Carey principal Jonathan Walter said in an email to parents that the two affected staff members work in close proximity to each other.
“I appreciate that this is disturbing news for us all as it signals an escalation of the spread of the virus within our community and call on each of you to continue to support each other as we work to bring students back on site as soon as possible,” he said.
Four families from Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah, including the male teacher who became Victoria’s 21st confirmed coronavirus case, were on flight QF94, which landed in Melbourne on March 7.
School principal Shimon Waronker said the families were not travelling together and were on the same flight by chance.
The three other families are now in isolation, awaiting their test results. A school spokesman said the results would only be made public if they came back positive.
The teacher, who is in his 50s, worked at the school for half a day on Monday while he was infectious. He was experiencing very few symptoms on Monday morning so went to work at Beth Rivkah as usual. He has not shown any symptoms since and feels completely fine, said Jeremy Gold, the school’s chief operating officer.
A number of students at the college who had close contact with the staff member are also being tested.
Early on Monday afternoon the school realised that he, along with the three other families, had been on the infected flight and sent them home to be tested for coronavirus, Dr Waronker said on Wednesday.
“Since they left on Monday, to the best of our knowledge, they have been in isolation – those on the plane and immediate family members,” Dr Waronker said.
With the school closed, Dr Waronker said it was looking at “the use of online platforms to facilitate learning”.
In a further letter to parents, Dr Waronker said the entire school would undergo a deep clean over the next two days.
The St Kilda East group of schools includes girls’ and boys’ primary and secondary schools, as well as an early learning centre and a synagogue. Together, there are about 1300 students at the schools.
It has also been in discussions with other Jewish schools in Melbourne, many of which are nearby.
Marc Light, principal of The King David School, said a small number of his teachers had children at Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah and some King David parents teach at the other school.
They and their children have been instructed to self-isolate at home until further notice, Mr Light said, but there was no immediate threat to King David, which is in Armadale, about two kilometres from Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah.
Mr Light told The Age he had called an all-school assembly at midday to “calm everything down a bit”.
Meanwhile, the In One Voice Jewish cultural street festival due to be held in Elsternwick on March 15 has been postponed, organisers said on Facebook.
Despite Premier Daniel Andrews’ warning that all schools in the state could be shut down as the virus spreads, there are no plans to bring forward the school holidays – which for state school students start on Saturday, March 28 – or adjust term dates.
All schools are required to report an outbreak to the education and health departments, but are not required to inform parents that testing is under way.
Updated health advice for Australians
The symptoms of coronavirus include:
- Shortness of breath; and
- Breathing difficulties
If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
with Madeleine Heffernan and Aimee Amiga
Michael is a reporter for The Age.
Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.