All primary schools in NZ are currently in the process of preparing for Alert Level 2 and the return of more/all students onsite. In order to make this run smoothly for OUR parents and students your teaching team is working frantically in the background (via ZOOM meetings), discussing how this could look for those of us at Rewa Rewa School.
As your school leader, I have been considering what you need to know as parents, in order to prepare you and your family for this next transition. For some, you may prefer to just wait until you are given instructions as to what to do next. For others, you may feel anxious if you don’t know, or understand, the reasons behind the decisions. For that reason, my approach is to keep you as informed as I can, based on the information that I currently have in front of me.
Parents can choose whether to read all, some or none of the information that will be sent to you over the next few weeks. However, to support your child to understand what a return to school will look like, I strongly recommendthat you keep yourselves informed. Children whose parents model a calm, ‘can do’, informed approach will reap the benefits. You can do it!
So, where are we currently at? Educational groups, including the principals’ association, are in discussions with the government and other agencies putting into place steps towards a manageable “return to school” plan to suit most schools, regardless of their size or location in NZ.
Our approach to this will be to find a way of balancing what we believe is best for our children, whilst incorporating directives from both the Minister of Health and Minister of Education.
All indications at this time are that this is not going to be a case of ‘let’s walk through the front gates and everything will be as it was.’
Currently at our school we have protocols in place for an Alert Level 3 return to school. Thanks to an amazing show of support from our whānau, no students have needed to return onsite, as yet. However, it is important that you are aware:
Any students who arrive before Monday 11 May will form our first Bubble/s. Under the current rules, these children would also have to remain in this Bubble with either Avi or Helen during Alert Level 2. Each Bubble can have a maximum 10 students in it and this could include a range of year levels.
This is where the plan starts to wobble! We are looking at what it will mean, if Level 2 is the next stage to be introduced, and if ALL students return to school on the same day. At the moment we are grappling with many ‘what if’ scenarios, including:
We have 110 students. This could potentially mean 11 Bubbles on Day 1. If each child within each Bubble needs to sit 1 metre apart, how can we fit them into our current 4 classroom spaces? Might we need to have an alternate day attendance timetable if the whole school chooses to return?
If there are 11 Bubbles, and we only have 4 teachers and some teacher aides who work part-time, which Bubbles would have teachers/TAs and which would not?
As students arrive at school, they will be placed into a Bubble – will this be in their homeroom or in mixed-year group with any of the 4 teachers?
I am determined that at Rewa Rewa School, even though we will have to follow official directives, that our plan will support all of our students through this next change. A possible plan, based on the information that we currently have (see below*), might be that wecontinue with only those who need to be at school, onsite.
For this to work, we need buy-in from our community.
70 students would need to continue to remain offsite and access their online learning during Alert Level 2. This way, we could provide for 4 Bubbles at school (40 students), if required for those parents who need to return to work.
These Bubbles would then remain stable in size, with a teacher in each bubble and within their own classroom space, 1m apart. It is recommended that family groups be accommodated within the same Bubble. So, for those students, some may not be in their homeroom, or with their homeroom teacher during this phase.
If, during that time, changes are introduced whereby more children could be added to a Bubble, and they did not have to stay 1m apart, we could potentially start a return to school for more of the offsite students.
The alternative plan, if all 110 students were to return to school as from 12 May, may have to be that Bubbles are only onsite every second or third day, depending on the space and adults that we have available. During Alert Level 2, some teachers may still be unable to work onsite due to health constraints within their personal bubble. This may depend on confirmed Level 2 conditions, which are yet to be announced.
I would be interested to receive your feedback on these plans, or any other creative ideas and solutions that you may have to share.
In the meantime, we have Plans A, B and C ready – we now need to just sit and wait for the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 11 May to see which one we will use. Whatever the case, we will communicate with you as quickly as we can, as we realise that many of you will be planning for a return to work and will need to know when school will be opening.
Please remember to continue to take each day as it comes – lots of hugs with those in your bubble and a positive attitude will see you through this next stage of change.
Can’t wait to see you all again!
From all of the team at Rewa Rewa.
Jan Otene (Principal) Mark Williams (Board Chair)
As at 1 May 2020 the Director of Education supplied the following information to primary school principals:
Bubbles – if numbers rise, do not join existing Bubbles together. This would require you to restrict any staff currently allocated to remain with those bubbles, thus limiting your staffing options. Better to create new Bubbles, and as systems/processes improve, start to expand the size of the Bubble with new students.
Preparation – hopefully with lower numbers principals and staff are taking the opportunity to forward plan and actively organise school sites for increased numbers (under Level 3 and eventually Level 2).
Level 2 – The MOE is currently waiting for updated details on the agreed health parameters for schools to operate under level 2. Operationalising these guidelines, once they are confirmed by Public Health, will be challenging and may require some collective brainstorming. Based on the current Alert Level info on the COVID-19 website, anticipate distancing requirements, a strong focus on hygiene, limits on maximum group sizes for inside and outside and a need to maintain distance learning programmes for those who require it. The new guidelines will be distributed to principals as soon as they are available. The Prime Minister will be advising of any decision to change the Alert Level on Monday 11 May.
From the Ministry of Health we have the following guidelines for Alert Level 2:
People should keep 1 metre apart
Schools are open for all children
Distance learning is available for those unable to attend school (e.g. self-isolating)
Any educational facilities connected to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 must close on an individual or group basis for 72 hours to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days.
Schools must meet appropriate public health requirements for their workplace (e.g. having contact tracing systems), and fulfilling all other health and safety obligations.