School leaders, not the Government, should decide when and if they reopen in alert level 3, the Teaching Council says.
Early childhood centres and schools up to Year 10 would be opened to allow parents to go back to work if need be - the announcement to extend or drop the alert level would be made at 4pm today.
However, the Teaching Council said in an open letter to Education Minister Chris Hipkins the decision should lie on the shoulders of school leaders.
Leaders must have the "autonomy to determine their own plan for when and how they will safely re-open to children and teachers", the council said.
"They are the experts in their communities and have the ability to construct a flexible, creative and resilient approach to making Level 3 work for the good of their teachers, learners and community.
"Leaders, with support of their staff, also need the authority and autonomy to agree to children attending or not."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced last Thursday that some schools would reopen once the alert level dropped.
The decision had since been strongly criticised by teachers, principals and some parents.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's childcare services had asked the Government to also let them stay closed during level 3.
Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said early childhood care involved "intimate interaction" between children and adults so the social distancing required at level 3 was impossible.
"There is too much at stake," he said in a letter written to the Prime Minister.
"The last thing the childcare centres need is to reopen, only to have to shut again five minutes later.
"We are taking that position because of the carrier risk of sharing the virus - parents who are moving around, going to work, engaging with others even at safe levels."
The number of people who would return to work in alert level 3 after the end of the lockdown would double to 1 million, Ardern said Thursday.
Parents ultimately would have the decision whether or not to send their children back to school amid the pandemic.
Reopening some businesses during alert level 3 would mean some parents would not be able to keep their children learning at home.
Last week, Minister of Finance Grant Robertson said authorities were making sure it was safe to send children and staff back to school.
"This is about making sure their children continue to get education as well," he said at Friday's coronavirus press conference.
"There is now time to work through with teachers, principals, parents and students to make sure we can make this work."