A Return to Alert Level 2: Some Things Will Never Change: 16 May 2020

At The Place Where I Work, we had an inkling that the New Zealand Government would announce on Monday, 11 May 2020 that Alert Level 3 would be dropped to Alert Level 2 due to the very few COVID-19 cases New Zealand had. We also expected that the shift from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2 would take place at midnight on Thursday, 14 May 2020 as previous shifts had taken place.

We wrote to our students to prepare them for this. If the alert levels changed, we would need to act fast, and we would let them know information on Monday and Tuesday this past week with possible further instructions later in the week.

Bases covered.

On Monday, 11 May 2020, the New Zealand Government announced New Zealand would be shifting to Alert Level 2 from 12 PM on Thursday, 14 May 2020. Most places would open as normal (with social distancing and contact tracing registers) on Thursday; all education providers of all levels (ours included) would open on Monday, 18 May 2020; and all bars would be allowed to open on Thursday, 21 May 2020. By then, everyone would fully be at Alert Level 2.

Our team had a meeting on Tuesday, 12 May 2020 — we’ve been having regular Zoom meetings on Tuesday over the last month or so — and we laid out a plan. It was decided I would let the students know, as it was easier coming from one person instead of several, and we would flesh out the plan even further on Thursday when we would meet, in person (finally), on campus.

I wrote the students that we would be reopening on Monday, that we would be sending out a contact tracing form and further instructions in 2 or more emails on Thursday after our meeting, and that we expected students to fill the form out and return it to us no later than Friday afternoon.

We put this message on social media platforms, in an email to them, and in texts to them as well.

On Thursday, our team had the meeting, we fleshed out the guidelines, approved the form, and okayed the information to be sent out.

I emailed an email version of the form, and a Word document version of the form, to all students later that morning, with instructions and the notice, again, that this form was due by Friday afternoon. I also put that information on our social media platforms, and our team texted our students to let them know that form was in their email and they needed to fill it out and return it by Friday afternoon.

The final email was full of instructions on the new way we would be operating in light of COVID-19 in the school. It was bullet-pointed information from the team meeting earlier that day. It also reiterated the form in the earlier email needed to be returned ASAP.

Kudos to those students who did return the form right away. I had one student who managed to print the form out, fill it out by hand, scan the form, then email it back to me within minutes of me sending it out.

We have about 70 students, and 50 returned their answers before Friday, which was great.

Friday rolled around, and I sent out another email to all students regarding the form. I probably should have processed the forms I had and then emailed the students, but some had sent it via Google Docs, which would not let me download them or forward them to my email address for some reason, so I needed to alert those students to send them to me again as an attachment to an email. The information on the form could be retrieved, so this wasn’t the highest priority (as I could fill out the student database with the up-to-date information for contact tracing purposes).

That Friday email also doubled as a reminder to the 20+ students who still hadn’t turned the form in that they needed to turn the form in. I mean, all the reminders up until then obviously didn’t seem to be enough? I’m not sure.

By 12:45 PM, there were still 21 students who had not sent the form back, so I texted those students to remind them. More forms came trickling in.

By 3:30 PM, I had 7 students outstanding with the forms. Again, another text. This managed to wheedle it down by a few more.

By 5 PM — the deadline — a few more of those students’ forms came in. There were 4 outstanding, 3 of which were vital as they were starting back up on Monday. 1 of them had told me via text that she’d send it through as soon as she got home from work. The other 3 of them I hadn’t heard back from.

Seeing as I’d spent all day on this task, and it was now the weekend, I decided to email the students with no response or no form and tell them we absolutely positively could not let them return without the form.

Under Alert Level 2, the Government requires us (and most businesses and schools) to contact trace with up-to-date information. Again, we made the decision that if a student did not provide us with up-to-date information, they were not allowed to attend until they did.

Saturday morning: still no responses from 3 out of the 4 students. One of the students — one who seemingly can’t respond back to an email on her phone, even though I gave her the same instructions I gave another student who successfully replied to the email on her phone — leaves a bit of a sob story email back to me from 1:45 AM on Saturday morning. Despite being really pissed off at her (because this isn’t the first time that a relatively easy, straight-forward task has become a five act opera with dramatic lighting, overbearing scenery, ballet dancers, a huge chorus, and a big fat her bellowing out a dramatic aria in the middle of the stage), I calmly write back to her with the last of a zillion solutions I have to see if that might help her send the form back. Some of the greatest hits included: have you tried logging on to your email account through the Web browser on your phone and replying that way? and; do you have a friend or family member whose phone or tablet or laptop you can sign on with your email account through the Web browser and reply that way?

No response. How on-form!

I text the student who texted me she was going to send it Friday night. This is at 10 AM on Saturday.

No response. Grr.

I text another one of the students about it.

No response.

By 11:30 AM, my weekend draining away before my very eyes, I write the student who texted me she was going to send it Friday night with the email I sent the other two: no form, no starting back on Monday.

I went and did my own thing for a while finally.

Around 12:15, a text finally from failed Friday night sender; she’s sent it through! Have I got it!?!

I’m busy shaving so I ignore it until I have a nice long shower.

Checking my email quickly before a very delayed lunch, I find I have that from from the failed Friday night sender. Quick text back: I have it. Quick data entry, quick email back to confirm as I’ve done with all students.

I sign into Moodle as a last resort for the student I’ve heard absolutely positively nothing back from. She last signed in about an hour ago. I open up the chat feature, send her a message, and log out.

Time for lunch.

2 PM, a response. She’s sent her form through.

Log back on to email. Quick text back to that student: I have it. Quick data entry, quick email back to confirm I have that form too.

Still nothing from drama student, and still nothing from the other student who will be coming in at some point but not on Monday as she’s doing portfolio work off-campus.

By 3 PM, I decide it’s time I actually did something for me and not work on the weekend. I email drama student and ask her how she’s getting on? As of nearly midnight, no answer.

She is going to get a good stern message from me, I can tell you that.

At the beginning of the course, it showed she might be eligible for Fees Free, and her history indicated she was eligible for it. All she had to do was fill out a form and send it in. Our team chased her around about it until my colleague confronted her about it and demanded to see the email she sent… and it was the wrong form and she hadn’t followed up on it at all. We had to put the hard lean on her to get her to get it done; do it or get kicked out owing us money. She finally complied.

Throughout the lockdown, she bellyached to whoever would listen (including her fellow students) that she was too stressed, she had her kids and it was too much, but when the tutors got back to her and asked her what her study plans were, and if she was managing her time correctly: nothing. It appears she is not managing her time correctly, especially from the instances where she can’t get forms turned in with any sort of haste.

Here we are, nearly midnight on Sunday, and the form due on Friday afternoon is still not turned in. That’s really poor management of time right there. It’s not rocket science. It’s a mere “reply”, and filling in the areas that need to be filled in, and then sending it back.

Every other student has done it.

She has an S7. It can handle that.

So it seems, the more things change in the world around us, the more things stay the same at the school.

I’m not sure if that is comforting or not, really.