By Mitchell Clarke and Jessica Anstice
Students across the Cardinia shire have begun their return to the classroom after almost two months of home learning.
Preps, Grade 1 and 2 students joined Year 11 and 12 students in starting back to ‘normal’ learning from Tuesday 26 May, with staggered starts in place for other year levels.
Since the beginning of Term 2, the majority of students across the shire have been learning remotely, limiting the number of people on campus amid the Covid-19 pandemic, to help slow the spread of the virus.
Students in the broader Year 3 to 10 cohorts will continue to learn remotely until Tuesday 9 June, to allow authorities time to monitor and evaluate the effects of returning to school.
“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,” Education Minister James Merlino said.
Pakenham Springs Primary School assistant principal Renee Cotterell said the start of onsite learning back at the school was “very positive, calm and orderly”, with parents and carers working with the staff to ensure all guidelines were followed.
“Our students were excited to be back with their friends and their teachers, and are all set to jump back into learning,” she said.
“Students adapted well to the routines of sanitising their hands regularly and giving virtual high fives and foot taps to their friends.
“Our teachers are so happy to have our students back onsite with us, although they have enjoyed jumping out of their comfort zone and learning lots of new things during the remote learning time.”
Students at Pakenham’s John Henry Primary School also settled back in well on Tuesday.
“Over 10 weeks has gone since we have seen majority of these students, today as the school gates opened for Foundation to Grade 2 students we are not sure who had the bigger smiles on their faces,” John Henry Primary School principal Tanya Roberts said.
“The students were so excited getting to see their friends and teachers once again, the staff getting to see their students and get back into face to face teaching, or the parents who now get the chance to take a well-earned break from remote learning duties.”
Each student received hand sanitiser as they entered the gates at their staggered drop off times before proceeding to run to their classrooms with joy.
“All students settled in well and all classes reflected on the positive moments of the past 10 weeks,” she added.
“Many students really enjoyed that they got to spend more time with their parents, with many children now challenging their classroom teachers to be as good a teacher as their parents and guardians.
“With half the school still two weeks away from returning, all of us at John Henry Primary School want to recognise the hard work and thank our parents, guardians and staff for ensuring remote learning continues and we can’t wait for all of our students to return.”
In Officer, students at Bridgewood Primary School were thrilled to get back into the swing of things.
“The children were really excited about returning to school and seeing their friends and teachers. The parents also looked happy and relieved at the drop off time,” Bridgewood principal Kerry Coffey said.
“I would like to thank our community for following the instructions sent out about drop off areas and safe social distancing between adults. This all helps to keep our community safe and healthy.”
At Beaconhills, VCE students were welcomed back to on-site learning as they continued their quest for scholarly success.
“It is fantastic to see the students back at Pakenham and Berwick campuses this morning,” Beaconhills headmaster Tony Sheumack said.
“Our teaching staff have been genuinely thrilled to have their students back in the classroom – they have certainly been missed.
“There was a definite air of excitement, particularly in our junior schools.”
The phased return to the classroom for school students means an increase in road, foot and bicycle traffic.
The Department of Transport is warning people that speed zones are currently in operation around schools at drop off and pick up times to create a safe environment for students.
Some school speed zones are permanent, while others operate from 8am to 9.30am and from 2.30pm to 4pm on weekdays until the end of Term 2, 26 June.