Members of our community will be aware that the Government announced a new four level system on Saturday, instructing a range of people to work from home if possible or to self-isolate.
For schools this creates significant challenges, as teaching has been facing the “aging profession” issues for some years and we have a number of staff who are affected by the new instruction. We spent yesterday working through the implications of what is a completely new reality and one that might last for months.
At present, we are able to run our full programme and so classes continue, but to say classes are running “as normal” would be completely wrong. Staff are at present coping with offering their usual programme here at school as well as a community expectation that students kept at home by parents will also be provided with a full programme. Some staff are working at home because they are in the alert 2 category. These staff still require their classes to be covered by a reliever here at school. That’s a huge challenge, particularly when staff are themselves subject to the same stresses as the wider community as they look after their own vulnerable family members.
We are able to cover regular classes for the front end of this week, but we will certainly be challenged to do so later in the week. As our numbers of staff out of school become clear, we will make decisions and announce any changes through our usual communications channels: the school app; expansion via e-mails and on our website/social media.
Services that continue here at school include the front office and Resource Centre, and the canteen also remains open with some amended social distancing steps in the supply points and in the service to customers with additional cleaning of “high touch” surfaces such as counters.
Social distancing steps are being reinforced by staff dismissing classes progressively to reduce numbers at change-over points. Class furniture layouts will change to achieve the best spacing between students.
Our service staffing has been redistributed to allow a regular cleaning of door handles and bannisters during the day. Toilets are already replenished with soap and paper towels twice a day and that will continue. Our cleaning contractor has been in conversations with us over the weekend to amend some steps to fit the demands of the current challenges.
We are moving to systems that avoid or reduce person-to-person contact. That has already led to cancelling assemblies last week as well as a variety of meetings. Where parents/ caregivers come into the school for discussions with staff that will occur with social distancing in mind when venues are decided on.
Staff have done a lot of work last week to prepare for remote access learning. Broadly, if students are off site they can access class material from home using Google Classroom. We will issue expanded guidelines if a Ministry decision is made to close schools.
In regards to NCEA, please don't stress about NCEA assessment. These are unprecedented times and NZQA have helped direct the calls that we are making. Just encourage learners to complete the tasks and activities given to them. If we are out for a prolonged period of time we will get more information to you. Staff have been instructed to be flexible so students are not disadvantaged if assessment and learning is taking place from home.
When considering whether we should press on with scheduled events, the core issue is reducing systems that effectively require people to meet in groups. We will avoid that where we can. This includes scheduled field trips for students, which will be cancelled or postponed.
Events that have already been affected include:
- Learning Conversations for Years 9 and 10;
- Parent-teacher interviews;
- Class photographs, which will switch to individual photographs;
- The school’s ANZAC Ceremony;
- Open Evening for Y9 of 2021. This will be replaced by a digital tour of the school accessible online by 2020 Year 8 students and their families.
- The Loop Ed Teacher-Only Day. We will still retain the day as a mid term break.
- Curriculum field trips.
- We have also had to cancel Special Assessment Conditions support for at least the first part of the week, as we simply do not have the support staff available to provide that service.We are very much in a position where change is a given. All of our changes are made with the underlying principle that they should reduce risk to students and staff, and that they should be measured, timely and kept as simple as possible. Our entire community is under considerable stress and anxiety is a real and growing phenomenon. That applies at people’s homes as much as here at school. The school Guidance support systems remain available to students and we are currently conducting online counselling trial to test the systems that would be needed in the event that school was required to close.
Our front office staff are today receiving many messages regarding absences and we are grateful for the information and close contact with home. If you plan to keep your child home all week, could you please indicate that in a single message, rather than do an individual notification each day? That would streamline the workload for the front office and would be appreciated as we deal with numbers higher than usual. Absences can be notified on the app, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your co-operation.
These are genuinely challenging circumstances. Please be mindful that everyone is carrying extra stress and that will continue in coming days. Please allow for that in our interactions with each other, across our entire Hutt Valley High School community.