Alert Level 1 FAQs for Schools and Early Learning Centres

Can my child go to school or Early Learning Services at Alert Level 1?

At Alert Level 1, all children and young people can go to school or Early Learning Services and all school-aged students must attend. The only exceptions are children or young people who are sick or have any COVID-19 symptoms, are in isolation, or are awaiting for the result of a test.

What about children and young people who have existing conditions?

It continues to be safe to attend schools and early learning services at Alert Level 1. Talk with the early learning service manager or school Principal if you have any concerns. They will have a range of hygiene and cleaning measures in place to support the safety and wellbeing of your child.

Can you take temperatures of your students and/or staff when they arrive at school?

If someone is showing signs of a fever, you may want to take their temperature as part of your usual first aid response to inform medical practitioners and/or parents and caregivers. That individual can refuse to have their temperature taken and you may want to seek a parent’s or caregiver’s permission before you do so.

Otherwise, you do not have a right to take student temperatures as a matter of course which may result in preventing their attendance at school. Taking temperatures is not part of the public health requirements for COVID-19. It is also not an overly effective tool to screen for people who might have symptoms of COVID-19. The symptoms are varied and the majority of people only have mild symptoms, particularly children. Someone who has a fever looks unwell. You don’t have to take their temperature to suspect they have a fever.

As noted in the health and safety guidance school staff are to observe students on arrival into the classroom checking for symptoms and ask those presenting as unwell to go home (or arrange for parents and caregivers to come and pick up).

Health and safety guidance at Alert Level 1 [DOCX, 69 KB]

Best practice to prevent COVID-19 from spreading continues to be asking people to stay away if they feel ill, good cough/sneeze etiquette and washing hands regularly.

Can I ask my staff to get tested for COVID-19?

There is no general legal right for an employer to require employees to undertake medical testing. Such testing can only occur with the employee’s consent. Nor is an employee required to provide the outcome of any such testing to their employer (unless they consent to this).

If someone is showing signs of COVID-like symptoms, they should remain at home and seek advice from their GP or Healthline. This may result in being advised to get tested for COVID-19.

In some circumstances it may be possible to require an employee to provide evidence that they are fit to return to work, but if you are considering this, you are strongly encouraged to seek assistance from NZSTA.

A test is also a moment in time and does not provide any guarantee that someone who is negative today won’t contract COVID-19 in the near future. For more information on how COVID-19 is spread go to the Ministry of Health website:

COVID-19 information – Ministry of Health website(external link)

Hand hygiene, cough etiquette, staying away if sick and physical distancing, remain the best measures to prevent spread of COVID.

What do I do if someone is sick but won’t go home?

If you are the principal of a state school, you can preclude a student who you believe on reasonable grounds may have a communicable disease (Section 19 Education Act). The student has to stay away for the infectious period of the specific disease.

Section 19 of the Education Act does not apply to private schools. If you are the principal of a private school, you can request that a student or staff member with a communicable disease or that is suspected of having a communicable disease, does not attend. For both state schools and private schools, if the person doesn’t comply, you can ask the Medical Officer of Health at your local Public Health Service for support, which could include a direction under the Health Act.

Only medical experts have the ability to determine if the signs of illness presented in staff and students is influenza, early stages of measles, the COVID-19 or some other illness which has similar symptoms. However, presenting symptoms along with any relevant information such as close contact with someone diagnosed with illness or recently travelling in a region known to carry risk of infection, should inform your decision about the application of Section 19.

You must inform the Medical Officer of Health, the student’s parents and your school Board of Trustees if you take action under Section 19:

Communicable diseases in early learning services and schools: a guide to legal powers

I have a staff member with allergies who sneezes a lot – do they have to stay away?

The vast majority of adults, children and young people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will not have COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include new onset or worsening of one or more of the following:

  • cough
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • temporary loss of smell.

These symptoms are similar to a range of other illnesses, like influenza. Having them doesn’t mean a person has COVID-19, but you should remain vigilant.

Shortness of breath can indicate pneumonia, and requires urgent medical attention.

Children and adults with asthma, hay fever, allergies, ear infections or other acute or chronic conditions may have similar symptoms.

Before someone is sent home, they should be feeling unwell and there should always be a conversation with the staff member or caregiver to determine whether there is another explanation for the symptoms that may mean that they do not pose a risk to others and do not need to go home.

Do I have to include parents who are doing drop offs and pick-ups in our visitor register?

No you don’t. Schools and early learning services are no longer required to keep a contact tracing register, but as is usual practice will continue to keep a visitor register and maintain their attendance register (and will need to work with local health authorities to identify close contacts, in the unlikely case there is someone with COVID linked with the school or service).

To support contact tracing however, you are encouraged to display a QR Code poster for the NZ COVID Tracer app – see the Ministry of Health template.

NZ COVID Tracer QR codes – Ministry of Health website(external link)

What cleaning do I have to do at Alert Level 1?

There are no requirements for cleaning at Alert Level 1. It is recommended that high-touch surfaces are cleaned and disinfected regularly.

 

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