There are 60 Covid-19 cases linked to a Melbourne school whose principal encouraged students to come to class during the city’s latest lockdown.
Fitzroy Community School in Melbourne’s inner city is now the source of a major outbreak of cases after the 120-pupil alternative primary school refused to close its classrooms, despite the city staying home.
The commander of Victoria’s coronavirus response, Jeroen Weimar, confirmed cases linked to the school rose to 60 during Thursday’s daily press conference.
Director Timothy Berryman controversially said last week that children “get runny noses all the time” and are more likely to be hit by a car than to get sick from the coronavirus.
His 11-year-old son tested positive, but Mr Berryman said the virus threat to children was extremely low and mild illness was “inevitable.”
“It’s a bit like saying that some children will drown and some children will be run over,” he told the… Today show last Tuesday.
“But we haven’t stopped them from getting on scooters, cycling and getting into cars. We accept that that risk is part of it.’
At least 60 students and staff tested positive at the Fitzroy Community Center in Fitzroy North, Melbourne
He has since claimed that the guard the 60 students out of 120 who attend his school during the current lockdown fall into the exemption categories set out in the public health regulations.
He said that after inviting the students back to school for a few days in June and July, he was forced to reverse his decision because it was “too stressful” and says the students now attending have parents who are either essential workers are either considered ‘vulnerable’ in line with the Public Health Act.
“The irony is that I followed the rules and I ticked every box you can, and I still got an outbreak at my school. That raises the question that this is inevitable,” he told the publication.
His mother Faye Berryman – who founded the school – also appeared on Sunrise last week.
Mrs. Berryman was cut off by host Natalie Barr after she defended to keep the school open to all students.
“The government is telling people to send their children to school only if they are essential workers — not to do their own research and make their own decisions,” Barr said.
Mrs. Berryman replied, “We didn’t want to be forced to do anything against our conscience.
“We always hope the legal rules match the model rules, but teachers were forced to go against their conscience.”
Barr then abruptly ended the interview by admonishing the educator and telling her she was threatening the well-being of the wider community.
“The problem is Melbourne has hundreds of cases, you have a growing outbreak and people in the extended community are at risk,” she said.
Melbourne has spent 235 days in lockdown since the pandemic began with schools closed to everyone except the children of essential workers since August 5.
Up to 60 children attended classes from the Fitzroy Community on the days Mr. Berryman allowed them to and more than 180 people have since become close contacts, turning the school into a Tier 1 exposure site.
Shortly after his mother was given a lecture on the sky, Mr Berryman claimed on Today that the risk of children dying from Covid-19 was lower than that of drowning or traffic accidents.
“The risk of drowning or traffic accidents is about 10 times greater than Covid,” he said.
‘If you run a primary school, you get children sick almost every day. Someone calls in sick or has a runny nose.
“While you don’t want a kid to ever get the flu or get sick or cough or anything, it’s actually unavoidable and part of running a school.”
Timothy Berryman, director of the Fitzroy Community School, wrote to parents, “Feel free to send your child to school if you think it’s best for them or best for your family balance.”
Principal Timothy Berryman (left) said the virus threat to children was extremely low and mild illness was “inevitable,” while school founder Faye Berryman said it was against her “conscience” not to open the classroom keep during the closing
Mr Berryman said he had tried to give parents “the best of both worlds” by providing them with the opportunity to learn on location or remotely.
“I don’t know if I would have said I was encouraging kids to come to school,” he said. “I offered classroom teaching to those who came to the scene.”
Victorian Health Secretary Martin Foley said last week an investigation into the ‘alternative’ school in North Fitzroy would decide what sanction it should face.
“Our number one priority is the well-being of those children and their families and staff,” he said.
Philip O’Carroll, co-founder of the Fitzroy Community School, speaks to media in Melbourne on Monday
“This school has a history of sailing close to the Chief Health Officer’s orders.
“Our compliance people – after the priority of responding to the outbreak has been settled – will investigate the matter and take appropriate action based on the outcomes they come up with.”
The independent primary school was identified as the source of an outbreak last Monday by Victorian deputy health officer Dan O’Brien.
Mr. Foley wouldn’t know if Mr. Berryman and the school would face fines of thousands of dollars or expulsion.
“I think everyone should follow the orders of the health officer. And if you don’t, there are consequences,’ he said.
‘Not least of all, children get sick. Families get sick.’
VICTORIA REVISES ITS VOCATIONAL EDUCATION SYSTEM
Victoria is scrapping VCAL as part of a review of vocational education for high school students.
Under new legislation proposed to the state parliament on Tuesday, the government will replace the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning with the Victorian Certificate of Education – Vocational Major.
The Foundation VCAL year is replaced by the Victorian Pathways Certificate, from which students can choose VCE, entry-level vocational training or enter the labor market.
The program will be introduced from 2023.
The government says vocational training means students can take more courses and gain work experience.
“These reforms mean students will receive better support and flexibility to study what they want, as well as key academic skills that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” said Education Secretary James Merlino in the announcement.
The government says the new program will target students with extra needs and vulnerable students who are at risk of leaving the school system.