Raring to return to school

Logan Park High School co-principals Peter Hills and Kristan Mouat were at school yesterday...
Logan Park High School co-principals Peter Hills and Kristan Mouat were at school yesterday preparing to open in Alert Level 2 today. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON
Teachers and pupils are looking forward to returning to the classroom today, principals say.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand, apart from Auckland, would move down to Alert Level 2 at midnight on Tuesday.

Schools, which were closed during Alert Level 4 and only open to children whose parents had to go to work in Alert Level 3, were given just 48 hours’ notice to prepare to fully reopen to all pupils.

Sawyers Bay School principal and Otago Primary Principals’ Association president Gareth Swete on Tuesday said while there would be some challenges adjusting to the differences with Delta Alert Level 2, everyone was looking forward to schools reopening.

During Alert Levels 3 and 4, primary teaching staff and principals around Dunedin worked extremely hard to manage online learning, on-site learning and their own families, Mr Swete said.

Schools learnt a lot from last year’s lockdown and there were already some great support systems in place to help children transition back to school.

‘‘We hope that there won’t be as much anxiety as we saw the first time about what to expect, what differences there will be and about reintegrating back into school.

‘‘However, we’re realistic in the fact that depending on their distance learning experience, there may be some anxiety we know that teachers and support staff will support our kids through.’’

In Level 3, most Dunedin primary schools had about 5%-10% of their pupils on site.

Sawyers Bay School had about eight each day, depending on parents’ work schedules.

‘‘Parents have been really supportive in making alternate plans where they can.’’

Pupils were looking forward to seeing their friends and teachers again, and that feeling was reciprocated.

‘‘The staff are just fizzing to have their kids back.’’

Logan Park High School co-principal Kristan Mouat said staff were back at school yesterday preparing for the pupils’ return.

‘‘We’ve had a couple of bubbles at school operating under Level 3, so for some of us it’s just business as usual,’’ Ms Mouat said.

Schools had operated at Alert Level 2 before, which helped when preparing to reopen.

Maintaining good hygiene, contact tracing and scanning in were key.

Since there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the South Island, she hoped that would help reduce any anxiety about returning to school.

Teachers were looking forward to resuming face-to-face learning.

‘‘Online is fine, but people miss that human contact.’’

Many pupils missed learning in the classroom and seeing their friends, and ‘‘they’re definitely ready to expand their bubbles’’.

Otago Secondary Principals’ Association president and Blue Mountain College principal Lindy Cavanagh-Monaghan said principals and teachers were looking forward to pupils returning.

‘‘A lot of work has gone into providing quality online learning opportunities, but there is no substitute for face-to-face teaching and learning,’’ she said.

The timing of this lockdown was tougher for year 11-13 pupils compared with last year’s.

Derived grade examinations were on the horizon and practical assessment requirements had paused, she said.

There was a potential for pupils to feel anxious about completing internal standards and preparing for external exams, she said.

‘‘Having said that, principals and teachers are fully committed to ensuring the students are still able to perform to their full potential.’’

The main difference about operating in Level 2 this year was the recommendation for people aged over 12 to wear face coverings, although it was not a requirement.

‘‘Our Otago secondary schools are well-positioned in terms of stocks of hand sanitiser and cleaning supplies and have prepared health and safety plans for each of the alert levels which include the flow of students around the buildings and contact tracing.’’

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