Around 70 per cent of Te Awamutu College's senior students returned to school on Tuesday, while the rest are holding off their return until they get a better idea of what learning in a classroom is like amidst the current pandemic, says school principal Tony Membery.
Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that senior students (Years 11-13) could go back to school for onsite learning within alert level 3 restrictions.
This call was welcomed by Tony.
"I was pleased to hear the Government's decision that Years 11-13 could return to school, for the sake of their learning, gaining vital NCEA credits, their wellbeing and their mental health," says Tony.
He said students and staff were also pleased to be able to reconnect and to resume face-to-face (but masked) teaching and learning.
But the return to school did not come without concern.
"There can be no doubt that recent Covid cases in the Te Awamutu area have heightened awareness, anxiety and frustration," says Tony.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced that all school and early learning staff who come into contact with students must be double-dosed by January 1 next year, and have their first dose by November 15.
Secondary students don't need to be vaccinated but their vaccination status must be registered with the school.
All school employees were required to return a one-off negative test before going back to school in level 3 and those who aren't vaccinated must get tested weekly.
Distance learning continues for Te Awamutu College students through Years 9-10 as risk of exposure to the virus is higher for younger age groups.
Currently, children aged 12 years and under are unable to get the vaccine.
A return to school for junior secondary school students is not being ruled out and rostered attendance and outdoor learning are ideas that are being explored.
NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship exams are less than four weeks away, starting November 22, and will proceed despite disruption to learning.
In regions experiencing Covid-19 disruption in Term 4 when students are normally preparing for exams, NZQA has confirmed these students will be eligible for an
'Unexpected Event Grade', recognising the work they have done.
Students in these regions who cannot attend an exam because of a specific Covid-19 disruption will receive their Unexpected Event Grade. Where they do attend the exam, they will receive the better of their exam grade or their Unexpected Event Grade.
Unexpected Event Grades are based on evidence gathered by teachers during the year, and undergo a quality assurance process to make sure they relate to the standard being assessed.