Parents at a remote high school in East Arnhem Land are furious with the NT Government for using an on-campus boarding facility to house people in self isolation.
In a letter sent to parents on Friday and obtained by 9News, Nhulunbuy High School explained the Dawurr Boarding Facility has been “identified as a quarantine facility for East Arnhem Land”.
“If it becomes necessary, it can also adapt to help local authorities contain the spread of COVID-19 if it does enter the East Arnhem Land bio-security area.
“Students from our Dawurr Boarding Facility have returned to their home communities as requested by their parents. During this time we are supporting them to engage in distance learning until they are able to return.”
The facility is being managed by Top End Health Services in conjunction with the Department of Education and other Northern Territory Government agencies.
Two parents of students at Nhulunbuy High School, who did not want to be identified, said they are reconsidering the need to send their children to school in Term 2 because of the decision.
‘I was shocked’, parents say
Harry* said he was “shocked” parents were not consulted beforehand.
“I was shocked because at the end of the day they (Nhulunbuy High School staff) haven’t corresponded with us, we’ve all got kids there, we’re being told it’s compulsory to go to school, yet something like this which is a pandemic, (there was) no correspondence from the school at all other than this letter,” he said.
Schools will reopen on day one of Term 2 and students are expected to return to school as normal, but Harry said he is considering whether to have his child conduct distance learning from home until the school provides further information.
“Who are you supposed to call? They (teachers) are all on holidays, there’s been no action plan to say this is why we are doing it, this is how we are doing it, this is what we’ve put in place,” he said.
“We haven’t even been told how the facility will be cleaned they are going to clean it, when they are going to clean it.”
Maria* said parents should have been asked for permission before the decision was made.
“The fact we were emailed on a public holiday gives us no time to contact the school and voice our concerns,” she said.
“The fact the boarding school is located next to the high school.. I feel the location puts other students and my own children at risk.
“I feel for the community students who at some point want to return to school… they are now being overlooked because they can’t return at any point because they themselves will be at risk coming back to a facility that was used for quarantining.”
NT Government defends decision
In a statment, the NT government said there was capacity for the Dawurr facility to be used to accommodate people who may be awaiting COVID-19 test results, in separate and secure rooms
“Should a person test positive to COVID-19 they would then be transported to clinically supervised isolation,” the statement read.
“The secure Dawurr Boarding facility is completely separate from Nhulunbuy High School and the wider community.
“Additional security measures have also been introduced at the facility.”
The government has also worked with commercial accommodation providers to secure a range of accommodation options across the NT for people required to undertake self and mandatory quarantine.
There were 11 people in mandatory quarantine in Nhulunbuy as at 11 April.
To date, there are no cases of community transmission of COVID-19 in the NT.
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