NEXT STEP: Apanui School is preparing additional learning packs for students, while distance learning packs are also being sent by the Ministry of Education to those who need them. Photos courtesy Apanui School

ONLY parents who are returning to work under alert level three and have no supervision for their junior children up to year 10 are permitted to send students to school next week.

Students in years 11 to 13 are to continue with distance learning at home.

This is the key message schools were sending families of students yesterday as they start preparations for a shift from Covid-19 alert level four to alert level three next week. These preparations have included surveys being sent to families to gauge who will be returning to school.

“We still want the vast majority of children learning from home. At-risk students and staff should also stay at home, and they will be supported to do so,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

“Early learning centres and schools will physically be open for up to year 10 families that need them.”

The prime minister said schools could be entered by staff for planning and preparation purposes only this week. Tuesday, April 28 would be a teachers’ only day and schools would be open for specified students on Wednesday next week.

Ms Ardern also cautioned that some schools and early learning centres might take longer to be ready for a return of students.

But the Early Childhood Council, whose 1300 childcare services have about 65,000 of the 200,000 children enrolled in early childhood education, said it was recommending that its centres stay closed until the country returned to alert level two.

Simon Akroyd, head of the Whakatane Community of Learning, which includes 10 schools, said the important message was “work from home and learn from home”.

“The only children attending school next week are those who do not have supervision at home as their parents have returned to work,” he said.

“We are not able to cater for those children who would like a change of scene or those who miss school or their teacher. We look forward to seeing them in the future.”

Mr Akroyd said the Whakatane CoL of school principals had been working closely together, sharing and supporting each other, and seeking clarification from the Ministry of Education.

“We have a united focus to collectively support the whole community, not just our individual schools; this has to be good for our children, whanau and town.”

Schools will also be required to enforce distancing rules, for instance organising people in bubbles of no more than 10, and ensuring cleaning and hygiene regimes are maintained.

Students and staff with any medical conditions are being asked to stay home, as have those who live with a person aged over 65, or a person with a serious medical condition, such as asthma, heart conditions, lung or liver disease or who are immunocompromised, among other conditions.

James Street School principal has advised that it is awaiting a directive from the Ministry of Education about its students who need specialist support. It says its specialist schools and satellite classes/units are not opening next week.

Resources, including distance learning packs, Chromebooks and Education TV, has been made available for all students.