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UCI Road Worlds to force Aussie schoolkids out of classroom and back online

Schools in Wollongong to close on safety grounds next month when New South Wales city hosts event

Schoolchildren in Wollongong, New South Wales will be forced out of the classroom and back to online learning when the UCI Road Cycling World Championships take place there next month.

The championships, said to be the biggest ever hosted in the city which lies on the coast around 85km south of central Sydney, will take place from 18-25 September, with 300,000 visitors expected.

That coincides with the final week of the first half of the second semester of the school year, reports ABC.

The decision to close classrooms at seven schools in the city and switch students back to virtual learning – something with which all but the youngest will be familiar of course thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – was reportedly taken in the interests of their safety.

More than 300,000 spectators are expected to be in the city for the world class racing event from September 18 to 25.

Parents were informed of the school closures, which are necessary due to the event making them inaccessible, earlier this week.

David Lamb of Education NSW said that while schools had demonstrated that remote learning was possible during the pandemic, in contrast with the situation then, parents or carers unable to help children study online would not be able to bring them to classrooms while the championships are taking place.

He said: “Unfortunately, one of the by-products of the race, the schools will be shut and no one will be there," he said.

“We will have to rely on our parents to discuss with their principals what is the best option for them and look at alternatives.”

Lamb added that a further 12 schools close to the routes of the races would “be advised of road closures and alternate routes to and from school and be encouraged to plan their trip in advance.”

Duncan McDonald of the NSW Teachers Federation said that it was a shame that the Road Worlds did not likewise coincide with the school holidays.

“There are some concerns that the week will be disruptive to number of schools,” he explained.

He said that the school closures would particularly impact the most vulnerable students who attend classes in support units.

“The principals and teachers do a remarkable job in those support units, so when there is disruption and there is not a predictable day it makes the day very challenging.

“So unfortunately, we will see students miss the opportunity to be at school with their classmates, but also it will be difficult do their circumstances to do the online learning.”

But he added that no matter the disruption caused by the World Championships, the current shortage of teachers in the state was a far more serious problem.

"The level of disruption does not compare to the everyday disruption that is occurring in all schools due to the significant long term teacher shortages,” he insisted.

“On a daily basis the impact is noticed, COVID and flu are making a bad situation much worse, schools are struggling and very challenged trying and get teachers in front of students every day,” he added.

The week-long UCI ProTour race, the Tour Down Under – not held in the past two years due to the pandemic – usually takes place in January to coincide with the final week of the summer school holidays in South Australia, helping boost spectator numbers, including families, often visiting from out of state.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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