17 Nov 2021

Some nerves but relief as Auckland primary schools reopen

From Checkpoint, 5:38 pm on 17 November 2021

There were some first-day nerves as Auckland primary schools swung open the gates after three months of online learning.

Students from new entrants to Year 10 are allowed back - but with rules including separate groups and masks for fun.

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It was a relief for parents, teachers and children to be back in the classroom - but many are still not ready to be back just yet.

Bags are back on hooks, classrooms and whiteboards are full again and chocolates fill teachers' lockers for the first day back at Rowandale Primary in Manurewa.

Today Years 5 and 6are back, tomorrow it is Years 3 and 4. On Friday Years 1 and 2.

Teacher Emma Herbet is thrilled to be back with her students.

It was overwhelming on Wednesday morning, so she has changed the planned lessons for team building exercises.

She told Checkpoint the goal for the next month was less about cramming in assessments and more about looking after everyone.

"Our goal is wellbeing. Making sure our kids feel safe, they feel cared for. All the business will come later, but at the moment our pride and joy is just making sure they're okay."

Only four boys in that class returned on Wednesday. They were quick to gather around a table to catch up. 

"Feels cool, seeing friends, doing some work, getting away from the house," they said.

There are staggered start times for the different year groups. From next week a bubble will be available for parents that need to send their kids back full time.

Principal Karl Vassau explained from pick up to drop off it had factored in level 3.2 restrictions.

The school had about a third of each year coming back - the rest he said would do so in their own time.

With Covid-19's heavy presence in the community, he understood why.

"I'm also very anxious and still very wary of the situation in relation to the cases in the community. Especially in Manurewa."

The student bubbles extend to playtime, a favourite for the students, but extra work for the teachers making sure no bubbles burst.

Over at Newmarket Primary, the school gates are open again.

All years are welcomed back at once, but in different bubbles spread out in the school.

Principal Wendy Kofoed said the school was trying to strike a balance between online and physical learning with about half of the students keen to come back.

And for some students today was their first-ever day - one they would not forget in 3.2 restrictions.

Joanna Brown is back in the classroom with her Years 3 and 4 students at last.

She said there was some nervousness among students, which they talked about, and the children had settled in well. 

But she said the different bubbles were a little confusing.

"We have two bubbles on this floor that are separated with a barrier. They have separate toilets, separate break times, and that's to make sure everyone stays safe. 

"It's been a bit tough for them, they've been waving at each other through the barrier." 

For the next month this will be how schools would operate. A little different, but the fun things are still on offer like music class - albeit with the teacher zooming in.