Coronavirus COVID-19

For the most up to date information on COVID-19, please click here for the link to the Ministry of Health website. 

20 March

We head towards the end of a week that we will remember for the rest of our lives. The change in our global and national context has been incredible. Throughout this rapid change we have endeavoured to try and provide certainty and stability for students and the wider community. I want to thank you all for supporting the college during this time and trying to keep to routines as much as possible. I also want to acknowledge my incredible staff who have maintained a reliable presence and kept quality teaching and learning occurring at the college over this time. I also hope the communications over the week have been timely and helpful. I will continue to communicate via email and by putting these posts up on the website also.

We are continuing our planning around the Learning from Home day next Thursday and will be contacting any students who indicated they would need a device early next week so we can issue them something for Thursday. I just received this week a very generous donation of two used, but functioning laptops. It made me wonder if any of our community have older devices just sitting in the cupboards that could be distributed to those in need. If you would like to donate an old device (or that said, even a new device) to be gifted to someone in need, we’d love to hear from you. We have about 4% of our school population currently in that situation and would love to work towards every student having a device of their own.

For this week’s video newsletter we talk to our wonderful Argentinian Group that are currently visiting from Colegio Monserrat. They went across to Kāpiti Island yesterday and the video captures some of their experiences while here. We absolutely acknowledge this is a very complicated time for them and we have been working to try and get them home. However, in the meantime they have been loved and cared for by a wonderful range of host families in our community and I want to thank all hosts for caring for other children, as well as their own, in this complex time.

One question I often get asked is are we going to close the school. The absolute clear message from the Ministry is that we will remain open for as long as we can safely do so. Yesterday they released guidelines around how different events would be managed. This decision tool is available on the Ministry website and some of you may find it helpful: https://govt.us3.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2f59fcd18a691d315b5a045cb&id=9cce4db7f3&e=ae18638d15

I wanted to share with you what will happen if we were to have a case in our school community. We have been planning for this and are in a position to respond quickly.

  • As soon as a case is confirmed in our immediate school community (eg. a student, staff member, or member of their household), the Medical Officer of Health and Ministry of Education will inform me about this, and we will work together to get quick and clear messaging out to you
  • If there was a case confirmed of someone in our school, we will likely be asked to close temporarily by the Medical Officer of Health. This will allow time for close contacts to be traced, appropriate testing to be undertaken, and a careful clean of the school to be undertaken.
  • If our school does need to close temporarily, we have a plan in place to support student’s learning.

We know COVID-19 feels scary and of course people are concerned for the wellbeing of our children. Please be assured that with no case confirmed in our college, school continues to be a safe place to be.

Good hygiene is a priority at our school, and we are reinforcing this regularly with all students and staff. We know that practising good hygiene is still the best thing we can all do to prevent illness.

We are getting the most up to date advice and guidance so that we can confidently make informed decisions about the safety and wellbeing of our school community.

19 March 

Today in my earlier email I announced that we will have a trial Learning at Home Day on Thursday 26th March. The clear indication from the Ministry of Education is they wish schools to remain open as much as possible but likely closures could occur if an incident of Coronavirus (COVID-19) was connected with the school, such as at Logan Park this week. We want to test our capability to work remotely and had a very positive staff professional learning session this morning. Over today staff have already been trialling tools with their classes and enhancing their skill set. We have signalled three key online ways we want staff to be able to work:

1. recording online tutorials, using tools like Screencast-o-Matic, Screencastify or Powerpoint Recorder.
2. an interactive resource sharing space such as Google Classroom, Harpara, PC4Me, Seesaw
3. a meeting space such as Zoom or Google Hangouts

A number of staff are very familiar with a range of tools and already use these in their teaching each week. However, we are aware that for remote teaching to work moving forward, everyone needs to be onboard. It’s been great today seeing staff sharing their learning and bouncing around ideas with each other.

Next Thursday we ask that students work remotely from home. If there is no internet at home, we’d ask students try to connect with a friend for Thursday to enable participation in the day. On the day we will run the typical Thursday timetable. Teachers will indicate what activities they would like students to do on the day. It may be a video conference, a self-paced lesson, a research activity or an online tutorial. There are many options. Running to a timetable means staff know they can schedule set meeting times and avoid clashes with other classes.

As I mentioned earlier today, if any student needs to come into school for the day we would appreciate if you let office staff know by 3pm Tuesday so we can coordinate the appropriate supervision. At this stage we will keep the buses running for anyone needing transport but will look at need after 3pm Tuesday.

The Government this afternoon has announced no meetings for over 100 people. This again will have another flow on for the community but they have been clear in signalling this does not apply for schools. That said, we are always looking at how to keep everything as normal as possible while taking into account Health and Safety. Our leadership team will meet again first thing tomorrow and look at our school calendar of events in light of this new announcement. I expect to communicate further cancellations or postponements as a result.

