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Physical distancing, health and hygiene

A guide for parents on physical distancing, health and hygiene in schools.

Wearing face masks in schools

For information about face masks visit:

Students with medical needs

Complex medical needs

The Victorian Chief Health Officer has advised that, given the current low risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission in the community, you and your child with medical vulnerabilities can feel reassured that they can safely return to learning on school sites.

Any child with a chronic medical condition should seek advice from their medical practitioner about attending school on site at different stages in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If your child cannot attend school for medical reasons

Schools will continue to support children who cannot attend for medical reasons with learning materials and guidance.

Supporting children with disabilities with personal care needs

Physical distancing is not always possible when providing direct care to a child or young person.

There are ways to reduce risk, such as:

  • wearing a face mask
  • staff washing their hands with soap and water
  • using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after performing routine care and when interacting with children in the classroom
  • environmental cleaning where relevant.

Schools will make hand sanitiser available at school entrances and in classrooms where personal care needs are provided.

Staff will not need to use extra personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a gown. This is not required to give routine care for children who are well, unless such precautions are usually adopted in the routine care of an individual child. 

Physical distancing in schools

Safety of children mixing with each other

Evidence shows that transmission in the school environment is mainly from adult to adult and children are less likely to spread the virus. This is why the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) does not believe it is necessary for physical distancing between children, or limiting the number of children in one space, such as a classroom. Physical distancing between adults is recommended.

Schools will put plans in place to reduce close contact between adult members of the school community.

Reducing mixing between different groups of children is recommended as way to help contain, and reduce the spread of transmission in the rare event of a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) on-site.

Schools can put plans in place around physical distancing for children, such as spacing out queues of children coming into classrooms or having different play times to avoid mixing between different year levels and classes.

Safety of staff and parents mixing with each other

Staff at your child’s school are required to practise physical distancing 1.5m between themselves and other staff members or adults where possible. Staff will also where possible physically distance themselves from children.

You and other visitors are also required to physically distance from staff and each other.

Density limits of one person per two square metres apply to staff areas such as staff lunchrooms and areas accessed by the public, such as reception areas.

Your child's school must display, signage to state the maximum number of members of the public that may be present in the space at a single time. Where physical distancing is not possible, face masks are recommended.

Health and hygiene

Illness

No child should attend school if they are unwell.

Anyone who is unwell should not attend school. This includes you or your child.

If your child goes to school while unwell, they will be sent home.

Checking temperatures

Based on the advice of the Acting Deputy Chief Health Officer, your child's school will not need to check temperatures. This may change if community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) grows.

Medical certificates when returning to school

If your child has any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), even mild symptoms, they should get tested and they must remain at home until they get their results.

Once symptoms have cleared, there's no requirement from the Department of Education and Training or the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for your child to have a medical certificate before they go back to school.

Hygiene practices introduced at schools

School staff and children will be encouraged to wash their hands throughout the day. If soap and water is not available, alcohol-based hand sanitiser will be used.

Hygiene practices suitable for different age groups will be encouraged. For younger children this includes:

  • teaching them how to wash hands properly and other hygiene habits
  • supervision of handwashing where possible to make sure children are doing it properly
  • making sure children wash their hands when they enter the school, regularly throughout the day and before and after eating

Children will be asked to:

  • cough into their elbows or a tissue
  • put used tissues straight into the bin
  • avoid touching their eyes, noses or mouths
  • not to share food or drink
  • make sure they practice strict hygiene when preparing their food

Cleaning supplies and hand sanitiser

Your child's school is responsible for supplying personal hygiene products, including hand sanitiser. The school should monitor cleaning and hygiene supplies and reorder them in advance of their supplies running low. The Department of Education and Training can provide extra support to schools if they have issues with supply.

School cleaning and use of facilities

Cleaning in schools

To ensure the health and safety of children and school staff, COVIDSafe routine cleaning will be in place for Term 1, 2021, in line with COVIDSafe restrictions.

The COVIDSafe routine cleaning guidelines for schools have been endorsed by DHHS and outline the requirements for cleaning during periods of no, or low, risk periods of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

COVIDSafe routine cleaning involves cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces at the end of each school day and more regular cleaning of some other areas as required. If school facilities are used after hours then these must be cleaned before the next school day, including bathrooms.

Cleaning requirements are subject to public health advice and are reviewed in line with changes to coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission in Victoria.

Water fountains

Drinking fountains and taps can be used as normal.

Use of playground equipment and cleaning

Children can use playground equipment. However, they should practice hand hygiene before and after use.

Community groups can use playgrounds on school grounds, if they're cleaned daily. Play equipment should be cleaned before recess or the start of each school day.

Schools may also allow use of outdoor facilities on school property such as ovals, if the use aligns with DHHS and the Department of Education and Trainings advice for the relevant activity. Schools may also allow use of indoor facilities on school property by community groups in line with permitted activities in the community. Use must be out of school hours and any indoor facilities, including toilets, must be cleaned before the next school day. 

Changes to routine care or emergency first-aid

Staff will follow the schools standard precautions including hand hygiene when providing routine care or first-aid assistance to children. This includes when they need to come into physical contact with a child (for example: the use of gloves for nappy changing, assisting with toileting or feeding, attending to a cut or disposing of a child's tissue).

Reviewed 19 January 2021

Coronavirus Victoria

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