Tahuna School principal Barbara Bowen with students Brooklyn Clark, Joseph Loft and Shaun Xu. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Schooling in times of social distancing


It’s not your typical Monday morning at Tahunanui School. Instead of the usual 240 students rushing into classrooms, just 13 children separate into two bubbles with a teacher each.

Classrooms are set up so children are two metres apart, and instead of desks they each have their own table.

“We let them bring a cuddly toy to school, as we can’t give them cuddles,” says principal Barbara Bowen.

This is what Level 3 school looks like.

“The children that are here are absolutely loving it, they are bouncing in the door and building a special bond with each other.”

Barbara says they have a senior bubble and one for the junior/middle school.

“It’s been a lot easier that we thought, the first day we were all a bit nervous. The children are very restricted with their movement, but teachers have been able to think of games they can play with physical distancing.”

Student Brooklyn Clark says she is happy to be back at school as it “got a bit boring” being locked up at home.

Barbara says there are still a lot of “what ifs” for what school under Level 2 will look like but says the Ministry of Education have been good at giving them the time and information to adapt.

The Ministry reported that 660 students from the Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast region attended school on Monday, which is three per cent of total roll numbers.

Just six children are attending Victory Primary School in Level 3, according to deputy principal Glenda Rapley.

“We have one bubble with two teachers. The health and safety of our students and staff has a very high priority and during this time we have had as few people, physically at school as possible.”

Nelson Central School has 18 children attending, while Clifton Terrace School has an average of 10 per week.

“Our attendees are very happy and seem to be enjoying life in their new bubbles,” says Principal Rob Wemyss.

While most secondary school students continue to learn from home, a small number are on site. Nayland College principal Daniel Wilson says they have only had between four and six students each day, who have been supervised within a bubble working on their home learning programmes.

“We are breaking up the day by ensuring they have some physical activity as well.”

Early childhood centres across the region are also continuing to operate.

On Monday, 224 children from the Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast region attended an ECE service – four per cent of the total roll number, and 37 per cent had children onsite.