Students set to gradually go back to school

By Alex Gretgrix

SOME families are jumping for joy as the Victorian government announced students will gradually return to classroom learning in the coming weeks.

From Tuesday, May 26, all prep, grade 1 and grade 2 students, specialist school students, as well as VCE and VCAL students will return to on-site learning at government schools.

Students between years 3 and 10 will return from Monday, June 9, and will continue learning remotely until that date.

While some are looking forward to sending their children back to school, mother of six Krystal Johnson said it has her worried.

Twins River and Savannah, who attend Moama Public School, will be the first to return to the classroom today, although they will only go once per week.

Year 11 student Thomas will be next on May 26, with other siblings expected to go back on June 6.

“I’m actually worried about all of the kids going back,” Krystal said.

“A lot of people have asked how I’ve dealt with the situation, but the kids have made my job so much easier.”

Despite the struggles some families faced, the Johnston's seemed to have it down to a fine art.

“Getting into a routine made a big difference to everyday activities,” she said.

“The biggest problem I had was making sure the kids were submitting their work.

“But overall it has been a great experience for our family.”

Some local schools welcomed the announcements made on Tuesday.

“We are pleased that all students will be returning to school on May 26,” Echuca Specialist School principal Paul Marshall said.

“It has been a challenging time for many of our families and we look forward to seeing the students again."

Other principals also welcomed the announcement.

“The uncertainty around the return date and process was starting to become a distraction,” St Joseph's College principal Michael Delany said.

“Our community has proven itself to be very resilient and adaptable and I’m sure will mange the return to school program well,” he said.

Mr Marshall said the announcement has come at the right time.

“The Victorian Government has made this decision taking in to consideration all of the facts,” he said.

“They have given schools many supports to ensure the safety of students, staff and families.”

Vulnerable students in years 3 to 10, and children in those years whose parents or carers cannot work from home, can continue to attend school on-site as needed during this period.

Teachers are keen to be able to see their students faces in person rather than on a screen.

“The staff have really missed working face to face with students,” he said.

“We have kept in regular contact with students and families, however nothing beats the personal level of being in a classroom face to face.”

St Mary's Primary School principal Brendan Atley agreed

“I know all of our staff are very excited to have the children back on the grounds,” he said.

“We're proud of our teachers, families and school community for taking on the virtual learning and doing well with it, but we will enjoy having everyone here.”

All Victorian school staff will be prioritised for voluntary coronavirus testing for a two-week period from both mobile and fixed testing sites, starting today.

This will enable school staff to seek testing during the preparation period before the return to on-site schooling.

Schools will be encouraged to implement a staggered drop-off system to reduce the number of adults congregating outside the school at any one time, as well as staggered break times to manage the number of students mixing across year levels.

Schools will also implement social distancing measures to ensure the safety of all.

“There will be extra cleaning throughout the day, lessons will be taught focussed on hygiene practises, we will practise social distancing, we will limit the number of people on the school grounds and meetings for staff will continue to be remote,” Mr Marshall said.

“The government has also supplied the school with personal protective equipment to be used when required.”

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