A Stratford primary school has made the move to off-site learning for the remainder of the school term but pupils can be onsite if needed, the school principal says.
A note was posted on Avon School's website on Friday, March 18, stating the school board had held an emergency meeting on Thursday, March 17, to discuss the options around schooling in the current Covid situation.
Under the heading "urgent notice" the statement informed parents and whānau the board had considered feedback from a survey put out by the school on the subject, as well as the number of cases in the community and trends across Taranaki schools.
"The Avon School Board cannot be assured of the health and safety of our tamariki, and staff, at school and have decided to continue with distance learning until the end of Term 1. School will recommence on site from Monday the 2nd of May."
The notice was signed by principal Rik Allen and school board presiding member Barb Reid. In response to questions from NZME about the decision, a statement was emailed from the principal.
The statement said the school was "open for learning" under the current alert level.
"We are open for anyone who needs to be at school while offering online learning to others. When surveyed, some whānau opted for a combination of hard pack and online learning."
Teachers connect with the 72 pupils enrolled at the school in a variety of ways, including daily Zoom sessions, and the school lunch programme has been suspended while pupils are learning off-site.
"I have personally connected with and spoken to whānau at school and by phone every day," Rik said in the statement.
In a later email to NZME, Rik said the school began offering a mix of online and hard pack learning to students on March 9 "... but (we) remained open for those who needed to be learning on-site. We assessed community needs a week later on 16 March."
Ministry of Education hautū (leader) for Te Tai Whenua (central area) Jocelyn Mikaere says they acknowledge the "great job" all schools and kura have been doing during the pandemic to support students, staff and communities.
"All schools and kura remain open for learning at Red under the Covid Protection Framework and will have their own plan that best meets the needs of all their students and staff, including off-site learning... We are aware the Avon School board of trustees has decided to transition to offsite learning for the remaining weeks of Term 1... We were not involved in the recent survey Avon School used to engage with their local community."
The school did not respond to a request from NZME for a copy of the survey, but the school website lists some of the survey findings. It states 90 per cent of those contacted "did not want to return, or understood if we could not reopen, under the current climate".
An update notice was posted on the school website on Friday last week.
Signed by principal Rik Allen, the notice acknowledged the board's decision to switch to online learning had been difficult for some.
"I appreciate there are a lot of unhappy and unsettled parents in our community. I understand how stressful this time is."
The board had considered many factors, including the need to get some building work completed at the school.
"Capital building works that we tried to get completed over the last Christmas school holidays have now started. Currently, we do not have any student toilets and our main block is a demolition site with work affecting all four classrooms. This week has been very noisy with demolition and this will increase when they start to use power tools. To counter this we only have the school hall to use as an alternative learning space which is not ideal but our only other option. There is additional work that will need to be completed to ensure the hall is compliant and fit for purpose. This work is intended to take between three to six weeks and, if not completed now, would disrupt the first four weeks of Term 2."
The board's decision had been "multi faceted" and "the whānau survey was one part of the bigger picture of what the board had to consider", Rik said in the update.
"However it is very important to myself, the staff and the board that this was included in the decision-making process. There was no easy answer and we know that any decision would impact whānau in different ways. We had to make the decision in which we could minimise the most impact for all stakeholders."