‘I’m excited but it’s scary’: COVID looms as year 12 students return

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Senior students in Melbourne’s north who returned to school today said they were glad to be back but feared the next COVID-19 outbreak was just around the corner.

After two months stuck at home, Year 12 student Tafa Malumu was equal parts excited and scared to arrive at school on Wednesday morning.

Year 12 student Tafa Malumu returned to the classroom on Wednesday. Credit:Simon Schluter

“I’m excited, but it’s a bit scary with the numbers now. You are kind of putting yourself at risk by coming back to school.”

Tafa, 17, is in her final year at Penola Catholic College in Broadmeadows, a part of Melbourne with some of the highest COVID-19 case numbers.

Her schoolmate Abbey O’Rourke, 18, was also apprehensive, despite having had enough of remote learning.

“This area is a COVID hotspot and no one really cares about it,” she said.

“They don’t wear face masks, they still have gatherings; you go to the Broady shops, and it doesn’t even feel like we are in COVID.”

Abbey O’Rourke says there is too much complacency about COVID-19 in her community of Broadmeadows.Credit:Simon Schluter

Both girls said their motivation to keep studying was drained by the frequent and unpredictable interruptions to face-to-face learning.

Snapchat had become a crucial for staying in touch with friends, they said while admitting mobile phones were also a perennial distraction at home.

A day after VCE students sat the General Achievement Test on Tuesday, all year 12 students studying VCE and VCAL returned on Wednesday, as did year 11 students taking unit 4 VCE subjects.

Classes will run for just two weeks in term four before they break for exams.

But just a day in to Melbourne’s staggered return to school, hundreds of students were forced into isolation.

An Andrews government spokesperson confirmed that four students from four separate schools tested positive to the virus after sitting the GAT. Those schools were closed for a deep clean.

Mitchell Hayes, a year 11 student at Penola, said he was happy to be back, but his biggest fear was that a case would hit the school forcing him to return to remote learning.

“I feel good. I’m happy to be back,” he said.

“It’s a lot better to be in class, but I’m still concerned about COVID because I don’t know how successful they are going to be in keeping it out of school.

“I’m worried it’s just going to be a couple of days and then bang, straight back into lockdown.”

Year 11 student Mitchell Hayes is double vaccinated and desperate to avoid another lockdown. Credit:Simon Schluter

Mitchell said he had already been double vaccinated so was not too worried about getting sick, but was desperate to avoid another interruption to his schooling.

“I’m getting towards the end of my schooling, and it’s now been two years interrupted non-stop, so I’m trying to make the most of it and get back, see my friends before school ends,” he said.

Other year levels will progressively return to face-to-face learning over the next month.

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