Canberra schools will reopen face-to-face learning throughout late October and early November under plans to lift lockdown restrictions in the ACT.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Monday said students in preschool, kindergarten, and years 1, 2, 6, 9 and 10 would resume on-campus learning on October 25, which is week four of term 4 in Canberra.
These year groups will also be able to attend their usual out-of-school hours care programs.
All children in early childhood education and care will be able to return to centres on the same date.
Students in all remaining year levels would be able to resume face-to-face learning from November 1, which is week five of the term.
Mr Barr revealed the dates as he announced a plan to end lockdown in the ACT, but said easing restrictions would depend on the public health risk remaining stable over the next two weeks.
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Plans for college students to resume on-campus learning will remain unchanged, with year 12 returning from October 5 to do their final assessments and exams. Year 11 students will return to face-to-face learning on Monday, October 18, which is week three of term 4.
Some year 11 students can also return to schools from week one for assessments that cannot wait until week three.
ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said chief health officer Kerryn Coleman had advised it was safe to return to schools.
Schools would mandate check-ins for adults, improve building ventilation, increase use of outdoor spaces and make face masks compulsory for staff and year 7-12 students to improve COVID safety, Ms Berry said.
Young people from years 3 to 6 are also encouraged to wear masks if they prefer.
Social distancing, limited mingling of classes and year groups, staggered breaks, cleaning and limits on visitor numbers are among other safety measures.
The government was also encouraging all eligible students, staff and families to get vaccinated, Ms Berry said.
"All of these measures are important to ensure the safest return for our school communities."
The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations president Alison Elliott said parents would be relieved to have a date for the return to school.
"We appreciate how far in advance the dates have been given, so that families have time to plan," she said.
"Some students need more time than others to get used to change. We hope this timetable will allow those students the chance to make transition visits to school to get used to being back on campus and the things that might have changed, such as wearing masks at high schools."
Ms Elliott said that despite great efforts from schools and teachers, learning from home had been difficult for many families.
"Lockdown fatigue is setting in, and mental health issues are presenting, or exacerbating," she said.
"It's great to know that relief is in sight."
Asked whether online learning would remain available, Ms Berry on Monday said the government would make arrangements for students who could not attend school.
"But I'd encourage everybody to be reassured we're doing everything we possibly can to make schools safe for everybody," she said.
The ACT government received more than 6000 responses to a survey of parents, carers, teachers and students about reopening face-to-face learning at schools.
It's easier to manage the movement of young people in the primary school years.Yvette Berry
"Students, staff and families want to go back to school, but everybody wants it to be safe," Ms Berry said.
"They told us that a phased return should prioritise students in transition years as well as younger children. And of course our school communities want to know how we will make our schools safe."
Ms Berry said the government would not mandate the vaccine for school staff as the ACT's vaccination rates were already high.
Territory health authorities have said good building ventilation, physical distancing and hand washing would make face-to-face learning safe for children too young for COVID vaccinations.
"In those year groups as well, don't forget that often those students are in the same class all day, it's a bit different to the older students who move around the school communities a bit more," Ms Berry said.
"So it's easier to manage the movement of young people in the primary school years."
Teachers, early childhood educators and school staff who have contact with children have been given priority access to new Pfizer appointments, as have year 12 students.
Schools moved rapidly to remote learning after the ACT government announced the territory would enter lockdown in August.
Ms Berry earlier this month announced a gradual return for college students to campus, but did not set a date for preschool to year 10 students to resume face-to-face learning.
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