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Back to school … only for few

Kahutara School pupils Charlotte Powell 10, Zoey Powell, 7, and principal Charmaine Taplin on the first day back at school on Wednesday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Just two students were back at school at St Matthew’s Collegiate School on Wednesday – the other 300 or so set to remain home-schooled under Alert Level 3.

The same trend was seen across Wairarapa schools on Wednesday on the first day back after lockdown.

Children in the region have so far had five weeks away from school, but two of those were for school holidays that were brought forward by a week.

The government has directed that if children can be home schooled in Alert Level 3, then they should be.

St Mary’s School in Carterton has 11 children in class out of 130 enrolled for the duration of Alert Level 3. And despite the low turnout, principal Karen Goodall said it was lovely to see the children.

She said since reopening, they had put more hygiene systems in place and social distancing was enforced.

Even when the country shifts to Alert Level 2, she expected some children would continue to remain learning from home.

“Children from families with people that are immune compromised will be very cautious about having their children back and that is understandable.”

Rural Kahutara School had five children back on Wednesday but was expecting 10.

The principal Charmaine Taplin is teaching them while the other teachers are staying home and helping the rest of the school children via Google classrooms and holding Zoom meetings.

Taplin said the social distancing measure was very hard for the children and because they were a ‘small school rural bubble’, the parents were happy for her to allow some interaction.

“It is very unnatural for them to not physically interact and help each other in class and in the playground,” she said.

“The kids want to be close to each other and miss their friends.

“One child came up and hugged me –they have these close relationships.”

Taplin had the children out on their bikes at the playtimes, so the physical activity was not too close.

Masterton Intermediate School principal Russell Thompson said Wednesday was a “gorgeous sunny day to be back”.

He has a roll of 500 with only 15 returningon Wednesday.

He was concerned about children being on devices for hours and hours so had planned the school day to be at desks in the morning and creative time away from computers in the afternoon.

“We are developing a mural for the school hallway and holding a dance competition,” Thompson said.

“At first some of the children were apprehensive because the school was so empty, but actually never in history has there been such a high teacher to pupil ratio.

“We have two teachers to five children at the moment.”

St Matthew’s Collegiate School principal Kiri Gill said the two students back at her school had parents who were essential workers.

“We emphasised to our community that teachers are working from home so they are teaching as if still in Alert Level 4.

“That means your children continue to learn remotely.

“The directive was ‘if you can work and learn from home you should’.

“We have followed this directive knowing that safety is the first criteria at this time.

She said across the secondary sector, the numbers were consistently low for very much the same reasons.

“Being back is not quite being back. I guess it is like being at your house, but it becomes ‘home’ when the ‘heart’ arrives.

“Our heart, as it is for all schools, are the students and the staff – that is when the ‘home is where the heart is’.

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