A NEWCASTLE Grammar School teacher has self-isolated after their friend was found to have COVID-19.
Head of School Erica Thomas wrote to parents on Sunday to tell them the year six teacher had come into contact with a confirmed case. The school is following NSW Health advice.
Ms Thomas told the Newcastle Herald the teacher was in Sydney last week with friends, including one who was confirmed on Saturday to have COVID-19.
"The teacher had contact with students and staff last week and had no idea he had come into contact with the virus the weekend before," Ms Thomas said.
"The teacher continues to exhibit no symptoms.
"We have cleaned all areas the teacher was in thoroughly, communicated directly with parents of the students he was most in contact with, phoned any parent where we knew the child or parent might because of other health complications be concerned, and informed staff."
Schools across the Hunter - including Newcastle Grammar - started rolling out social distancing measures on Monday, such as staggering break times and cancelling a range of events, from assemblies to sports carnivals, excursions, parent teacher interviews, Harmony Day and Easter hat parades.
"The school in the modern era has never dealt with a health crisis of this magnitude"," Ms Thomas said.
"As a community we need to protect those that are most at risk - while younger people seem to be less impacted if they contract the virus - we don't want to be responsible for passing it on to their grandparents."
Ms Thomas said the school wanted to stay open as long as possible without putting students at risk, however it has been testing online lesson delivery.
Hunter schools continue to emphasise the importance of good hygiene and staying away if unwell.
Newcastle High has installed its new liquid soap dispensers.
NSW Department of Education secretary Mark Scott said on Sunday the social distancing measures were precautionary and designed to reduce exposure via non-essential gatherings.
"Schools have been a focus of the community and the government as the impacts of coronavirus have developed globally," Mr Scott said.
"From Monday onwards, I expect school assemblies and substantial gatherings to be cancelled, along with all excursions.
"The community expects schools to be as safe as possible.
"We are implementing these measures to provide peace of mind for students, parents and staff."
"These cancellations also extend to inter-school arts, sports, initiative activities and events."
All major arts, sports and initiative activities and events will temporarily cease including whole school sporting events and inter-school events involving three or more schools.
"Local inter-school sport and other activities, can proceed but we ask organisers to ensure that as far as possible, reasonable precautions are taken," Mr Scott said.
"I trust our principals and staff to show leadership during this time."
The Department said it was continuing to prepare for further closures if necessary with scaling up of technology, additional training of staff and preparation of offsite lessons.
Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Dr Geoff Newcombe AM, said no independent schools were closing but some -less than 10- were starting to change their mode of operation.
"This will involve remote teaching of students at home," he said.
"Some schools with the capacity and bandwidth to do so will teach students online. Others will set tasks and assignments using email.
"Independent schools in NSW have been planning ahead and reviewing their preparedness to adjust since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
"AISNSW is supporting schools to enable them to continue their operations.
"AISNSW continues to strongly advise independent schools to follow NSW Department of Health advice, while recognising that schools each have different contexts - boarding schools, in particular, who would be required to close their boarding houses if a COVID-19 case is confirmed.
"Also, independent schools have received the same advice as government schools in regard to cancelling assemblies, excursions etc until further notice."
A Diocese of Maitland Newcastle spokesperson said the diocese continued to monitor and heed advice from NSW Health, Department of Education and Catholic Schools NSW.
The diocese is providing advice to all its schools to follow.
"There is no Government-mandated closure of schools at this time," the spokesperson said.
"The Commonwealth and NSW Governments will be revisiting the advice to keep schools open and operational on Friday 20 March.
"We are addressing learning continuity to ensure our schools can operate as effectively as possible in the event of closure.
"We continue to consider how to adjust current work practices with minimal disruption to the delivery of services."
The spokesperson said diocese schools were cancelling or postponing large gatherings, increasing the regularity and enhancing cleaning of high touchpoints, reinforcing good hygiene , increasing ventilation to the classroom or, where possible, using the outdoor environment for teaching and putting travel on hold.
The spokesperson said excursions outside of the local community have been suspended until further notice, including overnight excursions and school camps.
University of Newcastle Vice Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky told students and staff on Monday that UON would reschedule upcoming exams and postpone its April and July graduation ceremonies, with eligible students deemed to have graduated in absentia and invited to a ceremony in the second half of the year.
It will record lectures for large groups and move large lectures to bigger spaces to allow people to sit 1.5 metres apart. It will also keep face to face lectures to under 100 minutes.
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