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Colleges running on empty


Interaction sorely missed

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Term two has started, but Wairarapa’s high schools are empty.

Three principals ran their school on Friday with no students on the premises at all.

But they report that the self-sufficiency of online learning means students are readily going into Google classrooms or other online platforms.

Kuranui College principal Simon Fuller felt like a “duck out of water”.

He said so much of his day was usually taken up with social interaction and that was all gone.

“My whole job is about people, the teachers, parents, and the students.

“It certainly is odd to have school running and over 500 students not here.”

He has been organising grounds work and checking in with students and teachers.

The deans of departments were holding video conferences with the teachers in their subjects.

Fuller said now that teenagers could socially interact in “cyber space”, they were getting much of this personal connection with their peers online.

“I’m very proud of the team and have confidence in the children. This has never happened in modern times. We had a couple of weeks to go completely online and we’ve done it.”

He said some of his 46 teachers who lived alone were missing the interaction a lot and other older teachers were working hard to adapt quickly to the online schooling.

Makoura College principal Marion Harvey has a similar situation.

There are only one or two children coming in and then going home, so she has been managing an empty school. There were no students in school on Friday.

Harvey said the Zoom meetings and emailing took quite a bit of time.

“Towards the end of the week I got on the phone to my teachers and others as it was quicker and nicer to have that type of communication with them.”

Harvey has joined some of the Zoom classrooms to get a feeling for how things are going.

“I love teaching teenagers.

“They come in as children and leave as young adults and I am looking forward to the day they all come back to the school.”

At St Matthew’s Collegiate School, principal Kiri Gill had a light-hearted approach to running an “empty” secondary school.

“I know my staff and students are doing what they would be doing if they were here because I stay in touch … they may not be here in body at the moment, but they certainly are in spirit.’

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