COVID-19 Community Update

Witherlea School: Friday 28th January, 2021

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Principal Update

Kei aku nui, kei aku rahi, tēnā koutou katoa i roto i ngā āhuatanga o te wā;

Welcome back after what we hope has been a wonderful summer for your whānau. Our team is feeling refreshed and ready to go for the 2022 year and can’t wait to welcome all learners back onsite.

We begin the school year on Tuesday 1st February for ALL students and want to ensure they and you, our community, are as prepared as possible.

In regard to COVID-19 we have moved fully into the new traffic light framework for all our school and kura activities and events this year (see the framework below). You will be familiar with all the health measures we will have in place and it is good to know that at Red setting, we are able to support everyone learning onsite.

Our aim is to keep the school gates open for as long as we can in 2022. Following the guidelines and mandates will give us the best possible chance of this.

You can help us by;

  • NOT coming onsite unless totally necessary or if SICK
  • Getting tested if sick and inform the school immediately if you or your child test positive
  • Masks, scanning and 2-meter distance if onsite (and at gate)
  • Limit congestion at our gate - organise meeting points with your children or use one of our 5 exits
  • Making sure your children are not at school before 8:30am as they have to congregate on the top court
  • Mask wearing is mandatory for Year 4-6 students and teachers indoors (exemption cards and letters to be provided) = we have limited supplies so please ensure your children have one for Day 1

Events and activities

Large hui and gatherings especially when indoors continue to be one of the riskier activities we can undertake. We have therefore reviewed all our events and activities for the upcoming term to ensure we meet the health guidance for Red.

We will have NO parents other than our 'new students' at our Mihi Whakatau (Welcome - Flag Raising) on Tuesday, our first day or throughout the term. We are using our Flag Raising Hui to give out awards as it is outdoors however we will not be singing or having assemblies that are held indoors.

Our annual "Meet the Teacher" this year will be sent to all parents digitally introducing the teachers, their classroom, how they operate and how to keep in touch with them or get in touch with them.

Face coverings

Staff and children in Years 4-6 must wear face coverings when inside at school when we are at Red. You will see all our teachers wearing masks in common areas or at the gates however our Year 0-3 teachers will not use these for teaching unless they choose to.

We will have a small supply of masks (when they arrive) however we ask that you ensure your child/children have their own set so they can be washed. We will be directly teaching how to wear these, how to keep them clean and when/where to take them off during school.

Public health advice is that an appropriate face covering will fit snugly and seal well around facial contours. This can include single-use, disposable masks (medical masks) and re-usable fabric masks with three layers.

Don’t worry if you don’t have these specific types of face coverings, as public health experts also say that any face covering is better than no face covering.

Exemptions for mask-wearing will need either a letter or a card shown to the classroom teacher who will record this and store it on our SMS system. It is important to note that exemptions should be sought for students who have particular conditions rather than 'do not want to wear one' scenarios.

The Unite Against COVID-19 website also has information on how to make a face covering.

For those of you with children who might be reluctant to wear a face covering, there is some helpful advice from Michigan Health, including using simple, specific explanations about why they need to wear a face covering, adults being the role models, providing small rewards for wearing them, bringing face coverings into play such as drawing face coverings on characters in colouring books or letting them choose/make the mask.

Staying Connected

Seesaw will be available in all classrooms to connect with the learning and see how your child is progressing throughout the year. It is a wonderful tool to use to stay connected. Our students from Year 3-6 have Google Accounts and from Year 4-6 in Kowhai and Kauri can access learning through Google Classroom and Hāpara.

Chromebooks are an ideal tool for Year 3-6 students as they have no setup or hardware and can connect all students through their Google Account from school to home and back again. Unless we are in Lockdown it is unlikely that we will distribute Chromebooks as they are needed onsite at school however keeping in contact with your classroom teacher will be the best plan to support learning for 2022.

The teachers in all teams have plans underway to support learning at home if one or all of a class was required to stay at home. This has been a work-on from 2021. We are learning every single year and while our expectation is that every child will be onsite we are ready for anything.

Your continued support, following the guidelines, ensures we can operate the school as normal as possible for our students.

Ngā manaakitanga,

Andrea Harnett - Tumuaki

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Positive Cases @ Witherlea

Managing cases in our school

We have a good contact tracing system in place so that if there is a confirmed case who has been at school while infectious, we can quickly identify who was a close contact of that person.

