Some Auckland schools are planning to stagger finishing times or ask parents to wear masks when they welcome all children back to classes on Monday.
All schools and early childhood centres are required to be open to all students when Auckland moves to alert level 2 on Monday, unless level 3 restrictions are extended again.
But with new Covid-19 cases still being reported daily, many schools plan to be more wary than they were when they last opened to all students on May 18. At that time there had been only two new cases in the previous week.
Schools in south Auckland, which has been the epicentre of the latest outbreak, expect that some families may not send their children back to school immediately.
"There needs to be a bit of support in the way of not rushing back into school, waiting for test results and so forth," said Karl Vasau, principal of Rowandale School in Manurewa.
"The last time we came out of lockdown our community were a little bit anxious and it took quite a while before we returned to proper numbers. The Ministry [of Education] was very clear about a grace period and student wellbeing and looking after them."
The official guidelines state that students and staff "should be far enough away from each other so that they are not breathing on or touching each other".
"There does not need to be a specific measurement but where practicable and reasonable 1 metre can be used as a guide, particularly between adults," the guidelines say.
"Physical distancing of 2 metres is recommended for parents and caregivers, from people they don't know (to align with public health measures outside the school grounds)."
Ōtāhuhu Primary School principal Jason Swann said he would apply those principles by asking parents to stay outside the school gate when dropping off and picking up children.
"At the end of the day, our teachers will walk the kids up to the front of the school and parents will pick them up from there," he said.
He will also stagger finishing times to minimise parental mixing - 2.40pm for junior classes, 2.50pm for middle classes and 3pm for senior classes. Opening times will not change because children arrive at any time between 7am and 9am.
Vasau said Rowandale would also stagger finishing times to reduce congestion.
"Parents will not be allowed on the premises and are asked to drop children at the gate. If they want access to school they need to phone the office," he said.
Swann said some children were already wearing masks to school before the latest outbreak, and he "will encourage it if parents want to".
"It's just a new normal," he said.
Fa'atili Iosua Esera, principal of Sutton Park School in Māngere, issued three masks to every student when the school reopened at level 2 in May, and he has put new masks for all students in the teachers' pigeonholes ready for Monday.
"One of the masks is the one to go home and come to school in, one is for inside the classroom and one is for outside," he said.
"We ask the parents to have a mask to wear to school on Monday, both children and parents."
Waitākere Area Principals Association president Donal McLean said he also planned to recommend that all parents should wear masks when dropping off and picking up their children at his school, Fruitvale School in New Lynn.
"It's likely we'll keep the school gated and be requesting parents to wear masks when they drop off their children, just to reinforce the Government's message," he said.
The Government has said masks will be compulsory on public transport nationally from midnight on Sunday. Health and Education Minister Chris Hipkins is due to announce decisions about school buses tomorrow, and the Education Ministry will then issue detailed mask guidance to schools and early childhood centres.
At Roscommon School in Manurewa, principal Sonia Johnston said some children wore masks when they came back to school in May and some may wear them again this time.
"We actually had a face mask day to show off their funky face masks," she said.
However nearby Weymouth Primary School, which sparked a complaint to the ministry when it staggered starting and opening times in May, will not stagger times or require masks this time.
Principal Saane Faaofo-Oldehaver said the official level 2 guidelines did not mention staggered times so she planned to "just open the gates like we have done at level 3".
Sixteen of the school's 565 students have been at school in level 3 because their parents are essential workers.
Southern Cross Campus in Māngere, where a 6-year-old student tested positive for Covid on August 14, also plans to open as normal without staggered times. Board chairman Peter Parussini said the school had had a "deep clean" and was safe.