Mr Rule said staff had been contacted by students who want to come back to school but are concerned about the coronavirus.
“It will be really interesting to see if there’s been an attitudinal change after the break. My best guess is there will be,” he said.
It was back to school on Tuesday for the start of term three for year 11 and 12 students at Thornbury High School, where principal Michael Keenan said students were excited but much more restrained than the last time they emerged from isolation in term two, with no hugs and high fives exchanged.
A handful wore masks.
“When they came back after the first period of remote learning they weren’t coming back into stage three restrictions, they were coming back into an environment that was perhaps a little less anxious about what was happening out there in the community,” Mr Keenan said.
“I feel like they’ve come back this time even more aware of the right behaviour.”
The new ritual of testing every student’s temperature upon arrival helped put them in a mindful head space, as much as it served a medical purpose, he said.
Despite the increased anxiety in the community, no Thornbury High students skipped school out of a desire to self-isolate, Mr Keenan said.
With just a third of students present, the seniors have spread out, parting bifold doors to turn small classrooms into large ones.
The corridors – normally teeming between classes – are also far less congested, year 12 student Isabelle Magiatzis said.
“Whenever I walk to class now, I think I’m late because there’s nobody in the halls but it’s just because there is no year 7 to 10s,” she said.
Her classmate Keeran Ramasamy said he felt like the school was a safe environment, with the need to stay distant drummed home by a ban on contact sports at lunch and recess.
“They’ve kind of taken away competitive sport. It’s been just casual, shooting a basketball, kicking a footy kind of thing,” he said.
Mr Keenan said all staff were on-site this week but he was negotiating a possible return to remote working for some teachers.
Many teachers at specialist schools and senior secondary colleges are on edge after being ordered back to face-to-face learning while COVID-19 cases skyrocket.
By contrast, mainstream schools in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will provide remote learning for prep to year 10 students until at least August 19, with the aim of reducing the mass movement of families during lockdown.
“So many of my friends are on the verge of a nervous breakdown from going back into lockdown to standing with 25 other adults in an enclosed room for two hours straight,” one teacher said.
“What I saw at school [this week] was a lot of anxiety from staff and students. It would make a huge difference to senior secondary schools if year 11s were just sent home.”
Madeleine Heffernan edits The Age’s Monday education page
Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.