What education will look like at Alert level 2

All children and young people will be able to return to on-site learning at Alert Level 2.

New Zealand remains at Alert Level 3. On 7 May however, the Prime Minister announced what Alert level 2 will look like for education services. On May 11, the Government will announce whether New Zealand will move to Alert Level 2, or remain at Alert Level 3.

Public health advice is that schools, early learning services and tertiary institutions are safe to open onsite at Alert Level 2 to all learners. People will no longer need to stick to their bubbles at Alert Level 2 and can meet with friends and family. But people need to play it safe and continue to take sensible health and safety precautions.

At Level 2, almost all children and young people will be able to attend early learning services, schools and kura onsite, including students in years 11 to 13. The only exceptions are children or young people who are sick have any COVID-19 symptoms, are in isolation, or are awaiting the result of a test. Distance learning will still be available for those who need to remain at home, and Ministry staff will continue to support children with learning support needs where they are required to remain at home.

Playground, sports equipment use and sports, including contact sports, can resume at Alert Level 2 under certain conditions. School transport services will also return to normal schedules. The ongoing safety of drivers and students and the ability to contact trace will be a priority at Alert Level 2.

Residential Special Schools, Day Special Schools and satellite units will all reopen at Alert Level 2. Playcentres and playgroups can also meet, provided the public health measures for early learning services are in place. School hostels can fully return to occupation at Level 2, and OSCAR, along with other before and after school programmes, can resume. The Food in Schools programme will also be fully operational (with extra health provisions).

Most schools and early learning services are already open at Alert Level 3. Schools and early learning services will keep in contact with parents as they work through their plans to reopen to all learners and shift to Alert Level 2.

Schools won’t move to Alert Level 2 midweek. Whenever the decision is made, they will open at the beginning of the following week Tertiary students should check their institutions onsite opening plans with their providers.  

Public health advice, based on experience in New Zealand and overseas with COVID-19 over the last four months, shows that it does not infect or affect children and teens in the same way it does adults. Children and teens have low infection rates, they don't become that unwell if they do get infected, and they don't tend to pass the virus on to adults.

Two key public health principles support our education approach to Alert Level 2. These are to minimise the risk that someone gets infected in the first place, and to ensure we can identify and contact anyone who has been in close contact, if someone in an education institution is infected.

Strong public health control measures will be in place in all education institutions, including learners and staff staying home if they are sick, contact tracing, and safe  hygiene requirements. If a school or early learning service has a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, they must close for 72 hours to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days.

Alert Level 2 is all about being safe and sensible and this is the approach that goes through our guidance to schools and services. So physical distancing will remain important in schools where possible.

The Ministry is working with the education sector on further guidance on the implementation of public health control measures at Alert Level 2. Ministry regional staff will also be supporting individual school and services to develop and implement their Alert Level 2 plans and to provide information to parents, caregivers and whānau.

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