|Thursday 5 May |
Under Alert Level 2, it is safe for all schools to open. Safe and sensible practices for hygiene and contact tracing will be the norm, and all students will be able to return, so long as they remain well.
Under Alert Level 2, there are still likely to be new cases which may be the result of household transmission or associated with cluster outbreaks that are contained. The disease remains in New Zealand, so we need to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to avoid transmission. People are able to leave home but are asked to do so in a safe and conscientious way.
The key principles for Alert Level 2 are to:
- reduce the risk of someone getting infected in the first place
- ensure we can identify and contact anyone who becomes infected
- understand that Level 2 is not business as usual.
Schools will be open to all students and year levels at Alert Level 2 from the beginning of the next school week after the announcement is made. All staff will be able to be on site from the start of Alert Level 2, as will students who have been on site during Alert Level 3.
As you have been doing at Alert Level 3, please continue to focus on:
- enabling good hygiene practices – regular washing and drying of hands and good cough and sneeze etiquette remain fundamental to preventing spread of illness such as colds, flu and COVID-19
- ensuring people with COVID-19 symptoms stay away from school
- maintaining physical distancing where practicable - in schools at Alert Level 2 this means children, young people, and staff maintaining a physical distance so that they are not breathing on or touching each other (there is no minimum distance requirement for schools at Alert Level 2)
- keeping track of people that enter your school – through your attendance register, timetable and visitor register.
Physical distancing in schools further explained
Physical distancing remains important, particularly when people are interacting with people they don’t know and who couldn’t be easily traced. However the risks are relatively lower at Alert Level 2, and it’s now safe for individuals to be physically close to their good friends and family.
A school environment is controlled, you know who is at school, who they have been in close contact with and have good hygiene measures in place including regularly washing hands, including before and after using shared equipment. People who are sick are staying at home and you are monitoring for anyone presenting with signs of illness and are cleaning high-touch surfaces daily.
So for physical distancing in schools, it means children, young people, and staff maintaining a physical distance so that they are not breathing on or touching each other. You literally get some breathing space. As described by Dr Payinda in his NZ Herald article, “Covid's not measles or chickenpox, it doesn't hang in the air for hours waiting to infect passers-by. It travels on invisible drops of spit. You don't have to cross the street to avoid anyone. Just avoid getting in their 'moist breath' zone”.
So in a school setting, if you can smell the person’s breath or feel that you are in that “most breath” zone, move a little further away. Avoid touching others and for adults, it is recommended that where practicable you keep a metre distance between you.
Equipment return (Laptops and Computers)
Where specialist equipment or assistive technology has been sent home, plans will need to be made for the safe return of this equipment and any other physical materials made available to support students’ learning from home. This equipment will need to be cleaned before being put back into classroom use.
Resuming Ministry contracted school transport services
When schools resume under Alert Level 2, school transport services will also return to normal schedules. The ongoing safety of drivers and students and the ability to contact trace is a priority when we enter Alert Level 2, and will be managed in the following ways:
- Schools must ensure their transport providers have reliable, up-to-date bus lists at all times to ensure everyone knows who is being transported each day, to enable contact tracing.
- Transport operators will maintain up-to-date information on special assistance (SESTA) students they are transporting each day.
- Hand sanitisers will be available for each student to use as they board the vehicle.
- Vehicles and surfaces will be sanitised after each journey by the transport company.
- Seats in close proximity to the driver will be left empty.
- To allow for accurate contact tracing, schools must provide their transport provider with up-to-date bus lists, and must keep records to enable contact tracing to take place.
- Schools are responsible for keeping their families and communities informed with the latest information about their bus services.
Re-emergence of COVID-19
If a COVID-19 case is identified at a school or kura during Alert Level 2, affected sites will be closed for cleaning and close contact tracing. Instruction should revert back to the distance learning model until the school or kura is cleared to open.