Rear view of large group of students raising their arms to answer the question on a class at elementary school.
Rear view of large group of students raising their arms to answer the question on a class at elementary school.

‘Sacrificial lambs’: Teachers’ virus risk

A public school principal has called teachers into a secret meeting to warn them that they're more likely than not to catch COVID-19, as schools stay open.

Alyssa*, who teaches at a NSW primary school, was called into a meeting with her principal and other staff members last week.

"They essentially told us we were probably going to get coronavirus," she told news.com.au.

Alyssa said her principal told them that "the majority" would contract the disease.

She was shocked and immediately jotted down those words in her notebook so she wouldn't forget them.

"They continued to dismiss the matter by clarifying that most of these infected people will only have the virus to a mild extent," Alyssa said.

The news comes as schools around the country remain open, despite continual calls for a full lockdown.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announced "children should go to school".

"I do not want to see our children lose an entire year of their education," Mr Morrison said.

The NSW Department of Education acknowledged to news.com.au that they communicate regularly with principals and staff in relation to COVID-19, but denied that there had been any secret meetings.

Karyn Goodman, a science teacher at a state high school, said teachers were like "sacrificial lambs".

The "understanding is teachers will get the virus," Ms Goodman told news.com.au.

"We're just keeping these kids (at school) so the doctors and nurses can keep looking after the sick."

But Ms Goodman has opted to keep coming to school, despite the risk.

"We've been told that if you feel you're at risk, use your sick leave and long service leave," she said. "Someone still has to be here to look after the kids.

"Teachers are team players. So I keep coming into school."

Social distancing is "a joke" according to Alyssa, who feels that the government has not considered teachers at all in their decision to keep schools open.

"It's like teachers have been left to fend for ourselves," she said. "This is terrifying. It's disgusting.

"Many (teachers) are elderly, suffer from underlying illnesses that compromise their immune system or live with parents, either as carers or for financial reasons."

The Department of Education assured news.com.au that at-risk teachers were not expected to expose themselves at school.

"Staff who are in an at-risk group or pregnant have been advised, as per the NSW Health guidelines, that they will be supported to work from home if they wish to do so," a spokesperson said.

However, immunocompromised primary school teacher Naomi Whitehead isn't so convinced.

"I have systemic lupus," Ms Whitehead said. "My immune system works against me. It attacks me rather than protects me."

If Ms Whitehead hadn't accumulated long service leave and was able to take time off school, she believes she would be extremely vulnerable.

"I didn't want to compromise and put myself in that position," she said. "So I'm on long service leave now. Now is the time when I can isolate."

She said it was "insulting" that the government predicts teachers will probably get sick, and still send them to school.

"It's a ridiculous expectation," she said

When Ms Whitehead's long service leave runs out, which will be in the beginning of term two, she'll have to return to work.

"I'd have to," she said. "I'm a single parent, I'm a sole income earner, I need to be able to provide for my family.

"(When) I go back to work next term, (I) hope they've figured out how to do it online."
 

Originally published as 'Sacrificial lambs': Teachers' virus risk



Gladstone councillors show their allegiances at early voting

Premium Content Gladstone councillors show their allegiances at early voting

“We’ve already taken over 7000 votes here,” Gladstone electorate returning officer...

Morning rewind: Top 5 stories you may have missed

Premium Content Morning rewind: Top 5 stories you may have missed

Here are the top five stories you may have missed yesterday.

REVEALED: Where the candidates say jobs will come

Premium Content REVEALED: Where the candidates say jobs will come

“What will you do to ensure our children and people can obtain good secure jobs for...