TEACHING staff at Wonthaggi Secondary College “can’t wait” to welcome students back into classrooms at the end of the month, following several weeks of remote schooling as part of a statewide response to COVID-19.

Victorian government school students will begin a staged return to onsite learning from May 26, after Victoria’s Chief Health Officer advised last week it was safe to do so.

All schools will begin the transition back with a pupil-free day on Monday, May 25.

Students in Prep, Grade 1 and Grade 2, senior secondary (Year 11 and 12 VCAL and VCE) and specialist schools will return to their classrooms on May 26.

All other year levels will follow on Tuesday, June 9.

WSC principal Darren Parker said staff were pleased to be getting back to teaching in their traditional setting, and he expected students would also benefit from the shift.

Whilst the remote learning model had been working well for WSC, “the best place for kids to be is in school,” he said.

“We’re good to go, and looking forward to having the students back,” he said. “We think the guidelines are sensible and will work for us.”

Mr Parker was commended the school community’s handling of the evolving situation, with students keeping up a good work rate, and staff and families providing plenty of support, including responding quickly to any tech issues that arose early on in the online learning journey.

“The feedback’s been very positive, even though they’ve been very challenging circumstances,” he said.

“Families have been amazing, and our teachers have done a sensational job. I’m really proud of the way they’ve continued to interact and work through it. People have really valued the connection and we’re really pleased with the amount of work done by everyone.”

VCE students, who have more riding on the year than anyone, have also reported a positive experience overall, Mr Parker said, “because they had good relationships in place [with their teachers] already”.

“Everyone has reached out for help when they’ve needed it, and we’ve also had a really good system for checking on people, not only that they’re managing the workload but also their wellbeing,” he said

“The whole package has been really important, and it’s been a real balancing act to make sure we’re covering the important material but not overwhelming them; that’s been the challenge.”

Another challenge unique to WSC among other local high schools has been the sheer size of the cohort learning from home: just under 1500 students.

But staff moved swiftly, as the advice from the State Government changed at the beginning of April, to develop a remote model that left nobody behind, Mr Parker said.

A “small presence” of students that could not learn from home, including the children of essential workers, continued to attend the campus throughout the term and these arrangements will remain in place as long as needed.

While the Chief Health Officer has advised that students will not be required to maintain physical distancing at school, there will be a number of changes to school operations, consistent with health advice, including restrictions on access to the school site for anyone other than staff and students.