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Photo by CGHS Publication

Tēnā koutou katoa

Christine O’Neill —

Nau mai haere mai! Welcome back to all our students and families. It has been lovely seeing all our students back with a 99.5% uptake of masks.

That’s a brilliant effort from all of you. We also think we have quite high rates of vaccination across the student population and all our staff are vaccinated and now are required under Public Health Order to also have their boosters. All staff are wearing required medical grade and above masks. With our student response to mask wearing in addition to high vaccination we have an environment which is as protected as it can be compared to many places, even while being an organisation of 1370 people.

It is going to be an interesting term as we return in the context of Omicron. I have spent time talking with each year level as they arrive about the school value of rangatiratanga. Every single one of our students is able to develop the leader in them especially in adversity and in this COVID context. We talked about how difficult things in life can affect them but what defines them is how they decide to respond to adversity. This does not mean there may not be times of sadness, stress or anxiety. It is good to seek help if they are feeling like this or talk to parents or a school adult they trust. However, working through adversity creates resilience, optimism and confidence that they can manage and overcome life’s hurdles. There are also opportunities to lead in a more creative way and their leadership is even more important in a challenging situation. This applies in particular to our Year 12 and 13 senior students.

Our extremely high mask wearing rate and vaccination levels make our environment as protected as it can be. At the same time I have spoken to the students about the value of aroha and that a very small number of students may have exemptions or medical certificates that others will not know the reason for. So for that tiny number inclusion is important and students should not shame them or ostracise them. Masks are mandatory at all times indoors for us all (students and staff) but not outside. Except in wet or cold weather students are to be outside for interval and lunch and it will be good for them to have a break from their masks. If the weather is wet or cold year levels will be assigned areas of the school to have lunch in classrooms but can eat with who they want to. Masks can be off while eating but should be put back on indoors once they have finished the food. I have asked students to be aware of those they usually sit with for contact tracing purposes. We know exactly who the contacts are when they are in class periods.

Please keep the communication lines open. In the initial phase MOH are most likely to communicate a case to us as soon as the case is informed, but as the surge develops and it becomes overwhelming it may be that you are the first to let us know. So please if you hear from the MOH that you are a case or a close contact please let senior leadership know immediately through principalseEA@cghs.school.nz

We have been advised by the MOE that close contacts must self-isolate at home for 10 days post exposure and test immediately and on days 5 and 8 post exposure. They must continue to isolate until a negative day 8 test result is received and 10 days has passed since exposure. They will be advised by public health when they can return to school. Secondary contacts or casual contacts are not required to isolate but must watch for symptoms for 10 days and get tested immediately if any develop. The one exception to this is household members of an identified close contact. Public health will manage household contacts of a close contact and it may or may not mean isolation based on their advice.

We have undertaken business continuity planning with various scenarios depending on the surge progression ranging from business as usual with all of us on site and learning as relatively normal, through to hybrid models of collapsed classes as more staff and students are away, rostering a year level away a day, some year levels on site and some on remote learning at home, triaging those who are here into groups with a supervising teacher, through to full school online learning should it become impossible to operate the site for a range of critical reasons. There are a range of possibilities. Our focus is to be open for instruction and to have supervision for Under 14 students even when the school might be on remote learning. Schools are critical to enabling parents to go to work in supply chains, medical services, police and critical infrastructure roles.

We know we can do this as a community and our students know they can manage this as Team CGHS.

Ngā mihi nui

Christine O’Neill