While New Zealand's Omicron outbreak has seen record numbers of positive cases over the past months, students at ACG Tauranga have remained actively engaged and connected to the ACG community – even when isolating at home.
Throughout the 2022 school year, our team of specialist teachers and educators has provided a highly interactive and robust online programme for those isolated at home. And as the status of the government's traffic light framework has changed and developed, our flexible approach has allowed us to update our own online offerings to better suit the needs of our students.
Based on our experience, expertise and understanding of virtual classroom environments, all online learning is conducted within the Microsoft Teams platform. This enables students across all year levels to join classes from home as appropriate or to connect via the chat function when working on independent tasks. It allows them to immerse themselves in class discussions, ask questions to clarify understanding, and feel they are still actively participating in each and every lesson.
In addition, our young learners communicate online for group work, leadership meetings and other structured activities, further emphasising the feeling that this is simply another school day.
Our teachers are also extremely responsive to the number of isolating students and the duration of the isolation periods themselves. And they have gone to great lengths to keep everyone engaged and connected while they self-isolate and recover. Alongside our structured lesson plans, teachers use a range of applications to generate hands-on tasks for those at home to ensure their practical learning remains uninterrupted.
This flexible programme means hybrid learning at ACG Tauranga can continuously evolve to meet the current environment dictates, such as the five-day self-isolation period now required after testing positive for Covid-19. Our goal is to ensure all students can return to school as quickly and effectively as possible to maximise their academic, social and emotional wellbeing.
Humbled by the programme's ongoing success, Principal Thea Kilian continues to receive positive feedback from appreciative parents.
"With up to 20 per cent of our student body in isolation at different stages throughout Term 1, keeping students actively engaged and connected was crucial in terms of their academic progress and overall wellbeing.
"Being in isolation can be incredibly challenging, especially when you start feeling better. Giving our students a clear purpose and strong sense of accountability while maintaining strong connections with their teachers and peers is as important as keeping up with their schoolwork."
Year 13 student Molly Thompson couldn't agree more.
"As I'm in my final year at ACG Tauranga, it has been very important for me to stay connected with my learning and goals for the year," she confirms. "With another tricky year navigating the pandemic, not only was I able to learn how I normally would in a classroom setting, but I was able to complete assessments and have access to one-on-one support from my teachers via the hybrid programme."
Adds Molly's parents, Raechel and Kerry, "With this being the third year of Covid in our lives, we are so grateful that ACG Tauranga continues to offer an outstanding online learning platform. While Molly was recently isolating due to household contacts, she has been able to continue her learning through the hybrid programme with exceptional teaching, support and encouragement from the staff."
Likewise, many other parents have been delighted with the level of learning and social interaction their children have been able to experience while studying from home.
Emma Bunyan, whose daughter Bella is in Year 13, reports, "The hybrid learning programme worked well for our family recently, as our daughter was unwell with Covid-19 and did not want to fall behind in her subjects.
"Great communication with her teachers and the utilisation of technology allowed Bella to work and study as normal and keep in touch with her classmates. We really appreciated the extra effort from her teachers to ensure she had all the tools she needed, as well as the care they showed when she was unwell."
And Samantha Ogden, whose three children – Flynn, Asher and Saxon – all attend ACG Tauranga, shared the following comments on her family's complete confidence in the online programme.
"I never had to worry about the children falling behind with the work that was happening in class because although they were at home, they were still 'in class' asking their teachers questions. We also like the continuity of learning; having the same teachers even when the teachers themselves were home isolating was amazing."