Limited change to onsite learning for senior secondary students in Level 3 regions

Onsite learning at schools in Level 3 regions will start from Tuesday 26 October for senior secondary school students to prepare for end of year exams.

Secondary schools in Alert Level 3 regions will start onsite learning for Years 11 to 13 on Tuesday 26 October 2021.

This is a complex issue requiring difficult trade-offs between improving education and increasing potential health risks for children and young people.

Learners in this age group are able to be vaccinated and are required to wear masks, and staff and volunteers working on site will need a negative test before attending.

Government agencies have also continued to refine public health measures for school and early learning services.

Children, young people and staff at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should stay at home unless fully vaccinated. Face coverings are mandatory for staff and learners in years 9 to 13. Records must be kept for contact tracing purposes. Face coverings on school transport will also be mandatory.

And staff and volunteers in all regions need to receive their first vaccine by 15 November 2021.

For years 1 to 10 the picture is more complex. The Government is not completely ruling out these students in Alert Level 3 regions being able to return before the end of the year but if they do, we will need to be satisfied there are sufficient processes in place to minimise any risk.    

Any settings where there are groups of children under 12 are higher risk —  as they are not yet able to be vaccinated.  

There are mitigations that can be put in place to keep the risk as low as possible. We can consider rostered attendance to reduce the number of students on site at any given time. The warmer summer months also provide more opportunities for learning outdoors where the risk of COVID-19 spreading is lower.

Cabinet will consider the latest health advice and the options on Tuesday.

There will no longer be bubbles of up to 10 students required when all senior students return on-site, including for those students already on-site in Years 1 to 10.

Wherever practicable a 1 metre distance should be kept from all others on-site, particularly between staff, and a two metre distance from people you don’t know.

Alert Level 3 requirements for secondary schools

  • Staff and children who are unwell must stay at home, and get tested for COVID-19.
  • Children at higher risk of severe illness should learn from home, where possible.
  • Staff who are not fully vaccinated and at higher risk of severe illness must remain home.
  • Staff and students in Years 9 to 13 must wear a face covering.
  • Only essential visitors will be permitted onsite, and all visitors on-site will need to wear a face covering.
  • Staff and students should continue with good hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Classrooms should be well ventilated.
  • High touch surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected each day.
  • Staff and students should try to keep a safe distance from each other, and 2 metres from people they do not know.
  • Schools must display NZ COVID Tracer QR code posters for contact tracing. Schools will also need a contact tracing register for everyone coming onsite. This  includes students and staff  — through the attendance register, timetable and visitor register.
  • Face coverings will be required on school transport for everyone aged 12 and over.
  • Time outdoors for students and staff will be maximised, including breaks, lunchtime, before and after school — unless the weather does not allow and rooms will be aired during breaks.
  • Exercising and singing will take place outdoors.
  • Schools should avoid indoor group meetings — for example assemblies or staff meetings.

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