We will then quickly advise those contacts of what they need to do.

Only if the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Education advises to do so, would we consider closing a physical onsite school and moving to distance learning for everyone. At Red we will keep everyone learning onsite for as long as we can.

Please make sure the contact details we have on file are up to date, so we can get in touch with you if needed.

Preparing for COVID-19

You can also prepare for COVID-19, making sure you and your household have a plan and know what to do. This will mean your whānau and community can help each other if needed. Find out more here:

Self-isolating at home because of COVID-19

Many people will be able to manage self-isolation with help from friends and whānau, but there is help available if you need it – both with health support and access to food and other essentials.

If you know anyone in your community affected by COVID-19 and who may need help, such as food and other financial assistance, Work and Income has a range of supports available for individuals, families, employers and self-employed people affected by COVID-19.


We have used the Ministry of Education self-assessment tool to review all our ventilation in readiness for the start of the year. Our state of the art heating/cooling and ventilation system ensures that we have good ventilation in our learning spaces to minimise risk for ākonga / learners and kaiako / teachers. We will also be receiving a CO2 monitor in the coming weeks to further support our ventilation plan.

Omicron and testing

We have all seen the very large numbers of cases overseas and we will very likely see much larger numbers of cases in Aotearoa than we have previously experienced in the last two years. While Omicron is more transmissible than previous strains, most people who get COVID-19 will have a mild to moderate illness and will fully recover in their own homes.

However, some of our community who are immune-compromised, are ill or have other vulnerabilities, even when they are fully vaccinated, could be more affected by Omicron. So, we all need to continue to play our part to minimise the spread of the virus.

In regard to testing, the health system currently has the capacity to process 40,000 PCR tests a day. PCR testing is the most accurate test for COVID-19 and will continue to be used while New Zealand is in the stamp-it-out phase.

Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) will begin to be used more widely over time. They are not as accurate as PCR tests and this means that some people who do have COVID-19 will get a negative test result back. There are currently 4.6 million RATs in the country and 10s of millions ordered.

If you are symptomatic or need to be tested to access a workplace or service, you will be guided at the time on which test is best for you.

Work and Income support

The beginning of the year can be a tough time for parents who are faced with many costs and it is important you are aware of what assistance you may be able to get from Work and Income. These are available to people on a low income as well as those on a benefit.

Check what you might get here;

Use the links above or call 0800 559 009 to find out more, or to apply. MoneyTalks can assist with free budgeting and debt help

You can also contact your local community provider. Please find more information here.

Getting ready to return to school

The Ministry of Education has some helpful information on their Parents and Whānau website to support your tamariki to get back to school. There is also a very important reminder about how you can take care of yourself.

While this might all feel a little overwhelming at times, we know that all these measures will help our children return to school, reconnect with whānau and friends and do what they enjoy.

We are also here to help. Please get in touch if you have any concerns or need help in any way.

Witherlea School Website - Learning Links

Click on the button to go to our page with links to On Demand TV, Ministry of Education Online Learning website, our own Witherlea Learning Portal and support and services that may be required.

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Accurate Information

COVID has taught us a few important lessons throughout 2020 and 2021. The need for accurate and up to date information is vital.

This means;

  • Correct address (for dropping off learning packs or devices)
  • Correct phone numbers and emergency contacts (if your child becomes a close contact or is SICK and needs to be picked up)
  • Correct email address (for our COVID Updates and Newsletters)
  • Parents to have downloaded; School App, Seesaw

These are vital for us navigating our COVID response in 2022. This is the new world we live in and will help us best support the learning of all students and keep our community safe this year.

Forms will be sent home from our Office for checking and we require these back to make any changes or updates to your information.

Vaccination for five- to 11-year-olds

Vaccination including a booster shot, remains an important tool to help prevent the most serious harm from the COVID-19 virus. If children and young adults who have been vaccinated do develop COVID-19, they are far less likely to get seriously ill and less likely to transmit the virus to others.

The free five- to 11-year-old vaccination programme is now underway and more than 100,000 children in New Zealand have had their first dose.

There is some helpful information available to support you on the Unite Against COVID-19 website including How to book a vaccine for your five – 11 year old and some great videos on the Kids Health page that can support you to talk to your tamariki about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Witherlea School is passing this information on to our community to ensure everyone is in the know however all students, vaccinated or not will be learning together.