Victorian students will be back in the classroom in a matter of weeks with a raft of measures added to keep them safe.
Victoria has revealed its long-awaited schools plan, with the state’s entire cohort of students to be back in class by June 9. Premier Daniel Andrews announced the plan this morning, thanking parents and teachers for their patience. “I know the last four weeks have been very, very challenging,” he said. Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said the state was implementing a range of measures to ensure schools were as safe as possible for both students and staff. Schools will have "all the PPE equipment that they need,” Mr Merlino said, adding that additional supplies of PPE equipment had already been placed across the state. Schools will also have “all the hand sanitiser that they need,” he added. Mr Merlino said schools across the state would adhere to the "very strong guidelines and advice from the Chief Health Officer in terms of hygiene and cleaning practices within schools". The government has also spent $45 million for additional cleaning for the remainder of term 2 and all of term 3. "In addition to the normal cleaning that happens, there will be cleaning every day – disinfect cleaning, high-touch points, every single day throughout the course of the day at schools for the rest of this term and all of term 3," Mr Merlino said.
A cleaner is seen Meadowglen Primary School in Melbourne on May 3 after a teacher tested positive to the virus. Picture: Scott Barbour/AAPSource:AAP
To ensure teachers and other staff feel secure in schools, coronavirus testing for the next two weeks would be focused on schools. “Over the next two weeks there will be a particular focus on teachers, so there will be both mobile and fixed points where teachers, education support staff and principals can be tested voluntarily,” Mr Merlino said. “This has been really well received by the profession and will provide another stage of reassurance for our teaching workforce.” Within school, teachers and staff will adhere to social distancing advice and work stations will be separated “as much as possible”. Staggered pick-up and drop-off times and staggered lunch breaks for students would also be part of the “new normal” for Victorian schools. Mr Merlino encouraged parents and other adults to stay away from schools outside of their designated pick-up and drop-off times. A handful of smaller measures would also be used to stop the spread of germs and large groups from congregating. “Things like assemblies, camps and excursions will not occur at this point,” Mr Merlino said. “And kids will be drinking out of water bottles, they won't be drinking out of fountains.” Premier Dan Andrews announced the details of the two-stage school plan this morning. "On 25 May, there will be a pupil-free day, and on 26 May classes will resume for prep, Grade 1, Grade 2, Year 11 and Year 12 students," he said. "This is a staged approach, a staggered approach, both in terms of public health – to limit the number of people that are moving throughout the Victorian community – and also for a whole range of practical reasons, to give schools the appropriate time to move back to face-to-face teaching." Mr Andrews confirmed all of Victoria's students would be back in school by June 9. "From June 9, Years 3-10 will join the rest of their schoolmates, and will have a full complement of students across government schools," he said. "This is really important but it is an equally important opportunity for me to thank parents for the contribution they have made to flattening the curve, suppressing this virus, making sure that we had this virus under control, to save lives, to stop our health system being overrun.”