ACT schools will remain open to students who "absolutely need to attend", Chief Minister Andrew Barr has confirmed.
Mr Barr has sought to clear up widespread confusion about the status of Canberra's schools as further measures to slow the spread of coronavirus come into effect this week.
But the peak body for public school parents remains confused about the situation, saying it was "unacceptable" that the government couldn't provide key details about the protocols less than a day before they were due to implemented.
The education union has also pleaded with the government to clarify the situation immediately.
The ACT government on Sunday announced that schools would go pupil-free from Tuesday until school holidays, allowing time for students and staff to start the transition to online learning from Term 2 onwards.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison later in the evening said schools should remain open for parents who wanted to send their children.
If you can keep your kids at home, you are able to do so. But if you can't then there will be a school for your kids. You will be able to send your kids to schoolChief Minister Andrew Barr
As confusion swirled over what Mr Morrison's stance meant for the ACT, the territory's Education Minister, Yvette Berry, issued a late night statement confirming it would proceed with pupil-free days from Tuesday.
Ms Berry said in the statement the government was "making arrangements to allow vulnerable children to attend school in person" during this period. She said "options" would be available for children whose parents or carers worked in "essential services" - but did not provide further detail.
Speaking on ABC radio on Monday morning, Mr Barr confirmed schools would remain physically open to cater for students who needed to attend - a position aligned to Mr Morrison's.
He said the territory was moving towards the UK model, where schools were remaining open for children of "critical workers", including healthcare workers.
More details on which occupations were considered "essential" were due to announced later on Monday.
On Monday morning, the Education Directorate was advising parents that their child cannot attend school for the duration of the pupil-free period.
"What we are endeavouring to do is [see] the school population, the number of students who would physically need to go to school each day, would be considerably less so we can space them out more," Mr Barr told ABC radio.
"Some education provision will need to continue for those students and those parents who simply cannot have their kids at home because they won't be there," he said.
Asked who would decide whether a student needed to physically attend school, Mr Barr said the decision would, at this stage, be left to parents.
"That is a decision for parents at the moment and this is what the Prime Minister said last night - you can make this decision yourself at this stage," he said.
"We'll get some information about how many kids are staying at home and how many are continuing to come to school and this situation will evolve over time.
"Our commitment is that education will continue and it will continue in a diversity of settings and with a diversity of delivery mechanisms.
"If you can keep your kids at home, you are able to do so. But if you can't then there will be a school for your kids. You will be able to send your kids to school."
ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations president Kirsty McGovern-Hooley said parents were "very confused about what to do next".
Ms McGovern-Hooley said it was "unacceptable" that government hadn't clarify exactly which occupations were "essential" as of midday on Monday, leaving parents in the dark over whether they should be planning to send their child to school for the remainder of the week.
"We really need to allow workplaces and families more than half a day to figure theses things out," she said.
"Parents are asking, 'Do I need to quit my job?', 'Do I need to take leave without pay from my job?'.
Ms McGovern-Hooley said parents were confused by the seemingly contradictory messages from Mr Morrison and the ACT government on Sunday.
"We're getting mixed-messages, and unclear messages. Stop using terms like 'pupil free days'. They need to say in a much clearer way whether or not a school is closed."
Australian Education Union ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler was comfortable with the decision to move to pupil-free days, saying it provided a degree of certainty for teachers.
But Mr Fowler said his members were still not clear about which students would be attending school during this period. Teachers were also not sure about staffing arrangements during the partial shutdown, he said.
"We are asking the government to be as clear as possible as soon as possible," he said.
- You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080
- If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000)
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