All schools in Swansea will move to blended learning from Monday following the latest Welsh Government advice.
But they will remain open until December 18 for pupils up to and including Year 8 whose parents or carers are key workers and for vulnerable learners should they wish to attend.
Primary and secondary schools will be providing online teaching for pupils who are home and arrangements will be in place to ensure that those that qualify for a free school meal receive a payment or food bag as soon as possible.
The Welsh Government said while schools remain safe and secure environments general coronavirus rates in Wales were increasing daily.
Parents are being urged to ensure that children not in school stay at home and minimise contact with others.
Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart said: “Our schools have done an outstanding job in keeping education going this term while also ensuring that the school environment is as safe as it possibly can be.
“Throughout the pandemic we have closely followed Welsh Government and public health advice and we always said that we were keeping the situation under constant review.
“What is now absolutely vitally important is that children not in school do not go out meeting up with groups of friends but stay at home and minimise contact.
“Swansea already has one of the highest coronavirus rates in Wales and if young people are out and mixing freely it will only make matters worse.”
Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Learning and Skills, Jennifer Raynor added: “I would again like to place on record my sincere gratitude to headteachers in Swansea and their staff for keeping schools running safely and securely throughout this incredibly difficult year.
“They are keeping schools open again next week for children’s whose parents are key workers so that vital services are not impacted.”
The announcement follow’s last night’s Welsh Government Education Minister, Kirsty Williams’s decision for Secondary schools in Wales to move to online learning from Monday, December 14 as part of a ‘national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus’
Council leaders in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion are also allowing schools across the region to move to distance learning in the run-up to Christmas.
Carmarthenshire County Council is allowing all primary and special schools the choice to move to distance learning or remain open from Tuesday, December 15. In Ceredigion all primary and special schools will move to distance learning from Tuesday, December 15. In Pembrokeshire, all primary schools will move to distance learning from Tuesday, December 15.
Families with children eligible for free school meals will receive payment to cover the days they are learning from home.
Carmarthenshire County Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “We are extremely concerned about how quickly the virus is spreading in our communities, and unfortunately this is having a significant impact on our schools.
“We have already seen some schools having to close, not because coronavirus is circulating there but because so many staff are having to self-isolate.
“Our schools have worked hard to provide a safe environment; the problem is not in our schools but in the community, where people are mixing with each other causing the virus to spread easily.
“This hasn’t been an easy decision, but we want to make sure pupils and staff can enjoy Christmas with their families. I cannot emphasise enough though how important it is that pupils stay at home and carry on with the work set by their teachers and do not mix with other households, otherwise all this will be for nothing, and the virus will continue to spread exponentially.”
Ceredigion County Council Leader Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn said “We all recognise the hard work of school staff during the year and in meeting the challenges that the coronavirus has brought, whilst at the same time continuing to deliver high quality teaching, face to face or remotely. We also recognise that our pupils have had to adapt to the new ways of working.
“However, now is the time to ensure the health and safety of our pupils and staff in the lead up to Christmas and closing schools for face to face teaching will enable families to limit contact with people they do not live with leading up to Christmas. The risk of catching coronavirus is reduced when we limit how much contact we have with others – these days will give families that opportunity so that they can see loved ones over the festive period.”
Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson said: “This has been a difficult decision to take but one that we hope parents and carers can understand. Coronavirus is spreading across our communities and we see the impact every day with increasing numbers of classes and year groups having to self-isolate.
“It is important to emphasise that this is not an extended Christmas holiday. Pupils should not be mixing with other households – just like adults should not be mixing with other households.
“It’s up to all of us to do our bit to fight coronavirus.”