This morning I shared some resources to help in talking with young people about the current situation we are in. Given the rise in the number of reported cases, there may be children or young people in your life who experience distress. As a trusted adult, you can help reassure and educate them about COVID-19 – it can be good to talk to them now, so they can understand the illness and be reassured.

A useful resource for parents, caregivers, whānau and teachers talking about the virus with children and young people can be found here: https://education.govt.nz/school/health-safety-and-wellbeing/pastoral-care-and-wellbeing/talking-to-children-about-covid-19-coronavirus/

I would like to report though, I really am enjoying seeing students and staff each day and despite what is happening around us, see the value in students continuing to be together, enjoying each others company and connecting socially (while retaining physical distance). It has been interesting to see our daily attendance increase each day this week and I support schools remaining open for as long as is safe to do so, as our young people need this connection with each other.

19 March

Yesterday we had a flow of information coming in from various sporting bodies about the status of school sports for the remainder of the term. We were waiting to see the overall response from College Sport Wellington to be able to then provide a single email about college sports. In CSW statement sent last night, they wish to advise that all Term One events will be suspended as of today (Thursday 19 March). This decision is made with the knowledge that in all likelihood, these competitions will not be resumed. Over the next few days, the CSW Sport Managers will work through the process of closing these competitions down and we ask for your patience and assistance in doing so. For our College that means the conclusion of volleyball, cricket, golf, bowls and equestrian.

The Sporting bodies that manage sports have been making announcements and I wish to summarise these as follows:

· Football: Community football including junior, youth, senior, social and regional competitions – all play postponed until 2 May and trainings suspended until 18 April
· Rugby: All rugby matches are postponed until 18 April, full contact training can resume from Monday 13 April. Non-contact training can continue with sensible hygiene protocols observed.
· Hockey: All club, school and community hockey is postponed until Saturday 2 May. This includes all matches and training activities.
· Netball: All trials, practices and preseason games are suspended until the first week in April.
· Basketball: The national body has not given guidelines at this point but we have decided as a school to postpone trials, practices and games until the beginning of Term 2.
· Badminton: All practices and games postponed. Will start in Term 2.

We appreciate there is different guidance from the different sporting bodies and at this stage, we have adopted this guidance. However, we may revise this in the future to a more unified school approach after further discussions with coaches and managers. We are also aware that these may be subject to change at any stage. Despite this decision around sports, necessary in the current climate, it is important that our young people keep physically active and we encourage students to keep this up. This might involve going for a run, a bike ride, going for a walk along the beach, anything active outdoors in our amazing backyard. Physical activity helps our physical and mental health and is so important.

I want to thank all students for participating in our survey for readiness for remote learning. We have had nearly 1200 responses to the survey out of 1400 students. This gives us a good indication of need. You may be interested to know 98.4% of students have internet access at home and 95.3% have a laptop, desktop or Chromebook that can be used at home. We are confident we have sufficient devices to be able to meet the need of those without a device if it came to the full school needing to work remotely. We have collected names of students requesting devices via the survey sent out in form time but ask for anyone still to complete this, to do so please. At this stage we are working on building staff capacity to know suitable tools to work remotely in an effective manner and have already commenced professional development to share knowledge and skills across the teaching staff. We have also decided to trial a work from home day next Thursday 26 March. This will involve all students remaining home for the day and engaging with their learning remotely. Any younger students, unable to be left without supervision at home, would be able to come into school. Please contact the office if you wish have students on site next week and we will arrange appropriate supervision. Buses will still operate as normal, for this purpose. I will send an update specifically about this day soon but for now I just want families to know this will be taking place.

As a school we are continuing to try and run school programmes as normal. However, we are well aware that with the cancellation or postponement of a number of sporting events and school trips, this is beginning to directly have an impact on our young people. One of the things we often talk to young people about, to help them manage anxiety, is focussing on things they can have control over. That really comes down to their personal decision making each moment of each day. Hygiene practices are a good example, washing hands well and regularly, being a classic example. We can also discuss what students can influence. This could perhaps be discussions with their peers about healthy options – like deciding collectively to not share drink bottles or food. Then we encourage students to not get overwhelmed by the things they can’t control. The following is an interesting exercise that some of you may wish to consider using. It describes a model around the circle of control and influence https://uthscsa.edu/gme/documents/Circles.pdf . I also like the table at the bottom too…the ‘be’ statements are so much more empowering than the have/had statements. The following link has a range of mindfulness exercises also https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-exercises-techniques-activities/. I know people have different reactions to mindfulness, but I find it incredibly useful. It is about bringing yourself back to the present and using your senses to help that happen. We can spend a lot of time worrying about the past, or the future, but we only really have control of what happens in the present. Mindfulness helps us to come back to the present (so we can then start taking actions that may help our future).  There are quite a variety of exercises to try and hopefully one that works for you and the young people in your house, if you’re interested. Finally, the following Canadian website has some good reading about looking after your mental health in times of uncertainty https://peak-resilience.com/blog/2020/3/15/covid-19-amp-your-mental-health-a-comprehensive-resource-guide

