The Victorian Labor Government have released its return-to-school plan for students with COVID-safe measures in place to minimise disruptions to face-to-face learning.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that “day one, term one, is very important. We want to have our kids back in the classrooms; we want kinder back, we want as little disruption to childcare.”
The Victorian Government also stated that face-to-face learning was the “best option” with home-learning only considered as a “last resort,” close contact students and positive case students excepted.
“Face-to-face learning is the best option for our kids’ learning and wellbeing—that’s why we’ve done the work to get students safely back in the classroom from the start of Term 1,” said Andrews.
The plan, released Jan. 23, was devised after working in partnership with the NSW government. As with NSW, rapid antigen testing will be implemented twice a week for staff and students in Victoria, with 6.6 million RATs delivered in the first week and 14 million tests overall.
Specialist schools’ staff and students are recommended to test five days each week due to the higher risk of severe illness for medically vulnerable students.
Booster vaccines are also mandated for teachers and staff. Students aged 5 to 11 years of age are expected to have received both their vaccinations by the end of Term 1, with 30 pop-up vaccination clinics opening on school sites, alongside grants to pharmacies and GPs to deliver vaccines at schools.
Mask wearing will continue, with masks mandated for students in Grade 3 and over, outdoors excepted. Teachers will also be required to wear masks at all times when not actively teaching or communicating with students.
Additionally, the Andrews government has also invested $7.5 million (US$3.4 million) in early childhood services to improve ventilation. 51,000 air purifiers are also expected to be delivered to government and low-fee non-government schools by the first day of Term 1.
These purifiers are intended as a safety measure to slow the spread of the virus, particularly around high-risk areas such as staff rooms, canteens, and other high traffic areas.
The Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has also advised that Victoria is experiencing unprecedented and elevated rates of community transmission, and education settings are likely to be linked to a significant number of cases once the academic year commences after the holiday period.
To cover for any COVID-19 related workforce shortage, the Andrews government has also launched a pool of inactive teachers, retired principles and support and administrative staff in case of staff absences.
In the case of positive cases, schools and kindergartens will be required to inform staff, parents and carers of the event and to provide advice on any steps families are required to take.
As of Jan. 24, there has been 11,695 new COVID-19 cases and 998 hospitalisations in Victoria, with 32 percent of Victorians 18 and over that have received the third dose.