Australia Meet the boarders attending a pop-up quarantine school in Howard Springs
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A new pop-up school in Howard Springs is helping more than a dozen Indigenous Melbourne boarding school students finish off the term in quarantine, so they can get back to their families in time for school holidays.
The Northern Territory education department said it was currently helping 146 students enrolled in Victorian boarding schools get home after Greater Melbourne was declared a COVID hotspot.
12-year-old Tenielle McGuire is one of 16 students who have been quarantining and attending school at Howard Springs so she can get back to her family in Adelaide River, about 110 kilometres south of Darwin.
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"It's been … surprisingly fun," she said.
The year 7 student normally attends boarding school at the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS), a not-for-profit boarding school based out of the Richmond Football Club in Melbourne.
The 16 MITS students in Howard Springs are being looked after by seven staff, who are also in the quarantine centre, as part of a round-the-clock effort.
Tenielle said getting home was very important to her.
"I want to spend time with my family … once I get out I'll go camping with my family and fishing," she said.
As well as joining in for daily lessons from 8:30am to 1:30pm, lead teacher Michael Barnhoorn said some of the kids had been coming along on his morning run around the perimeter of the centre.
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"I feel like it's almost like a two-week-long school camp," he said.
The NT government declared Greater Melbourne, meaning anyone who arrives in the NT from Melbourne must undertake 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
The cohort is expecting to get out on Friday, just in time for the beginning of NT school holidays.
'They need to go home'
MITS helps year 7 Indigenous students, mainly from the Top End of the Northern Territory, transition to life and schooling in Melbourne.
MITS assistant principal Brad Carmody, who is also accompanying students in Howard Springs, said the school was committed to getting them home for the three-week dry season break.
"They need to go home, they need to reconnect with their family, they need to reconnect with their country, they need to spend some time at home so that they can continue their learning in the second half of the year," he said.
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Mr Carmody said staff and kids were staying together within their own area of the centre, and there had been plenty of time for the kids to have fun with TikTok videos and water fights.
"We're considered a family unit because all the students have lived together for the last year," he said.
"We're getting the work done."
NT Health confirmed the boarding cohort was allowed to interact with each other but must physically distance from anyone who is not in their travelling party.
Tenielle said she had met other interesting people in the centre.
"We've been doing a lot of work on the computers, learning about the Aboriginal flag, and [we met] the marine biologists next door and [learnt] how they do their work," she said.
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MITS said the $2,500 cost of quarantine for each of the young people and teachers was covered by the federal government, through ABSTUDY.
They said the school, which is run mainly on donations, would cover the round-the-clock staff costs of supervising kids.
Teacher Mr Barnhoorn said the whole experience was another reminder of how adaptable young people can be.
"It's pretty incredible with the adaptations they've made to another change in where they're living and where they're learning," he said.
"They're pretty extraordinary young people we're working with."
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