Some confusion over Alert Level 3 school rules
Some principals are seeking further clarity around the rules of returning to school under Alert Level 3.
Perry Rush, President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation, says he's confused at the announcement that under COVID-19 level 3 rules, schools would be open to accept students up to year 10, although attendance would be purely voluntary.
"Level 3 rules include many of the restrictions in place at level 4, including the requirement to mainly be at home in your bubble, to limit contact with others and work from home if you can."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that schools will be open under Alert Level 3.
Partial reopening of education would see early childhood centres and schools available up to Year 10 only, but attendance is purely voluntary.
She says for children who are able, distance learning is still the best option. Tertiary education will mostly be through distance learning."
"The school term is now underway with all children doing their learning under home learning plans prepared by their schools. Right now they can, and are learning at a distance," says Perry.
"Although attending school under level 3 would be voluntary, that does not give schools the right to limit the number of children they could accept, in order to maintain social distancing.
"If businesses can operate under level 3 only if accessed by staff and without customer facing functions and can open only under strict health and safety and physical distancing rules, then translating that into the school environment, we cannot have children attending school under level 3 at all."
He says this appears to be an inconsistent approach.
"For teachers to accept children back at school, they would have to be separately assigned as operating under level 1 or 2."
Perry is also concerned for vulnerable teachers, including those over 70 years of age and those with compromised health conditions.
A meeting is scheduled with the Ministry of Education today and he is looking forward to discussing how a de-escalation of the alert levels can be operationalised.