High fire risk for some schools

TASMANIAN schools remain open even on the most dangerous of fire-danger days, according to state Education Department policy.

Under state guidelines, Dunalley Primary School pupils would probably be at school and requiring evacuation if a bushfire, like that which devastated the town, happened next week.

Dunalley school was all but destroyed in the bushfire on January 7, with only the hall and a block of toilets surviving.

Existing Tasmanian Education Department policy stipulates that schools will remain open on emergency warning days.

Tasmanian independent and Catholic schools follow a similar policy.

Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory schools would be closed in such conditions.

The measures interstate have been put in place since the Victorian  bushfires in February 2009.

Both Victoria and Western Australia also retain a ``bushfire at risk register'' of schools.

Eighteen government and three independent and Catholic schools are regarded by the Tasmania Fire Service and the department as at increased risk of bushfire.

In 2009 all schools underwent TFS bushfire assessments and these were reviewed last year.

The Dunalley school was not on that increased risk list.

The school is not expected to be rebuilt and ready to open until 2014.

Department deputy secretary Andrew Finch said yesterday his department and the TFS worked closely on bushfire management plans of schools regarded as being at greater bushfire risk.

``In the event of very high fire danger ratings, an assessment will be made on a case-by-case basis as to whether a school should remain open,'' he said.

He said students at school would receive appropriate direction rather than being at home where guardianship arrangements could vary and in cases may not be adequate.

He said decisions in bushfire situations were made by the TFS and the department.

He said schools assessed at being of greater risk had bushfire response plans that were assessed each year.

Schools regarded as being at increased risk:

Avoca Primary School, Brooks High School, Bruny Island District School, Cape Barren Island District School, Collinsvale Primary School, Dodges Ferry Primary School, Fingal Primary School, Geeveston District High School, Glen Huon Primary School, Hobart College, Molesworth Primary School, Northern Support School - St Georges, Prospect High School, Queechy High School, Redpa Primary School, South Arm Primary School, South George Town Primary School, Taroona Primary School.

Glen Dhu Primary School in South Launceston.

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