I continue to ask anyone returning from overseas to be letting the college know and self-isolating accordingly. I omitted in my earlier email that travel between category 2 Pacific Islands was exempt from this directive. The full information about these countries is listed here https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-health-advice-general-public/covid-19-countries-and-areas-concern

I will continue to email information to our school community and deal with facts as they arise. There are rumours circulating that are not helpful. I can confirm I do not know of any students with the virus or any students being tested for it. No teachers are being tested for it. The ambulance at school yesterday was for a completely unrelated situation. It is important that we do not pass misinformation through the school community and generate unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Let’s remember to look out for each other and be a caring community of great learners.

17 March

There has been quite a shift in the status of things around the country since I wrote to you all on Friday. Below I’d like to update you on where the school is at, what we are doing and expectations on families around self-isolation and sickness.

Most of you will have heard yesterday’s announcement about gatherings of over 500 being cancelled. This includes non-essential events including sporting, performing arts and religious events. This does not include schools and universities therefore our school continues to remain open. Guidance around reducing assemblies came to schools yesterday, though we had already made the decision to stop House assemblies before the start of school Monday. Summer tournaments are cancelled and while this will be disappointing for students and staff it is completely understandable in the circumstances. We await further guidance about regular regional sporting fixtures.

Yesterday I also received communication from the MOE yesterday inquiring around our preparedness to teach remotely. As such, I have emailed all students this morning and have asked them to complete a short survey about home access.  We are trying to gauge how many students would need a device in the event the school closed, so it is important all students complete this survey. We continue to have communications with the Ministry around our preparedness to teach online and remote courses and feel very confident we have the systems in place to do this should the need arise in the future.

The Government has also been very clear around the need for anyone returning from overseas since 1am Monday 16th to self-isolate for 14 days. I want to thank all the families who have contacted me and are in this situation. At this stage guidance from the Ministry of Health is that students of family that are in self-isolation and haven’t themselves travelled from overseas, are able to attend school. It is important self-isolation measures at home minimise any possible exposure to potential viruses. You can read more about isolation processes here https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-health-advice-general-public/covid-19-self-isolation. if you have recently returned from overseas or are intending to travel overseas in the coming weeks can you please contact me so I can establish a register of people in self-isolation. You can contact me directly at principal@pcol.school.nz

I’d also like to remind all families that we need students who are sick in anyway, to stay home until you are well. However, all other students should be attending school as per usual. Our school is fully functional and classes operating as normal. I will continue to keep you up to date with any developments.

13 March 

You may have seen that the World Health Organisation has now declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. As noted by the Minister of Health, this doesn’t change what New Zealand is doing to respond to coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health has been working through its pandemic plan since January. You will also know the Government has already implemented a range of measures to minimise the impacts to New Zealand. This includes border restrictions, a requirement to self-isolate on arrival in New Zealand from China, Iran, Italy and the Republic of Korea and immediate and detailed contact tracing of any confirmed cases. It is important to note those four countries account for more than 90% of cases globally and China and the Republic of Korea have significantly declining numbers of new cases.

We have 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand and it is pleasing to know they are all doing well and are at home.  Their children, four students at Auckland schools, continue to be well and show no symptoms. While we expect that more cases will arise, the Ministry of Health says that with continued vigilance the chance of widespread community outbreak is expected to remain low in New Zealand. We all have a role to play in this.

For our school, our pandemic plan is also ready to be implemented if needed. In the mean time we will continue to focus on good hygiene practices.  To help to prevent risk of infection, the best preventative steps are:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry thoroughly
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid sharing anything that has come in contact with saliva, whether in your living or social environments
  • stay home when you are sick and seek medical attention
  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the rubbish
  • get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals to ensure a healthy immune system.

With that, there is a good video clip from Nanogirl that will help your children to better understand the virus – YouTube clip – Nanogirl

You may have also seen the Prime Minister sat down with Dr Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl) and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Juliet Gerrard, to talk about coronavirus:

One other action we can all take is to be vigilant about our own health and the health of our children. I will be encouraging my staff to stay away from school if they are showing signs of illness such as coughs and colds. I ask that you please do the same with your children. Colds and flus are common in schools and by staying away, seeking medical attention and practicing good hygiene, we can all keep any spread of illness to a minimum.

If you want to know more about COVID-19 please make sure that any reading you are doing is from a reliable source. The Ministry of Health is the best source of information for New Zealand and they update this information regularly – https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus