URGENT calls are being made to state governments to make boarding students return to school easy in 2021, especially if they need to cross a closed border.
NSW Senator Perin Davey has urged state governments to start planning now for students returning to school across State bordersin the light of the latest round of COVID restrictions.
Leeton shire is home to two boarding schools - St Francis College and Yanco Agricultural High School.
The latter in particular is home to students from all across the country.
Ms Davey spent much of last year advocating on behalf of border communities and regional boarding school students to get exemptions to be able to cross borders to attend school.
"Last year it was crazy with students unable to return home or return to school and the uncertainty causing unnecessary stress on students and families alike," Ms Davey said.
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"We also had the ridiculous scenario where some small regional schools had their operations thrown into turmoil because they had teachers living on the wrong side of a border - yet less than 50km away.
"We have already seen absolute chaos on the NSW-Victorian border ... I heard of a group of grape pickers packing up and leaving their jobs in NSW when just four days later the Victorian government announced an agricultural worker permit."
Students coming in from places such as Victoria can do so, but should they wish to return for a weekend would need to isolate and get tested for COVID-19, making it virtually impossible to return home for a day or two or for a family emergency.
Ms Davey said the government cannot leave the planning for school communities to the last minute.
"Families need to know what they need to do to ensure their children can go to school," she said.
A consistent approach across state borders was needed to ensure that all students, and cross border staff, had a clear process to follow to apply for necessary permits, according to Ms Davey.
"The new school year is (weeks away) and, while I hope border restrictions will have eased by then, we must prepare for the worst now and give families time to plan," she said.