As Rotorua schools prepare to open for their first day back during lockdown, there are fears the time away from the classroom will widen the gap of equity in the community.
Last month, school holidays were brought forward to March 30, ending on April 14, in response to the nationwide alert Level 4 response to Covid-19.
Schools are expected to then open for distance learning with teachers students and working offsite.
Sunset Primary School principal Eden Chapman said the lockdown presented the school with the challenge of how to provide learning to all families if teachers were not able to go into school to prepare lessons if it was extended.
The school delivered parcels with four weeks' worth of work as well as food parcels before the lockdown. This included exercise books, activities, reading material, and stationary.
"After [four weeks] it's going to be quite tricky because we have to consider equity if we provide online learning," he said.
"Some have unlimited broadband, some have a little bit of data on mum's phone and some have got none at all."
Chapman said households from across all schools could also be a stressful place and it was "over the top" to expect parents to be home school teachers.
"We need to find a middle-ground on what we're actually sending home ... there's not one simple solution."
Lynmore Primary School embraced digital learning and was looking to adapt to this new way of learning, beginning with virtual activities during the holiday.
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Principal Lorraine Taylor said they were fortunate most families had access to the internet at home, and the school provided it for those who did not.
All children will learn online, with a Zoom roll-call every morning and a mixture of virtual activities such as online P.E. and core subjects or live lessons.
Taylor said teachers were excited and onboard.
"We're really hopeful this will give us a change long-term in the way education is delivered. And our teachers have been given a huge opportunity to upskill in online learning, and I don't think we'll go back again."
But said the lockdown period posed the risk of widening the equity gap in the community.
"That's something that really needs to be addressed by central Government."
Kaitao Intermediate principal Phil Palfrey said right now, families building relationships and keeping safe was more important than formal education.
"Homes cannot replicate schools," he said.
"This is not the time to be demanding of children and parents that assignments get done. It is a time that we need to look after each other ... a few weeks off school isn't going to damage any kid in New Zealand."
He said children could learn different skills.
"You don't have to be an educator to build relationships, build stuff around the house, read books, write."
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The school connected with parents through an app and would begin distance learning online with those who had devices, which made up majority of the school.
The Decile 2 school did not have the money to provide devices to those without, he said.
John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said about 2 per cent of students, predominantly in rural areas, did not have devices or internet access at home.
"That's going to be the main way of getting an education."
Students were "stressed" about NCEA and the school told them to focus on learning material and collect evidence of their work so they had a portfolio when they returned to be used for assessment, he said.
Teachers were geared up to teach by Zoom, Google Classroom and an app called Education Perfect.
Teachers would work to stick to the timetables students already had to avoid clashes and focus on work students could do with their available resources.
"It's a very testing time ... the longer it goes on the more stressed and anxious senior students get around NCEA.
"It's going to be a lot of hard work to catch up for the externals at the end of the year. If the lockdown continues, and that's a distinct possibility, then we're going to have to go back to NZQA and talk about how we get students through NCEA."
Neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis provides easy-to-follow information and advice for parents, with frequent posts about school from home.
The Ministry of Education stated on its website a commitment to ensuring that digital inequity was not a barrier to learning.
It was working with device suppliers and the telecommunications industry for the equipment and on the logistics of getting it to households that need it.
"This is complex and we will be working with schools and communities on how we make this happen.
The ministry was also exploring delivery of learning plans and kits and broadcasting options, such as TV and radio, which could provide another way to reach students and whānau.
These websites have resources for parents and whānau, teachers and leaders spanning early learning through to senior secondary, and new material will be added to these over the coming weeks.
Term dates 2020
Between January 27 and February 7 - March 27
April 15 - July 3
July 20 - September 25
October 12 - no later than December 18
Advice for parents
• Read: students can read, or be read to. They can also help, by reading to their younger siblings.
• Keep a journal or scrapbook: this can be anything - drawings, photos, plans and stories of things they've done, which creative, practical and helps their literacy skills.
• Cooking and baking incorporates maths, helping with housework teaches organisation, teamwork, co-operation and contribution.
• Critical thinking. Find news items or opinion pieces and discuss whether you each agree with what's been said. Why? Why not?
- Source: Ministry of Education