Greetings to our community as we settle back to “regular” school. It’s nothing like regular, of course. The first days have seen the vast majority of people - staff and students alike - pleased to be back with their colleagues and friends, and out of the confines of their homes. Thank you to students who have acted in a way that has produced a calm and settled site very rapidly. I was anticipating a level of absenteeism, but that has not proven to be the case, and over the school we are running at a higher level of attendance than the week before the Lockdown sequence began.
At Covid Level 2, as we all know, there remain genuine risks that we need to keep control of. These are not “normal” times; the school is having additional cleaning carried out and along with other measures is running at an annualised cost of over $100,000 but the school’s absolute premise is that safety comes first and always will. We do need to ensure that the other parts of the picture remain in clear focus. Social distancing - in so far as that is possible - remains a priority for all. Students are doing that at the Canteen, where we have clear distance markers, but elsewhere on the site it is clear that some people are reverting to their usual patterns of pre-Covid interactions. We need each individual to remember that it is their personal responsibility to keep us all safe, and that does mean forgoing the hugs and close greetings that mark many relationships. Safety first has to be the mode for the next days and weeks.
The online learning of the Lockdown period produced significant challenges for a number of students whose family circumstances do not allow the purchase of digital devices, and the list we sent to the Ministry of Education was a stark reminder of the socio-economic barriers that exist even in a decile eight school such as ours. On our website there is a donations facility where those who are in a position to help can do so, and it was lovely to see that in addition to the eight devices that had been donated early in term one, another four were provided during the lockdown, meaning that community contribution has been able to remove educational barriers for 12 of our students. Thank you to those whose compassion has moved them to help people they do not know. Others have helped through assisting guidance staff to work with families, some of whom are finding themselves dealing with support agencies for the first time in their lives and they simply do not know how to begin the process of seeking help. Thank you to our community for the empathy and practical response that we’ve seen. I’m a firm believer that our school is New Zealand, and what I’ve been seeing is the inclusiveness of our society in reaching across the differences represented by our school’s 72 different ethnicities to embrace our common purpose in making our country a vibrant and practical example of how people can work together for the common good. It’s actually quite moving, and is closely linked to the reasons staff such as ours enter teaching.
A note on next week’s scheduled Teacher Only Day on Friday 29 May. This was to be Loop Day, where the schools in the greater Wellington area that belong to the IT Loop come together for a range of workshops on digital supports to learning and more mainstream teaching and learning topics. Because of the Covid-19 status that applies, the safety guidelines do not allow physical meetings, so the day’s workshops have become a series of online events, with a number dedicated to the lessons learned during the recent online learning while working at home. The day will remain a Teacher Only Day, with no regular classes running.
Finally, College Sport Wellington are working to clarify what will occur in inter-secondary school sports for the rest of 2020. The Sports Department will advise us as soon as firm details are decided. In the meantime, those who have been missing their sport are encouraged to work on fitness and core skills, so they are ready for when competition resumes.
Thank you to everyone for the manner in which this week’s resumption of school has run.