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Should we return to school? Here’s what readers are telling us

“It’s personally inconvenient and my own goals are on hold while my home office is overtaken by students. My son would love to get back to school. On the upside I love having my kids at home and getting more of an insight into their learning strengths and areas to work on.”

Here’s just some of what other readers said. Some responses have been edited for brevity.

Keep them home

I want them to be safe. A few more weeks learning from home isn’t the end of the world. A child in ICU on a ventilator is. – Anonymous

I want to see how the numbers track over coming weeks. I am concerned that the education data the Federal Government is using is insufficient due to early school closures. I am concerned about the health of teachers if students are asymptomatic carriers. I would rather keep everything closed and lockdown for longer than [have] to potentially do this again. I’m hoping Australia can eradicate Covid-19; to enable us to return to some semblance of normality. Wishful thinking? – Renee Arnott

There is not enough evidence that children are not at risk, and it’s imposing on those poor teachers aka glorified babysitters. As much as remote learning has reduced me to a state of despair and helplessness, and caused lots of stress and unhappiness in my household, health and safety is top of my list. If I can’t keep my sanity by the end of this lockdown, at least I can keep my family safe. – Sue N

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I’m happy to see the term out at home. My kids are thriving, we’re enjoying lots of family activities to compliment their learning and I’m getting a great insight into how they’re going academically. (And yes I manage to work a full week). I’d also rather wait until we’ve had a chance to test more widely so that we’re confident we’ve got this under control and we get a chance to see what a difference colder weather makes, if any. I think it would be even more destabilising for kids’ morale if they return for a few weeks only to have schools shut down again. – Mumof2teens

Thirteen years of schooling takes approx. 540 weeks. To forego eight weeks at a time of a severe threat to life as we know it seems a small price to pay. Let’s hasten slowly. – Bob Lyford

I would like the children to stay away from school for as long as it takes to be sure Victoria has eliminated the virus from the community. We need to support the Victorian Government, and the Chief Medical Officer and have trust that they are doing what is needed for our health and safety, rather than to do what is ‘popular’. COVID-19 is not affected by ‘belief’ or ‘political persuasion’ or ‘business priorities’. COVID-19 is an opportunistic disease. – David

Coping ok. It’s not ideal but I’d prefer this than contracting the virus. We have established a good routine, the kids are enjoying extra family time and I’m loving it as well. I’ll actually be sad when they go back. – Bartzabel

Better safe than sorry. If kids can return to school then they should also be able to attend birthday parties and play at the park. There is no difference in terms of risk. The report the Federal Government released to support a safe return to school has not been peer reviewed and is based on very limited data. More to the point – the report indicates a ‘reduced’ transmissibility between children, or from children to adults. It does not indicate ‘no’ transmission. Stay strong Victoria and don’t give in to political pressure! We don’t want to end up having to choose who lives and who dies just because we relaxed restrictions too early . – Anonymous

My daughter would need to catch public transport – bus and train – to get to and from school. It’s not so much school that I’m concerned about. I’m worried about her using public transport. – Jo

What’s a few weeks isolation against pain and suffering for thousands in overcrowded ICU. Easy does it, all together. – Nell

As a parent of two, it is very challenging having the kids at home and juggling this with work commitments, but this is a serious health crisis and only temporary in the scheme of things. Even if kids have to repeat a term or two (which is unlikely due to online/remote learning) it would be worth it, as it would save lives. – Anonymous

Surely the worst-case for students’ education is nowhere near as bad as the worst-case for public health? – Brian

I am very confident in my Victorian state leaders in making informed and appropriate decisions in relation to the best interest and health of its people. Surely we should all just suck it up for a bit and let our leaders do their job and lead our state. I really don’t understand, especially given that COVID-19 is really only a few months old and we know so little this virus’ long-term effects, we would be willing to risk all we have achieved by loosening restrictions. – Ann

