All Victorian students will be back at school by June 9, with the first cohort of kids to be in public classrooms as early as May 26.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced shortly after 8am on Tuesday that students in grades prep, one, two and years 11 and 12 would be the first to head back to campuses.
Education Minister James Merlino also confirmed special schools would reopen in full by May 26.
Mr Andrews said the remaining students from years 3 to 10 would “join their school mates” on June 9 as part of the staggered restart to face-to-face learning.
The government is working on plans to keep schools free of the coronavirus, including working out how to enforce social distancing for parents and staff.
“There will be rules,” Mr Andrews said.
“School will look different from what it would normally look like.
We don’t have adults mingling, we don’t have parents mingling.’’
There’s been anger directed at Mr Andrews from Liberal politicians in recent weeks as the Premier held firm on a decision to keep kids learning from home for longer than other states.
Mr Andrews said debate was welcome and necessary but maintained Victoria had made the right decision – to “save lives”.
Governments have been treading a fine line while weighing up health, education and the difficulties faced by some families who might struggle with children at home.
“I know the past four weeks have been very, very challenging,” Mr Andrews said, thanking parents.
Mr Andrews stressed adults would be required to adhere to social distancing rules when children returned, including staying out of school grounds.
More hand sanitiser and protective equipment will be delivered to schools, and “high touch points” will be disinfected regularly, on top of extra daily cleaning routines.
Students will have staggered lunch and recess breaks, to reduce the amount of contact they have with each other.
All staff would be expected to return to school by the curriculum day on May 25, Mr Merlino said.
But there are exceptions for older and more vulnerable teachers.
Work from home will be encouraged for teachers over 70, or those over 65 with a medical condition (or over 50 for staff who are indigenous and have a medical condition).
The announcement on schools comes the day after the state announced “significant steps” to ease restrictions.
They rule changes include allowing Victorians to have as many as five friends or family members over to their homes from midnight on Tuesday.
-more to come