School in Melbourne’s inner north defends stance on remote learning despite COVID-19 outbreak

The founder of a Melbourne primary school at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak has defended the decision to invite parents to send their children during lockdown, saying it is not on the “lunatic fringe”.Key points:The Fitzroy Community School campus has been listed as a tier 1 exposure siteThe school’s founder says parents were given the choice to send their children or keep them homeAuthorities are investigating the breach of restrictionsMore than 30 cases have been linked to the Fitzroy Community School in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North, which is a tier 1 exposure site.Founder Faye Berryman read a statement over the phone from the school window, saying it had the best interests of children at heart.”We are not lunatic fringe, we are pretty conservative, deeply thinking people,” she said.”Children’s emotional well-being, their feeling of insecurity, the unpredictable long-term psychological danger of raising them under a mantle of fear are the price we pay for not having children at school.”Our parents were given the choice to be at school or online, with no pressure either way.” Faye Berryman defended the school’s decision not to enforce remote learning restrictions.(ABC News)The ABC has been told families have been repeatedly encouraged to send their children to the school during lockdown, in breach of public health orders.In a June 3 email to parents seen by the ABC, principal Timothy Berryman writes: “I cannot in good conscience continue to request that you continue to keep your children at home. Please feel free to send your child to school if you feel that this is best for them or best for your family balance. I do not write this lightly, as this does breach government imposed directives for schools.”In announcing the school’s closure on September 9, he told families he believed “it was only a matter of time” before the school would be forced to shut its doors because of a positive case.”I can sincerely say that it has been a much longer run than I had hope for or expected,” he wrote.”My hope is that next term the position on schools changes, and that they will all be open and remain open with positive cases.”Melbourne’s Delta outbreak is affecting young people at a much higher rate than during previous lockdowns, with health authorties calling it a pandemic of the young and unvaccinated.Ms Berryman said the losses to children of not being able to go to school far outweighed the gains.”We know that primary-aged children have a strong resilience to COVID, for example, studies of the Murdoch Institute. They may have a strong resilience to COVID, but they may not have a strong resilience to the upbringing being inflicted on them at the moment,” she said.Under Melbourne’s lockdown rules, only vulnerable students and the children of essential workers are able to go to school on site.Fitzroy Community School was criticised for opening for on-site learning during lockdown last year, a decision Education Minister James Merlino branded as “reckless”.Health Minister Martin Foley said the school had a history of “sailing pretty close” to public health orders, but it was too early to say if it would be fined.”Our focus is on the well-being of those kids, their families and the staff. In terms of compliance activities, that will take its normal course,” he said.”I think everyone should follow the Chief Health Officer’s orders, where you don’t there are consequences … kids get sick, families get sick.”Opposition spokesman David Hodgett said schools were breaking the rules because the Andrews government did not have a plan to get children back in the classroom.”The government has not put out a single plan, so there’s no certainty, no hope, there’s no information for schools. We don’t support breaking the rules, but this is what happens,” he said.Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 29 minutes 27 seconds29m Outbreak: How Australia lost control of the Delta variantWhat you need to know about coronavirus:Loading form…

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