COVID-19: Schools prepare for lockdown ahead of reopening

Schools are reviewing their plans for potential lockdown before reopening.
Schools are reviewing their plans for potential lockdown before reopening. Photo credit: Getty Images.

John Gerritsen for RNZ

Schools have not even reopened for the year and they are already preparing emergency plans for dealing with another lockdown.

Principals told RNZ the latest COVID-19 cases have reminded them just how important it was to be prepared for a sudden lockdown that forces students and teachers to work from home.

Whangārei's Manaia View School principal Leanne Otene said she would have been at school preparing to reopen on Friday next week when she spoke with RNZ.

Instead she was at home after having a COVID-19 test - it came back negative but she was working from home to be on the safe side.

She said the local case that emerged earlier in the week had prompted the school to look over its "resurgence plan" for coping with another outbreak of the disease and she expected the case would also renew many families' fears about sending their children to school.

"The senior management team have looked at resurgence plans over the last couple of days, just making sure all those things are in place. It's about reassuring our communities at this time that we are as prepared now as we would have been if something had happened later in the year in 2020," she said.

Randwick Park School principal Karen McMurray said classes would start on Wednesday and teachers already had half an eye on the possibility of another outbreak.

"Like probably everybody in New Zealand we're living with the fact of the 'what if'," she said.

"We had a leadership team meeting yesterday and we talked about just checking on how prepared we were should we be given 24 or 48 hours notice."

She said the school already had two weeks' worth of material that children could take home to work on in the event of a lockdown but it had decided it might need a bit more.

"So we've decided to go ahead and make another two weeks, so that we're prepared and make sure we've got enough photocopying paper and enough plastic bags and the resources, pencils, rubbers, pencil sharpeners, gluesticks and things we can put in those so that the children can continue with as much learning as they possibly can over the break if it happens."

Secondary Principals' Association president Deidre Shea said the latest cases were a reminder to everyone, including schools, that another lockdown could happen at any moment.

"We don't want to go back there, but if there's a need to, and we look at what's happening across the world and we know that there may be a time when we need to do it to keep everybody safe," she said.

Shea said schools were a lot better prepared than they were last year for teaching students remotely during a lockdown.

"We've got some of our processes of course around connectedness and continuing learning from home that much better in place than we did before all of this happened," she said.