Hawke's Bay school leaders are gearing up to welcome students back at level 2.

The Prime Minister announced on Thursday that early education centres, tertiary education and schools including Years 11-13 would be open at level 2.

The news is welcomed by educators in the region who want kids to return to school.

If it was announced next Monday that we would move to level 2 on Wednesday, schools would be open the following week Monday, May 18.

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Students are still expected to remain at home if they are sick and good hygiene such as hand washing is needed.

"We want to bring back as many kids as we can. They need to be at school, they want to be at school, and we want to see them," Napier Boys' High School principal Matt Bertram said.

Bertram wanted further clarity from the Government and Ministry of Education about what physical distancing would look like in schools.

The guidelines given by the Government today for hospitality were really clear and he hoped the same would be given for education.

NBHS principal Matt Bertram is looking forward to welcoming students back but says clearer communication about regulations is needed. Photo / File
NBHS principal Matt Bertram is looking forward to welcoming students back but says clearer communication about regulations is needed. Photo / File

Physical distancing regulations were especially critical for boarding schools, he said.

"If you say there needs to be a metre physical distancing in classrooms, what's the point in telling us we are open? Because we can't be open.

"If they are going to insist on the 2 metres physical distancing in a hostel, we can't bring 180 boarders back so therefore we are not open."

"Where possible physical distancing is a good precaution," the Prime Minister said.

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"We do, however, know that it is near impossible in an early learning environment and challenging in schools. So good hygiene practices and regular cleaning are even more important here," she said.

President of the New Zealand Principals' Federation and Hastings Intermediate principal, Perry Rush, said the announcement was exciting.

When students return to school the different needs of different pupils will need to be responded to, Rush said.

He said there is a concern for students who were in remedial situations before lockdown and that these students would need close assessment when they return to determine if they will need further support.

The mental health impacts of the lockdown and returning to school on students would be dealt with by schools powering up help strategies.

"It's quite vital that it's not just business as usual and let's pretend this never happened.

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"It is very important that there is some recognition that this has been an international medical crisis and it is ongoing," he said.

Perry Rush said the news was welcome and educators would work through what reopening meant. Photo / File
Perry Rush said the news was welcome and educators would work through what reopening meant. Photo / File

The key message from both the Prime Minister and educators is that schools are safe to return to at level 2.

"Schools and early learning services are safe environments for children, young people and staff. Additional public health control measures are in place to prevent the spread of disease and to support contact tracing," the Prime Minister said.

"It is very important parents understand that that is based on high quality public health advice."

Rush said the public health advice through the pandemic had been clear, consistent and it was advice they were able to trust.

"We encourage parents to return students to school and we are confident that they can do so safely."

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As for whether school would be optional, Bertram and Rush agreed that open would mean open and if students were healthy, they would return to school and lessons as normal but more clarification from the Government was needed.

Rush said it was interesting the Prime Minister had not placed limitations on who could return and who could stay home so there was an expectation that all students would get back to school.

Numbers of pupils attending school during level 3 has been low.

In Hawke's Bay/Tairawhiti 720 students, 2 per cent of the school roll, attended school today.