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Miller Avenue School’s year 4 to 8 students need to wear masks at school under the Covid-19 red traffic light setting. Photo: GORDON PREECE

Measures help students adjust to masks

Miller Avenue School in Paeroa is holding regular outdoor mask breaks in an effort to control students’ emotional wellbeing during the current mask mandate.
Under the Covid-19 red traffic light setting, masks must be worn indoors by all staff and students years 4-13.
Miller Avenue School principal Richard Wilkinson told The Profile the outdoor mask breaks would take place for 20 minutes during classtime for year 4 to 8 students, who will keep to their bubbles.
“Kids aren’t used to wearing masks and a lot of them don’t know why they have these anxieties around mask wearing, especially students year 4 and upwards,” he said.
“You could have a child who’s sitting behind a mask who’s absolutely freaking out and we won’t even know until their eyes start watering.
“So for them to just go outside for 20 minutes, take their masks off and run around gives them some sort of normality.”
When students re-enter their classroom, they must sanitise, and anytime they touch their masks, they must sanitise again.
Richard said students were gently reminded to keep their masks on indoors.
“It’s so new to them and will take them some time to adjust,” he said.
“We’ve got a very good culture in this school where if someone isn’t wearing their mask properly, the kids will be very gentle about telling them.”
Richard said some students had applied for mask exemptions.
“We have a number of parents whose children suffer from asthma and the trauma of wearing a mask can bring on an attack,” he said.
“So we’ve given them a link to the official channels to apply for a mask exemption.”
Richard said the chool communicated the mask mandate message to parents from December, using different channels to cater to all accessibilities. “Rather than throwing out the information all in one hit, we did it in snippets,” he said.
“We used our social media page to remind parents they have to send their kids to school with their masks, and we did that three or four times.”
Miller Avenue school also used the Skool Loop app and newsletters or notices to communicate with parents.
Richard said his school had a plan of attack set out by the Ministry of Health to capture all details of a student or students who got Covid-19.
“The student or students have to be isolated, and then we’ll work through a process of identifying which kids were in that class and then we’ll work on a plan to advise the parents and then expect them to get their kids tested,” he said.
Richard said although he couldn’t legally ask students if they had been vaccinated, he knew a lot of the year 7-8 students were vaccinated over the holidays in preparation for getting back to school.