The final term of school for the class of 2021 will be different, to say the least.
From today the year 12 cohort will be able to return to their schools to study for their final exams and assessments and to reunite with their friends before the end of their high school days.
St John Paul II College students Campbell Ellison, 17, and Emma Bramham, 18, welcomed the opportunity to get out of their bedrooms and back to the school environment for that final dose of motivation.
"Going back to school this term is the culmination of my entire educational journey ... whether or not there was a pandemic I think that this last term is something really, really special," Ellison said.
Bramham was very happy to return to face-to-face learning despite having to wear a mask in the classroom.
"We only have five weeks left before we have final exams so you don't even get a whole term, which is a little disappointing, but it'll be nice to spend time with people before we all go our separate ways next year."
St John Paul II College principal Catherine Rey said she was very pleased to welcome the year 12 students back to class for what was typically a difficult term for the senior students.
"Spring has sprung and the students are tired. They've been working hard and they find it hard to sustain the momentum through to the end and so doing that remotely makes it even more difficult," she said.
Each school will navigate the gradual return to face-to-face teaching differently. Public colleges will keep face-to-face activities to a minimum in the next two weeks, with tertiary students coming on site for AST preparations and exams and students doing VET or practical courses coming to school for course catch-ups.
For classes that have a combination of year 11 and 12 students, schools are finding ways to avoid teachers delivering the same material twice. In public colleges these classes will remain online, but some schools, including St John Paul II College, will be live-streaming the face-to-face class for the year 11 students at home.
All staff and students will need to use the Check in CBR app and schools will be finding ways of improving ventilation.
Mrs Rey said her relatively new school had a building management system which refreshed the air eight times per hour.
She said the priority vaccinations for teachers and year 12 student made a great difference in reassuring people school would be safe.
"We've got quite a young school staff and many of them were able to move their vaccinations forward," she said.
An ACT Education Directorate survey found only 35 per cent of teachers thought school was a safe place to be.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said a lot of planning had been done at a territory level during the school holidays.
"The individual responses will necessarily be bespoke at each school level, but it will be really important for teachers and parents and students to feel confident that the measures that have been put in place in each school will reduce the risk," Mr Barr said.
Mrs Rey said her school was now working on plans to bring the younger students back to class safely, including ways to reduce mingling between cohorts.
"That's going to be wonderful to have everyone else back," she said.
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