I decided to keep a bit of a diary over the next 4 weeks. I'm only going to post the first day here, but you can read the rest here if you want to. It won't be very exciting, we're all in lock down after all. I'm going to attempt to explain some of the reasons for the actions we've taken, and possibly what we may do next, but mostly, it's my diary on this period in time.
COVID-19 Diary Day 1
Today is the first day of Learning from Home for our tamariki.
Surreal is the word everyone is using. I saw Amy teaching an art lesson in Tūi last week. She explained to the children that the "sur" means "out there", which was something I didn't already know. The events we find ourselves in are totally out there.
How did we get here?
We've been preparing for the instruction to go home for 2 weeks, and while COVID-19 is still scary, it's less scary when our tamariki are all at home with their whānau.
As we watched what was happening around the world, as we heard from our friends and family overseas, and as our partners told us what they were doing in their workplaces to prepare for COVID-19, we realised that we too had to get ready.
Before school started for the year, the posters went up around the school about good handwashing and cough etiquette. Even if the coronavirus didn't reach us, these are important messages. Then before we knew it, we were being bombarded with messages to wash our hands.
We saw the virus spread around the world and the tension in our senior leadership team office increased. How could we possibly ensure that all of our children washed their hands properly and often enough given our inadequate facilities? We handed out soap. We introduced new rules about washing hands and we reminded teachers constantly. We started to talk about social distancing and wondered how on earth we could achieve it. We started thinking about what learning could take place if children had to be in self-isolation or if schools closed. We made lists. We updated emergency contacts. We cancelled our fair - it was obvious to us that the coronavirus was on it's way, and it seemed pointless to keep working on it.
We looked around at our community and realised that many of them through travel, jobs or family had frequent contact with people from overseas. We live in a small but very well connected city and it seemed likely that it was just a matter of time before someone we knew contracted the disease. We heard constantly on the news that school was the safest place for our children to be. But it didn't feel safe. There was lots of talk about children being less likely to get sick, but our teachers and support staff were at risk. It's wonderful to have such an experienced and capable staff, but that means more of us are older and are more at risk of severe consequences if we do get the virus. We told families in our Week 7 newsletter to keep their children home, even if only parents had been in contact with an overseas traveller.
Teachers got ready to implement Learning at Home. Our Year 4 to Year 8 learners had Google Docs, Slides, Classroom as well as Mathletics and Hapara Work Space. They already used sites like Prototec for basic facts and Study Ladder for literacy. These teachers just had to make sure that all learners could use them and remember their passwords. It was a very steep learning curve for our Year 4s who would normally have had the whole year to be introduced to these tools. It was harder to cater for our younger children. There is a plethora of online learning options but they are not all created equal. We needed options that allowed teachers to set specific tasks at an appropriate level and see what children had done. We wanted options that children could use independently as we expected that their parents would be working from home too. We also needed a platform that, once set up, could roll on and still be useful even if teachers were too sick to manage them. We decided to subscribe to Maths Seeds and Reading Eggs for our younger children. These online platforms cost us money but they are highly engaging and children will want to use them. Tūi, Ruru and Kōtare teachers had just a couple of days to get every child signed up and show them what these sites looked like.
My brother and sister in law went into self isolation after contact with a confirmed case.
1 staff member goes into isolation. Perhaps others should have too?
We get that closing schools has an enormous impact on our economy, and no one wants to stop nurses, paramedics, doctors and supermarket workers from doing their essential services, but how could we stay open? Our anxiety increased. We knew we couldn't manage physical distancing. Teachers really tried. We knew that we couldn't manage to supervise effective handwashing. It took 20 minutes to get 60 Kūkupa children into class after washing their hands properly. We feared that schools would be kept open so we brought in more new rules. Regular morning tea and lunchtimes were to be abandoned so that one third of our children could be outside at any one time. Children would have to wash their hands PROPERLY under supervision after any outside time as well as before eating. Parents were no longer going to be allowed inside classrooms. Staff were restricted to certain areas and the number allowed in the staffroom was cut. We smiled good morning at parents and wished that you'd kept your children at home.
Things were moving fast. We were ready to tell you to keep your children home with you if you were working from home. And then we heard the country was going to Level 3 for 2 days before moving to Level 4. The newsletter written on Sunday night needed to be revised, again. Children gathered up books and packed their bags.
Relief. Children at home can't be exposed to COVID-19 from school mates and can't transmit it to their teachers.Follow this link if you want to read more from my COVID-19 Diary.
Look after yourselves and each other.
Don't worry too much about learning at home (doing just a little bit is fine, and not doing any is fine too) but do find ways to have fun with your kids.
Noho ora mai