Back to school, but Covid rules

Hoping for a stable year of learning at Karāpiro –Griff Hopkins, Bruce Hopkins, and new teacher Dan Churstain. Photo – Benjamin Wilson

Cambridge Primary principal Mike Pettit enjoys being able to visit his classrooms and students throughout the school day.

But under the new Covid restrictions, he will no longer be able to do this.

Students returning to school this week have found that because of gathering limits, they are kept in their year groups during break times, and for Pettit, it means that he cannot have the same school-wide presence that he used to.

The year group separation also means the students won’t be able to make use of certain facilities at the same time. As a result, Pettit’s office has been converted into a second sick bay, so that they can avoid student cross over.

Cambridge Primary has employed a dedicated Covid response manager and despite the drastic changes for their students, Pettit says “we are really excited to have them back and we are as ready as we can be for them.”

A highlight of their school year is the opening of their new ‘Garden to table classroom’.

Cambridge Middle School, which has a roll of more than 700 and is welcoming four new classrooms and teachers this year, must also keep their students across year groups separated. To negate any communication struggles brought on by their large roll in a covid setting, they have been running assemblies online through Zoom since last year.

“This year in particular requires us to be even more flexible with our learning” said principal Daryl Gibbs.

Last year the prizegiving went ahead in the format of a YouTube video. Gibbs said that because the event was held online, it reached a wider audience than what normally would have been possible.

With everything going on, Gibbs believes that schools must be responsible for the impact that they can cause and that “communication is key.”

In Kārapiro size is not an issue.

“Being small is our superpower” said Karāpiro School Principal, Tina-Maree Thatcher.

While the school has had to put many events on hold, including their 100th year site anniversary, its small size has allowed it to negate many of the redlight restrictions.

Students can have regular assemblies, can use any facility, and mix across the year groups. The schools two large oak trees also allow for classes to be held outside, so the students don’t have to wear masks all day.

The school is welcoming Dan Churstain, who will be joining their teaching team this year. Churstain said that he was able to meet all of the students at once last year, something that was only viable because it was a smaller school. He is glad that he will be able to connect to his students face to face and says that “you cannot make those same types of connections over zoom.”

“My hope is that we can do a good job for the kids this year.”

Pupil Griff Hopkins is in his last year at Karāpiro School. After having his last 9 ½ weeks of learning online, he said “I’m really looking forward to seeing my teachers and friends again.” Griff says that he wants to be a wildlife photographer.

During his discussion with the News he he named all of the different types of cicadas he could hear – in Latin. His father, Bruce, agreed that Griff’s self-proclaimed title of “Animal Nerd” was accurate.

Wayne Donnellon, Principal of Roto-O-Rangi School, has an optimism that can be shared across all of Waipā’s schools. On his students returning, he said “we are looking forward to having a wonderful time with them, and a stable year of learning.”

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