School’s Back! New Zealand Students Return at Alert Level 2: 18 May 2020

Today, we woke up 15 minutes early so we could get to The Place Where I Work (a tertiary education organisation) a little earlier to prepare for students returning to school in Alert Level 2. With a combination of leaving 20 minutes earlier than normal and less-than-normal amount of traffic on the roads, we arrived with plenty of time to spare.

The new start of the day goes like this: the front door of the school is now locked. Students ring a doorbell for entry. One of the team opens the sliding glass doors to let the students in. Today, we had to show the students to their homerooms, so because my colleague in my department has a bad back, I volunteered to show the students through while she opened the door. It worked mostly.

The students were excited to be back, and that was nice. We spoke about a lot of different things as I showed them to their homeroom. The homeroom concept is new; we have a common area large enough to hold them all, but that is one giant health and safety hazard, so we have assigned each class a room which they must stay in for most of their 4 hours studying with us.

It’s something we have to adapt too as well. We are also only human and none of us have lived through a pandemic as virulent as this. The closest some of us could get to something similar is the gay members of our team (including me) with the AIDS epidemic. The difference with this is that with HIV and AIDS, it is spread through some bodily fluids and mostly through sexual intercourse. COVID-19 can spread by people talking or sneezing or coughing. The latter is obviously able to spread much quicker.

The Place Where I Work has an amazing air conditioning system which replaces all the air in most of the building within 5 minutes and has HEPA filters. That’s a really good thing.

Our tutors handed out face masks my husband (and the co-owner of the company) bought for the students. They are cloth but black and sturdy. An order of face shields also arrived, and each student received one of those free too. It was a good chunk of money spent but it was well spent to keep our students safe.

My husband gathered all the team and students in the common area (all socially distanced, all standing, all with face masks on) and spoke to them all about going forward now. I think they appreciated hearing that, and we tried to brief them on as much health and safety knowledge as we could to repeat the email we sent to them last week before we came back. Wash hands, be vigilant, wash hands, keep safe.

It was strange to see the new normal. We’ve had new normals after the quakes. Talk of magnitudes, peak ground acceleration, where you were during the big shakes, drop, cover, and hold; these were all the common lexicon then. There is new lexicon now.

For me, it was nice to reconnect with the other team members a bit more today. And it was nice to be in another area other than home to do my work.

Our sign writer Aaron, who we have known now for at least 20 years, came in and put up a lot of our new signage that got delayed due to COVID-19. It was nice to see such a nice new freshness for the school and premises after the 7 to 8 weeks we were away. And we always talk a bit, so it was nice to catch up with him too.

In New Zealand, there was 1 new COVID-19 case yesterday, a toddler boy, here in Canterbury. He got the virus from a family member living with him linked to one of the rest home clusters here in Christchurch. That cluster was the one that has killed the most people in New Zealand sadly. But the boy seems to be fine.

It was one case out of a few over the last week or so. Two of the others were “weak positives” and the people showed symptoms months ago, so the authorities believe maybe there could be dead cells in their nasal cavities. Some of the others work in healthcare and were infected that way. Most days, though, including today? There have been 0 cases again. Let’s hope and pray it stays that way.

96% of those infected have now recovered. That’s good news too.

Well, my readers, I must head to bed now. I didn’t sleep the best last night and my sleep over the last few days has seen me ping wide awake around 3 AM — something left over from the quakes, methinks, that surfaces every now and then — so hopefully tonight will be better.

Stay safe and stay in your bubble.