Schools partially reopening today

Schools reopen today, but just for children of essential workers, and only for children up to year 10. It is expected that most children will keep working from home under Covid Level 3, with less than 10% predicted to go back to school and some schools expect no pupils.

It’s a tricky time for principals and teachers, but at least they all have jobs and full pay.

Stuff: Reopening schools as safe as ever, health experts say

Otago University associate professor Tony Walls, a paediatrician and infectious diseases researcher, said it was “really unusual” for a child to spread the virus.

“Generally children, if they do get the infection, have very mild infection and generally don’t spread it about,” he said.

“Kids going to school are probably as healthy as they’ve been, in terms of respiratory viruses.”

But most parents are playing it safe, or don’t need to send their children to school.

ODT: Few pupils expected to return to schools today

Fewer than 10% of pupils are expected to return to school today, an informal survey of Otago and Southland schools shows.

Otago Primary Principals’ Association president and Tainui School principal Shelley Wilde said some Otago primary schools would not have any pupils today, but most would have 6% to 7% of their pupils returning.

However, Otago Secondary Principals’ Association president Linda Miller said significantly fewer — between zero and 15 pupils up to year 10 — would be returning to secondary schools.

The numbers appear to be similar in Southland as New Zealand schools reopen under Level 3 restrictions.

Only about four of the 1077 pupils at Southland Girls’ High School were expected to return today, and Riverton Primary School principal Tim Page said just two of the 150 pupils at his school were returning.

NZ Herald: Schools reopen after lockdown – but one in six don’t expect any students

Principals’ Federation president Perry Rush says parents have got the message that they should keep children at home in alert level 3 if they possibly can, and many are still worried about the health risks of sending them to school.

Some small schools have also decided not to open because teachers are unavailable due to health concerns or, in one case, not having up-to-date first aid certificates.

A Principals’ Federation survey with responses from 620 schools found an average of only 6 per cent of students expected back at school this week, with 16 per cent of schools not expecting any students to turn up.

It looks like returning to school will be a gradual process.

Newshub: Principal urges teachers to ‘be positive and get on with it’ as schools set to reopen

Iain Taylor, principal of Manurewa Intermediate School, says although personally he would have preferred to wait until level 2 until reopening schools, he says teachers now need to get on with the job.

“I would much rather be opening under level 2 because level 2 is less complex, it’s less complicated, but this is the way it is,” Taylor told The AM Show on Tuesday.

He said his school was expecting around 70 of the school’s 900 children to return, and despite the fact teachers were “literally babysitters” the children coming to classes “clearly need to be there”.

But:

The principal of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s former high school Morrinsville College condemned the Government’s decision, saying it was “surprising” and could end in “potential disaster“.

In a three-page newsletter, principal John Inger said he was “surprised” and concerned by the rules and warned students returning so soon could end in a “potential disaster”.

“As things currently stand, it seems to me that Government wants to pass on to teachers all around the country the responsibility of child-minding, in our case Years 9 and 10 students, so that more parents can go back to their workplaces,” he said in the email obtained by The Herald.

“This ignores the potential disaster that this could result in, with our schools possibly becoming incubators for the virus.

Not surprising to see mixed feelings and views on reopening.


Education information at Alert level 3

Under Alert Level 3 it will be safe for Early Learning/Education Centres and schools to open for children up to and including year 10, with appropriate public health measures in place. All young people in years 11–13 will continue to learn at home.

Where possible, students should remain at home and continue distance learning. Where parents or caregivers need to, they can send their children to school. Schools will be a safe place for children to go to learn if their parents need to return to work, or the children cannot learn at a distance.

Play centres and playgroups will be closed.

Schools will look different under Alert Level 3. There will be far fewer students on the grounds, and they will stay within their small groups. The small groups will help to maintain physical distancing.

Some teachers will be teaching students at school, while others will support distance learning. For those small number of children attending school, the learning experience will be different to “normal” school.

Can my child go to school at Alert level 3?

At Alert level 3, all children and young people who can stay at home, should stay at home. This will support physical distancing and reduce the number of people in close proximity in schools.

