Parents pulling kids out of school in droves

By Melissa Meehan

The supermarket shelves are bare and we are urged to practice “social distancing” but Australian kids are expected to attend school despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Many parents are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place – keen to protect their children (and vulnerable family members) from the fast-moving COVID-19 and following the rules put in place by the government.

Rachelle Bingham is one of those parents.

Usually a rule follower, the Melbourne mum and blogger (@themummycode), made the tough decision to follow her gut and keep her two children home from their eastern suburbs school.

And she is not alone.

And she doesn’t expect to send Hudson, 7, and Scarlett, 5, back before school holidays start at the end of March.

“I figured that since I work from home I have the capacity to keep my children home,” she told Knox Monash Kids.

“I wanted to take the opportunity to get on the front foot and ensure that we are not out spreading any germs in the public.

“My main concern is for the elderly and vulnerable people in the community.”

It’s only been a week, but so far – so good.

Rachelle and her kids have been working on worksheets they got from the school, doing craft, playing in the backyard and watching movies.

They even get out to the oval for a bit of a run.

“I am trying to keep some sort of routine to make sure that the kids aren’t just watching their IPads all day,” she said.

“I have even packed them lunchboxes so that they stop eating everything randomly throughout the day.”

She says there are some really good websites with free learning resources available and because her kids are young reading will be a key component their ‘school days’.

While Rachelle understands that not everyone can work from home, and that doctors and nurses need to be available she believes the government should act now and close schools.

“ My thoughts are that if we shut everything down now, it will be a struggle but we will all be in the same boat,” she said.

“It’s short term pain to get the virus under control. I feel it’s better to have schools closed now while everything is more controlled and before things get out of hand.”

With school holidays a week away, she said many parents would need to find suitable solutions anyway – so why not act early?

“Workplaces have sent staff to work from home, major events are shut down I just can’t see why keeping schools open at this point is a logical move,” she said.

“Our economy can always recover, we cannot bring people back from the dead.”

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton on Thursday said schools have been kept open because allowing people to continue their routine daily activities, whilst decreasing non-essential social and mass gathering activities, will decrease the spread of COVID-19.

“There is evidence that children in households may be infected by adults within the households, which is why all household contacts of confirmed cases are placed into home isolation when a case is confirmed,” he said.

“At this point there is no evidence of any school clusters where infections were driven by the student population or student introductions.”