The state government has given assurances of the safety of the school environment as hundreds of thousands of children return to face-to-face learning this week after two months of home-based learning in Melbourne and regional Victoria.
- After two months of distance learning, many children are happy to be back in school
- According to James Merlino, there are systems that can be used to treat outbreaks
- Important priorities are getting the kids back into school life and reconnecting with their friends
about 584,000 prep through seventh grade children and VCE students returned today, with schools having the option to postpone the return of all grades to classroom learning later in the week.
Students in regional Victoria returned to schools last week.
Education Secretary James Merlino said Victorians should be proud of the efforts they have made to help students return to face-to-face learning.
“We’re at the point now where people are back in school because the Victorians managed to bring the numbers down,” he said.
Schools in a “good position” to offer safe learning
One school, Nazareth College in Noble Park, southeast Melbourne, is closed after a 12th grade student tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend.
The student took exams at school last week and the campus is undergoing a thorough cleaning.
However, the education minister cited a report by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, produced at the request of the Department of Health, which concluded that schools and daycare facilities pose a low risk of transmission and that off-site learning should be a last resort.
“You will have cases, but we have the systems in place to reopen the school as soon as possible and I am confident that this will happen to Nazareth,” Merlino said.
Southeast Melbourne’s Spring Park Primary School principal Julie Fisher said her school had literally rolled out the red carpet for returning students.
“The protocols for this return to school are tightened,” she said.
“We have cleaners who wipe the tables five hours a day, all the high points of contact. I think we are in a really good position to offer a safe learning environment. “
Students face the challenge of adapting to life in the classroom again
The Education Minister said mental health support for returning students will be important now that they are back in school.
“The very first priority for schools will be the mental health and wellbeing of students, reconnecting them with their friends and peers, and getting them back to school,” said Merlino.
“Many students are successful, many students also have problems and will need this catch-up support.”
Victorian Principals Federation President Julie Podbury warned many students that they will need to be “re-socialized” when they return to school, and some face major adjustments in their learning practices.
Some parents had raised concerns about the impact school closings could have on results, but Julie Podbury said the students handled the situation well.
“It’s not as dramatic as many people would think, some schools reported to me,” she said.
“In fact, a significant number of schools have reported to me that the academic progress of students differs little from a normal school year.”
Most Victorian students have been home learning since early August, and child psychologist Deirdre Brandner cautioned parents to be aware of how big the change would be for many students when they returned to a classroom.
“There are a lot of mixed feelings about going to school this morning after a significant break, and while many parents enjoy the experience very much, we also need to be aware of the implications this has for children, those at home were a long time, “ Mrs. Brandner said.
Kallfu Llangkafilu, a sixth grade student at Spring Park Primary, said he looks forward to getting back into the school environment.
“I missed most of the second and third terms, but luckily I can complete that term,” he said.
“I haven’t really spoken to most of them [my friends]. I’ve talked to them a bit on the internet, but I haven’t really addressed most of them so I think they’ll be a great time to talk to again. “
Another Spring Park student, Lucas Chuah, said he found it difficult to study from home at times.
“I look forward to studying in the classroom because I am very distracted online from the things that are going on in the house and online,” he said.
Lucas’ mother, Karyn Chau, said her children learned new skills while studying from home that she hoped would benefit them in the classroom.
“Well, they’ve got a lot of internet skills from all of their online learning with the teachers and the zooms they did,” Karyn said.
“I think it’ll translate into the school they go to pretty well.”
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