Otago pupils urged to stay home if possible

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Otago principals are recommending pupils stay home if possible, even when the Government relaxes isolation rules to Alert Level 3.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced early childhood centres and schools would be open for children up to year 10, under level 3.

But attendance would be “purely voluntary”, she said.

Children under 14-years-old need adult supervision, and the change, when implemented, would allow parents to return to work if they have safe conditions in place.

“For children who are able, distance learning is still the best option. Tertiary education will mostly be through distance learning,” she said.

Both Otago Secondary Principals’ Association president Linda Miller and Otago Primary Principals’ Association president Shelley Wilde urged parents to keep their children home under Alert Level 3, if at all possible.

Ms Miller said schools would not be able to function as normal and would expose pupils to greater risk than staying in their bubble.

“I envisage that the majority of teachers will continue to work from home, delivering online lessons to students at all levels.

“A skeleton staff would be needed to provide supervision to students who do attend, who will be carrying out online learning with their peers who remain at home.”

She said parents would have to let schools know if they were sending their children back to school, so that schools could manage staff availability.

Otago Primary Principals’ Association president Shelley Wilde said schools still had many questions about what level 3 would look like, and the implications of managing both distance and face-to-face learning during the coming weeks.

“Principals and Boards of Trustees are waiting for more specific information to come from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health that will outline details about expectations and procedures for the reopening of schools.

“Once these are known, schools will move into the next phase of planning how to ensure they provide environments that are as safe as possible for the learners and employees they do have on site.”

She said a wide range of measures had already been put in place by schools prior to moving into Alert Level 4.

“These measures will continue, and others will be added, based on the advice received from the two government ministries.”

Dunedin Kindergarten Association senior teacher Christine Kerr said centres around the city would be ready and able to return to teaching under Alert Level 3.

However, she warned returning children would be breaking their bubbles and could potentially be exposed to an infectious environment.

“Children’s first reactions when they see you, is to come and give you a hug.

“It’s a very close contact environment. Children playing together – there’s no way you could say to a 2 or 3-year-old, ‘please keep a metre of distance between you’.

“It’s just not going to happen.”

Otago Daily Times