Schools are being advised they could re-open to some students by April 29, if the lockdown is lifted on April 20.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said this morning he wanted to keep expectations reasonable and stressed the decision would be based on public health advice.

After the lockdown was lifted and New Zealand went back to level 3 it would take some time for schools to prepare for children to come back, he told TVNZ's Q+A today.

Several schools have told TVNZ they had been advised they could re-open on April 29. Hipkins did not deny that date was correct, but said some children might return to school before others; priority would be given to the children of essential workers.


"It might not be everybody back at school early on in the piece."

New Zealand will be in lockdown for at least another 11 days to fight Covid-19. The Government has said it will make a decision in about a week's time about whether to move out of the four-week lockdown, or whether restrictions need to continue.

Any decision to move to the less-strict alert level 3 will depend on the numbers of positive Covid-19 cases reported each day, as well as levels of community transmission.

The overall trend for New Zealand's cases appears to be heading downward. The number of people recorded as recovered yesterday (49) was higher than the number of new cases recorded (29). However, two new deaths were reported yesterday, bringing the total fatalities to four.

Hipkins this morning also discussed how social distancing might be maintained in a school or early childcare environment.

Particularly in early childcare centres, asking children to sit 2m apart would not be possible.

"Those are the sort of risks we've got to work through."

Timetables could be adjusted so some children could do some work at school and some time at home.

When schools reopen, things would look quite different, Hipkins said. Assemblies would not happen for some time and schools would be asked to limit contact.

Hipkins said it was important to keep teachers in mind as well. Some were older or had health conditions and it was important not to put them at risk.

Hipkins had previously warned parents they shouldn't assume all schools would reopen straight away.


Speaking to the Epidemic Response Committee, he said parents would need to prepare to have their kids at home for longer than four weeks.

"It's going to be a progressive reopening of the system, rather than a big bang all at once."

In alert level 3, some parts of the country could face different restrictions depending on the number of cases in each region. Educational facilities affected by Covid-19 could also be closed.

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Schools and early childcare centres closed fully from March 26, as the country went into lockdown. The Easter school holidays were brought forward by two weeks, giving teachers more time to prepare for online learning in Term 2.

The new school term will now begin on April 15, but any learning will start at home or online. Hipkins said this morning Term 2 would be longer than Term 1 had been.

It was too early to say whether the school year could be extended into the summer holidays, he said.

The Government is in the process of sending out more than 17,000 free computers to families that need them for distance learning. New education TV channels are also being launched to help kids learn at home during school closures.

Thousands of modems are also being distributed this week to families with school-aged children but no internet access.

About 80,000 families with school-aged children are thought to lack home internet and/or suitable devices for their children to learn on at home. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website