Principals seek simplicity in school operating guidelines under Red setting

Principals are hoping for simplicity and consistency as they wait to hear the full extent of how schools will operate under the Red traffic light setting.

Otago and Southland principals will be meeting the Ministry of Education online through Zoom today to discuss the Red guidelines.

So far, the ministry has announced all pupils year 4 and over are required to wear masks while indoors, along with all staff.

Children, parents and caregivers cannot be prevented from going to school based on their vaccination status.

Otago Primary Principals’ Association president and Port Chalmers School principal Vicki Nicolson said schools would be facing some challenges in the weeks ahead.

The main thing principals were looking for was clarity and consistency, which would allow them to focus on education, she said.

Dunedin North Intermediate School principal Heidi Hayward said simplicity was a vital part of how well guidelines worked.

Previously, some Covid-19 guidelines had to be interpreted, which led to confusion among schools and parents.

Educators were not health experts and did not want to be left interpreting health advice.

"We want to get on with education."

The school would not be trying to do things as it used to, as it would be easier on staff and pupils if it focused on operating in a way that worked best within the guidelines.

It would take a while to figure out how things worked practically, she said.

Maniototo Area School principal Joe Ferdinands said the school would be working to ensure the children were comfortable with their masks.

The rules were the rules, but adapting what the school could control would make the experience better for the children.

It was considering having a short break after each class to allow the children to go outside and get some fresh air.

Staff might need to change how they taught, as it was not easy to talk to a class all day through a mask.

Whether that meant some classes would be online was still being considered, he said.

Along with the new guidelines, the Ministry of Education also announced 5000 air cleaners had been ordered for New Zealand schools to help increase ventilation.

The first 500 cleaners were expected to arrive in March, with the rest expected by June.

Schools would receive a ventilation self-assessment toolkit with a portable carbon dioxide monitor they could use to help identify areas of concern.

Among the advice issued yesterday was a requirement that a face covering had to be an actual mask.

That meant no more scarves, bandannas or T-shirts pulled up over the face.



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