Thousands of schoolchildren to learn from home during cycling event

Almost 3000 students will have to learn from home again later this month when a key fixture of the world sports calendar takes place in Wollongong.

Nine schools and two support units will close for the final week of term three because they will be inaccessible once roads are closed for the UCI Road World Championships cycling event, which runs from September 18 to 25.

Students from nine Wollongong schools will learn from home again for one week.Credit:Michele Mossop

Parents and students have expressed their frustration with the latest school disruption on the back of last year’s COVID-19 lockdown, during which schools switched to remote learning for more than a term.

Paul Cullen, who has a daughter in Year 12 and a son in Year 9 at two of the affected schools, said the week of remote learning was unwelcome, especially leading into the HSC.

“The upsetting thing is that after two years with COVID and lockdowns, and all the time they’ve spent away from their peers, the final week of school gets pulled from them without much notice,” he said.

“Especially for year 12, going into the HSC – and that’s my daughter – I would have thought that it’s a pretty important time to have face-to-face contact.”

The Australian team trains for the UCI Road World Championships in Leuven, Belgium last year.Credit:Getty Images

Organisers acknowledged the disruption but said the event would give Wollongong a much-needed economic boost after a triple whammy of floods, COVID-19 and bushfires.

It is expected to add $95 million to the Wollongong and NSW economies, draw 300,000 spectators to the circuit, and attract an international television audience of 300 million people. Almost 1000 competitors will represent their countries in the event, including the world’s top cyclists.

“[This event] is 100 years old and has only been out of Europe 10 times,” Wollongong 2022 chief executive Stu Taggart said.

“It’s a real coup for Australia because it’s part of the triple crown of cycling, alongside the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.

Eleven world title races will be held in and around Wollongong in September.Credit:Alex Whitehead/

“You can’t host an event of this scale in any city in the world without their being some disruption.”

Residents on the race route will not be able to enter or leave their driveways during race times, nor will they be able to park in their street. They have been advised to park away from home if they need to use their cars during races.

They have also been warned to expect disruption to deliveries, as well as to services like home care, and have been asked to work from home.

The P&C Federation said it was unfortunate the event was not planned to coincide with the school holidays, so as to avoid disrupting student learning.

Racers will traverse the Sea Cliff Bridge north of Wollongong.

“It is especially concerning that parents not able to provide home learning for whatever reason apparently have no option of sending their children to school, as they did during the pandemic,” a spokesperson said.

Taggart said the course was launched on December 10 last year and organisers had been working closely with the community and authorities to help ease disruption, including by keeping key arterial roads open, and to give people time to plan.

“We’ve had a lot of support,” Taggart said. “There’s always going to be some resistance, but the community spirit that’s being shown, the excitement that’s starting to build as we get closer to the event, is a great reflection on the city.”

Businesses, clubs and councils in the Illawarra and south coast have benefited from $660,000 worth of state government grants, handed out in the lead-up to the championships, to build up cycling programs and projects in the region.

Wollongong mayor Gordon Bradbury said cycling was part of the city’s psyche, and most of the community was excited about the event.

“Wollongong was previously perceived as the Steel City, as an industrial city, but it’s seen as lifestyle city now, and [the event will] illustrate a city that’s changed dramatically in the past decade or so.”

“This is not just about a sugar hit at end of September. It’s about investing in an ongoing cycling or bike city, and it will certainly put Wollongong on the map,” he said.

Bradbury understood the frustration of residents, but called on them to have patience.

“We have had a lot of disruption in our lives with COVID, and here’s another moment of disruption, which has caused some people concern – they want life to get back to normal … but it’s only for a week.“

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