Kindergarten, year 1, year 12 students return to school in Greater Sydney after lockdown

ABC News Sydney filed this report about the long-awaited return to school - featuring students from St Patrick's Primary Guildford and Holy Family Primary East Granville.

It felt like an eternity but four long months of home learning are finally over for 150,000 students. Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 12s went back to class on Monday. All other students go back next week under strict COVID rules.


Donna Grillo has been playing a dual-role as both mother and teacher for more than three months.

Today that ends as her son, Tyson, returns to his kindergarten class at his school in Hoxton Park in Western Sydney.

"Obviously, parents will be scared and it's the unknown, isn't it?," Ms Grillo said.

Sending our babies, our most-treasured people, out into the big, bad world again. So, I guess, I'm just praying that it's OK.

Kindergarten, year 1 and year 12 students are back in the classroom full-time today after being in lockdown for more than 100 days. Remaining year groups will follow a week later.

School will look a bit different, with teachers wearing masks at all times

High school students will also have to wear masks and they will be recommended, but not mandatory, for primary school students.

Teachers have been asked to keep windows open as much as possible to improve ventilation.

Schools may have to close on a temporary basis if a student tests positive for COVID-19.

Ms Grillo and her family lived through the toughest restrictions, with her suburb located in a local government area (LGA) considered a COVID-hotspot.

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Ms Grillo held a home learning graduation ceremony for her son, Tyson. (Photo Credit: ABC Western Sydney)


She said she did everything she could to bring joy to her son Tyson's days locked inside. She even held a home-learning graduation ceremony for the vibrant five-year-old.

Ms Grillo is supportive of Tyson returning to school, but she is worried about the risk of him getting COVID-19.

"I'm just hoping and praying that things are going to get better and the kids aren't going to get sick. He does get respiratory infections quite quick," she said.

Her daughter, who's in year 12, is also back at school, before sitting the HSC exams next month.

"They haven't been able to graduate or anything but one of her teachers came here with the little cupcake and graduated out the front with his mask on, it was very different … very emotional," she said.

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Alexandra Kurdi was worried about sending her daughter, Olivia, back to school but recognises the benefits to children's mental health. (ABC News: Timothy Swanston)


Like Ms Grillo, Alexandra Kurdi was in an LGA of concern.

Ms Kurdi initially felt worried about sending her daughter, Olivia, back to her year 1 classroom at Granville in Western Sydney, with COVID-19 still spreading in the community, but her attention has switched.

"I think the impact on kids' mental health has been quite underrated. The kids' sadness has been really overwhelming," Ms Kurdi said.

"Sometimes they didn't want to get out of bed, and even brush their hair or have breakfast or anything, because I had nothing to look forward to.

"The teachers are going to have to really help the children to manage their emotions and self-regulate again, because they've forgotten how to do all of that."

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Alexandra Kurdi says teachers are going to play an important role in helping children ease back into the classroom.(ABC News: Timothy Swanston)


Western Sydney University school of education's Associate Professor Christine Woodrow said the circumstances that children have faced at home during lockdown "varied hugely".

"Children are going to come to school, some with very positive experiences and some with very negative," Professor Woodrow said.

"I think we will find a loss of confidence among some children and a forgetfulness around the social norms for interacting.

"That will take a lot of skill and sensitivity on the part of some teachers to actually manage those emotions that might play out."

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As a teacher, Rachel Salem says it is important that her son, Gerard, goes back to school.(ABC News: Timothy Swanston)


Rachel Salem's son, Gerard, is heading back to his kindergarten class in Guildford, also in Sydney's west.

As a teacher, it's a no-brainer for her. She thinks the importance of him getting back into class with his friends is paramount.

"I'm feeling a bit emotional about it but I do think it's important they go back … because routines are important and socialising is important," Ms Salem said. "I think it's time."

But not all children have been as lucky in lockdown, according to the NSW Family Services (FAMS) chief executive Julie Hourigan Ruse.

"Our safety net systems that keep our kids safe rely on us having eyes on children and, as soon as we shut schools, kids became invisible," Ms Hourigan Ruse said.

"That means for children who are at risk of significant harm, for families that are doing it tough, we don't have as much opportunity to connect.

"Going back to school means that the whole community has more eyes on children."

All staff returning to school are required to be fully vaccinated, unless they have an approved medical exemption.

Out of nearly 102,000 school staff surveyed across New South Wales, 94 per cent have said they were fully vaccinated, the Department of Education said, with a further 5 per cent having had one dose.

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Rachel Salem says children need to socialise and have routine.(ABC News: Timothy Swanston)