Principal’s Address 8th May 20208th May 2020
Kia Ora Tatou
On Thursday the Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, discussed what working under Alert Level 2 may look like for the nation. Shortly after wards the Ministry of Education provided guidance for schools as to what re-opening may look like should the country move to Alert Level 2.
The good news is that when we are able to, we will be ready to welcome all students and staff back to our school site. We have been considering for some time how we are going to manage the return to school and a great deal of planning has already been completed with consideration to a range of options.
The key Public Health approach is to minimise the risk that someone gets infected in the first place, and second to ensure we can identify and contact anyone who has been in close contact with a person, if someone in a school is infected.
As we have done in Alert Level 3, you can be assured that in Alert Level 2 we will know who is at school, who our staff and students have been in close contact with and take appropriate measures to keep everyone safe.
Physical distancing is a good precaution to prevent the spread of disease. We do however know it is challenging in schools, so good hygiene practices and regular cleaning are even more important here. This includes staff and students coughing into their elbows, handwashing and drying and regular cleaning of commonly touched surfaces.
Under Alert Level 2, we advise any students and staff to stay at home if they are sick, and we will send anyone home immediately if they show any symptoms or signs of illness.
Our school has safe and sensible practices to maintain the health and safety of everyone on the school site. As described by Dr Payinda, “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”. We all just need to remember to have some breathing space at Alert Level 2!
It’s important however that not just at school but at home, safe hygiene habits are practised by everyone, as this is essential to minimise the risk that someone gets infected with Covid-19.
Changes to the school organisation
Whilst we are looking forward to welcoming staff and students back to school on a regular basis I do need to make clear that there are going to be some changes in the ways in which the school operates. We will not be having full school assemblies, movement about the school will be restricted, teachers will have seating plans which students will have to adhere to and break times and intervals will require students to go to specific areas.
I am aware that many students are looking forward to seeing their friends back in school. I would ask parents to talk to their young people about maintaining social distancing when they greet their friends back in school.
As a school, we will also be restricting who are visitors who come onto the site. Once again we will ask parents to make appointments to come into the school rather than arriving at the school office.
A common theme throughout the return to school information is the emphasis on good hygiene. The school is well prepared for this by:
Every toilet has good washing and drying facilities with soap, hot water, paper or roller towels and air dryers available.
We have installed hand sanitizer outside each toilet door
Every classroom has hand sanitizer for students to use as they enter the room
Non fire doors will be latched open to reduce the need to touch handles
Frequently touched surfaces will be regularly cleaned
I should also point out that the school has had a thorough clean since moving to Alert Level 3 and we continue with very good cleaning regimes.
For students in Years 9 to 12 who have a lunch pass they will be allowed to go home for their lunch. We do not expect to see these students going to shops during their lunch time. We recommend that our Y13 students also remain on the school site for lunchtime as well so that contact tracing can be well managed and there is a reduced risk of the virus being brought into school. It is worth considering that as we move to reduced travel restrictions nationally there are likely to be more people from outside of our district calling into our community for food, refreshments, fuel etc. Therefore there is a potential risk of transmission from a wider area.
We are working through plans to see if we can make the school canteen available for the sale of food. However, we will not be able to accept cash payments, food will need to be pre-ordered and we are looking at ways to make contactless payment.
It is our expectation that all students will be able to return to school with the exception of those young people who have on going health issues where contracting Covid-19 would put them at considerable risk. Every student has a devise that they have been using for their remote learning. We expect that every student will:
Bring their fully charged device to school each day for learning.
Be self sufficient with pens, pencils rulers etc.
Bring their class books as required for each day.
We will not be able to loan devices, pens or other equipment to students.
Currently there are general guidelines about the resumption of sport. We are awaiting more detailed information on this important aspect of school life. The current advice is that staff and students are expected to engage in good hygiene practices during and after participation in sport. It is currently very unclear if there will be a return to all weekend and co-curricular sport and there may be a variation in what is possible with different sporting codes.
There will be changes to the bus operations and I expect that once the details of this are confirmed that I will be able to communicate to parents what these new requirements will be. It will be important that we record who is on each bus each day. Once again hygiene will be an important factor of transport arrangements.
When will school re-open?
Currently we have no date set but earliest that we anticipate opening is Monday 18 May. Prior to opening we will be communicating with parents with more details to enable students to thoroughly prepare for returning to learning on site at South Otago High School
I am aware that as the country starts to move that some parents may require supervision for students from Year 9 and 10. It is important that we know who to expect and I would ask that parents who require supervision e-mail Mr McDowall the day before so that we can prepare for student arrivals. Please e-mail: email@example.com
For more information about the public health measures at Alert Level 2, you can visit the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/
If you have a child who might be vulnerable to serious illness and would like to discuss a plan for them, please contact the dean in the first instance so that we can prepare a plan for their education.
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