As term one begins this week, Warrnambool's three secondary schools are yet to receive rapid antigen tests (RATs) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms.
School principals are anxiously awaiting their arrival, as deliveries of the tests, required for the twice-weekly COVID-19 testing of staff and students, had not shown up on Friday.
Despite the state government saying 6.6 million tests (enough for a fortnight of testing) would be in Victorian schools in time for the start of term, some south-west schools are still without them and unsure when they'll arrive.
One primary school The Standard spoke to has tests for students, but not staff members.
The majority of south-west classes resume this week. Most primary students begin term one on Monday and secondary students start Tuesday to Thursday, depending on the school and year level.
Warrnambool's Brauer College was forced to put its plans for parents to collect tests on Monday on hold, informing them on Friday evening they hadn't arrived.
Principal Jane Boyle had earlier rostered staff and allocated times for parents to collect the tests at a college drive-through on Monday and Tuesday. She said Monday's collection had been "postponed" in an email to families.
A number of other schools have adopted similar drive-through collection methods, or families have picked them up from the office or at student testing held annually at the start of the year.
It was a similar story at Warrnambool College, with principal David Clift advising families that "unfortunately" tests had not arrived as planned, and the rollout would be delayed until at least Tuesday.
"We have made several phone calls to the department and freight companies, but have not been able to be told when the tests will arrive at school, though we have been told this will be prioritised," Mr Clift said in an email to families on Friday.
Emmanuel College is also yet to receive its tests but principal Peter Morgan said it wasn't a problem and tests would be sent home with students as planned.
"They haven't arrived as yet," Mr Morgan told The Standard on Friday afternoon. "We've been advised that they would arrive either by close of business Friday or on Monday. That will work for us because our students return on Tuesday and we have organised to distribute the first couple of weeks of RATs directly to the students on their first day at school."
He said the college tried to source its own tests, independent of the state government allocation. "We were able to receive a small amount there that we used for our staff who were already back at work but not enough for students," he said.
While not mandatory, the COVID-19 surveillance testing is strongly recommended twice-weekly for staff, primary and secondary students and early childhood education and care staff, and five times a week for staff and students at specialist schools.
It was a mad rush for Warrnambool's St Joseph's Primary School to distribute tests on Thursday and Friday with its students starting school on Monday.
"We received enough for all of our kids but not our staff," principal Matt O'Brien said. "We'll distribute them to kids but we'll have to organise something else for staff. The advice we had is that we could receive another delivery by Monday."
Mr O'Brien said getting the tests out to families was another task schools had to manage at an already hectic time.
"We received them on Thursday afternoon and trying to have them distributed to 420 families before the weekend was a bit of an imposition when you're trying to get the school year up and running as well.
"It's come so late and it's not like we don't have anything on our plates anyway."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Warrnambool's King's College distributed tests to staff on Friday and principal Allister Rouse said families would collect them this week.
Warrnambool Primary School acting principal Dean Clements said its delivery arrived on Thursday and tests would be distributed this week.
"It's gone really well," he said. "I've got no issues. It's been pretty smooth."
Of the schools The Standard spoke to they had or were expecting a fortnight's supply with more arriving throughout the term, as staff and families waited to see the impact cases will have on their school and children.
A Department of Education and Training spokeswoman said it was delivering more than 14 million RATs to all Victorian schools and early childhood education and care services as part of a plan to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep education settings open and safe for those heading back to the classroom.
"Of the tests being delivered, 6.6 million will be in place in schools in time for the beginning of term one - enough for a fortnight's worth of testing," the spokeswoman said.
"Allocations will be based on school enrolments to ensure staff and students can undertake the recommended number of tests per week," she said
As part of the plan to keep schools open, there is also a progressive rollout of 51,000 air purification devices to all government and low-fee non-government schools for the start of term one, with a focus on high-risk settings and places with poor ventilation.
More than 1800 schools have also applied for a shade sail grant, with grants being rolled out progressively to enable more learning to take place outdoors.
Now just one tap with our new app: Digital subscribers now have the convenience of faster news, right at your fingertips with The Standard:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.