BY CHLOE CHIAPPA
Many primary school communities feel safe and well prepared to continue onsite teaching under new welfare measures, according to the principal of Benton Junior College (BJC).
Following the official return of all students to Victorian classrooms on June 9, many schools have actioned new precautions to maintain the health and safety of all students and staff.
BJC principal Melissa Wisniewski said the Mornington community fully welcomes and supports the new procedures implemented by the school.
“It is evident that they understand the need for the changes and are approaching the changes in a positive manner,” Ms Wisniewski said.
Frequent use of sanitiser and hand washing, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and staggered finish times for students are among the adjustments in place.
Ms Wisniewski said BJC staff are also encouraged to socially distance after the introduction of three different staff room locations.
“As a school we have developed a key support handbook which outlines our procedures and expectations for staff and students,” she said.
Extra cleaners on site, blocking off drinking taps and playgrounds, and limiting onsite access to staff, students and essential visitors have also been necessary.
PPE kits, placed in various locations around the school, have been introduced by the school’s first aid officer and include sanitiser, face masks, gloves, a medical gown and goggles.
Following recent advice released by the Department of Education and Training, all schools have PPE on hand.
Ms Wisniewski said it is important for everyone to know where to access the equipment. However, the PPE equipment is only expected to be used “in extreme cases”.
For some children, studying from home was never an option.
BJC parents and essential workers Carlee, a home carer, and Kai Pukarinen, Naranga School principal, had to send their three children Milla, Cleo and Mason to school four days a week during the lockdown.
“We’re extremely happy with how the school has handled everything,” Ms Pukarinen said.
Prep student Mason, 5, said the return to school is a “sad change because the parents can’t go”, but is happy to be seeing his best friend and return to normalcy.
BJC school captain Milla, 11, said she was “a bit nervous” to return to school because “you’ve been away for so long and then it just suddenly all goes back to the same”.
“It was a bit disappointing because there’s a lot of roles that the school captain gets to have and we had to cancel that because of COVID,” she said.
BJC childcare worker Tamara Patrick said adapting to the changes was a large factor in returning to work safely.
Despite being “slightly apprehensive” about resuming work during the pandemic, Ms Patrick believes staff have been “well prepared” and students “very cooperative” amid disruptions.
COVID-19 has meant several changes in adapting to new precautionary safety measures by school communities across Victoria, but according to Ms Wisniewski, they do appear to be sustainable and welcomed by those involved.