Members Statement – COVID-19

Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South)

I want to give a big thankyou to all the schoolteachers and principals in my electorate of Gippsland South for their forbearance through the difficulties of the pandemic, notably through the uncertainty of the past few weeks.

Our teachers, and especially principals, have a tough enough job at the best of times, but dealing with remote learning and switching between the two is not easy.

I heard from a number last week who were extremely frustrated at the flip-flopping of the state government with respect to the regional return to school.

To be told two weeks ago there would be no classroom teaching until term 4, only then to have the Premier announce years prep to 2 and year 12 would in fact go back, had some teachers in tears and their plans in disarray.

I and my opposition colleagues believe all regional students should be back at school now, but at the very least at the start of term 4.

We believe this can be done safely with our plan to prioritise vaccination for willing teachers, closing schools only on a case-by-case basis, rapid testing and other measures such as improving ventilation.

Our position to get schools reopened is backed by research released today by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, which showed COVID in children, including the delta variant, is rarely serious and the main risks to them are indirect effects on mental health and education which are ‘worsened by continued lockdowns and school closures’.

We must get kids back to school.

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