By this Wednesday, schools in all Australian states and territories will have returned for a heavily modified and distinctly abnormal term two.
How schools would operate while nation-wide coronavirus restrictions are in place has been a contentious topic for some time, with the Federal Government allowing each state or territory to make the final call on their own plans.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy have both repeatedly said the risk of infection for children in classrooms is low, and on Friday went so far as to say social distancing measures need not be followed by students at school.
Here's how each state and territory is operating in term two.
Australian Capital Territory
School will return in the ACT on Tuesday, and will initially be entirely delivered via remote learning.
The ACT Education Directorate has asked families to assist their children in learning from home where possible, but has "made nine schools available as Safe and Supervised Sites", where students can access their remote learning processes with the help and supervision of teachers and staff.
It says "at this stage, it does not know" when face-to-face learning will recommence, but ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said remote education would be in place "for the whole of term two".
"Our schools are prepared and ready, and have developed education models for online education and that will be delivered remotely, either for students who are at school, or for students who are at home," Ms Berry said.
New South Wales
Term two is technically scheduled to begin on Monday in NSW, but two pupil-free school development days on April 27 and 28 means students won't return until Wednesday.
The NSW Government's plan is to stagger a return to face-to-face classroom teaching through five phases.
The term will begin in Phase 0, which will see all students encouraged to utilise remote learning from home wherever possible, though "no student will be turned away" from supervised school learning.
Phase 1 will kick in on May 11, or the beginning of week three, and will require students to return to the classroom for one day a week. Each individual school will come up with its own plan for managing which groups of students come in on which days.
After week three, the Government will assess the situation and consider moving on the Phase 2, which will see students in the classroom for two days a week. Phase 3 has students at school five days a week with social distancing measures still in place, and the final Phase 4 would have school back running as normal.
While there is no firm time frame on when the latter phases will be activated, Premier Gladys Berejiklian says "we hope by the end of term two we'll be in a position to have students going back to school in a full-time capacity by term three".
The Northern Territory started term two last Monday, and has largely been operating as business as usual.
All students in the NT are expected to physically attend school, unless they are unwell. Parents can choose not to send their children to school, but are then "responsible for the student's learning, safety and wellbeing at home or elsewhere".
Chief Minister Michael Gunner has said all advice he has received is that schools are a safe place for children and staff to attend, but would reassess should new information be presented.
"Teachers are not babysitters, they are educators. Our schools will be open because they are safe because education is essential," he said.
"If the medical experts said to me, 'Gunner, the schools aren't safe,' I would shut them down in a second.
"If I ever get that advice in the future, I will shut them down — but that is not the expert advice."
Queensland schools also reopened last week, with remote learning currently in place for at least the first half of term two, until May 22.
The Queensland Government's policy is "all students who are able to be supervised at home and learn from home are to stay home, except for vulnerable students and children of essential workers".
To control the COVID-19 outbreak we need to keep growth factor below 1.0
growth factor is1.01
- 1.39 Mar 12th
- 0.71 Apr 24th
It defines an essential worker as anyone "who must continue to attend their workplace for essential business during this time".
Learning from home got off to a rough start last week when the Queensland Education Department crashed on Monday morning after being overloaded with "more than 1.8 million hits in less than half an hour", according to department director-general Tony Cook.
Despite term two beginning on Monday in South Australia, teachers and students weren't entirely sure how schools would be operating their state until late last week, when the formal advice came that schools would be open and students should attend.
An open letter from SA Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said the low levels of COVID-19 meant "there is no need for school closures in this state, at this time".
Remote learning is available for students who are kept at home, but Premier Steven Marshall was clear in saying "we would like to see your attendance in term two and beyond".
The school term will begin in Tasmania on Tuesday, and students have been encouraged to learn from home wherever possible.
While schools will be open through most of the state for students who for whatever reason are unable learn from home, schools in the North West region — which has recently experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 cases — will remain shut to everyone until at least May 4.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
No other dates have been set for re-evaluation or for recommencing face-to-face teaching, but the Tasmanian Department of Education says "arrangements will be regularly reviewed in light of the Public Health advice and situation at the time".
"Schools will maintain frequent communication with parents providing up-to-date information about the situation," it said.
Victorian schools have been open since April 14, and the Victorian Government has so far been firm in its stance that students must learn from home if at all possible.
Schools are open for those who are unable to utilise remote learning but, despite some pressure from the opposition, the Government intends for all of term two to be delivered remotely.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
- The coronavirus crisis has revealed what should have been plainly obvious: China and the West have been on a collision course.
- New Zealand opted for a complete lockdown to eliminate coronavirus. Australia went for a more relaxed suppression strategy. But the two countries' results have been roughly the same.
Victoria is going off the advice of its own Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton over that of Mr Murphy, and will not change its current plans until Mr Sutton gives the all clear.
"What we are doing in combating this pandemic is working," Education Minister James Merlino said.
"But the situation is fragile. I know this is hard — for parents, careers, students and educators."
When school resumes in WA on Wednesday, they will be open for any student to receive face-to-face teaching.
But the WA Government has said the choice to send children to school or not lies with families, and distance education packages and resources or online remote learning will be provided to any student who is kept home.
Year 11 and 12 students have been "strongly encouraged" to attend school for face-to-face classes.
Some Catholic, independent and Anglican schools have gone against this advice though, and are adopting remote learning for students up to Year 10 — a move which Premier Mark McGowan said should prompt parents to ask for a reduction in school fees.
Health Minister Roger Cook said WA is acting on the medical advice received "both nationally and locally" which suggests "a very low public health risk, both to children and to teachers".
"The low viral load on a lot of young people with this particular virus means the child-to-adult contraction is a very low occurrence," he said.
"But I understand people are anxious and that's why we've said parents may choose whether they send their kids to school in this particular period of time."