Today marks the first full day of remote learning for Victoria's schools since Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state's fifth lockdown in 18 months last Thursday.
In the 24 hours to 8pm last night, Victoria recorded 13 new local cases out of 54,839 tests. The outbreak has created more than 200 exposure sites and forced more than 10,000 primary close contacts into isolation.
The new cases include another student from St Patrick's Primary School in Murrumbeena and three staff members and a student from Trinity Grammar in Kew. There were also and three staff members and a student from Bacchus Marsh Grammar who tested positive.
Earlier, on Friday, Clarendon College in Ballarat emailed parents to notify them about a family member related to a Year 10 student and Year 12 student who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Australian Principals Federation president, Tina King, said the default position for many school leaders has been "to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
Before the snap lockdown was announced last Thursday, schools sent books and work home with students as a precaution as principals awaited for confirmation of the lockdown.
"Howevever, the short notice forced school leaders to spend hours, late into the night communicating with their respective school communities, and once again staff were asked to transition into remove learning overnight," King told The Educator.
“Whilst it is understandable that there are many factors for the Government to consider in relation to declaring the circuit breaker lockdown, the provision of confirmation earlier in the day would help alleviate much angst and anxiety felt across the community and support business, organisations and families to prepare.”
Victorian Principals Association president, Andrew Dalgleish, agrees.
“I think there’s a certain degree of resignation from principals that in the near future we’re going to continue to face lockdown, but we’d love to see these announcements earlier so there is greater time for preparation,” Dalgleish told The Educator.
“In this case, the announcement from the Premier, followed by the challenge of getting this information out to schools and families certainly wasn’t ideal.”
However, Dalgleish said that from the conversations he had with principals throughout Thursday, it was clear to see that many of them were already preparing for the prospect of a lockdown.
“Many schools are having touch points with their leaders to ensure they’re ready for remote learning and that curriculum and information packs are ready to go out, so that if lockdown happens at short notice, they’re ready to roll,” he said.
“Even early yesterday before the announcement came, the media was starting to talk about a lockdown, so they started preparing. Schools made sure they had devices and relevant materials ready to go.”
Schools have a better grip this time around
Berwick Lodge Primary School principal, Henry Grossek, said the DET have been both timely and clear in their advice to schools in moving forward swiftly into a three-day remote learning program for students and that this action is appreciated.
“Given that we have now been in multiple lockdowns now over the past 15 months, I believe that we are able to transition quite smoothly into remote learning for our students,” Grossek told The Educator.
“Last year, early on especially, I think we were all flying by the seats of our pants into the unknown and that was very, very stressful indeed. My reading of the mood of the community here, now suggests that there is now a greater acceptance of the need for a lockdown and return to remote learning than last year.”
Grossek said that when this is coupled with what principals have all learnt from previous recent experiences of remote learning, it suggests the profession is handling the situation better.
“That’s not to say, of course, that we are at all excited about what we are going through. Indeed, the stop-start nature of schooling since the pandemic struck has not allowed us to build any kind of sustained momentum and that has been very energy-sapping and depressing,” he said.
“Nonetheless, the optimist in me sees a stronger confidence systemically in meeting the current challenge.”
Principals are pulling together in hard times
Dalgleish said amid the challenges brought about by the new outbreaks, Victoria's school leaders have been reaching out and supporting each other.
“The Deputy secretary provided a briefing to principals at 4.30pm on Thursday afternoon, another one at 6.40pm and again at 8.15am on Friday morning,” he said.
“The Department has also sent out an dated operations guide and are moving as quickly as they can to ensure that accurate information goes out to schools.”