Schools in the Bay of Plenty will be back to normal as of today and educators in the region are hoping to make it as exciting and safe a return as possible for their students.
New Zealand, excluding Auckland, dropped into Alert Level 2 at 11.59pm Tuesday, with public schools given Wednesday to put the final procedures in place for a Thursday restart.
Andrew King is the principal at Oropi School, a primary education facility in Oropi.
He and his staff spent yesterday getting the final pieces in place to get kids back in school.
Some teachers were out buying extra hygiene products, such as sanitiser, whilst others have been ensuring the QR code operation was up and running on the school gates.
He says he is thankful the Government gave schools this extra day to get final preparations out of the way.
“It has been quite hectic but we are all positive because it is quite nice to be going back to some normality,” says Andrew.
“We need to do it and we want to do it so no one is grumpy about it.”
Whilst some schools were able to accept students back yesterday, Andrew believes 99 per cent of schools in the Tauranga area are back to class today.
Oropi School will be operating at full capacity and communications have been relayed to parents about protocols surrounding issues such as school buses, visitors and mask usage.
“At our school kids do not need to be wearing masks,” says Andrew.
“However, if people choose to do so that is absolutely fine.
“But it is different for parents and visitors on site. They will need to be wearing masks.
“Getting that consistency of messaging out at the moment is the key thing.”
The Government is strongly encouraging face coverings in schools and education facilities, but only for those aged 12 and over.
However, it is not mandatory, and Tauranga Boys’ College principal Robert Mangan will be ensuring all students have the right information to make them all as comfortable as possible.
“I will be hosting a virtual assembly tomorrow with the head boy to advise on health and safety and protocols to keep pupils and staff safe under level 2,” he says.
“It is very clear that the masks are not mandatory but recommended. So it is very important we give them the best advice and information on how to keep everyone around them safe as well as our teachers and staff acting as appropriate role models.”
Tauranga Boys' College principal Robet Mangan. File photo.
Simon Akroyd, principal of Whakatāne-based Apanui School, says the town’s Communities of Learning (Kahui Ako) are pleased to be welcoming students back to learning facilities.
The Kahui Ako consists of 11 schools based in the Whakatāne area and 17 early childhood education centres.
He says principals have worked collaboratively, with assistance from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, to create consistent guidelines to keep staff and pupils safe across facilities.
“The guidelines should help to put parents at ease and to create a positive and safe environment for children and staff to return to,” says Simon.
“The Whakatāne Kahui Ako would like to acknowledge the exceptional work of the teachers and support staff of our schools / ECE and especially of the parents and children who have been outstanding in their commitment to continue learning during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“We look forward to seeing the children on Thursday.”
For Andrew, he is just hopeful to add some normality to the lives of the pupils and parents of Oropi School.
“The key thing is we want kids excited to come back to school,” says Andrew.
“That is my key message to parents, that we are doing everything we can to make kids want to be here. Sure, there will be a small percentage of kids that have enjoyed being at home, but the vast majority are going to be pretty excited at being back.
“We will be looking to make it as fun as possible to start.”
Andrew also says he is looking forward to his pupils interacting with one another again, pointing out how important it is for their development.
Robert is of a similar belief, believing plenty of the boys at Tauranga Boys’ will be pleased to be back at school and out of their respective bubbles.
“They are absolutely going to be excited to get back,” he says.
“That human contact has been missing throughout lockdown and the boys will be very happy to be catching up with their mates and long may that continue.”