Dear Community

Thank you for your support and unity in recent weeks.

The first month of the new academic year has been a challenging time for all New Zealanders, and Auckland/Counties Manukau in general have been most affected by the Omicron pandemic.

To the families who have returned their children to school, thank you. This email is written to give you an update on our COVID-19 procedures.

To the families who are hesitant to return their children to school, this email is written to give you reassurance that there are strong measures and systems in place, and that the school setting has a very low risk of COVID transmission.

We understand that there are many parents who are concerned about COVID-19, and as a parent I share your concerns and can empathize with the emotions you are feeling.

The Ministry of Education reopened schools in November 2021 with a clear message that they were safe places, with important precautions in place. We have multiple layers of protection in place:
-Our staff all meet the mandated requirements about vaccinations and boosters
-We have a strong culture of mask wearing, including mandated wear (staff and students in Y4 and above) and optional wear encouraged
-Controls set to create team ‘bubble’ groups, maintaining distance between these groups, and strong hygiene procedures in place
-No non-essential adults allowed on our school site during opening hours
-A focus on well ventilated and cleaned learning spaces, and monitoring of Carbon Dioxide to ensure rooms have good air movement
-Frequent time outside the classroom and making use of the outdoor environment.

Schools and Principals have been receiving up-to-date information and research from the Ministry of Education, professional bodies, and health organisations. Late last week, Principals shared a presentation from Dr Alison Leversha, a community pediatrician from the Auckland DHB. Apart from being reassured that the layers of protection in place at Pigeon Mountain School are considered highly effective, we also learned from the experiences of Australian (NSW) schools.
-Omicron infections within schools were rare (<5%) -The majority of infections take place from adults, within households (25-50%) -Adult to child transmission can occur but because schools have a vaccination mandate, and teachers work in a well ventilated space, with other controls like distancing and masks, this is unlikely to happen.

At Pigeon Mountain Primary School we have been relatively fortunate in the number of cases we have experienced, with less than 25 in a school of close to 600 children. Information received from the families involved gives us reassurance that these have definitely originated from, and have been passed within, families from adults at home – this is the nature of Omicron, and it is very effective at spreading through households.

As explained in our most recent newsletter (28th February), the Ministry of Education no longer requires us to notify all cases to our classes/community. This is for a number of reasons; it is not manageable for schools to notify every case, on every occasion. It also has implications for the privacy of those families whose children test positive for Omicron- they are not to blame, and the virus is highly effective at evading household precautions.

At Pigeon Mountain Primary School we continue to have well established layers of protection in place to help minimise cases:
-Mask wearing

These measures, together with the support of our school community who are actively keeping children who are unwell at home help us ensure that Pigeon Mountain Primary School is a safe place for your child to be.

As a parent, it is important that children continue to attend school each day. The only exception to this at Pigeon Mountain School will be when a teacher is forced to isolate at home, and staffing shortages make us switch a class to online learning for a short period of time. The rest of our teachers continue to do what they do best- deliver in-class learning to the students in their classroom.

Please take time to read about, and take reassurance from the measures we have in place to keep our students and teachers safe. By keeping children at home, not only are they losing valuable learning, but they are also missing out on social interactions with peers. Covid is likely to be in schools and communities for some time and we are learning how to adapt what we do to manage it, and to return to our routines whilst putting steps in place to avoid the virus.

Many thanks, Ian

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