It's been almost two weeks since schools across New Zealand reopened their doors. In Rotorua, principals are coming to terms with the challenges of the new learning environment.

"We promote [social distancing] more easily than maintain it, I've got to say," said Chris Grinter, principal of Rotorua Boys' High School.

"The boys know about social distancing, and they're pretty good, but yes it's harder to manage. The classrooms are easy but out on the field, the boys still find the temptation to get close to their mates. It's pretty difficult to manage."

Like many schools in the district, Rotorua Boys High is supporting families struggling with Covid-related anxiety, some parents preferring to keep their kids at home.


"We've only had 80 per cent of our boys back," Grinter said.

"That was perhaps a bit higher than I expected. Obviously [we've got] posters and iconography around the school, we've got sanitiser and disinfectant in every class, we've got wipes and tissues and hand towels in every classroom.

"We ensure the cleaners do a sanitisation of every teaching space every day. So within our health and safety plan, we've been pretty thorough about addressing all those specific actions."

It's a similar story at nearby Western Heights Primary.

"We wanted to make sure the kids were going to be safe," principal Brent Griffin said.

"The Government are saying now, get your kids back to school. And that's what we're encouraging, my grandkids are back in school.

"There is still that anxiety out there. We're looking at about 85 kids who are not at school, so we've gone out of our way to get them here - we've actually made home visits to see them and talked to them."

Griffin has the added challenge of managing different levels of understanding when it comes to social distancing.


"Our senior children from year 4 to 6 are incredibly independent kids. They fully understood what was required and why we needed to follow the guidelines.

"Now with the junior children, it is a little bit different because they want to be all over each other, all the time.

"Fortunately we have [small] class sizes, we're looking at classes of around about eight.

"We wanted to do something as a school, that we had an obligation to families to make sure we did something that was even more than level 2, so we actually called it Alert Level 2 and a Half.

Despite these uncertain times, principals are determined to keep school as normal as possible.

"The risk is there, we saw that with the school in Auckland," Grinter said.


"So taking good advice, keeping in step and in touch with the developments is really important for us. And I'm satisfied we've done all we can to keep our boys safe."

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