Coronavirus: Auckland Grammar School kickstarts online tuition as nationwide lockdown approaches

As New Zealanders grapple with the imminent level four lockdown protocols, schools nationwide are gearing up for dramatic changes to both their teaching and tuition. 

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raised the COVID-19 alert system to level three, indicating that restriction of the spreading virus is now imperative. However, level three will become level four - the maximum level - by Wednesday, after New Zealand's case total catapulted to 102. 

One of the measures implemented by the Government is the closure of all education providers. On Tuesday, schools will remain open to the children of essential workers, allowing them time to plan for lockdown. 

"We've got full staff turning up this morning, maybe about 40 down today in terms of teachers - we're providing a service for the sons of essential workers and preparing our online work," Auckland Grammar School headmaster Tim O'Connor told The AM Show on Tuesday morning.

Auckland Grammar, a boarding secondary school for boys based in Epsom, sent a group of students home last week to gauge a better understanding of how they would work from home. 

"We learnt a lot about how the boys are interacting, we learnt how we can communicate in a more effective manner in an online environment and we learnt how we can deal with log on rates at different times when we hit peak," O'Connor explained.

The headmaster says the process will be difficult, but he's confident in the school's online system.

"It will be difficult, but we're all in this together and got to do the best we can," he said.

"We've tested the system fully over four days, we've seen the capabilities of our teachers... we're not concerned in terms of the quality of education we can provide - but it's going to be testing.

"Those at the greatest risk are [the students] in the middle or who are struggling academically, they are the ones we need to focus additional time on and work with their parents directly, providing additional support."

Auckland Grammar will allow parents access to their system, GrammarNet, from 5pm to 12am daily so they can view and monitor their sons' work.

"It works, that's why we've been testing it. We've been preparing for the worst-case scenario."

Although roughly 40 teachers will not be showing up to Auckland Grammar on Tuesday, O'Connor says it's important employers understand the stress staff are under and be sympathetic to their circumstances.

"There are people who are autoimmune or not well in some regard, or they have family members that need looking after... we're working to provide a best-case scenario for their circumstances. 

"I would stress that we're not only asking teachers to be teachers, completing their duties online - at home, they will also be mum or dad."

The world has effectively been "tipped upside down" for young people, O'Connor says, and the response from the students has so far been "unparalleled".

"They understand these are hard times and they need to act in new ways.

"We as schools can be familiar and stable for them through these next few weeks - that's the reason we're online learning as a school from today... providing stability as things settle, and then take a break."