Medical experts and teachers are warning of a return to at-home learning and disrupted classrooms when schools return this year.
Dr Karina Powers, occupational and environmental physician with OzSAGE told ACM she expects the situation to be "disastrous" if careful planning is not put in place now.
"This is a different outbreak. I think in the eastern states at present, you have two waves of disease, you have Delta and all Omicron together, and the situation is incredibly serious," Dr Powers said.
"From the health point of view, really a disaster. The hospitals are clearly overwhelmed.
"So this wave is a quite different context for schools, and really they need every level of control in place they practically can to minimise any further amplification of this outbreak."
In Queensland, NSW, Victoria and ACT, the expected peak of virus growth is likely to collide with the return to classrooms.
As a result, Queensland has announced it will delay its start of term for two weeks, to begin in February after the virus peaks.
Instead of starting on January 24, the state will introduce remote learning for years 11 and 12 from January 31, and will welcome back primary and high school students from February 7.
But other states, including NSW, Victoria and Tasmania have so far ruled out changing their start dates.
With children aged five to 11 being brought into the national vaccine rollout only this week, experts are warning that there will not be enough time to have students fully vaccinated before the school year begins.
Consequently, Dr Michael Bonning from the Australian Medical Association has told parents to expect another year of disruptions.
"People should be prepared again for home learning because some people will be in isolation, some children will be close contacts," Dr Bonning said.
"Some teachers and parents will be unable to get their kids to school in the morning because both parents are contacts so can't leave the house."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is looking to standardise the return to school across all states and territories.
"Our objective is go back, stay back, day one, term one. Now the peak of the Omicron virus is going to be different in different states and territories," Mr Morrison said.
"So the idea is that once we go back we stay back and we get certainty around that issue."
Once National Cabinet meets again on Thursday more decisions are expected to be announced.
The prime minister's message was reiterated by Anne Hollands, the National Children's Commissioner who said this week that a return to remote learning would need to be a last resort.
"School is much more than academic learning that can be replaced by Zoom," Ms Hollands said.
"School is a social learning environment, where social and emotional skills are developed, that are the platform for all academic learning and development and success in later life."
In order to manage a safe return to classrooms, Dr Powers is warning that "ideally every level in the hierarchy of controls will be in play that we possibly practically could".
A COVID safe classroom will be one that is well ventilated with CO2 monitoring devises and air purification.
"On days that are very still or there's bushfire there pollution, you can't just say that opening windows is going to be enough. You may find that with a child safe fan or something that could help," Dr Powers said.
"It might drop the amount of CO2 in the room, which gives you an indication of how well the air is being exchanged and lowers your risk of disease.
Or you may find that you need to change the amount of air coming through mechanical ventilation systems.
"Or you may find that it's indeed better to have HEPA filtration in the classrooms or the areas as a the primary mechanism to clean and scrub the air or as a backstop safety backstop in case other systems fail."
Adequate outdoor learning environments should be considered and regular testing of teachers and students should be available.
"There needs to be careful review of all the dead spaces in the school environment, which could be bathrooms or corridors or kitchens without any good air exchange. Some private schools have done this last year and this year, and obviously other industries have been testing in place," Dr Powers said.
In NSW and Victoria, trials of rapid antigen testing in schools has been floated as a possibility.
"It needs to be a regular program of testing, not simply a sampling here and there of a school, sometimes a regular program to really make any real inroad into decreasing risk," Dr Powers said.
"It takes a lot of setting up and is also currently can be quite expensive if it's not government doing it. some private schools have done this last year and this year, and obviously other industries have been testing in place.
"To really stem the tide, we need to focus on vaccination of every individual who can possibly be vaccinated and is eligible," Dr Powers said.
It is also recommended that schools be given widespread access to personal protective equipment, including fitted N95 or P2 masks for teachers, and KF94 or Flow masks for children.
"So there's plenty of different things we can do to just stop the spread of disease in a school, but it takes some planning, it takes some investment, it takes some effort and then it will pay off," Dr Powers said.
"We will have less disease in the community, we will have less spread in in our workplaces. And that then stops the load on the hospitals, which are well overloaded."