A STAGGERED return will see all regional students back at school at least part-time within the first two weeks of term four – with the exception of the City of Latrobe and Mitchell Shire, which are currently under stay-at-home restrictions.

From this Monday, October 4, all prep to grade 2 and final year students will return to the classroom full-time, as they were at the end of term three.

From Wednesday, October 6, once final year students have completed the GAT, regional year 11 students will also return to prepare for their final assessments and exams.

From Monday, October 11, a staggered approach will apply so all students are back in the classroom at least part-time. Years 3-4 and 8-9 will attend school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and years 5-6 and 10 will attend on Thursdays and Fridays – while year 7 will also return five days a week.

From Tuesday, October 26, all students will be back in the classroom full-time.

“This plan provides for an earlier return than in metropolitan Melbourne – supporting students in lower-risk regions to get back to school faster, and giving the public health team the opportunity to monitor an earlier return to onsite learning and see if any further COVIDSafe measures are required,” the state government said in a statement.

“There is still significant concern about the potential for the virus to spread across regional Victoria. If any regional LGA is returned to lockdown – as is the case with the City of Latrobe this week – all schools in that LGA will return to the metropolitan Melbourne school roadmap settings.

“Students who live in metropolitan Melbourne but enrolled in a regional school – or vice-versa – will be able to attend onsite learning with their year level. Staff and final year students who are required to cross the metropolitan border to attend school must be double vaccinated, or must get tested twice weekly.

“Strong measures will be in place to protect school staff, students and their communities – with ventilation, vaccination and vital COVIDSafe measures critical to ensuring schools can stay open throughout term four. In order to keep regional communities safe and protect their low COVID status, a targeted waste-water detection program will be in place in some higher-risk regional LGAs, helping to detect any cases within school communities as early as possible.

“The first delivery of the government’s 51,000 air purifiers has arrived in Victoria, with the devices to be installed in schools throughout term four to remove infectious particles from classrooms and prevent any potential spread of the virus.

“All government and low-fee non-government schools across the state will also receive a grant of up to $25,000 to purchase shade sails, as part of a $60 million to create more outdoor learning spaces and make it easy for classes to be conducted outside as the warmer months approach.”

“Masks are strongly encouraged for students as a way to ensure safety and limit the risk of transmission in school settings. Masks will remain mandatory for all students 12 and older, and all adults, and this will continue to be monitored in light of community transmission rates and changing risks.”