Local pre-schools, Primary schools and colleges, which can reopen on April 29 under Alert Level 3, are beginning to prepare their premises for the return of students and asking families whether their children will return under Level 3.

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that as the country moves to Level 3, schools should plan to reopen for a teacher only day on April 28, and for students who need to attend from the following day.

Schools and pre-schools can be accessed this week for cleaning, maintenance and other preparations and the Ministry of Education is working with the Ministry of Health to develop clear guidance that will support schools to safely re-open their premises to students and staff.

In messages to parents/caregivers, schools are emphasising that health and safety measures will be in place and strictly enforced, and that children should remain at home if possible.

Silverdale School’s notice says that children at school will not be getting any more learning than those at home and the best approach is for parents and caregivers to keep children learning at home, if able to do so.

Principal Cameron Lockie also advised families that getting the school ready for Alert Level 3 will take some time to organise and that an important factor is to know how many of its roll of 747 will return to school next week.

“I need to know if you are sending your children to school so that I can staff the school,” the notice says.

The education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, is seeking more details from the Ministry of Education to help schools and centres prepare for the return of children. The union’s president, Liam Rutherford, says the union has also asked the Ministry of Education to release the full public health risk assessment that its guidelines to the sector are based, on so that educators can be better informed.

“The Ministry has been clear that the guidelines released so far are just a starting point,” Liam says. “We are engaging with the Ministry directly as they develop more detailed guidance for how Level 3 will work on the ground. We’ll be seeking answers to the many questions being raised by the sector.”

He says educators’ greatest concern is stopping the spread of Covid-19 and ensuring the health and safety of children, their whānau, and education staff.

“Under level three, the vast majority of children will still be learning from home, so we expect that a large number of teachers and support staff in both early childhood education and schools will also be working from home to support that. All education staff should be involved in the decisions about where they’re required to work and should be supported to work where they feel safe. The Government also needs to ensure it is continuing to sustainably fund the early childhood sector so that services are able to make decisions based on the health and safety of children and staff, not on their commercial viability.”