THE Independent Education Union has urged the state government to move quickly and consider moving Hunter schools to remote learning to stop the spread of the Delta variant across the region.
IEU Hunter representative Therese Fitzgibbon said there were already "strong concerns" among teachers about COVID-19 and she was expecting these to grow today.
She said there were Catholic and independent schools located close to Morisset High and Lake Munmorah, which have been closed for cleaning after three students tested positive.
Maitland Christian School parents were also told the school had closed immediately after it was informed by NSW Health that two students had tested positive.
"The big issue we're seeing consistently is this variant is spreading in kids and schools seem to be a high transmission venue, so I'm expecting it will start today that teachers will start to express serious concerns about their health and safety," Ms Fitzgibbon said.
"Once we start to see schools in the Hunter and Lake Macquarie affected I think the view is going to be 'Get it fast'. I think if we need to return to online learning for a brief period of time to get it fast I think that would be the preference of teachers rather than waiting until it spreads.
"Schools are so interconnected with siblings, kids who play on sporting teams.
"Kids are mobile and given we're seeing this variant is spreading very easily amongst kids the view of teachers will be to return to online learning as a priority and make it a short period rather than wait until it spreads to dozens of schools and suddenly we're out of classrooms until the end of the year."
IN THE NEWS:
- LIVE BLOG: Updates on the Hunter COVID crisis
- Week-long lockdown for Newcastle, entire Hunter from 5pm Thursday
- How to book your vaccination at the Belmont hub
- University of Newcastle confirms exposure at Auchmuty library
- Maitland, Morisset and Lake Munmorah student cases close schools
- 'Replaced in full': PM says Pfizer doses coming back to Newcastle
Ms Fitzgibbon said teachers had wanted to be given priority access to vaccination and had not wanted vaccines redirected to Sydney.
"The HSC can be moderated - NESA has made it clear that they can deal with the HSC, yet they [the government] seem to be ignoring all of the advice from NESA and being intent on putting kids' and teachers' lives at risk. It's insane.
"The madness that is going on in Sydney right now is just completely and totally unnecessary.
"There are other ways to deal with it and NESA has made that clear, yet they seem to be intent on putting unvaccinated teachers back into an environment that has been clearly identified as being high risk of spread.
She said the IEU was calling on the Premier Gladys Berejiklian to "get over any idea" of sending year 12 students in Sydney back to campuses and to work more closely with NESA to give information to year 12 students about how their university entrance can be moderated.
NSW Teachers Federation regional organiser Jack Galvin Waight said the new cases in schools were "alarming" and confirmed what the federation had been saying since August.
"We are reminded daily that workplaces and human interaction are the main contributors to increased transmissions in the community," he said.
"Schools are workplaces and, as teachers, our business is human interaction.
"The safety of our school communities must be a priority and teachers need to be prioritised for vaccination.
"The state governments decision to cancel vaccines was dangerous, looks even worse now, and was a further kick in the teeth for teachers and school communities in the Hunter.
"Teachers feel that their health and safety is being put at risk because of politically motivated decisions.
"The Premier's premature decision in regards to year 12 students in Greater Sydney not only defies logic but also defies the health advice.
"The Teachers Federation is demanding the state government reconsider this premature decision.
"Now, is a critical time for Hunter teachers to be given priority access as they are teaching face to face, that makes their exposure to the community heightened.
"As teachers, we are determined to have our students face-to-face learning, but this can only occur if it is safe to do so and with proper consultation with the profession.
"Teachers in the Hunter are deeply concerned over the latest outbreaks and are furious with the state Government. However, it should also be noted that in regards to vaccine supply all roads lead to Scott Morrison and his failed vaccine roll out. No more vaccine delays.
"Our students, teachers and community in the Hunter deserve better.
"The Teachers Federation will continue to raise the work health and safety of teachers and students with the government and department. Decisions must be made on the health advice."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: