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"I'll see 200 students today." 6 teachers on how it felt to arrive at work this morning.

On Sunday afternoon, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australian schools will remain open indefinitely, despite simultaneously announcing a ban on non-essential gatherings of over 500 people.

This morning, teachers around the country went to their workplaces, many alongside hundreds of pupils, and got on with the school day, as though it was any other.

At the time of reporting, we have 300 confirmed cases of coronavirus and five deaths.

On Monday morning, we spoke to six teachers from around the country about how it felt to arrive at school amid a pandemic.

1. “I’m stressed.”

As a teacher with a suppressed immune system, I’m stressed about spending my days in close proximity with children who are not known for their high hygiene standards.

The rule of 1.5 metres distancing does not work with 28 kids in a classroom.

I am concerned about the two children I have sent to the health room, after they reported feeling unwell. They were sent back to my classroom because their parents refused to come and collect them.

2. “I’ll see 200 students today.”

I am a high school teacher. We still do not have soap in the boys toilets. I am disinfecting my classroom between classes, but over the course of the day, 200 students will pass through my class.

I am scared and saddened by the laid back approach that is being taken by public schools.

There is no possible way to practice social distancing or hand hygiene in a public school.

Watch: Mamamia’s The Quicky host Claire Murphy breaks down your most asked questions about COVID-19. Post continues below. 

Video by Mamamia

3. “We ran out of water today.”

I am a teacher and I also have a young baby at home so I’m hyperaware of COVID-19. Some of my colleagues are very casual and some are anxious.

One of the school’s mums, who is also a nurse, is coming in to teach the little ones about washing hands. We also ran out of water on site today, so hand washing won’t work. I’m sensing the tension. We have parent-teacher interviews for the next two days as well, which brings more people in.

I am worried that kids will pass it to our older teachers or volunteers.

Our students are anxious about it. When I was on yard duty today, Year Four kids were playing a game where they would chase each other, and when they got caught, they would shout, “You have Coronavirus!”

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4. “I am happy schools are still open.”

I am a teacher. I am happy schools are still open.

We have hand wash everywhere, as well as sanitiser and disinfectant for all the tables. If parents are worried and capable, then of course, keep them at home.

I am not worried for my motivated senior students, because we will video conference. However, I am worried for one of our five-year-old students, who has Down syndrome and who’s single mum is a nurse. I am also worried for one of our 13-year-old students, who has behavioural issues and will be causing havoc.

There is a whole society to think about here, not just the privileged. Schools are a safe and secure place for many who need it.

Listen to Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky about what life is really like in COVID-19 lockdown. Post continues below.

5. “Parents are unhappy.”

Today at work, my colleagues and I are all just watching and waiting. Some parents are already keeping their children home (which is fine!), but they are asking us to send school work home. This is adding pressure to us already stressed teachers. Right now, our school policy is to say no, until the whole school is shut down. So some parents are unhappy with us too.

I’m in Learning Support, meaning I sit with all different students for hours on end, trying to get them to understand what the teacher either couldn’t or didn’t have time to. We look after kids with autism, behavioural difficulties and learning difficulties. These are precisely the kids who often don’t understand hygiene or social distancing.

I turn 60 this year and I have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. I really need my low-paid job.

Schools should be closed for at least two weeks, if not more, and sick leave should not be used to cover this.

6. “I didn’t go.”

I’m a teacher. I kept my kids home today and I am not returning to work. All the doctors I personally know are saying it is the only way to slow the curve.

I’m not willing to risk my family’s life, but I feel extreme guilt that I am not supporting my colleagues today. The risk is too high for me. I won’t put my parents at risk by bringing something home.

As a Head Teacher with leave available and wealthy parents, I can make this choice and deal with the consequences later. My colleagues feel they don’t have a choice.

I’ve been on the phone to friends who are in tears about being there today. They are at a loss as to what to do. My partner went to work because he is not permanent and felt guilty and fearful of losing his good relationship with the principal.

He has messaged me today angry that while some measures have been put in place, like staggered breaks, for the majority of the day he is in a room with 30 kids.

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