A South Auckland school is requiring children to wait outside its gate for up to an hour before letting them enter at staggered times for different age groups.
Weymouth Primary School has adopted starting times of between 8.50am and 9.15am this week in an attempt to minimise congestion.
A mother who drops her 6-year-old son outside at 8.30am on her way to work has complained to the Ministry of Education, saying the children have no shelter and no access to bathrooms while they wait on the street.
"The kids are shivering with cold and possibly further impacted mentally by being locked out of school in the cold unable to access a bathroom as they don't fully understand what is going on," she said.
Staggered start and finish times were required when schools first reopened after the Covid-19 lockdown at alert level 3, but the ministry's guidance for level 2 says: "Schools, like workplaces, are not considered to be gatherings under alert level 2. Therefore there are no bubbles and no changes are needed to breaks, start and finish times."
Most schools have reverted to standard starting times this week, but many are still asking parents to drop their children at the gate and not to come on to school grounds.
Weymouth principal Saane Faaofo-Oldehaver told parents last Friday that the staggered start and finish times were designed "to continue social distancing".
"Please note only the front gate will be open for scheduled drop-off times. No parents on site please," she said in a notice.
"All students to line up. As they enter we will sanitise their hands before they go to class. No parents on site.
"In the morning please wait at the gate – line up on the blue marks on the concrete keeping your distance. At the end of the day please wait at the gate and when your child sees you they will come out."
Teachers wait inside the gates at the specified times in the morning ready to take their classes to their rooms.
Faaofo-Oldehaver said the system was set up partly because two teachers were still at home because of health conditions that made them vulnerable to the virus, so children in their classes had been reassigned to other teachers and needed to know where to go.
"I haven't got relievers because we have less than 50 per cent of our children back, so for this week we should be fine," she said.
Only 202 of the school's 519 children attended on Monday and only 211 today.
But she also believed the system was best for social distancing.
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"We have just been trying to follow the ministry guidelines for social distancing," she said.
She said the system had become more efficient each day so the starting times have been narrowed to between 8.45am and 9am.
"Today I was outside at 8.30am talking with our parents and our students and they are amazing at hopping on to the blue tape on the path adhering to social distancing - it's like a game for our students," she said.
"Next week we will go back to letting our students come in from 8.30am and go straight to their classrooms, as they will now know the process and our teachers will be waiting to receive them."
Ōtāhuhu Primary School principal Jason Swann said some other schools were also still staggering start times. His school lets children in early for a breakfast club, but is staggering finishing times between 2.40pm and 3pm.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary Katrina Casey said staggering drop-off and pick-up times "can be an effective way to make sure that everyone is being kept safe".
"For all schools and kura, having their children and young people return under level 2 means everyone having to do things a bit differently and working together in a way that prioritises children wellbeing and provides assurance and confidence for parents and whānau," she said.
"Schools have been working with their local communities to find the right options for the return to school, and Weymouth Primary has been communicating regularly with their school community about their staggered drop-off and pick-up times and is keeping them updated.
"We are confident that the school is doing everything it can to make sure every child is safe and their parents and whanau are reassured and also kept safe when dropping them off or picking them up."
• Level 2 advice: covid.govt.nz.