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Students keen to zoom back to school, but fear lingers

“I feel there is still time to seize the day. I hope we still can get back to normal, hopefully go on excursions, do our year 12 stuff,” he said.

“This year, 2020 graduates during COVID-19, it’s going to be one for the history books.”

Rumaan said students would always have COVID-19 at the back of their minds and would continue to practise social distancing.

“Students everywhere have been anxious about this,” he said. “We still fear what might happen. The question that’s on the mind of all the students is, what if a case shows up at our school?”

Students’ voices have been ignored during the often-heated debate over when they should return to the classroom, the Victorian Student Representative Council has said.

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“Students are the biggest stakeholders in education. We’re the ones who spend our days in schools, who take the tests and who are in the classrooms,” the council said in a letter to Premier Daniel Andrews and Education Minister James Merlino.

“Students have had a lot of different experiences … learning from home and we can provide insight into what we’ve learnt during this time – both the positive and the negative.”

Mitchell Sprague, a year 12 student at Overnewton College in north-west Melbourne, said the mental health of many children had deteriorated since schools shut their doors to most students.

“Mental health support is a big one we’ve been seeing increased need for,” he said. “Students are unable to talk to the counsellors and the support staff they have at school face to face.”

Mitchell said while he was used to remote learning, the days were long.

“I’ve been sitting down at my desk from 8.30am when I start until 3.30pm when I finish, because there seems to be an increase in workload.”

What is he most looking forward to at school? “Having human contact outside my family,” said Mitchell.

The return to school will bring a new challenge to some families, who will have some children go back while their siblings continue remote learning for two more weeks.

Gail McHardy, executive director of Parents Victoria, which represents families who attend government schools, said some parents might keep their children home until term three.

“The most important message for parents is to communicate with your school about what this means for you,” Ms McHardy said.

Mother-of-two Rhonwyn Williams said she understood the reasoning behind staggered start times, but she would have preferred a single start date for her children, in grades two and four.

“It’s been hard enough trying to balance work and kids … Having them both here doing it [remote learning] would be easier,” she said.

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Melbourne’s Stolz family is among those with students returning to school on June 9.

Grade 5 student Beatrice anticipated a mix of feelings: excitement at seeing her friends but sadness at not being able to hug them.

“I don’t think I’m learning as much, but I’m still learning a bit,” she said.

Beatrice’s sister Charlotte, a year 9 student at Strathcona Girls Grammar, said remote learning was more relaxing than regular school and her workload had decreased.

“I get to sleep in,” she said.

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