Toowoomba private schools to end term early

Planning for long-term shutdown one reason for Toowoomba Grammar's early term one closure

Coronavirus
The Toowoomba Grammar School, which has boarders as one-third of its cohort, has made the decision to end term one a week early and close down next Wednesday, March 25. Picture supplied.

The Toowoomba Grammar School, which has boarders as one-third of its cohort, has made the decision to end term one a week early and close down next Wednesday, March 25. Picture supplied.

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Rather than have a section of its boys out in the wider community for work experience and others on school camp as the coronavirus pandemic escalates, the Toowoomba Grammar School has taken the decision to close the whole school from next Wednesday.

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Rather than have a section of its boys out in the wider community for work experience and others on school camp as the coronavirus pandemic escalates, the Toowoomba Grammar School has taken the decision to close the whole school from next Wednesday, March 25.

This includes 950 senior school students and 250 in the junior school.

Two other Toowoomba private schools, Fairholme College and The Glennie School, will be closing their doors for the term next Friday, almost a week in advance of the scheduled term one end date.

Toowoomba Grammar School principal Peter Hauser described the decision as being on the front foot and consistent with government advice that schools should remain open to minimise chances of children being in wide community contact.

"The boys in their last week go on outdoor pursuits, so this means we would have had 170 Year 10 boys in the wider workplace, while others were going to be spending three hours side by side on a bus for school camps," he said. "And while everyone is well, it's an ideal time to test the online learning environment."

When students are sent home they will participate in remote lesson delivery online.

Doing that for a few days before the Easter holiday period would help familiarise students and staff with the system and iron out any glitches should there be a need to use it in the longer term.

"We don't know what the future holds but if it's a case of long-term closure, we will have this risk management strategy in place," Mr Hauser said.

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School parent Tammie Irons, whose 15-year-old son is one of those who will be studying from his home base in the suburbs of Toowoomba, said she was relieved by the announcement.

"I wasn't liking being in a 'will it, won't it' limbo - I'm appreciative of the firm approach," she said.

Not so appreciative are her two other children, one in Year 7 and the other in Year 12 at Toowoomba Anglican School, which is observing the recommendation to stay open.

"They're not happy that their brother will be at home," Ms Irons said.

She was confident that the processes TGS was putting in place, a roll call at the start of each class and set work to complete, would be suitable for her at-home son to undertake without parental supervision.

She acknowledged this wasn't the case for all parents.

"Any concern I have is not for myself but for the people that my children might go near, such as elderly neighbours," she said.

"My worry is what they could pass on unintentionally to those at risk.

"I've stressed to them all the impacts they could have."

In a statement on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said schools would remain open based on the best possible health advice.

"The advice tells us that this virus operates differently in children," he said. "But if your child appears to be ill, keep them at home. Don't send them to school."

Mr Morrison added that schools could not be disrupted for "what will be at least six months - that would be catastrophic."

Mr Hauser said one-third of the Toowoomba Grammar School cohort being boarders offered a different scenario.

Schools across the state with boarders are grappling with a variety of issues, such as overseas student travel and self-isolation needs, and concerns from indigenous communities about keeping coronavirus risks out.

Ms Irons said opinion among parents she'd spoken to about finishing the term early had been very divided, from some wanting Year 12 students to complete their assessment to others wanting their children home no matter what.

"This is a really unprecedented time and no-one knows all the answers.

"We've just got to be kind to those making the hard decisions."

The story Toowoomba private schools to end term early first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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