Fears for Toowoomba students over border closure

 

Boarding students could be trapped at school over the holidays or face two weeks of isolation eating into class time or even be forced to change schools because of the hard border closure between Queensland and NSW, principals say.

Nine principals of boarding schools across the Darling Downs have rallied to call on the Queensland Government to grant border exemptions for rural NSW students and their parents as school holidays approach.

The school leaders from Fairholme College, Toowoomba Grammar School, St Ursula's College, The Glennie School, Sctos PGC College, Toowoomba Anglican School, St Saviour's College, Downlands College, and Concordia Lutheran College on Tuesday penned a letter to Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young, calling for "reasonableness" for rural NSW students.

"Our fears are that students will have to remain at school, for the holidays, or that parents who rightfully want to see their children over the holidays will have to make tough decisions about schooling for Term Four and into the future," the letter said.

"And, of greater concern, is the mental health impact inherent in this dislocated arrangement.

"To not see your son or daughter for months, or to develop trust with a boarding school and then to have to even contemplate starting again with a new school are added complications in the difficult time that we are all experiencing."

Toowoomba Grammar School Headmaster Peter Hauser said the schools had many concerns, including the fact the border closure separated children as young as 12 or 13 from their families.

He said they were seeking exemptions for students who were coming from incredibly isolated properties who were being treated as if they were coming from Melbourne or Sydney.

"We want the boys to have access to their parents and to be able to go straight from the family property and to the school without contacting anyone else," he said.

The letter promised that if exemptions were granted the families would provide the appropriate documentation, and, if required, provide statutory declarations in relation to their movements, would undertake mandatory COVID-19 testing if needed, and would provide other records that indicated their travels.

Fairholme College Principal Linda Evans said parents were facing the tough decision about changing schools or not seeing their children for prolonged periods.

She said rural NSW students almost exclusively live on properties or in small country towns - so were living in isolation already, "they're already quarantining without the bodyguards".

A Queensland Health spokesperson said they appreciated the challenges being faced by boarding school students.

"Queensland's health and economy can't afford a second wave - that's why we closed the border to New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria.

"Exemptions to the Border Restrictions Direction are limited and issued only in exceptional circumstances.

"These are difficult decisions, however these restrictions are in place for the protections of all Queenslanders."

Originally published as Fears for students over border closure


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