As schools across Victoria begin returning to in-person learning, anxieties about the process have become visible.
From Monday October 11, students from grades 3-6 and years 7-10 will return to classrooms on alternate days, joining students from prep-grade 2 and years 11 and 12, who returned earlier.
Questions over the safety of classroom learning and confusion over guidelines have left some students and parents hesitant.
Horsham College's senior school wellbeing worker, Justin Amor, said returning to onsite learning was always a learning process.
"We've done it so many times... the leadership team here at the school is pretty well versed and have had a lot of experience now with lockdowns," Mr Amor said.
"Each time we'll ask ourselves how did that go? Could we have done anything better? What do we need to implement next time around?
"We've always been trying to think of ways to, um, to make things better, to make things as seamless a transition as possible for the students when they come back in.
"It's important school is a space where kids can come in and concentrate on their learning; that's the main part."
According to Mr Amor, Horsham College had developed a multi-layered support system for it's students.
"We're fortunate at Horsham college that we've got lots of levels of support," he said.
"We've got lots of, lots of different avenues of support for people if they're needing, um, to talk through what their concerns might be and how we can best support them."
However the support does not end onsite, with Horsham College, like many other schools, offering virtual and off-campus support.
"If any students are needing additional support, we'll make referrals to outside services to ensure that every student gets the help and support that they may need."
"We've also got a really good relationship with our local Headspace office and they've been sharing information and resources with us."
On top of dedicated in-person counselling, Horsham College has also offered virtual support as well, through SchoolTV.
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Alongside its wellbeing program, Mr Amor said the school was doing all it could to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and was following the Victorian government's COVID regulations.
On Friday October 8 Victoria's chief health office Brett Sutton announced schoolchildren in grade three and above will be required to wear masks indoors at school while for kids in prep to grade two it will be strongly recommended but not mandated
Sutton cited scientific evidence that mask wearing reduced the risks of transmission for this decision.
"There is good evidence to support this decision," he said.
Confusion over being able to see their peers at school but not at home, as well as the vaccination status of some students could be a source of anxiety, Mr Amor acknowledged.
"That's a really difficult one for people to understand; that we've got to have one set of circumstances and one set of rules within the school environment," he said.
"We try our best to talk through that and communicate (the regulations) to the students as best as we can."
"We're trying to reassure students, parents and guardians that we're following all the correct health department guidelines, directives and things like that, to make sure that all students are safe as they can be,"
"But we're also listening to the students, parents and guardians concerns that they might have."
"If they have got any anxiety about coming back to school, what does that look like? How is that presenting in the young person and sort of what sort of supports can we put in place to help them through that?"
Uncertainty over returning to classroom learning when there have been cases in the community was understandable, according to a Victorian government spokesperson.
"With widespread community transition, it's natural that people in high-risk areas feel anxious about returning to the community," the spokesperson said.
"But we've done the work to make sure schools are as safe as possible, so students can return for term four with confidence."
The spokesperson said students' mental health and wellbeing was a priority as schools returned to in-person learning.
"We know that students and families are keen to get back to school but there may be some hesitation for some," the spokesperson said.
"We are working hard to keep schools as safe as possible with staggered start times, getting teachers vaccinated and by delivering ventilation devices to prevent as much transmission as possible on school sites."
The government has promised 51,000 air purification devices will be rolled out in schools across the state to remove potentially infectious particles from higher-risk areas in schools.
These areas include staff rooms, sick bays, music rooms and other high traffic areas.
In addition, many schools can accept to a grant to purchase shade sails to create more outdoor learning spaces and make it easier for classes to be conducted outside, where the risk of spreading COVID-19 is lessened.
The spokesperson also noted that home COVID-19 testing kits will also be available from October.
Under the guidelines, schools have already implemented measures like staggered pick-up and drop-off times, QR code check-ins for any essential visitors, and as much physical distancing as is possible in classrooms.
This also means limiting the potential for inter-year level mingling and not using large spaces like halls and gyms where possible.
Until the public health team advises that higher-risk activities are safe to resume schools also must postpone indoor and contact sports, camps, excursions, assemblies and performances to prevent the spread of the virus.
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