ACROSS the country, the Isolated Children's Parents Association (ICPA) has called for a balanced approach for boarding schools compared with traditional school systems when it comes to managing students with COVID-19.
With mixed messaging across the States, many schools have not had the facilities to look after their students well.
In the Eastern States a year 12 student had done two, seven day lockdowns within three weeks.
ICPA WA president Sally Brindal said the first lockdown was in the boarding house and during this time the student was not allowed out of the room, with no outside contact or leave allowed.
All communication was through email and phone with boarding staff with no support for their school work.
This same student the next week had another friend test positive for COVID so had to start isolation all over again.
Ms Brindal also shared stories of a boarding student who was deemed a close contact, so the parents drove 850 kilometres to collect, return home and isolate their child.
After returning to boarding school, the situation repeated, and the parents were expected to collect the student again.
She also mentioned that in South Australia the current definition of household extends to boarding house or wing.
Meaning that every time a student tests positive the whole boarding house or wing goes into isolation.
"As you can see it is a very tricky area to navigate and boarding facilities are potentially faced with a Ground Hog day situation of ever revolving isolation," Ms Brindal said.
"We need to look and learn from those that are doing it well, so we are equipped with the best outcomes of managing and mitigating risk with the mental health and wellbeing of our children and disruption to their education."
These are some worst case scenarios and fortunately Western Australia has not had these sorts of issues yet.
Ms Brindle hopes that the State government has been learning from the other schools over east, and applying those learnings to the boarding systems here.
It seems as though so far the State government and the ICPA are on the same page.
"Residential facilities are essential services that allow students to attend their chosen educational institution," said Education Minister Sue Ellery.
"They are also students' homes, and so the health advice is driven by getting the balance right between recognising the higher risk in shared accommodation with maintaining a home environment.
"The health, safety and wellbeing of all students and staff in our residential facilities is our priority, as is face-to-face learning, and every effort will be made to keep residential facilities open.
In the case of WA, as cases climb it may be a wait and see scenario, that hopefully has the mistakes of other states accounted for.
"Everybody appreciates that the boarding environment is a little bit more high risk, in terms of their emotional wellbeing they are a much more vulnerable cohort," Ms Brindle said.
"We just want to make sure that the impact on kids is a part of a balanced approach when they are making decisions with those boarding environments."
She admits for the most part WA is well-placed, with teachers and schools prepared as best they can be.
"We really are making sure that this government is looking at what has been done well in the boarding environment over east and what's been done poorly to make sure that kids aren't exposed to some of those vulnerable anxieties," Ms Brindal said,
"There are still kids who are having to do it really, really tough and other schools are coping really well - we should all be learning from one another, about what's working and what's not.
"We don't want to see those horror stories happen here."
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