Schools across Whanganui are gearing up for the shift to alert level 3, bringing with it the return to classroom learning - albeit in a very limited capacity.
The entire country south of Auckland moved to level 3 at 11.59pm last night.
For schools, the change in alert level means they can now reopen, though only for children of essential workers.
All students who are able to are asked to continue remote learning.
At Whanganui Intermediate School, 50 students will be learning onsite, while the remaining 500 will continue learning via distance - a split that principal Kathy Ellery said had proved a real balancing act.
"There's a split, and the 50 onsite obviously need teachers on hand. But the remote learning is going fantastic, and the model for the staff and students onsite is more streamlined."
The school will operate five bubbles of no more than 10 children. Each student is socially distanced within the classroom, and each bubble will have a different break time.
A group of teachers will be responsible for each individual bubble, swapping out day-by-day.
"We have a team to each bubble - we can't have the same teacher in every day. It's just too tiring for them. Each bubble has a support team, basically."
Ellery said the school had arranged the onsite model so its 26 staff with children of their own could remain at home to care for them.
Remote learning is continuing, with around 250 of the school's devices delivered to households around the city.
"I think we are doing well, and we're getting a really high engagement rate with the kids attending.
"We're just ready to get going with onsite learning now."
Carlton School principal Gary Johnson said they were following much the same process with their 20 children set to learn onsite.
Johnson and his assistant principal will each be in charge of a bubble, with some support staff such as teacher aides on hand to help the 10 students in each bubble.
"What we have found is that kids are pretty adaptable. Last time it worked okay, and it is a bit of a novelty."
The school's remaining 230 students will continue to learn remotely.
"What we've tried to do is keep all of our classroom teachers engaged in off-site learning so that's their one focus.
"Our younger students, they've got hard packs of materials. They're all sort of working on the concept of utilising what's at home, like baking or counting pegs, or writing about what's happening during the day."
Whanganui High School principal Martin McAllen said the school had only eight students who had signalled their intent to return to school.
"Under alert level 3 we are continuing almost completely with our distance learning programmes - nearly all students will continue to learn from home."
McAllen said 91 per cent of the school's students had access to their own device for remote learning, while the remainder were loaned a school device to continue their studies.
McAllen said while the school's remote learning model was strong, it was important that students were involved in other activities that did not require them to learn almost exclusively from a screen.
"Remote learning is going very well in nearly all cases – we have an effective balance of Google Classroom-based teaching from Year 9 to Year 13, paper-based work and project activities.
"We don't want students to be just sitting in front of their Chromebooks for six hours a day so it is important that they have a healthy and well-balanced learning programme."
Alert level 3 guidelines mean that only Years 9 and 10 students can learn at school if required, with older NCEA-aged students required to learn from home.
McAllen said with NCEA exams pushed back by two weeks due to the lockdown, students are generally coping well.
"Everybody understands that there is a much bigger challenge facing New Zealand at present and keeping things in perspective is always important."