Health: School life at Alert Level 2 – your queries answered

Keep doing this – ensure that children and young people regularly wash and dry hands.

Schools have finally re-opened, but we should remain on full alert  as COVID-19 continues to lurk around New Zealand and, as other countries have already experienced, could bust out again.

Here’s a few answers to queries parents and teachers might have about the new “normal”.

What public health control measures are being put in place in schools at Alert Level 2?

Public Health officials have advised that schools are safe to be open at Alert Level 2, if appropriate public health control measures are put in place. Specific public health control measures to be taken in schools include:

  • Parents are asked to keep any sick children at home. If a sick child comes to school, schools will send them home.
  • Where possible, children, young people and staff should be far enough away from each other, so that they are not breathing on, or touching each other. This must be accompanied with good hygiene practices and regular cleaning of commonly touched surfaces. There does not need to be a specific measurement but where practicable one metre can be used as a guide, particularly between adults.
  • Hand sanitiser at entry to class rooms and in shared spaces. Soap, water and the ability to dry hands must be provided in bathrooms.
  • Where practicable ensure that children and young people regularly wash and dry hands, cough and sneeze into their elbow, and try to avoid touching their face.
  • Physical education classes and break time activities can include access to sports equipment including playgrounds but hygiene practice should be observed after playing with equipment.
  • Disinfect and clean all surfaces daily.
  • Contact tracing registers must be in place.

PPE is not required or recommended as necessary in any educational facility by the Public Health Service.

Upon advice from the local medical officer of health, any educational facilities connected to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 must close on an individual or group basis for 72 hours to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days.

Can parents and caregivers come on site at Level 2?

Yes – however physical distancing of two metres is recommended for parents and caregivers from people they don’t know (to align with public health measures outside the school grounds). Parents and caregivers who come on site need to be noted in the visitor register.

A reminder that you will already have contact information for parents and caregivers, so don’t need to collect those particular details each time they come on site. But will need to record their name and their time in and out of the school, including any classrooms they entered.

Can staff work across different sites and for different employers at Alert Level 2?

Staff can work in different schools on the same day, week etc. and for other employers.  Everyone will need to ensure they are recorded as being on site (through the timetable and/or visitor register) and following appropriate hygiene and other health and safety measures required by that school.

A reminder that for schools, physical distancing at Alert Level 2 means: if you can smell the person’s breath or feel that you are in that “moist breath” zone, move a little further away. Avoid touching others and for adults, it is recommended that where practicable you keep a metre distance between you.

Can students from other schools and external providers come on site at Level 2?

Yes – students from other schools and external providers will be able to go on site (eg technology centres, teaching specialist subjects, coaching teams).

Everyone will need to ensure they are recorded as being on site (through the timetable and/or visitor register) and following appropriate hygiene and other health and safety measures required by that school, including that shared equipment will also need to be regularly cleaned.

Can we use drinking fountains at Level 2?

Providing clean water at your school is part of your overall health and safety responsibilities.

The surfaces around the fountain including the spout, button/leaver and nozzles could pose a risk for the transmission of COVID-19 and other germs. Whether you continue to make your drinking fountains accessible will depend on the ability for your students and staff to use them safely:

Encourage students use personal water bottles

  • Don’t place your mouth on the spout of the fountain or allow your water bottle to come into contact with the nozzle when refilling.
  • Test the water flow and let the water flow for 10 seconds to allow for fresh, clean water to come through prior to drinking.
  • If the fountain requires you to push a button or lever, clean the surface before and after, or you could use your elbow, sleeve or a tissue.
  • If your hands have touched the fountain directly, clean them afterwards with soap and water or hand sanitiser if available

Regularly clean the surfaces of the fountain as part of your cleaning programme.

If you decide to not use your water fountains, you will need to provide a facility for refilling water bottles. This will need similar safety considerations however: not touching the water bottle to the metal/tap, cleaning the taps regularly and washing hands after touching the taps.