A Hobart school principal is urging parents not to send their children unless they have no other option.
St Mary’s College principal Helen Spencer said the school could not cope with too many children returning to the classroom while so many teachers were working to provide online schooling.
The directive to parents comes as the state recorded its third consecutive day without new cases of coronavirus.
Health authorities reported on Sunday night that since 6:00pm Saturday no cases had been detected.
Ms Spencer has written to parents to remind them the only acceptable reasons to send a child to school were if the parents were “essential workers” or “unable to supervise them”.
Ms Spencer claimed she had heard reasons for sending children included children missing their friends, and parents needing time with other children or to finish household chores.
“We understand if you have no option other than to send your child or children to school … That’s OK,” she wrote.
“We are open to students for this purpose.
“I ask that if you have the option to keep your child at home, however, can you please do so?
She said the message was directed at about 30 families.
Ms Spencer warned as more children attended school, educators teaching both students at home and on site were put under greater strain.
St Mary’s is a Catholic college for girls from primary to secondary ages.
Australian Education Union executive and teacher David Genford said rising student numbers would put increasing stress on teachers at Tasmania’s public schools.
“It’s been difficult for some teachers, depending on how many students have been in their classroom and the responsibilities they’ve got to both the online students and classroom students,” he said.
Mr Genford said on-site school attendance statewide averaged about 15 per cent, which was a “manageable” number.
But he warned teachers would be stretched too thin if more children were sent back to school.
“Once we start getting above that number, getting towards the 30 per cent mark, then it becomes very difficult for teachers to manage,” he said.
A Department of Education spokesperson said schools outside of the north-west saw an average of 20 per cent on-site school attendance over the first three days of term two.
An average of 67 per cent of students were learning from home.
Extra restrictions end in the north-west
Health Minister Sarah Courtney indicated it was highly unlikely Tasmania’s COVID-19 statewide restrictions would be eased before mid-May.
And she also warned on Sunday morning the additional restrictions in the north-west, set to end at midnight tonight, would be lifted with “great caution”.
The additional restrictions were put in place after the region experienced an explosion in COVID-19 cases associated with outbreaks at the North West Regional Hospital and the North West Private Hospital, which closed both hospitals for a “deep clean”.
The extra restrictions for the north-west regions included the shutdown of a wide range of businesses including K-Mart and Bunnings, and the closure of schools.
Schools in the north-west will be open for the second week of term two for those who need to attend.
Ms Courtney said parts of the North West Regional Hospital would be reopened as the restrictions eased.
“I’m very pleased we’re going to see the continued reopening of this hospital this coming week,” she said.
She said the priority would be restarting maternity services, radiation oncology and intensive care.
The hospital’s Spencer Clinic is also expected to reopen soon for patients requiring mental health services.
But Ms Courtney warned it would be some time before Tasmanians could go about life as normal.
“While we’re seeing some restrictions on the north-west ease as of Monday morning, restrictions remain across the whole state,” she said.
“I want to be clear for all Tasmanians. There are a lot of different messages coming from different jurisdictions, but here in Tasmania you must stay at home unless you’re going out for essential reasons.”
Ms Courtney implored Tasmanians to proceed with great caution to ensure there was not a second spike in cases.
“We cannot be complacent and we must continue to ensure we’re complying with all the measures, “she said.
North-west business owner David Pease said he had concerns over businesses reopening, but he welcomed the decision.
“They may have an initial little surge, and I think we may be that way as well,” he said.
“I think people will be that little bit nervous and they’ll hold off, they won’t be rushing into town yet.
“I think everyone’s well aware this is just putting us back to where we were three weeks ago, it’s not easing restrictions completely.
“I’m confident in the population doing the right thing.”
Burnie Mayor Steve Kons agreed the lifting of some restrictions was comforting.
“People are eager to get out there and start normal activities,” Mr Kons said.
“I’ve got a feeling people will tread a little more carefully than they have in the past, but hopefully they do come out.
“We need to get people’s confidence back again to be able to participate in normal activities.
“On the north-west coast, people are relatively responsible.”
Tasmania’s cases tally rests at 221.
Of the 689 people who presented at respiratory clinics for testing on Saturday, 379 were in the north-west.
In Smithton, 71 people were tested at the mobile clinic.
Across the state, 158 people have recovered from the virus.
Deputy Director of Public Health Dr Scott McKeown said it was encouraging Tasmania had no new cases over the past two days.
“This is a result of everyone’s efforts following the public health measures that have been put in place, such as staying at home,” he said.
“But we do, in the state and in the north-west, need to remain cautious and we need to be very very careful we don’t undo all of the great work.
“At midnight tonight [Sunday], the north-west will have its additional restrictions lifted so it returns to the same level of restrictions as the rest of the state.
“To the people in the north-west, thank you for all your community-mindedness, and your sacrifices in keeping your communities safe.
“We need you to keep staying at home unless you are leaving for anything essential.
“You will, after midnight tonight, be back in line with the rest of the state.”
But he exhorted all those in the north-west if they had any cold symptoms — including a sniffle or cough — to have a test and to not go to work.
He also asked Tasmanians to download the COVIDSafe app.
He said there were about 50 active cases.