Rapid antigen tests and masks will play an important role in the return to classrooms across NSW.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has announced the state's return to school plan on Sunday and said work was already underway to distribute RATs to the state's 3000 schools.
Each student will have access to two RATs per week as term one commences on schedule, as will teachers.
In early childhood education and childcare centres, there will be RATs provided for teachers.
This twice-a-week testing will be undertaken for the first four weeks for term, with two weeks supply of RATs to be distributed before term starts.
Masks will be compulsory in high school classrooms for both teachers and students, while they will be highly recommended for students in Year 3 and above in primary schools.
For parents who have a child starting school for the first year, they will able to come onto school grounds for that first day of Kindergarten.
Otherwise, visitors to schools will be limited to those providing "essential curriculum and wellbeing support".
"I know many parents are anxious, but ultimately we know that kids do better in the classroom. Some students in our state have already missed a quarter of their schooling. It is what is best for mental health and social outcomes," Mr Perrottet said.
He said there would be COVID safe plans in place for excursions, sports and music.
Schools will no longer close when a COVID-19 case is detected and contact tracing will not take place.
"We want our kids back in the classroom in a safe way. And that is exactly the plan that we have worked together with NSW Health, with the Department of Education, to ensure we have that outcome," Mr Perrottet said.
"As a parent, I know, many parents across the state are anxious about bringing kids back to school, importantly, though, we can ensure parents and teachers right across NSW that we can do so in a safe way."
Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said more than four million RATs had been distributed to schools already with more than six million to be distributed before Tuesday evening in preparation for the return to school.
"So for parents, your school will be in contact with you as to how you can pick up those kits before school returns," Ms Mitchell said.
"We are asking all of our students and staff to test before they come back to school for that first day, and then of course to do those twice-weekly surveillance tests for the first four weeks of term."
If children were to test positive, parents should inform the school principal and NSW Health know via the Service NSW app or website.
"We will no longer be closing schools when there is a positive COVID case in that community and we will not be conducting contact tracing anymore. We are really moving schools in line with what we see in community settings," Ms Mitchell said.
"But parents and carers and family members will be notified if there is COVID in your school community, so, again, you can monitor for symptoms and your children and make sure you are using those rapid antigen tests that we have provided twice a week.
"This is really about minimising the disruption to our school communities."
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Ms Mitchell said for family members with a child starting school for the first year they would be able to come on site for that first day of kindergarten.
"We will allow up to two parents of family members on site for that, which is really important.
"It is a significant day in your child's like that we want to make it as normal as possible for you."
Ms Mitchell said students at home who were well enough would be provided with support material to help them learn from home for the week.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant echoed the Premier's comments around the importance of schooling for children's health, well-being and development.
"We are expecting that with the return of schools and a bit more mobility we might see an uptick in case numbers, but offsetting that, we are getting booster doses into individuals," Dr Chant said.
"I do ask that parents in that first four weeks try to minimise their children's activities or connections with other children and sleepovers and other activities that might drive infection, so that we can preserve that face-to-face time at school while community level of transmission is high.
"We are calling upon all parents to ensure that any children with symptoms are not sent to school. Please do not send your child to still if they have symptoms. Instead, get them tested, and even if they have a negative test on the first day, please keep them home and do a repeat test, and only send them back if there is an alternate diagnosis."
The plan comes as the state records 20,324 COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths in the past 24 hours.
The story Masks, twice-weekly rapid antigen tests as NSW schools set to return first appeared on Newcastle Herald.