Staff and students returned to school for Term 3. COVID-19 seemed under control in Victoria at this stage. However, cases were appearing in NSW. I was fortunate enough to go to Melbourne with Year 11 students and our assistant principal. In order to comply with COVID safety, our accommodation had to provide a separate space for us as we could not share any common facilities with other school and community groups. The Hotel Claremont was able to guarantee this. There was another school group but we were in separate wings and had separate breakfast times, with the dining area being thoroughly cleaned out between each group sitting.
We had a great time in Melbourne. It appeared as safe as it possibly could be. Here is some of what it looked like:
Tap on, tap off (myki cards), hand sanitize, check in with qr codes at all entry points, assure the Covid marshal that we complied, hand sanitize again, maintain social distancing, stay in our bubble at our accommodation, navigate trains, trams and buses etc. These activities became part of the daily routine for our Year 11 Melbourne Experience students – a rather different one to the annual Melbourne Work Experience.
Students were kept busy with a variety of activities that took up the whole day and well into the night. These included taking a ride on the Melbourne Star, watching Space Jam, a Scavenger Hunt through the streets of Melbourne, ice skating, a swim at MSAC, a night walk down Lygon Street, a tour of La Trobe University, time to explore Northlands, laser tag, indoor rock climbing, bounce and the Comedy Club. Time to explore the Victoria Market or shops at Spencer Street was given on the morning prior to departure. Due to media updates, the increasing number of hot spots, etc, students returned home a day earlier. In hindsight this was a valuable call, as a snap lockdown was declared as we alighted the train at 5pm in Warrnambool. This was Thursday. The lockdown started at 8pm. (In the past it would be 11:59pm)
Lockdown 6.0 was to last for 10 days or so. Friday was given to schools and teachers to prepare for the lockdown. Remote learning formally commenced on the Monday after. To our complete and utter surprise, it was announced the regional Victoria could return to school on the Tuesday as the covid samples detected in sewage in Wangaratta was a false reading. Metro Victoria (Melbourne) were to remain in lockdown. This so sudden return to learning, did our heads in as we had ‘psyched’ and prepared ourselves for a minimum of one weeks remote learning or more. Four weeks were then spent back at school but numbers in Melbourne escalated despite tight restrictions and a COVID case appeared in Shepparton on Friday’s numbers. We knew that if a regional case was found it would most likely lock all regional Victoria down. Students were recommended to take their devices and books home with them at the end of the school day. As it was a Friday, a lot could happen over the weekend. However, news filtered through that the single case had grown to 10 or so that Friday afternoon. The news told us that cabinet was meeting, harsher restrictions would be in place and a media conference held on Friday morning. At 11 am, it was announced that regional Victoria was in full lockdown from 1pm on. This gave 2 hours warning! As we were in Port Fairy for a meeting, I quickly joined our son, his wife and grandchild for a take away meal at the beach, watching the ocean roll in. The day was quite warm and sunny. By 12:50pm there was little sign of anyone, anywhere. Shops and restaurants were closing etc.
This lockdown is our toughes yet. Teachers now need permits to go to school. The rules surrounding students who attend school has also tightened up with permits required for essential worker students to attend. Morale is low as our vaccination rate is still not very high. We need to reach 70 to 80% to experience fewer lockdowns but that could be December based on the numbers that we have now and the probable need for children to be vaccinated. Children are now catching COVID as are the younger age groups of our population.