School’s back but storms keep some classrooms closed

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The halls of Trinity Primary School in Richmond were a hive of excitement on Friday.

Students returned to classrooms and saw their friends for the first time after two weeks of remote learning.

Trinity Catholic Primary School Principal Nigel Rodrigues and students Dafalla, Cesafino, Isabel and Sophie.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“It’s very bubbly. It’s lovely,” principal Nigel Rodrigues said. “I went to the gate this morning and it was just a sea of happy faces bursting to get through.”

Mr Rodrigues said while children and teachers had coped well with the sudden switch to learning from home in the latest coronavirus lockdown, there was a feeling of relief at being back on site.

“Socially and for their learning, it’s absolutely best,” he said. “We’ve gotten really good at remote learning but there’s nothing like being face-to-face.”

The return of all students in metropolitan Melbourne marked the full reopening of schools as Victoria’s latest coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease.

Regional students and VCE students in Melbourne returned last Friday and schools had only remained open throughout the circuit-breaker lockdown for vulnerable students and children of authorised workers.

But the extreme weather hitting the state this week meant not every school had a happy reopening.

Lilydale High School principal Wendy Powson arrived at the school on Thursday to find it had no power and was strewn with fallen trees, including one which fell on a toilet block.

“It was quite obvious there was quite a lot of work to do,” she said.

The school’s zoology centre staff rushed to find alternative places to keep its 300 reptiles warm and stock of dead rats refrigerated.

“Everyone moved very quickly and did really well. There’s just a big clean up going on now,” Ms Powson said.

“The families have been so understanding, really for the last 12 months with everything that’s gone wrong.”

Power was restored to the school late on Friday and it will be ready to reopen on Tuesday.

The school is one of many across the state coping with the effects of storms and flooding, including property damage and lack of power and phone service. Warrandyte High School and Anderson’s Creek Primary School were also closed on Friday.

Several primary and secondary schools as well as kindergartens and early learning centres in towns such as Healesville, Kyneton, Trentham and Traralgon have been closed, according to the Education Department.

Following positive cases at North Melbourne Primary School some students and their families could also not return to classrooms and workplaces as they waited on the all-clear from the Health Department to end their home isolation.

Despite these setbacks, Education Minister and acting Premier James Merlino said on Friday that having students back at school was “a great thing”.

He said the only limitation within schools would be on inter-school sporting competitions which will remain on hold.

Mr Merlino also said the department had sent advice to schools to reschedule any planned curriculum days to minimise disruption for students.

“We’ve made it very clear to state schools if you can move any planned curriculum day, you should,” he said.

“The clear message from the department to all our government schools is that we want to prioritise a return to face-to-face teaching and that is what is happening at schools right across the board.”

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