Shut Our Schools - with full pay! #Covid19WalkOut #WalkOutSaveLives

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All Australian schools and childcare centres should be shut down for urgent community safety, with full pay to all staff. School closure should happen “either now or very soon,” as recommended by AMA SA president Chris Moy. Former AMA president Kerryn Phelps also argued that schools must be shut immediately. The Australian Government Department of Health ‘Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza’ states, “Studies suggest that school closure delays the epidemic peak by a week or two and flattens the wave of the epidemic… It is better to introduce [proactive school closure] as soon as possible,” resulting in lower transmission rates and lower eventual attack rates. Two weeks’ difference saw Italy’s cases skyrocket from 155 to 7,355 – if emergency measures are implemented immediately, more lives will be saved. ABC medical reporter Norman Swan advises, “There’s no time to waste… we’ve got to shut down schools.”

Studies demonstrate immediate, early and widespread school and centre closure is much more effective at "flattening the curve" than ad-hoc, case by case closure. At the moment we educators are effectively being told by the federal government that we are glorified babysitters, and keeping schools open will keep parents at work. This simply treats workers in schools and in the community, and the students we teach, as collateral damage for the sake of the economy. The schools must shut to save lives!

Guaranteed indefinite emergency (special) leave pay for all staff including teachers, educators, teacher aides, cleaners, administrative staff and other ancillary staff. This shut down is about ensuring a safe workplace for workers as well as students, something which employers are required to provide for workplaces to function. Providing emergency (special) leave pay, at full rates of staff current pay, safeguards our living conditions, and we shouldn’t be impoverished as a result of this shut-down.

All childcare centres and preschools be closed immediately, with full pay to staff. Childcare centres and preschools are also potential sites of mass infection of COVID-19. Children are known transmitters of viruses, and keeping them in childcare puts workers and whole families at risk. The children of essential workers should receive free childcare administered in small groups and with high levels of hygiene. Fulltime, part-time and casual staff at childcare centres must continue to be paid at full rates, and we demand that centres continue to receive an increased childcare subsidy from the federal government. Parents must not be charged by childcare providers in the event of a shut-down.

Free childcare and small-scale classrooms for school-aged children of healthcare and hospital workers must be provided immediately to facilitate fully-functioning health system. A legitimate concern about school and centre closures is the impact this will have on maintaining fully-staffed health facilities. This can be addressed if their children are taken care of, not in large providers but on a small scale, which is already happening in some private schools. In South Korea, which has seen case rates fall every day for the last week, schools have been shut down and emergency childcare facilities for essential workers has been provided for free by the state. There are ample resources at state and federal government levels that could be immediately utilised to provide for this, if there was political will to save lives by taking immediate action.

In essence: shut down, pay up!

Until schools and childcare centres close, the following must happen:

- Staff who are deemed at-risk of COVID-19 must be granted immediate paid leave to self-isolate to protect their health
- Temperature and health checks of all students and staff must happen daily
- Immediate audit of all school facilities for crucial sanitary supplies – all schools must be provided with adequate soap and hand-cleaning equipment
- More cleaners be immediately rostered on to maintain cleanliness of schools during the school day. In particular to maintain fully-stocked soap dispensers in bathrooms, disinfection of bathrooms, door handles, and bubblers
- All educators are to be provided with hand sanitiser, face masks and alcohol wipes
- Daily or twice-daily updates on cases must be provided by the Department of Health so that case tracking and tracing can be done
- Staff should be reminded and strongly encouraged to stay at home if they have ANY contagious illnesses, and sick leave should be provided for all by the department to facilitate this. If staff haven't enough sick leave, this will discourage people from staying home which will only further spread viruses.

- That the 42-day limit on absences on which the childcare subsidy depends be abolished.
- Guaranteed places for children currently enrolled in childcare and preschool.
- No childcare fees for children who go into quarantine.
- Parents who are already keeping children from school or centres should have free access to online teaching tools that are made readily accessible
- Centrelink payments and childcare rebates must not be tied to student attendance, to enable parents the choice of withholding students without punitive financial repercussions.

Created in conjunction with teacher unionists and parents across the country.