Sunday, November 28

Auckland schools prepare for small classes during alert level 3

Auckland’s school principals expect only a small number of children to return to school when the city switches to alert level 3.

Pacific Advance High School students.  Please note that only use identification images for PASS stories;  only images that do not identify you can be reused.

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Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Beginning Wednesday morning, schools must reopen for children under the age of 14 whose caregivers must return to work, and high schools can also request permission to bring small groups of older students.

Dylan Blomquist, a 13th-year student at Orewa College, would likely be in the latter group because the school was planning to seek an exemption so that some music students could attend lessons.

“It’s definitely exciting, you know how to go back, to see some familiar faces even if they’re going to be covered in masks,” he said.

But the principals RNZ spoke with said they would not seek exemptions for many students.

Macleans College principal Steve Hargreaves said his school would only seek an exemption for a group of art students.

“Part of the problem has to do with equity,” he said.

“We have subjects like textiles, but they are quite large numbers and the teachers have decided that choosing who to enter is a difficult task and there is only one teacher involved, so once the teacher has interacted with a group of 10 students, they cannot interact with others “.

Hargreaves said alert level 3 would make no difference to the vast majority of students, but he understood the need for strict rules.

“The conditions are quite restrictive, but I think they need to be. I think it’s prudent that there are pretty clear and firm limits on how schools can handle this. The last thing we want is for large groups to meet in schools and then have to close. school for 14 days due to an outbreak, “he said.

Heath McNeil of the Auckland Primary Principals Association said survey responses from more than 300 of the city’s schools showed that most would have only one or two bubbles of up to 10 children.

“It kind of went from a kid going back to the high end in the early 1960s,” he said.

That would add up to about 4,500 children in all schools responding to the survey, or roughly 3 percent, comparable to the last time city schools were at alert level 3, McNeil said.

Manurewa High School principal Pete Jones said his school of more than 2,100 students was expecting only four students under the age of 14 and was confident that anxiety over the Delta variant contributed to the relatively low number.

“With the added anxiety that exists in the community right now, even some people who may have sent their children back last year at level three will not do so this time,” he said.

The school was still considering what to do to seek waivers to bring seniors to some classes.

“For schools, from a logistical and planning point of view, it is a lot of work for a very small number of people and it is quite challenging, but it is part of a larger team of 5 million, we are all doing our best to support any way we can, “he said.

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