Victoria’s youngest and oldest students have returned to campuses across the state, nine weeks after coronavirus restrictions shut schools.
The return comes as a teacher at Keilor Downs Secondary College tested positive on Friday, but Education Minister James Merlino said they had not been at the school, and close contacts weren’t identified on site, so no further action was needed.
The teacher is one of 17,500 education staff tested before the return of students from Prep to year two and years 11 and 12 on Tuesday.
“The very clear advice from the chief health officer is that all staff should return to school for face to face teaching, all students should return to school for face to face teaching.”
An estimated one million students were forced to learn remotely when the global pandemic first began in March, but on Tuesday schools across Victoria welcomed back around 400,000 students as part of a staged return to classroom teaching.
Around 257,000 government school students from prep, grades 1-2, VCE and VCAL students, and specialist schools returned to classrooms on Tuesday in staged times from 8.50am – the first step in all students returning for face-to-face learning on 9 June.
Grade 3 to year 10 students will continue learning remotely until June 9, giving the health authorities a chance to monitor and evaluate the effects the return to school by other year levels.
In a touching recognition of the hard work of parents supporting their childrens’ learning from home, parents from one Melbourne primary school were handed a poem, a teabag and some chocolate saying “you did us proud”.
The poem thanked parents for their “love and patience” as teachers “take back the reigns of your child’s education”, radio 3AW reported.
Students at Dandenong High School told the ABC they could not wait to see their friends after weeks separated.
Year 12 student Abas Hassani said it had been an unusual way to finish his schooling.
“To put it all into one word it would be different, it has been so different from what we are used to,” he said.
Mr Hassani said he had missed his friends while studying from home, as well as taking part in athletics and PE classes.
But he said there had also been positives.
“I think this has been a learning experience for all of us, we have never experienced something like this before,” he said.
“It has taught us in general how to tackle new challenges.”
School summit planned
State education minister James Merlino told reporters on Tuesday morning a summit would be convened in June to discuss “lessons learnt” from the remote learning experience.
“Remote learning hasn’t been easy, but I couldn’t be prouder of how our principals, teachers, support staff, students and families have responded to the challenge,”
“The advice from the Chief Health Officer is for students to begin a phased return to face-to-face learning – and that’s what’s happening today.
“Having close to a million students learning from home has made a huge contribution to limiting the number of people moving around the community and reducing the spread of the virus.”
Meanwhile, Victoria recorded five new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.
Three of them were returned travellers in hotel quarantine, one case was found in routine testing and another was attributed to a resident at HammondCare’s Caulfield aged care centre.
But that resident and another at the centre who earlier tested positive to COVID-19 have since returned negative tests, HammondCare said.
Victoria has recorded 1610 cases with 56 active cases, while the death toll remains at 19.
A total of 1533 people have recovered with more than 437,000 tests completed in the state.