Schools will be open for children and young people in years 1-10, who are not able to stay at home. All children and young people will still have access to distance learning from home.

Primary and intermediate schools will be open. Secondary schools will be open for years 9 and 10 only. All young people in years 11-13 will continue their learning at home, and will not be able to go to a school site.

Public health control measures will be put in place in schools including children and young people staying home if they are sick, physical distancing (1m inside and on school transport, and 2m outside), contact tracing, and hygiene requirements.

More here:

Minister of Education on schools reopening after lockdown

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins talking on Q+A this morning. He said some schools may be able to re-open for some students on 29 April (the Wednesday after Anzac Day), depending on whether the Level 4 lockdown is relaxed or not, but some student working from home is likely for some time.

While Level 3 rules are to be clarified next week Hipkins hinted “When the country moved to alert Level 3, only children of essential workers were able to attend school.”

“Don’t assume when we move from 4 to 3, whenever that may be, that everything will go back at once.”

Alert Level 4 is clear: “educational facilities closed”

Alert Level 3 is vague: “affected educational facilities closed”

The Prime Minister last Thursday (9 April): “We need to give similar more detailed guidance on what life at Level 3 looks like, and we will do that next week.”

School reopening decisions will be made based on public health advice. Children of essential workers may be allowed back to school before others, and some schools are likely to open before others.

Some teachers are older or have health conditions so not all staff may be available as soon as schools get the go-ahead to re-open.

What will schools be like when they restart? The are likely to be quite different. No assemblies and contact limited as much as possible. Social distancing is a particular challenge with young children.

Some children may go back to school part time and do some work from home.

1 News:  Schools given potential return date for students, should Level 4 lockdown be lifted after 28 days

Some students could start returning to school for face-to-face lessons on Wednesday April 29, should the Level 4 lockdown be lifted after four weeks.

However, Education Minister Chris Hipkins told TVNZ1’s Q+A with Jack Tame that parents should be prepared for a “significant amount of young people” to be kept at home for longer, even after the lockdown ends.

If New Zealand comes out of lockdown on the scheduled date of April 22, some schools have been told they could open for learning a week later – the Wednesday after Anzac weekend.

“I do want to keep expectations quite reasonable here. When we move from Level 4 to Level 3 it doesn’t mean everything goes back to normal, even if we have schools and early learning centres open they won’t necessarily be fully open or open for everybody.”

“There’s still a lot of work going on to make sure we’ve got the public health risk of schools and early childhood services fully understood.”

“We do need a bit of time for teachers to come back into their classrooms. It may be in the first instances they may be able to go back into their classrooms and deliver remote learning from that school environment where the broadband connection is better and they have more access to resources.”

Mr Hipkins said there may be changes at schools such as some would not be able to have assemblies “for a while”, students would be asked to limit contact as much as possible and some students may continue learning from home.

He said the workforces that created “the most anxiety when we think about reopening” were those with a high percentage in the ‘at risk’ Covid-19 demographic, including bus drivers, and relief teachers.

Last week, Mr Hipkins presented to the Covid-19 select committee, warning parents to prepare for a variety of different scenarios and for potentially keeping children at home for longer than the end of the lockdown.

“It would be wrong to assume all schools and early learning services would simply reopen as we move out of Level 4 lockdown. That’s not going to happen frankly.

“I’m not saying they won’t reopen at all, but simply saying they’ll all be open from day one isn’t a realistic option.”

When the country moved to alert Level 3, only children of essential workers were able to attend school.

So it looks like it will take a while for most kids to get back to school, even if reduction of Covid restrictions go well,

Note that last line: “When the country moved to alert Level 3, only children of essential workers were able to attend school”.

So we still have to wait and see what the Level 3 rules will be on schools (business and everything else) but Hipkins has given us a big hint.

And then “on the 20th of April, two days before the lockdown is due to finish, Cabinet will make a decision on our next steps” – that is, whether we will drop to level 3 or not. It seems very unlikely we will drop straight to level 2.