An elite Sydney girls school at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak is being investigated by police after parents accused it of ignoring social distancing.
The cluster of cases at Tangara School for Girls in Cherrybrook jumped to 20 on Thursday, including 12 senior students and one teacher.
Police officers attended the school, which has been closed this week, on Thursday following the claim of an outraged parent who said choir was still being held along with compulsory mass and communion.
NSW Police said they would be investigating any breaches of public health orders.
‘The NSW Police Force is working with NSW Health and the NSW Department of Education to determine whether there have been any breaches of current Public Health Orders,’ NSW Police said in a statement.
Another mother said her daughter along with some other students ‘didn’t seem surprised’ an outbreak had occurred at the school, The Australian reported.
‘She felt (the school) could have been stricter on their procedures (and) people were starting to panic,’ the mother said.
One father also said there was a ‘sense of distress’ as the cluster of infections continues to grow.
The police investigation comes after one worried parent told 2GB’s Ben Fordham Tangara was not following health guidelines.
‘According to this parent, the school has not been practicing COVID-safe measures,’ Fordham said on Thursday.
‘They say the primary school has been doing weekly choir, they’ve continued compulsory mass, students are still taking communion by the hand and teachers have been taking it by the tongue.
‘Last Wednesday there was a primary school food stall run by the high school students.’
But the girls school has strongly denied the parent’s claims.
‘We absolutely refute the claims made regarding our COVID-safe practices,’ the spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia.
‘There has been no breach of the rules in regard to any school activities including assemblies, Mass, choirs, and guidance around food items.’
‘We have always observed the NSW Government rules and guidelines for schools, leading up to, during, and post-lockdown.
‘In term 3, in accordance with NSW Government schools guidelines, this has included following the 4sqm rule for assemblies and Mass, no choirs or singing in any form, and a food stall that observed COVID-safe practices including students following appropriate social distancing.’
Health authorities are still working to identify the source of the cluster of cases at the Cherrybrook school.
‘We have some hypotheses but that person is not linked to a known cluster,’ NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.
An overnight religious retreat is believed to be the reason for the outbreak in cases at Tangara.
An investigation is underway into reports several Year 10 and 11 students attended an overnight religious retreat in Bargo, 90km south-west of Sydney, before they tested positive, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The school insists it had nothing to do with the retreat and that it was organised by the nearby Eremeran study centre with the Catholic organisation Opus Dei.
‘The school has not held any camps or retreats for its students since March 2020, when the COVID-19 restrictions for schools came into place,’ a school statement read.
The Tangara School for Girls secondary campus has been closed since Monday and will remain shut until at least August 24.
All students, staff and support staff at the secondary campus have been ordered to get tested for and self-isolate at home for two weeks, even if a negative test result is returned.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said any extra-curricular activities should not be going on in the midst of the outbreak of cases.
‘Extracurricular activities, those excursions, overnight things which you would ordinary do are not acceptable during the pandemic,’ Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday.
‘I’m absolutely paranoid about what I do myself, the worst thing to be would be unintentionally give it to others.’