WELCOME RETURN: Empty classrooms will bigin to fill next week under alert level two. File photo

EASTERN Bay schools are racing this week to put in place plans that will see the bulk of students return to school next week under Covid-19 alert level two.

“The expectation is that with the exception of students who are sick, all students will be attending at alert level two. Schools are open for all children on Monday,” head of the Whakatane Community of Learning Simon Akroyd said.

Mr Akroyd, who is also principal of Apanui School, said schools had received a directive from the Ministry of Education on how they should operate at alert level two.

The directive says distance learning is available for those unable to attend school, for example those who are self-isolating.

Some schools have already put out surveys to parents asking whether their students will be coming to school next week or will be continuing with distance learning.

“The reality is that schools are required to provide distance learning for those who are not at school and, looking at our numbers, it appears that we will have about 90 percent attending,” Mr Akroyd said.

“The children who are not attending are for various reasons and that is parents’ choice under level two.”

The Whakatane Kahui Ako, or Community of Learning, consists of 11 schools based in the Whakatane area and 15 early childhood education centres.

Mr Akroyd said principals had worked together with the ministries of education and health to create a set of guidelines to ensure consistency across schools and early childhood education centres.

“The guidelines should help to put parents at ease and to create a positive and safe environment for children and staff to return to.”

Schools and ECEs will be contacting families over the next few days about the specific details of how their school will operate within the Whakatane Kahui Ako guidelines.

“It is important to note that due to the requirement for schools and ECEs to contact trace, there will be strict limits around access of people on to school sites.”

Trident High School has planned a flexible transition period for the first two weeks under alert level two in which senior and junior students will alternate days for timetabled classes in school, and continue online learning either from home or supervised in a learning hub at school on the alternate days.

Students have also been told they will need to bring their devices to school every day.

Edgecumbe College deputy principal Rene Otto said they were treating the start of school next week the same way they would treat the start of a new school year.

“It is going to be a brand new start, they have had nearly eight weeks away, so we will take it like starting the year getting the kids back, focused and take stock of how much they will be able to do online and how much they will be able to do on hard copies and just go from there.”

Mr Otto said their focus would also be to put in place the recommendations from the ministries regarding social distancing and hygiene.

Students have been informed, however, that they will not continue with distance learning.

Friday will be a teacher-only day to prepare for the school start.

Schools are aiming to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 thus any person who feels unwell or who is identified as having possible signs of Covid-19 symptoms will be sent home.

Like businesses, schools will have to have a register in place for contract tracing. All classes are also required to have hand sanitiser and cleaning materials available and children will be expected to sanitise before and after play, eating and breaks.

Cleaners will thoroughly clean classes, bathrooms and all buildings daily and all school and ECE equipment can be used but will be disinfected regularly.

Level 2 but keep your space

RESTAURANTS, cinemas, cafes and shops will be allowed to open tomorrow when the country moves from alert level three into alert level two in the battle against Covid-19.

“Today I am announcing that Cabinet agree we are ready to move into alert level two, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

“To open up the economy, but to do it as safely as possible.”

Ms Ardern explained how it would work at alert level two, which would be in place for two weeks.

Tomorrow, retail, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces, including playground and gyms can reopen.

On Monday, May 18, schools and early learning centres will reopen. The delay is to give parents and teachers time to prepare and plan.

On Thursday, May 21, bars will be able to reopen. “Seating must be provided, there must be space between tables. We have left bars until last because they do pose the most risk.”

Ms Ardern referred to South Korea where when they opened bars it caused an outbreak, infecting 40 people and resulting in 1500 Covid-19 tests.

“All will be required to have physical distancing and strict hygiene measures in place.

“You can begin to move around New Zealand, but space yourself out, especially if using public transport. And, of course, health services will restart,” she said.

“The upshot is that in 10 days’ time we will have reopened most businesses in New Zealand and sooner than many other counties around the world.”

The prime minister urged people to keep their social bubbles to 10 people or fewer when socialising; parties and big gatherings will not be permitted at level two. People at sports events, the cinema or restaurants will all be required to be spaced out.
When we come together to socialise in large numbers there is risk.”