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Stress and anxiety high among teachers as schools remain open despite coronavirus pandemic

Warren Barnsley
File image.
File image. Credit: Sydney Bourne/Getty Images/Cultura RF

An inability to practice social distancing, poor hygiene, contradictory information and anxiety about infecting loved ones.

These are among the concerns of teachers as they soldier on in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Educators are growing increasingly concerned about their well-being as the COVID-19 crisis escalates in Australia.

While other workplaces have closed as authorities warn against large gatherings, all but a small number of schools remain open.

“We’ve been told kids are carriers (of coronavirus) but teachers are still being asked to work, and schools run business as usual,” said a Melbourne teacher who spoke to 7NEWS, but did not want to be identified.

Empty desks in classroom. File image.
Empty desks in classroom. File image. Credit: Mint Images/Getty Images/Mint Images RF

“Teachers are stressed, morale is low.

“My concern is a student could pass it on to me, and I could pass it on to a family member. My grandparents are in their 80s.”

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in addition to the existing limit of no more than 100 people in an indoor space, there should be no more than one person per four square metres.

But schools will remain open.

“We think the risks to children with this virus is very low,” chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said.

Pleas ignored

The teacher said parents are still sending their kids to school if they are sick, ignoring the pleas of leaders not to do so.

“A student in my class has been coughing all day,” he said.

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‘My concern is a student could pass it on to me, and I could pass it on to a family member.’

“I’ve told my students, ‘if you’re feeling sick or you have a cough, tell your parents your teacher has asked you to stay home’.

“I feel that we’re being asked to babysit students so their parents are able to continue in the workforce.

“It frustrates me that we’re being forced to work when other organisations are telling their staff to keep away from their colleagues and workplaces.”

He also said his classroom is nowhere near big enough to main 1.5metres of distance between students.

File image of a locked gate at a school.
File image of a locked gate at a school. Credit: Joseph Ray/Getty

The concern is one of many echoed by the Australian Education Union, which has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to express grave concerns about the impact of coronavirus.

Official advice

Australian governments have kept schools upon on advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

The committee says “pre-emptive closures are not proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 at this time”.

It also says school closures would mean around 15 per cent of the workforce may need to take time off work to care for children, which could negatively impact those in “casual or tenuous work circumstances”.

The union has stopped short of calling for blanket closures.

More on 7NEWS.com.au

But they have called for “detailed advice about how all public education settings are to minimise the risk to staff and students if they are to remain open”.

The union will meet with Education Minister Dan Tehan next Tuesday.

“This meeting on Tuesday will probably keep schools open until school holidays,” said the teacher.