Schools and parents dust off 2020’s remote learning survival guides

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“Do what works for your family,” primary school teacher Megan Gibb told her tribe of year 5 and 6 students as Victoria headed back into lockdown.

Do what you can, but don’t stress out if you can’t do it all, she advised her pupils.

Primary school teacher Megan Gibb balances teaching from home with supervising her son Hudson, who is in year 1 and learning remotely this week.Credit:Justin McManus

Ms Gibb admits it was a pep talk for herself as much as her students, three of whom cried at the news, unsure of when they would all be back together in the classroom.

Schools across Victoria are taking a week of remote learning – imposed under the state’s lockdown to stem growing coronavirus numbers – in their stride, but are already making plans for a possible extension of time out of the classroom beyond Thursday.

As Ms Gibb sat at the dining room table in her Clyde North home on Monday teaching her class remotely, her son Hudson who is in year 1 was set up on a smaller table and chairs in the same room, being taught remotely by his teachers.

“With last year’s lockdown I did find myself trying to do everything and you can’t,” she said.

This time around Ms Gibb has adopted a clear delineation of duties: if she is teaching her students, Hudson is off playing with his toys or watching TV; if she is supervising Hudson’s lesson, he gets her full attention.

“It’s one or the other,” she said.

Ms Gibb’s school, Blackburn Primary, has reverted straight to the same lesson format it adopted in last year’s extended period of remote learning, with two online classes a day and a series of activities mapped out for the week.

Principal Andrew Cock said the transition was almost a case of “business as usual”, despite the shock of suddenly being thrust back into lockdown.

“It was a bit of a shock to the system to have to write the communication out to the community,” he said. “Last year I was so used to doing it and [this year] we’d almost forgotten it all.”

But Berwick Lodge Primary, a large state school in Melbourne’s east, will hold off on flicking the switch to online learning this week, instead sending out work packs in hard copy.

Principal Henry Grossek said the school was preparing online lessons for next week in the event that the lockdown drags beyond seven days.

“We’re using this week to prepare for a worst case scenario, which is several weeks of online remote learning,” he said.

Mr Grossek said the school had also refrained from switching to online classes straight away because many students at the school do not have a digital device at home.

The state government allocated $24.5 million to allow government school students to keep 71,000 computers they were loaned in lockdown last year, but Mr Grossek said many families chose not to hang onto them, instead leaving them with the school.

“We are mindful of the fact that we have a substantial number of kids who don’t have sufficient devices at home, so in terms of getting out laptops and iPads for four days, it is a logistical nightmare.”

Multiple schools were shut down on Monday after being linked with a positive case of coronavirus, including Mercy College in Coburg and Willmott Park Primary School in Craigieburn.

Methodist Ladies’ College was also briefly closed when it learned a staff member had tested positive to COVID-19, but announced it would reopen when it emerged the staff member was not infectious while at the school.

The growing outbreaks have prompted the Australian Education Union to push for school teachers to be vaccinated as a priority group.

“Unless education staff are able to have priority access to a vaccine, we continue to be at risk of more disruptions to the on-site education of our students, especially in schools and TAFEs,” Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said.

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