Principals to discuss next steps in reopening Auckland primary schools

By Amy Williams  of RNZ.co.nz. Republished with permission.

A group of principals will meet online with government officials today to discuss what needs to happen for primary schools to reopen in Auckland next month.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said primary and intermediate schools and kura could reopen on 15 November, depending on Covid-19 case numbers.

That’s just 12 home-school days away, and Auckland Primary Principals’ Association and Pt Chevalier School principal Stephen Lethbridge said there was a lot of preparation to do.

“We have to make sure that we’ve got plans and processes in place that ensure a safe return. We can make it happen, it is doable, we just need to make sure that we get a good plan together.”

He said measures organised by schools could include staggered start times or alternate attendance days for different age groups.

“We’ve got a team of 15 to 20 school leaders from around the region who are going to be working closely with the ministry over the next couple of days to try and iron out some of these issues and see a way forward about how we can make it the best return for all the schools in the region.”

Hipkins said primary and intermediate schools will reopen with educators tested and masked, and the possibility of outdoor learning and alternate attendance days.

Developmental paediatrician Dr Jin Russell said these factors would help ensure schools were safe.

“The staged return will mean that there won’t be as much crowding, it will hopefully be easier to keep children in bubbles and Chris Hipkins also foreshadowed that they may take learning outside as much as possible,” she said.

“These are all recommendations that have been made as part of reopening schools safely so I was pleased to see them.”

Dr Russell said it was understandable if parents felt anxious but the precautions will reduce the chance of catching Covid-19 at school.

“All of these layers together really add up to drive down the risk of transmission within schools. I know it’s not possible to say that there’s zero risk but doing all these things together will really drive down that risk of transmission.”

She said vaccinating eligible family members was the best defence against Covid-19 and school communities could help to reach vaccine stragglers.

Lethbridge said teachers were keen to see their students in person again when it was safe to do so.

“Teachers will be really looking forward to reconnecting with kids and seeing them face-to-face.

“My advice to parents will be sit tight, stick with us, we’re all in this together and we will get to a solution that will get everyone back as soon as possible.”

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