send their children to school during the four-day lockdown. 

Schools in WA are open today, except for three on the list of public COVID-19 exposure sites.

However, Premier Mark McGowan said parents can elect to keep their children at home if they wish.

Ellenbrook mother Claire Henderson said it had been a very difficult decision and she was suffering from “a lot of mum guilt” after taking her six-year-old daughter Elannah to primary school this morning.

But she felt it was the right option.

“In the last few weeks, she has been having some bad dreams about the virus.

Claire Henderson says it was a difficult decision to send her daughter, Elannah, to school today.(

Supplied: Claire Henderson

)

“She really wanted to go to school.

“I thought there is less chance of her worrying about it if she’s in her normal routine.

“And I trust Mark McGowan and what he has done so far.”

Parents question why schools are open

Many other parents have kept their children at home, believing it is safer until the extent of the spread of the virus is better understood.

Some have questioned why the lockdown was not extended to schools, given the school holidays start on the weekend.

Bronwyn Ife from Victoria Park has two children, aged 14 and 11, and opted to keep them at home today.

“The kids wanted to go to school but I was mostly concerned for the teachers who probably didn’t want rooms full of children when they themselves were probably quite worried,” she said.

“There are children who have to go to school because their parents can’t find care for them elsewhere.

“That is fine, but if teachers are dealing with 10 kids rather than 30 kids, that must surely be less of a stress for them when there is anxiety about their own health at the same time.”

Protective measures in place

Education Minister Sue Ellery said the decision to keep schools open was based on health advice and balanced against the social and economic benefits of keeping children in school.

She said protective measures such as cleaning, masks and no external visitors were put in place to keep students and staff safe.

“Where we have a close contact, we will not hesitate to close schools, that’s what we’ve done,” Ms Ellery said.

A serious looking woman standing at a lectern with an Australian flag in the background.
Education Minister Sue Ellery says the decision to keep schools open was based on health advice.(

ABC News: Marcus Alborn

)

She said every day at school counted, but ultimately the decision of whether or not to send their kids to school was up to parents.

“But education does matter and for many, many, many parents, attending work is critical for their economic survival,” she said.

Students from outside Perth who board in the city would be able to return home, Ms Ellery said, but would need to follow the same lockdown restrictions in place in Perth.

AMA, union raise concerns

The Australian Medical Association’s WA branch has called for schools to be open only for families of essential workers due to the virulence of the Delta strain.

The State School Teachers Union is also worried, saying on its website that research has shown that the new strains of COVID are prevalent among children.

President Pat Byrne said teachers were stressed and confused by the latest Perth and Peel lockdown.

Empty school play equipment.
Teachers are questioning whether schools should remain open in Perth and Peel amidst the lockdown.(

ABC News: Evelyn Manfield

)

“Teachers want to be assured they will be safe and will not be taking a highly-contagious variant back to their families,” Ms Byrne said.

The union has reiterated its call for teachers to be given priority access to vaccines.

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