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13 October, 2021
P&Cs need to know...
Timeline to return

We've known the timeline for returning to school for some time (see here), and we can now confirm dates for the return of P&C services, as confirmed by the Education Directorate. However, you will still need to discuss and agree with your principal:

Uniform shops can open from Monday October 18
Canteens can open from Monday October 25

We have confirmed that essential P&C volunteers and staff can enter school sites for the purposes of running these services.

Fundraising and other P&C activities
We are seeking advice on timelines for the recommencement of other activities, such as fundraising, with the Education Directorate.
Health guidelines to follow

The Health Guidelines for ACT schools is comprehensive, but easy to read. Please do look at the entire document, but note that it includes:
  • Parents or carers must not enter school sites - we are working on exceptions for volunteers running school services such as uniform shops, canteens and other essential on-site P&C business
  • Adults must physically distance, with 1 person per 4 square metres
  • Adults must wear masks when on school grounds (usual exceptions apply)
  • All visitors, P&C staff and volunteers must check into the site each time they arrive using the CBR check-in app
  • Volunteers, staff and visitors must not attend the school site if unwell, and go home immediately if they become unwell, after informing the school
  • Good hand and respiratory hygiene practices are vital, and must be encouraged with posters etc and made possible with santiser etc
All P&C activities that take place In School must follow the above guidelines, in addition to ACT Health's current and future restrictions for businesses and the community where relevant. This can create a complex set of overlapping rules. To guide P&Cs through this at this time, we are:
  • interpreting the various rules relevant for P&C settings
  • drafting advice for P&Cs or COVID-safe plan templates which incorporate this information
  • checking the above with the Education Directorate to ensure they comply
  • publishing this advice and template plans (see below) for you - our members - both in these eBulletins and on our COVID Information for P&Cs page.
COVID safe plans

P&Cs are required to have a written COVID-safe plan for all their business activities. A COVID-safe plan is a great way to think through the risks of COVID transmission and how to minimise risks to keep everyone safe. 

Uniform Shops
Uniform shops can open from Monday October 18 with a COVID-safe plan in place.  We have created a template COVID-safe plan for in-school uniform shops, based on the ACT Government's template COVID-safe plan for small business, with notes and additions which reflect the Health Guidelines for ACT Schools.  This plan has been checked by the Education Directorate. (We will provide an attachment as soon as possible which covers today's vaccine mandate announcement - see below.)

We are currently trying to add the ability for people to come into the school to try on clothes where absolutely necessary. This is not currently permitted (no parents allowed on school sites) but we are asking ACT Health and Education that this be included as soon as possible, as restrictions are eased. We have confirmed that essential P&C volunteers (and staff) can enter school sites to run uniform shops.

To adapt the Template Plan for your situation:
  • carefully read, consider and fill out how you will address identified issues
  • follow the recommendations of Council, as indicated on the template plan, as these comply with school health guidelines. Note that only 'click and collect'- type services can be offered at the moment
  • work collaboratively with your principal in planning for your uniform shop, including hours of operation and pickup/delivery options.
All canteens are required to have, and follow, a COVID-safe plan. It must also be available for viewing upon inspection by ACT Health. We have created a template COVID-safe plan for P&C-run canteens, as a starting point for writing yours. It complies with current school and business restrictions. It is a modified version of the plan from last year, but now incorporates new requirements, such as mask wearing, offering only online orders and no counter-service, and the requirement for only 1 person per 4 square metres. (An additional section will be provided as soon as possible which covers today's vaccine mandate announcement - see below.)

Other P&C activities
As other P&C activities are permitted to begin, we will provide updated templates for COVID safe plans (we are a little snowed under just now!). They will follow the basic guidelines outlined above in addition to considerations in last year's COVID-safe plans. We are seeking advice on timelines for the recommencement of other activities, such as fundraising, with the Education Directorate.
Vaccination mandate

Today, the ACT Government announced that a public health direction will be issued requiring certain school staff to be vaccinated as a measure to protect students who are currently ineligible for vaccination (i.e. students under the age of 12). We understand the direction will apply to early childhood, primary and specialist schools and will come into effect in the coming weeks. 

What P&C activities will be affected?
We expect staff and volunteers of routine P&C operations such as OHSC, canteens, music programs, tutoring and uniform shops (depending on how they operate) to be covered by this direction. It may be that some P&C staff and volunteers performing routine operations such as uniform shop click and collect services (with contactless delivery to class) may not be covered. However, we will be working closely with the Education Directorate (and ACT Health) to clearly identify the operations, staff and volunteers who will be subject to this mandatory vaccination order

What about P&C fundraising and community events? 
It is unclear at this stage whether P&C volunteers (or staff) would be subject to the public health directive. Again, Council will be working with the Education Directorate, to provide clear guidance on this. 

