THOUSANDS of students return today to schools in the Derwent Valley, Central Highlands and Brighton and the message from authorities is for motorists to slow down near schools.
The first day will be an inauspicious start to the year for Education Minister Sarah Courtney who took an extended holiday in France, contracted Covid and won’t return to Tasmania until today and return to work tomorrow.
Ms Courtney has faced fierce criticism, not for taking a holiday, but the timing in the weeks leading up to the school year when teachers, parents and students are facing anxiety over the spread of Covid and measures needed to combat its spread.
Opposition education spokes- person Josh Willie has accused Ms Courtney of lacking good judgment. He said at a time when many teachers were working during their holidays to get up to speed on Covid requirements, Ms Courtney should have been on deck to show leadership.
He also called on the Government to immediately release modelling on the impact of Covid-19 in Tasmanian schools to give families and staff a true picture of what to expect from today when classes resume.
“It was understood modelling by the Education Department in anticipation of opening classrooms to Covid showed four per cent of staff would either contract Covid or be required to isolate,’’ Mr Willie said.
“It was also understood that the modelling showed if that number rose to as high as 10 per cent, the Government would come under pressure to keep some schools operational.
“The Government needs to be honest with staff and parents and students and provide some certainty – or otherwise.’’
The RACT has called for motorists to be especially careful. RACT Chief Advocacy Officer, Garry Bailey said the first day of school was one of the busiest days on our roads.
“Therefore, extra caution is needed, especially around school zones with extra vigilance to slow down to 40km an hour,’’ Mr Bailey said.
“Parents, siblings, drivers and the schools all need to play their part to monitor and educate children on road safety.
“Children are vulnerable road users, and with more traffic and more transport options, teaching the future generation of drivers about the importance of being safe near the road is more crucial now than ever before.
“Of course, it all begins at home and parents need to understand that they can pass on their bad habits to their children.
“Young Tasmanians, both behind the wheel and as pedestrians, are overrepresented in crash and fatality statistics, so it’s clear more needs to be done. “
RACT want work with the Government, educators, and other groups to target relevant age groups,” he said.
The start of school means speed reduction zones around schools and school buses of a maximum of 40 km/h.