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Schools ‘surreal’ without students

Mr Adamson said a staff member was present every day in case of a last-minute student arrival and other teachers had volunteered to come in if needed.

“Parents might get called in to work. We might get more. It’ll be a week-by-week thing.”

Education Minister James Merlino confirmed 97 per cent of state school students were learning from home in the first week of term.

“Our message has been consistent … if you can learn from home you must learn from home,” Mr Merlino said.

“If you cannot you can be provided with learning on-site at school. The message has been understood and Victorian families have responded.”

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Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said only a small number of students had physically attended school.

“While we do not have a precise figure, information from individual schools indicates well over 90 per cent of these students undertook learning at home,” she said.

At Hartwell Primary School in Camberwell principal Lisa Banks said the handful of students and staff attending each day were doing a brilliant job of adapting, but missed the rest of their community.

“We miss them terribly, it’s so quiet, it’s very odd,” she said.

Ms Banks said the new school day involved students from all grades learning online in a combined classroom interspersed with “taking them out for lots of runs”.

“We’ve got a couple of grade sixes and right down to preps,” she said.

“Our school is very collaborative anyway. The kids understand why it’s like this and they’re being really respectful.”

“It has all been incredibly well done by the teachers.”

Natalie Charles, principal of Mentone Girls’ Grammar, put it poetically in a letter to families last week: “Schools are dreadful places without the children who breathe life into their corridors and classrooms, and there’s no greater symbol of a world that’s been turned on its head than an empty one.”

The loss of regular school life is having a noticeable effect on students, says Mr Adamson.

“They say they don’t like it but they actually love school; they have all their friends,” he said.

“They’ve been home for three weeks not really seeing anyone and they were so excited to see their mates on the Meet.

“They are missing each other for sure.”

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