What should P&Cs do?
Council strongly encourages P&Cs to wait for more detailed information before taking actions other than advising staff and employees (see below). We will advise all P&Cs when this information is available. We will also provide additions to our Template COVID-plans (see above) which cover staff vaccinations when we have details of how P&Cs can show they are meeting this new requirement.

What should P&Cs tell staff & volunteers?
P&Cs may like to consider advising staff and volunteers that you are aware a direction will be made by ACT Health and will advise staff and volunteers when more details are available. Whilst we appreciate P&Cs like to be on the ball, we strongly encourage our P&Cs to be patient and wait for Council to provide further details.

Discussion paper
A discussion paper, prepared by ACT Health on the vaccination direction is available from our office on request.

Survey for affected staff
Education have set up a survey for staff who may want to provide feedback directly them to be sent on to ACT Health. 

Please let us know if:
  • there is an operation we have not considered above; or
  • your P&C provides an operation in different manner to others (and this difference may mean staff or volunteers do not need to be subject to the direction).
Federal payments for affected workers

The Federal Government's COVID-19 disaster payments have now changed. Those who were receiving them will no longer automatically get ongoing payments. Staff can reapply each week if their workplace hasn't yet been permitted to open due to a health order. As public health orders don't allow most school students to return til Oct 25, P&C staff should be able to apply weekly until then.
In case you missed it
Council wins reconciliation prize
Murnubbarr karrolka – flying magpie geese – now adorn our Council office in a vivid and colourful hanging created by Dora Diaguma, artist with Bábbarra Designs.

We were thrilled to be presented with the artwork as winners of ACT Council of Social Service’s Award for Ingenuity in Reconciliation last term.

Read more here.
Council happenings
Return to school

We know that there are still concerns about the safety of returning to school for some parents. We have been expressing these views to senior staff at the Education Directorate and the Minister for Education.

We also know many parents are overwhelmed by information at this time and need different ways to access information about why the ACT Government considers it safe to return to school.

To assist and support parents we have been asking for:
  • detailed information for parents from schools (we undertand schools will send this to parents very soon)
  • an online information session for parents with experts from Education and Health
  • a short video with ACT's Chief Health Officer answering key parent questions
  • a  clear statement from Education about what support will continue for home learning and which students will be able to access this
  • clarity around how absences will be handled once schools return.
Let us know how you are feeling about the return to school.
Upcoming Council events

Early Learning Committee Meeting
Join us for a virtual catch up to discuss Early Learning issues and funding to welcome new parents and carers to your school. 
It's on Thursday 14 October (Week 2), via zoom from 7.30pm. Register here. (After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.) For further details please contact Marina Spurgin, Early Learning Officer.

Canteen sub-committee meeting
Postponed from last term, join us at 7pm on Tonight! (13 October) via zoom to discuss all things canteens:
  •  Lockdown lowdown. A chance to tell us your concerns and plans for your canteen and for us to share what Council has been doing to advocate for P&C-run canteens and the road ahead.
  • Reducing canteen waste with re-usables. Hear from other P&C-run canteens who share their waste-reduction and re-usables journey.
  • Reporting back on Council’s follow-up to questions and concerns noted at the last meeting, including schools maintaining your canteen, the straw ban, waste contractors, and a possible funding source for your reusables.
Financial review training
Our online workshop will help treasurers prepare their accounts for a Financial Review, which is a legal requirement for all P&Cs. We'll show you what it's all about and what you'll need to gather together for your review as well as who can do it and managing the timing.
When? Thursday 21 October (Week 3), from 7-9pm - via Zoom.
Register here!

General Meetings
Our next General Meeting is combined with our Policy Conference (which will be very brief) on Tuesday 26 October  (Week 4), from 7pm via Zoom. You can pre-register here.  (After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.)

Our November meeting (Tuesday 23, Week 8) is our AGM - and chance for your to join our Executive Team. The Team has had a pretty interesting year - with regular COVID briefings from the Education Directorate and a chance to influence Government election promises. If you are interested, read more here or drop Terry a line.
You might be interested
Volunteer awards

Nominations are still open for Volunteering ACT's 2021 Volunteering Awards - a  great way celebrate all of the hardworking, dedicated volunteers of Canberra.
More information and to nominate someone.
Preparing today's learners for uncertainty

'Uncertainty tolerance' (UT), or how we process and respond to unknown or complex situations, is increasingly recognised as an essential workplace skill. Uncertainties in the workplace are ever-present and we’ve seen shared, global experiences of this during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday 9 November Associate Professor Michelle Lazarus will discuss the impacts of UT on students, and outline some strategies to help parents to support their children to improve their UT to prepare them for their futures in education and work. Register here.
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Copyright © 2021 ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations. All rights reserved.
Comment authorised by Terry L Sanders for the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations

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