Students across South Australia have returned to school amid confusion over bans on parents in classrooms and fruit in lunchboxes.

Key points:

  • Parents have expressed confusion over coronavirus restrictions
  • Several fruit fly outbreaks have emerged in Adelaide and the Riverland
  • The SA horticulture industry has seen significant drops in fruit sales

Parents were last year banned from entering many school sites and functions, as part of coronavirus measures.

Clapham Primary School parent Nicole McCarthy said the restrictions had been difficult.

“I’ve found that really isolating, because we used to be able to go in and touch base with the teacher, and go to the office,” she said.

“We haven’t stepped foot inside the school grounds really since February or March last year.”

Ms McCarthy said her school’s 2021 policies still felt “quite restrictive”.

“We’re still not allowed into the school unless we’re dropping into the office for a particular reason,” she added.

Some parents of beginning students expressed concern about whether they would be allowed to go into their child’s new classroom to say goodbye on their first day.

Students have returned to schools across South Australia today.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

Education Minister John Gardner said parents should listen to their schools’ advice when it comes to coronavirus measures.

But he also said the Education Department had lifted the broad restriction on parents entering school grounds.

“We’ve given advice this year that parents, volunteers, support and service providers can enter school grounds, that school assemblies can come back [along with] camps… and sports competitions, and so forth,” he said.

QR code check-ins come to the classroom

The SA Health QR code coronavirus check-in system is being rolled out in high schools from today, but Mr Gardner said it would be at least two weeks before all sites across the state would be able to implement the technology.

“They (SA Health) want to stagger the introduction over the next few weeks,” he said.

QR code check-ins are rolling out in schools across South Australia.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Mr Gardner said staggering the roll-out would help ensure the ICT system could cope with the increased volume of check-ins and implementing the system was “not urgent”.

“We’ve already got very high levels of accurate information about who is on school sites already,” he said.

“While we do expect our schools to have a daily check on everybody who is studying at the school, and indeed who the staff are and any external contractors coming in are supposed to sign in … the QR codes do add an extra level of certainty.”

He said area and R-12 schools would be expected to implement QR codes from next week, with primary schools to adopt the technology the week after that.

Confusion, anger over lunchbox fruit ban

A series of fruit fly outbreaks have prompted bans on taking fruit to school in nine zones in metropolitan Adelaide and three in the Riverland.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) has asked anyone living in an outbreak zone not to transport any fruit, whether home-grown or shop-bought, to school, and strongly discouraged it in a broader suspension zone that covers most of the city.

But some schools aren’t drawing that distinction, writing to parents this week, urging them to leave fruit at home.

It has caused confusion among parents and anger from the state’s horticultural industry.

South Australia’s horticultural industry body says there has been a significant decline in sales since parents were discouraged from including fruit in lunchboxes.(ABC Rural: Jon Daly)

Mr Gardner said schools had been asked to communicate with parents directly about lunchbox restrictions.

“This is a biosecurity issue that SA hasn’t had to deal with, in terms of the school lunchbox, on such a wide scale before,” Mr Gardner said.

“We’re asking people, if you live in one of the exclusion zones, not to transport fruit if it’s from your tree, and if you’ve purchased fruit from the fruit and veg shop, then you’ve got to take that home and eat it at home.

Parents have reported confusion over lunchbox fruit bans in South Australia.(ABC Radio Darwin: Emilia Terzon)

Opposition education spokesman Blair Boyer said it was not fair to leave those communications to individual schools.

“From the principals I’ve spoken to about this, there’s a level of frustration I guess that they are the ones left dealing with the questions about what can and can’t go into lunchboxes.”

Mr Boyer said information about which fruits were banned had been difficult for parents to find and understand.

Horticulture Coalition of SA chair Angelo Demasi said retailers and growers had already seen a large drop in sales since the State Government announced the lunchbox ban.

Mr Demasi said he was calling on the State Government to immediately retract the ban.

He said PIRSA should instead encourage steps to reduce the risk of fruit fly spreading, such as wrapping fruit and keeping it in an enclosed lunchbox.