A group of boarding school principals have united to fight Queensland Health's rules around what constitutes a critically essential worker.
While teachers are regarded as "critically essential" and so can leave quarantine to do their job as long as they are not showing COVID-19 symptoms and have had two doses of a vaccine (or three if eligible) - many other staff who work to keep boarding facilities running are not considered "critically essential".
The heads of southern Queensland schools St Ursula's, Toowoomba Anglican School, St. Saviours, Concordia, Fairholme and Downlands, and Warwick school Scots PGC say the current rule, which deems teachers as critically essential but not boarding house staff, could "render a boarding facility inoperable".
Fairholme College principal Dr Linda Evans recently wrote a letter on behalf of the group to Health Minister Yvette D'Ath requesting a rule change.
"A number of boarding houses are staffed solely by non-teaching staff - no boarding school operates exclusively with teachers," Dr Evans said.
"Thus, the directive that none of these non-teaching employees are either critical or essential is folly. In a health crisis, such a classification could render a boarding facility inoperable."
Dr Evans said academic staff whose work was entirely in the day school could not fill the shoes of those who care for boarders.
"They can't operate the health centre, they can't provide meals for hundreds, they aren't practised at counselling a homesick child at midnight, nor are they conversant with the logistics of lights out. It's not their job," she said.
"We want to know that there are staffing options available to us, should a sudden health crisis impact our boarding schools."
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She said boarding staff had unique skills utilised around the clock to provide care for boarding students.
"They are undeniably critical and essential workers within our schools, and, as such, need to be classified accordingly."
A Queensland Health spokesperson said a close contact was at the highest risk of getting COVID-19.
"The list of critical industries is deliberately small to reduce the likely spread of COVID-19," they said.
They said if an industry was not listed, employers could still request class or individual exemptions.
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