ST FRANCIS Xavier's College has been urged to review how it will host its Higher School Certificate trial exams, after a student at the school tested positive for COVID-19.
A Hunter New England Health spokesperson told the Newcastle Herald on Friday that 120 "potential" close contacts had been identified, but the final number had not yet been confirmed.
The male student is a household contact of the St Pius X case announced on Wednesday - who HNEH confirmed had 140 close contacts - and the case in his 20s announced on Thursday.
HNEH continues to investigate the source of infection for all three cases.
The Hamilton school of 941 year 11 and 12 students and 125 staff was closed on Friday for deep cleaning, which was expected to continue over the weekend.
Students and staff have been told to isolate until HNEH tells them by phone call or text message if they are a close contact and have to isolate for 14 days and get tested. Contact tracing was continuing on Friday night.
The school was also expected to write to those considered close contacts, and those considered not close contacts.
SFX principal Greg Ptolemy said "safety, health and wellbeing of our college community remains paramount".
"Our first thoughts are with the student with the confirmed case, and we wish them a swift recovery," he said.
"Our thoughts are also with all of our students, as they manage this disruption, whilst preparing for significant assessments in the weeks ahead."
Independent Education Union Australia NSW/ACT organiser for SFX, Carlo Rendina, said about half the cohort - equal to around 450 students - was preparing to sit their HSC trial exams in the week starting August 17.
"How are they going to manage?" he asked.
"It's a large school, it probably still has the largest cohort of HSC students in the state.
"They're going to have 450 kids all doing an English exam on the same day and how they manage that in the hall is a concern to teachers.
"The hall is big enough to normally hold 300 and schools do not need to comply with the four square metre rule and so they can put 300 kids into a hall... they always have to spread them out and put them in other rooms.
"Do they go the one extra step and... rather than just do what they've always done they need to have a chat to the staff and the staff might say 'We're prepared to do extra supervision' and it might mean breaking that 300 up to make it so there's only 250 in the hall and then we have two other classrooms."
A Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle spokesperson said there was "no change to planning for trials".
"For students who are impacted by this unfortunate event, we have processes in place to ensure that they will not be disadvantaged in any way."
Mr Rendina said all schools needed to meet with their staff - both teaching and support staff - and discuss what will happen if there is a case, plus areas to improve on or to reduce risk.
He said a member at SFX had suggested cancelling assemblies.
"It's not about 'We're telling you how it is going to happen'... it's about seeing if they have concerns and how they might address those concerns."
He said the union continued to be concerned about the "mixed message" students were given about how they were expected to behave outside school gates, compared to inside.
"Inside the school it's okay to put 30 kids into classroom and it's okay to sit eight people around a lunch table in the playground, but when they step outside of the gate they're now in community and that's inappropriate and they've got to be 1.5 metres apart.
"It's a mixed message for students and difficult for them to comply continually along those lines."
He said some members felt the wait to find out if they were close contacts was "causing stress", but said he understood HNEH was working as fast as it could.
"People worry about being told that 'You're one of the close contacts', it's a stress to all people... the not knowing one way or the other."
HNEH said other members of the students' household were being treated as close contacts and not further cases at this stage.
HNEH has not issued any public health alerts in relation to any other venues the SFX student may have visited, or activities he may have participated in, suggesting they do not pose a health risk to the public.
Mr Rendina said he was aware some SFX families kept their children home from school on Thursday after the St Pius X case.
HNEH has advised anyone who attended SFX on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to look out for symptoms and get tested if respiratory symptoms or fever occur.
The diocese spokesperson said it would follow HNEH's guidance and direction of HNEH about the resumption of face-to-face learning, but anticipated the college would reopen early next week.
"When students and staff are permitted to return to the college, we will continue to ensure our high standard of cleanliness and hygiene measures are maintained," the spokesperson said.
"Students and staff are also reminded to stay home if unwell and get tested if showing any symptoms of COVID-19."
It will formalise processes for remote learning for those required to isolate once it has full details of the close contacts.
It said HNEH had not requested it close any other school at this time, or for siblings of close contacts to not attend school.
"Many schools in the diocese have provided advice to their school communities regarding their school's COVID-19 Evacuation Management Plan," the spokesperson said.
"At this stage, such plans will only be implemented if a positive diagnosis is confirmed by a relevant health authority."
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said as of Friday it had not been advised by NSW Health of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a public school in the Hunter.
THE St Francis Xavier's College (SFX) student confirmed to be the Hunter's latest COVID case has 120 "potential" close contacts.
A Hunter New England Health spokesperson told the Newcastle Herald it was tracing close contacts of the senior high school male student and at 2pm on Friday had found 120 "potential" close contacts, although the final number is yet to be confirmed.
The Hamilton school has 941 year 11 and 12 students and 125 staff.
The spokesperson said the contact tracing process typically takes about 24 hours to complete.
The spokesperson said HNEH advised all students and staff to self isolate until they received a call or text message from HNEH to advise if they are a close contact. If so, they are required to continue to isolate for 14 days and get tested.
Anyone who attended the school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday has been advised to look out for symptoms and get tested if respiratory symptoms or fever occur.
The school is closed on Friday for deep cleaning. Cleaners arrived in HAZMAT style suits around 11am.
The student is a household contact of the St Pius X High case announced Wednesday - who HNEH confirmed had 140 close contacts - and the case in his 20s announced on Thursday.
The spokesperson said the other people in the student's household have been identified as close contacts and been advised to isolate.
HNEH has not issued any public health alerts in relation to any other venues the student may have visited, or activities they may have participated in, suggesting there is no public health risk.
The Independent Education Union has raised concerns about a "mixed message" to students, who have to adhere to social distancing outside school property, but not when inside.
Hunter New England Health is continuing to investigate the source of infection for all three cases.
A Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle spokesperson said information about the reopening of the school will be provided over the weekend.
"The safety and wellbeing of our staff and students is of paramount importance and we will continue to work closely with NSW Health to ensure all necessary health advice is adhered to."
A spokesperson for the Department of Education spokesperson said it had not been advised by NSW Health of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a public school in the Hunter region.
"NSW schools continue to be safe and are operating in line with NSW Health advice," the spokesperson said.
"We require schools to follow all advice from NSW Health and the Department of Education relating to COVID 19.
"All schools have established processes for contract tracing in place and advise the school community if there is any impact.
"Parents will be notified via a phone call and formally in writing if their child has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive to COVID-19 while at school.
"Parents will be provided with advice from NSW Health and the school where required.
"Details of those identified through the contact tracing process is a matter for NSW Health.
"Students required to remain in home isolation will be supported to receive their learning programs at home."
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