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I am a school teacher currently teaching Year 4 students remotely whilst managing my own 2 year old and 10 month old. There are days where my partner, who is a nurse, works shift work which is of course more challenging. It is my opinion that until widespread testing is conducted, children should not return to school en masse. If and when children were to return to school, I believe a staggered approach would be best. It may not work for everyone, but we need to work together to protect our communities. – Callum

Our eldest is only in prep so think her academic needs can be met well at home via reading and online learning tasks. Also, kids that age have no concept of distancing – touching themselves and others frequently. She is benefiting more from time with her dad and siblings, so is not suffering. I don’t think enough is known about the disease to be 100 per cent sure of its long term impact on infected children. If people can not swim by themselves or go fishing by themselves, I can’t see how 500 kids can be together. If schools reopen I’d suggest starting with high schools where kids can more effectively socially distance from themselves and their teachers, and parents more likely to both be working full-time. – Rebecca

We’re at war with an unseen enemy, The last thing I want to do is put my kids on the frontline. – Christine

Send them back

Please let the kids go back to school. Three kids at home, one in high school, two in primary. I’m not a teacher, I can’t help them. It’s making days unbearable with tears and tantrums over small things. Both parents are emergency services workers but we feel guilty sending them to school with no friends. – Christine

Please let them return to school. I have one in prep and one in kindergarten. We’ve borrowed iPads from family to access the online activities. I jump between and usually find the other watching an inappropriate YouTube clip. I’m also slowly loosing my sanity, unable to do usually activities which would sustain me in a role like this. – Jane

So much of the prep experience should be about socialisation and getting used to the school experience. – Anonymous

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If our case numbers remain low, especially community transmission by the end of the State Emergency on May 11, then I think we should start to stagger the return of students to schools. Begin with 2 different year levels returning the first week and continue to increase the number of year levels returning each week. There is simply no need for students to remain at home for the duration of Term Two if our infection numbers stay so low. I am a teacher and can’t wait to return! – Pete

I have a daughter with mild autism. Being home is the worst thing we could do for her, as most of her autistic traits have to do with socialisation. We are lucky enough to have a person who can work from home with her, but chats over different social media platforms aren’t enough. She needs to be in an actual social environment. I feel each day at home is making her fall further behind socially, and it’s ground that will be hard to make up. – Anonymous

While teachers have demonstrated how amazing they are with their adaptation to online learning nothing beats the benefits of face to face teaching and the social interaction of school. I’m also worried about the kids from poorer backgrounds who are not getting the same support from parents. – WorkingMum

We have two kids. Both of us are working from home. Our kids need our help in understanding and submitting the task everyday. We are very overwhelmed and stressed. It is not good for our mental health. – Anonymous

As a dad that works a stressful job form home, I can’t also be expected to be a school teacher – yet that is exactly what Daniel Andrews is expecting of me. – Anonymous

Year 12s should be learning at school in my opinion. The year is too important to have them at home for a whole term unnecessarily. They can’t do their SAC’s under normal test conditions so how are they going to be assessed when they’ve had full access to their notes and other resources during a SAC? It’s also really important for Year 12s to bond as a group and support each other and I think socially isolating them is not good for their morale. – Anonymous

Kids should be back at school with parents working from home where they can. We need to prevent people losing their jobs and get back to work and a higher rate of productivity as soon as possible. Kinders and childcare centres have been open throughout and cases have dropped or remained stable. It seems like we have a robust testing regime in place and hospital capacity if people are ill. This conservative approach has put us in the best position possible but it is now time to move on with caution. – Kate

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I can see sense in a phased approach starting with primary school students only which the data indicates there is less risk in. You could split each class in half with each half having two days a week on campus and two days home schooling alternating from Monday to Thursday. Friday can be a home schooling day for all students to allow teachers to prepare for the following weeks activities. This will ease the burden on working from home parents while maintaining some social distancing in the classroom plus getting back some connection to their friends. High school kids are a different situation as they are more able to study independently, don’t require adult supervision from their parents but are a greater risk as they are more likely to travel to school via public transport. – Adam Carson

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