Schools debate ignites

By Evelyn Leckie – 

MEADOWGLEN Primary School in Epping has been closed for three days this week as a teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the school would shut from Monday to Wednesday this week for cleaning purposes and to conduct contact tracing.

“Students who need to attend in person and have no other option will be supported to be able to attend a neighbouring school,” Ms Mikakos said.

The teacher’s positive test takes the City of Whittlesea’s total case total to 23.

Prior to Ms Mikakos’ announcement, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan lashed out at Premier Daniel Andrews on the ABC television program Insiders for not having a plan to re-open schools.

Mr Tehan later retracted his critique of Mr Andrews’ leadership, admitting he had “over-stepped the mark”.

“I have heard countless stories of families struggling to cope with juggling remote learning and remote working, as well as children in vulnerable circumstances suffering because of the situation the COVID pandemic has created,” Mr Tehan said.

“It was those examples I was thinking of this morning during my interview on Insiders when I expressed my personal frustration that more schools weren’t starting more in-class learning in my home state.”

Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell said Mr Tehan’s comments over the weekend showed he was ‘not capable’ as Education Minister.

Mr Mitchell added his office had worked tirelessly to assist with childcare centres who were falling through the cracks after the Federal Government’s announcement on free childcare.

Bassets Road Early Learning Centre in Doreen was left at a loss last month due to not being eligible for the $1500 JobKeeper payments, but still having to offer their service for free, with the government only reimbursing them 50 per cent of fees at a capped rate.

Mr Mitchell said through numerous applications to Mr Tehan’s office, the childcare centre had now received Federal Government support.

“We got a strong campaign going and the government finally realised they’d made a monumental error – creating an emergency circumstances fund,” he said.

“We don’t know how long the government will fund them though or when it will run out.”