Less than 5 per cent of Canberra public school students attended class on Tuesday, as schools went "pupil free" for the first time in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Parents who did keep their child at home have spoken about the challenges of the new arrangements, especially the difficulties of juggling their own work with their kids' learning.
Tuesday marked the first day of homeschooling for thousands of Canberra families as schools shifted to "pupil free" days until the end of school holidays.
The move, announced on Sunday afternoon, is designed to give teachers and staff time and space to prepare for the shift to online learning from Term 2 ownwards.
Education Minister Yvette Berry took to Facebook early on Tuesday morning to apologise to parents for the mass confusion caused by the government's mixed messaging over whether students were allowed to attend school during the period.
The government's now clearly-stated position is that it wants parents to keep their children at home if they can. But if students have to attend school, for whatever reason, they won't be turned away. Schools are expecting children whose parents or carers work in "essential services", including teaching and healthcare, to attend class.
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In a statement to The Canberra Times late on Tuesday night, Ms Berry said less than five per cent of public schools students physically attended class on the first "pupil free" day.
She thanked parents who kept their child at home, freeing up teachers and staff to continue planning the remote learning curriculum. She encouraged parents to maintain their child's learning until school holidays.
The ACT government on Monday launched new online learning resources to help parents and carers get through the next few weeks, she said.
ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Association spokeswoman Janelle Kennard said parents were already confronting challenges on the first day of the new regime.
"The common theme is that juggling at-home workers and at-home school learners is tricky, both logistically and in terms of head space and patience," Ms Kennard said.
Jayne Trustum and her husband attempted to juggle those dual responsibilities on Tuesday.
"It's going to be a juggle to keep my children occupied and learning, and getting my work done as well," she said. I'm hoping this calms down, but at the moment I'm really struggling to see how to make this work for an extended period of time."
Parent Crystal Cox said it was clear that teachers were "working really hard" to adapt to the situation.
The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT executive director Andrew Wrigley said Canberra's private schools were "responding extremely fast to the new paradigm".
"Teachers are responding magnificently," he said.
"They are challenged by the challenges that they are facing, but I also think they are energised by them."
Mr Wrigley was looking forward to positive stories emerging of students and teachers adapting to the new system.
- 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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