Education Minister Yvette Berry has rejected calls for parents to be allowed to send their child to their regular school at the start of Term 2.
Ms Berry pushed back at the Canberra Liberals' suggestion on Friday morning, as she sought to clarify the government's position on its plans for Term 2 after a Facebook post she published on Thursday afternoon sparked another wave of confusion among parents.
She confirmed the government's position had not changed; class will be taught online at the start of Term 2, during which time the transition back to face-to-face learning will be mapped out.
There is no set date for a return to normal schooling.
Parents have backed the government's plan, saying it "seemed to be a reasonable and sensible approach to a difficult situation".
When Term 2 classes resume next week, all public school students will be taught remotely.
I think the health advice is one thing, but is also about making sure that our community is ready to return and our teachers are able to returnACT education minister Yvette Berry
However, nine so-called "hub" schools will remain open to cater for students which require supervision.
The school campuses, which are scattered across the city, were chosen because of their convenience for the 2600-odd students which had been registered as requiring supervision.
Opposition education spokeswoman Elizabeth Lee has criticised the hubs plan, arguing parents should be allowed to send their child to their normal schools if they wanted to.
While the government has said that no child would be turned away, if a student does turn up to a non-hub school they would be directed towards one.
"Some parents are concerned already about what is going on and having children sent to hub schools where they'll be unfamiliar with the grounds and the people going to the school," Ms Lee said on Friday morning.
Ms Berry said the government had chosen the hubs model because it couldn't guarantee that there would be enough teachers and staff if all campuses were open.
Public school teachers last month won the right to work from home amid the pandemic. Ms Berry has spoken about the importance of protecting the health of teachers and staff in her attempts to explain the rationale for the shift to remote learning.
The temporary closure of the majority of the schools will allow for them to be "deep cleaned" before students return, she said.
Ms Berry fronted reporters on Friday afternoon to clear up more confusion about the government's plans for Term 2
The confusion was sparked by a Facebook post, published under Ms Berry's account, which many interpreted as an announcement that a return to classroom learning was imminent.
In the post, Ms Berry said that "things are changing fast" and that teachers and school staff, who had been preparing for the whole of Term 2 to be taught remotely, were now being asked to "change again".
"Over the next four weeks the government will take time to work with schools, P&Cs, unions and non-government schools to develop a plan to transition back to face to face education." she said in the post.
The announcement of a four-week timeframe to plan for the transition back to classroom learning was not new - Ms Berry first said it on Wednesday.
But whereas her public statements on Wednesday signaled that an earlier than expected return to school would be considered, Thursday's social media post made it appear as though the move was imminent.
The post created confusion almost immediately, with a chain of comments questioning whether the government's remote learning plan had been ripped up just days before school's return.
The post was updated twice in the following hours to emphasise that the plan hadn't changed.
Ms Berry confirmed on Friday that it would spend the next four weeks mapping the path back to classroom learning.
She said schools would only be reopened for face-to-face learning when it "was safe to do so" and the "community was ready to".
Given the nation's chief health officers have consistently advised that campuses are safe, she was asked what would need to change in the next four weeks to give the government confidence that schools could be reopened.
"I think the health advice is one thing, but it is also about making sure that our community is ready to return and our teachers are able to return," she said.
"We have to take into account more than just the health advice on its own."
Ms Berry couldn't provide a timeframe for the return to classroom learning.
It remained a possibility that students could be taught remotely before moving back to face-to-face learning part way through Term 2.
Asked why the government wouldn't commit to one mode of teaching to limit disruption to parents, staff and students, she said it wanted to have the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.
Australian Education Union ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler said teachers wouldn't return to the classroom under the current circumstances.
"We continue to see an irreconcilable contradiction between what is being expected of the public and what is being suggested for schools [returning to class]," he said.
"Nobody has been able to reconcile that for us."
Mr Fowler said the union would remain in constant communication with the ACT government and would consider any proposed arrangement for transitioning back to school. He said the agreement allowing teachers to work from home would have to be rescinded before teachers could return.
ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Association president Kirsty McGovern-Hooley supported the move to remote learning.
Ms McGovern-Hooley said while some parents had expressed a desire to send their child back to class as soon as possible, the overwhelming majority felt that schools weren't safe.
"Simply, while social distancing measures are in place elsewhere, parents don't feel schools should be any different," she said.
"What parents see, hear and feel is that cinemas and playgrounds are closed, we are working from home because we have to, we are lining up 1.5m from other people at the supermarket and at the chemist or the GP we are confronted with masks and gowns.
"Given that, it doesn't make sense to parents that schools are safe. Many parents are in close contact with family members who are at risk and don't want to take the risk."
Ms McGovern-Hooley acknowledged that it might feel "weird and difficult" for students attending one of the school sites.
"We encourage parents to ask for supports that are needed," she said.
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