RNZ may have found one of the largest bubbles in the country: Whanganui Collegiate School, which has allowed nearly 100 students and staff to remain in place during the shutdown.
At least 19 boarding schools are in the same position and will remain in these unique school bubbles during alert level 3.
Whanganui Collegiate School principal Wayne Brown said the school, which had houses on site for staff and their families, was making the most of its unique situation.
“We have our online learning that we do, we have afternoon activities, we make sure to do some fitness, we have some games, we have opportunities for some downtime, there are movies in the evening and obviously we have dining room for dinner,” he said. .
“We have a great opportunity to connect with each other, there is enjoyment, there is space and we are very lucky.”
He calculated that it was probably one of the largest bubbles in the country, and the decision to allow some students to stay was a necessary one.
“Aside from probably nursing homes, hospitals and prisons, I definitely think we would probably be there for one of the biggest bubbles, last year and this year, in the country,” he said.
“For our domestic students, according to ministry guidelines, they had to go home. The only ones we have kept here are students without the ability to go home and those are students living abroad.”
Masterton’s Solway Girls College Principal Janine Tupaea temporarily moved out of her home to help boarding staff care for the remaining 10 students.
He said it was the right decision when the country quickly entered a lockdown.
“To sit there and suddenly hear that we were closing that night, my immediate thought went to our interns, and I knew hearing that news would be of interest to them.
“So I quickly put some work clothes back on, went back to school, and got a message to the students, families, and boarding team that I was going back to school and meeting all the students at the dining room to assure them that we would keep an open bubble so that all students were cared for and none of the families had to worry, “he said.
“I met the girls in the dining room and assured them that no matter what happened, we would take care of them.
“I had to make decisions on the spot, that’s why I said that my children and I would move here, we will take care of you.”
From nine to three, students spend the day attending online lessons and at the end of the week, they host a live assembly on Zoom from the school hallway.
Tupaea had the idea to do things a little differently during the assembly last Friday by having the students put on a surprise flash mob for their friends to see online.
“So I started the montage as I normally would and said we had a special award to start the montage and that it was going to be an award for an exceptional scholar from our Solway bubble.
“I said, ‘The recipient is Miss Fiu’ and so we focused on her with the camera as she came up to receive the award and then we all exploded into a flashmob,” he said.
Solway Girls College boarding supervisor Sela Emily Fiu-Poufa said that while she missed her family and the comfort of her own bed, there was nowhere else she would rather be.
“It’s different and I miss my home, but this is my home too,” she said.
“At the shelter we try to make it as homey as possible for them, a home away from home. It is a great responsibility but it is really rewarding because you can see the growth of these girls.”
Fiu-Poufa has been very busy helping out with activities like movie nights, campfires, and scavenger hunts.
She also stars in the school. bubble jump jam video, which they recently posted on their Facebook page.
The school is urging other inmates going through lockdown together to post a Jump Jam video as a friendly challenge.
As flash mobs and game nights continue, the arrival of Level Three has also given these Masterton students something to smile about.
Principal Janine Tupaea has promised them takeout to celebrate.