Schools outside Auckland will reopen from Thursday and although masks are recommended, they will not be mandatory.
With 48 hours to get ready for the alert level changes, schools can start preparing from tomorrow morning.
"There's lots to achieve," Hastings Intermediate School principal Perry Rush said shortly after hearing of the announcement.
The two days before the influx of pupils will be spent tidying up and ensuring vulnerable children get the support they need as schools reopen, Rush said.
Rush, the NZ Principals' Federation president, said school communities outside Auckland were hugely relieved to be reopening.
But he said it was important to keep Auckland friends, relatives and colleagues in mind as the city weathered more time under lockdown.
Public health experts have been calling for a more stringent level 2, with rules including mandatory mask-wearing in high schools and school buses.
"My guidance would be ... recommending the use of masks in schools, but not requiring it," director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said today.
Bloomfield said children aged 12 or older should wear masks, but it would not be mandatory.
Rush said schools had been seeking more clarity from the Ministry of Education about face mask requirements, and were still waiting for advice.
"There appears to be a different expectation for education here than for the general community."
But he was confident schools would be able to adopt any face mask requirements, just as they would soon shift from remote learning back into the classroom.
"Schools are well versed in pivoting into different arrangements."
Secretary for Education Iona Holsted this evening said she was still working on sending out the latest health guidance, which should be available to schools tomorrow.
"We are not expecting large-scale change to the settings, however, face coverings for age 12-plus are recommended," she said in a statement.
Holsted said cleaners, contractors and some staff can go onsite from tomorrow in order to prepare.
"While many people will be delighted to return to school, some students will be apprehensive and over the next few days we will provide advice and template letters for you to share with whānau if you wish," she added.
Writing to school leaders on Friday, Holsted said the ministry had been repeatedly asked what was happening in level 2.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the school opening plan today as she outlined the move to alert level 2 outside of Auckland.
Schools have navigated alert level changes before, but never with such an infectious variant of Covid-19 as in the Delta outbreak.
What level 2 used to look like
Public health experts have been calling for a more stringent level 2 with rules including mandatory mask-wearing in high schools and school buses.
In level 2 last year, everyone was allowed back to school unless they were sick or in isolation and waiting on a test result.
Playgrounds reopened and contact sports were allowed to resume, although some schools chose to maintain stricter rules until level 1.
Hygiene and physical distancing remained important - everyone was advised to stay 1m apart to avoid breathing on or touching each other.
After the level 4 lockdown in 2020, schools were told masks were not needed when students went back to school in level 2, but many still wore them.
At least one primary school made them mandatory.