Welcome to Term One

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.
Hello dear parents and whānau,

This is not the first communication that I had anticipated to send to you all. It comes hot on the heels of an earlier communication this week from the board’s Covid-Response Committee regarding Alert Level Red.

I will not be repeating the board information but will be building on some points made in relation to the day-to -day running of the school.

We have challenging times ahead and I must ask you to reserve judgement about my writing style or levels of warmth as I communicate with you now. My message today is firm and filled with high expectations about what I anticipate from the school community as we endeavour to keep our school open during this Omicron outbreak.
My work is to secure the safety of our students and staff. My efforts are to delay staff and student sickness which may lead to a whole school closure.

Parents on the school site:
Unless vital (or part of the KG or Class 1 pick-up and drop off arrangement), parents simply must not be on site.
If you have urgent business which requires you to be on site, there will be signing in arrangements in the foyer. It would be wise to phone ahead, so we know to expect you.

The office is now contactless. Please phone Lucrece with any orders for stationery that you have.

We have established collection points at Hansen Park for Class 1 to 3 at the end of the school day. Children will remain in their class groups and be released to parents on the grass outside the Port Hills Athletic Club building.
We will continue to monitor and review the effectiveness of this short-term solution and advise you if pick up points change.

As the board information stated we will not be meeting with any parents under Red, at any time. Arrangements can be made with class teachers for a phone meeting, please do this via email in the first instance.

Students and the school site:

As a staff we will do our best to minimise movement between the KG/LS/US areas. This will be challenging in regard to some learning and for teachers who work with a mixture of year groups in LS and US. We certainly intend to separate the kindergarten area as one group.

Breaktimes will remain the same and the teachers have made individual plans for separated recreation areas for students across the school.

We will continue to review movement around the school in the first few days and advise you of changes if we feel additional communication about this is required.

The School Café will also be operating a contactless system from Tuesday 8 February. Gary will be advising the school community about this in a separate communication.

Regarding masks:
Omicron is a respiratory issue and masks are expected for anyone on site from Class 3 upwards. I have received a number of messages about children and parents that have mask exemptions but do not intend to display their exemptions (on a lanyard for example). While you may reserve the right to do this, I am disappointed about the additional burden this will place on all staff. I cannot imagine that this course of action will be helpful to us and would ask these families to reconsider their decision for everyone’s sake.
All staff will be supporting students (unless they have an exemption on display) to wear a compliant, fitted, face mask. The school will happily provide the correct masks for all children not wearing one.
If your child will not be wearing a mask, I ask that you support them to understand that social distancing and good hand hygiene will minimise some of the risks. This is also the continued message they will receive at school.
I trust each teacher to use their professional judgement in meeting the needs of their class and ensuring we remain inclusive and empathetic towards one another, especially at this difficult time. We will do our very best to reduce fear and anxiety that masks may create for some people and the possible impact between mask and non-mask wearing children and young people.
I will not be entering into any further discussions about whether masks should be the expectation in schools, or individual opinions about exemption certificates or vaccinations.

Regarding ventilation and classroom learning:
The board have already informed you about how they will be monitoring the associated risks regarding ventilation. It is our intention to use our outdoor spaces as much as possible, especially at this time of year. Please support your child or teenager to wear layers for school because classrooms will have all doors and windows open, and we may all feel rather chilly!

Any student who needs to self-isolate because they are an Omicron close contact will receive a notice to isolate that is issued to them by public health. This communication must be provided to the school immediately. Students cannot choose to self-isolate or self-diagnose without public health support.

Our special character:

It has been with a very heavy heart that we have had to postpone events, cancel working bees, class meetings, and prevent face to face parent-teacher exchanges. These are normally the pulse of the day-to-day life in any Waldorf school, but these are not normal times, and these will pass.

The decisions we are making will not prevent us from delivering the curriculum we all hold dear.

Should a part or whole school closure be necessary we will do our best to maintain the teaching and learning that upholds our Waldorf curriculum. We know we have improvements to make regarding the consistency of home learning opportunities that were offered in previous lockdowns. I expect all teachers to be well prepared to switch from face-to face to home learning with little warning, while maintaining our special character and a warm and connected relationship with each learner in their homes.

School communications:

I have heard very clearly that the school must improve on the quality and usefulness of communications, and I will be working hard to ensure from this week onwards you all feel ‘well-held’ particularly in this complex Covid landscape.

With that in mind I ask that you are equally responsive and follow the guidelines that have been shared with you this week. This also includes my expectation for calm and respectful communication from you all. And your co-operation in collecting your child swiftly at the end of the day, or if you are notified of possible sickness or issues around health and safety.

We simply cannot run the school without your commitment and support.

With thanks and gratitude,
Kia ora rawa atu. Ngā mihi mō tō manaakitanga mai, nā Caroline

Caroline Gray (she/her/Ms)
Te Kura o Rudolf Steiner i Ōtautahi | Christchurch Rudolf Steiner School