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School return row

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By Colin MacGillivray

MEMBER for Yan Yean Danielle Green has called for the families of City of Whittlesea school students to be patient while waiting for face-to-face learning to resume, in spite of criticism from the Victorian Opposition.

Shadow education minister Cindy McLeish last week took aim at the government’s handling of a return to face-to-face learning for Victorian students, which has included regional schools returning sooner than their city counterparts, including the City of Whittlesea.

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Under the government’s COVID-19 roadmap for reopening, metropolitan schools will have a staged return in term four, with VCE, VCAL and students in grade two and below returning first.

There has been a strong call by parents to allow grade six students to return first because it is their final year of primary school.

Ms McLeish, who represents Yan Yean’s neighbouring electorate of Eildon, said the government was reopening schools too slowly.

She called on the government to reopen all Melbourne schools on the first day of term four.

“It’s not just parents, students and school staff that are concerned about the incredible challenges our school students are being forced to endure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to Daniel Andrews’ second wave,” she said.

“Victorians across the state are concerned about our students being left behind the other states.

“The Liberal-Nationals are asking parents, concerned community members and students themselves to stand up and have their say, and pledge their support to open our schools.”

Ms Green slammed Ms McLeish’s comments as irresponsible and said reopening too soon would worsen the public health risk.

She described the Opposition as ‘out of touch’, saying they voted for an immediate return to school in Parliament last week.

“Either they know so little about schooling in Victoria that they didn’t realise school holidays were coming up, or they’re so mean they expected students to attend school during their holidays,” she said.

“In this pandemic environment, we’re returning students to face-to-face learning as soon as possible and safe in line with the advice from the Victorian chief health officer.”

Ms Green said she could understand the frustration of parents who lived on the borders of metropolitan Melbourne and were unable to send their children to school despite low case numbers.

“It’s exactly where I live. I understand the frustrations, but we want to ensure that students are going to be safe,” she said.

“We saw what happened when we reopened quickly, and we’re not going to do that again.

“When students return to face-to-face learning, it’s going to be safe to do so and we want to make sure it’s for the long term.

“We don’t want to be bouncing in and out of lockdown, so I think it’s best we wait until the next term.

“With 11 cases statewide [yesterday], I think we’re on track to do so.”

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