Many parents say they will keep their children at home when schools reopen at alert level 2.
The more than 900 parents who responded to a question on the New Zealand Herald's Facebook page over the weekend were evenly split on whether they will send their children to school.
Schools and early childhood centres look likely to reopen for all students from next Monday, May 18, if the Cabinet decides tomorrow to move to level 2 this week.
Many parents are welcoming the move. But others feel it is still not safe for their children to mix with others after six weeks trying to stay in their home "bubbles".
Ministry of Education head Iona Holsted said all children were "expected" to return to school, as they are legally required to attend between their 6th and 16th birthdays. But she indicated that schools should not take a hard line on enforcing attendance.
"We expect children to be back at school in alert level 2. However we understand that initially some parents will be anxious about having their children in early learning or school," she said.
"I know that principals and teachers will be prioritising children's wellbeing, and we will support them in that.
"The ministry is concerned first and foremost that children are safe, wherever they are. And we will work with partner agencies to give confidence on that."
Kim Mackie, who has a son at Alfriston College in Manurewa, said she was "scared" to send him back.
"His learning at home in his bubble is safer," she said.
"At the moment he is still waiting on his computer to arrive so he's using his phone that has cracks all over it. But he is also scared to go back to school and can't see how they will cope with thinking they will get sick and die. Learning from home is much safer right now."
Waimate mum Amanda Hansen said she would not send her children, aged 8 and 6, back to Waimate District School until level 1.
"The wee town I live in only has about 10,000 people and we had nine active cases of Covid-19 last time I looked," she said.
"Me and my husband are essential workers and we have worked all the way through. I think we have taken enough risk and I don't want to expose the kids to more risk."
Wellington dad Tama Makamaka said he did not want his 6-year-old son to be a "guinea pig" and preferred to homeschool him for six months.
"Our kids aren't guinea pigs in a test lab," he said.
He pointed to a report that 64 children in New York have developed Kawasaki disease during the Covid-19 pandemic, although experts are not yet sure whether there is any link to the virus.
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Makamaka, a Tūhoe from Rūātoki, said he was looking into buying a small cabin and moving back to his ancestral land in Te Urewera until the pandemic ended.
Auckland mum Tegan Howard said she and her partner would not send their son back to school in level 2.
"We don't feel that it's safe enough yet. I'm a stay-at-home mum and am happy to continue to do online home learning," she said.
Another parent asked her on Facebook: "If schools won't provide work for your kids will you find your own stuff for them? Once schools open I don't think schools should have to supply work for those who chose to keep their kids at home."
Howard replied: "That's your opinion but I'm sure my son's school will cater to those who choose to keep their children at home, which I'm sure will be a majority. We will find school work to educate my son at home if they don't."
However other parents were keen to send their children back to school.
"Definitely, as our daughter is probably a couple of terms behind after me home schooling," wrote dad Adrian Hodgson.
Mum Roxanne Louise, wrote: "Yes, my girl's cried every night about going to school. She's very routine dependent, and definitely needs to for her (and mine) mental health."
Hamilton mum Tania Freeman said: "My daughter is not coping well at all learning at home. We are both working full time and can't give her the attention she needs."
Alicia Lotter of Napier wrote: "Yes definitely, my daughter is an only child and after these six weeks of lockdown I can see she is getting a bit frustrated and bored. Some normality will only do her good."
Principals' Federation president Perry Rush said it was understandable that many parents were still anxious after being told it was too dangerous to leave their homes unless they really had to for the past six weeks.
"Our job is to work with families to build confidence, to get all children back to school, but I definitely think everyone wants to be sensitive to how our community has experienced this crisis," he said.
He said schools would still provide online learning to any students who have to self-isolate because of their health conditions, but most teachers would be back in their classrooms so support for any other children still at home would depend on staff being available for them.
Secondary Principals Association president Deidre Shea said schools had been given "very clear advice that once a young person is well, they should be at school" in level 2.
"But we will all adopt a very careful and considered wellbeing approach to that," she said.
"No one, I'm sure, is going to go into this hard from the start, because actually this is about looking after people in the first instance," she said.
"Learning can't happen until young people are feeling safe and secure."
• Level 2 rules: covid19.govt.nz.