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    EARLY START: Marisa Dean gets her son Nate Roberts ready to return to grade one at Haven Primary School. Nate said he was looking forward to getting back to school with his friends again, although the early morning after daylight savings made it hard. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Planned return to school starts

The entire October 6, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

Children in regional areas started a staggered return to classrooms for term four on Monday.

All pupils from prep to grade two and final-year students returned to classrooms full-time, as they were at the end of term three.

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Regional year-11 students returned to the classroom today to prepare for final assessments and exams. 

From Monday, a staggered approach will apply so all students are back in the classroom at least part-time.

Students in years three to four and eight to nine will attend school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and students in years five, six and 10 will attend on Thursdays and Fridays. 

Students in year seven will return to class five days a week. 

From October 26, all students will be back in the classroom full-time.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said the plan provided for an earlier student return to classrooms than in metropolitan Melbourne.

He said the return was designed to support students in lower-risk regions to get back to school faster, and give the public health team an opportunity to monitor an earlier return to onsite learning and see if any further COVID-safe measures were required.

“There is still significant concern about the potential for the virus to spread across regional Victoria,” he said.

“If any regional Local Government Area is returned to lockdown, all schools in that LGA will return to the metropolitan Melbourne school roadmap settings.

“Strong measures will be in place to protect school staff, students and their communities – with ventilation, vaccination and vital COVID-safe measures critical to ensuring schools can stay open throughout term four.”

Mr Merlino said in order to keep regional communities safe and protect their low COVID status, a targeted wastewater detection program would be in place in some higher-risk regional municipalities to help detect any cases within school communities as early as possible.

He said the first delivery of the government’s 51,000 air purifiers had arrived in Victoria, with the devices to be installed in schools throughout term four to remove infectious particles from classrooms and prevent potential spread of the virus. All government and low-fee non-government schools across the state will also receive a grant of up to $25,000 to buy shade sails, as part of a $60-million program, to create more outdoor learning spaces and make it easy for classes to be outside as warmer months approached. 

Authorities are strongly encouraging students to use masks as a way to ensure safety and limit the risk of virus transmission in school settings. 

Mask-wearing will remain mandatory for all students 12 and older, and all adults. Authorities will continue to monitor this in light of community transmission rates and changing risks. 

Mr Merlino said when all students returned, schools would limit mixing among year levels and use large spaces such as halls and gyms where possible.

“With lower case numbers and excellent vaccination rates, we’re looking forward to getting regional students back in the classroom as soon as possible in term four – but we need all school communities to stay vigilant and follow the COVID-safe plans to protect these freedoms,” he said.