COVID-19 Information for Boards


Has the board’s role changed because of COVID-19?

No, the board’s role is still governing the school. The principal still has responsibility for operational matters. The only thing that may change for some schools is that the Secretary for Education now has temporary emergency powers including the power to:

  • Direct a school to open or close, or vary their hours
  • Direct how they operate, and how they are controlled or managed
  • Direct education providers to provide education in specified ways, such as through distance or online learning

These powers will only be used when absolutely necessary in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mandatory vaccination requirements – School board meetings held by electronic means

No board business can be transacted unless a quorum of the board is present at the meeting. A quorum is more than half of the board members currently holding office. 

COVID-19 mandatory vaccination requirements could, potentially, mean that a board is unable to convene a quorum at a face to face meeting.

Regulation 12 (1) of the Education (School Board) Regulations 2020  requires a school board to hold a meeting within 3 calendar months of its previous meeting.

Regulation 12 (3) (b) allows meetings to be held by electronic means providing all of the board members who wish to participate in the meeting have access to the technology needed to participate in the meeting; and a quorum of members can simultaneously communicate with each other throughout the meeting.

Also, Regulation 17 allows that a resolution that is signed or assented to in writing (whether sent by post, courier, or electronic communication) by all members is as valid and effectual as if it had been passed at a meeting of the board.

The board should be aware that, Public Excluded Business aside, its meetings, held electronically, remain open to the public. This means that members of the public should still be able to observe the meeting – by electronic means if necessary.

The presiding member of the board should be aware that:

  • Just because it is meeting electronically does not mean that it doesn’t hold a full board meeting with all the usual agenda items
  • The principal’s report should include everything it always has: student achievement, property, stand-downs, incidents of physical restraint, staffing, etc,etc
  • A finance report should be presented to the board
  • Committees report as usual
  • Any issues specific to that particular school that need to be discussed should be on the agenda
  • All meeting papers must be with the board at least 48 hours before the meeting, as usual

Board employee testing requirements at Alert Level 3

The Public Health Testing Order applies to regions in Alert Level 3 only it does not apply at Alert Level 2 at this time. 

The requirements apply to:

  • Every employee of every school, regardless of their role
  • Every person performing any work or service onsite at a school or hostel, that has not been operating during Alert Level 3*
  • This includes volunteers or unpaid workers (which may include board members), who may have contact with students while performing their work or service

This Order only applies to those who are physically onsite. It does not apply to those who are performing services remotely.

If services are partially on site and partially remote, then the testing requirements apply.

*From Tuesday 26 October the requirements also apply to every employee of a hostel who has been operating during Alert Level 3

  • The testing requirements are: To provide evidence of an initial negative COVID-19 test that has been administered within the last five days prior to returning to work on site (regardless of vaccination status)
  • After this initial test, provide a negative COVID-19 test every seven days (until they have received two injections of the vaccine)

Compliance with the Order

A Public Health Order is a legal requirement and therefore requires compliance.

Exemptions

Employees may not be required to undergo testing if a suitably qualified health practitioner has determined it inappropriate (due to physical or other needs) for the employee to be tested.

Employees will still have to go to a testing centre to obtain an exemption to present to their employer. 

Board’s employer obligations around testing requirements at Alert Level 3

Schools should manage this situation in line with their existing Health and Safety policies and Good Faith employment practices.

Employers have a legal requirement to inform all their employees that: 

  • Employees are required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test that has been administered within the last five days prior to returning to work onsite (schools) or before Tuesday 26 October (if you operate a school hostel).
  • In the absence of verification, boards can presume the testing requirements have not been met. This can be documented in the employee’s testing record.
  • After their initial test, employees are required to continue to be tested at least once every seven days, until they have had two vaccinations
  • Employees are encouraged to be tested outside of their normal working hours where possible to minimise further disruption to ākonga
    • However, employers must support their employees to be tested for COVID-19 during working hours and must not prevent an employee from reporting for and undergoing testing and medical examination during their working hours

Employers are required to confidentially collect and store details of the employee’s test

  • All information must be collected and stored in line with the Privacy Act 2020

Students returning to school hostels in Alert Level 2 regions

With effect from 11.59pm, 15 October, the Public Health Testing Order allows students who are at home for the holidays in an Alert Level 3 region and board in hostels on the other side of the boundary to travel to their hostel in an Alert Level 2 region.

  • Students over 12 years are required to have a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before the journey begins 
  • They will also need to carry evidence of the negative COVID-19 test and documentation (for example, a letter from the boarding hostel/school to show they are returning for the stated purpose) 
  • Students can be accompanied by one family member or caregiver who are subject to the same testing requirements

Boarders would then be required to stay at their hostel for the remainder of the term. Travel back and forth between family home and hostel will not be permitted until travel restrictions are withdrawn (for example, the Alert Level 3 region moves to Alert Level 2)

Testing requirements for school construction sites

At Alert Levels 2 and 3, all school construction projects can continue as long as the COVID-19 Construction Protocols are being adhered to. 

The new Alert Level 3 COVID-19 testing requirements issued through the Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order only apply to contractors working on site (including anyone performing work or providing a service) who may have contact with children or students.

If construction work is underway on a school site during Alert Level 3 schools should work with their supplier to ensure there are plans in place to separate any construction workers from children or students (that is, ensure students are instructed to keep clear of any construction site and workers and ensure there are separate entrances and facilities). However, if there is a possibility that contractors will be in contact with children or students then the board, as the PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking), must be assured of the contractors’ compliance with this order.

It is the responsibility of any contractor working on a school site to ensure they are meeting rules and regulations, including the Public Health Order. 

Suspension meetings

These can be held electronically, the same as any other board meeting. So everything pertaining to electronic meetings applies to suspension meetings:

  • The board must ensure that the student and their family/support people can attend the first part of the meeting electronically – being able to hear and speak simultaneously, the same as the board members
  • Everyone must have received the paperwork, including the principal’s report and the suspension letter at least 48 hours prior to the suspension meeting
  • The 7 school/10calendar day timeline still applies to the board having to make a decision within a specified period

If the board needs to cancel a meeting it should make all reasonable and practicable efforts to advise its community of the cancellation in advance. It is a board decision to cancel or reschedule its meeting, not the presiding member’s or the principal’s.

The board would also need to advise the time, date, location (all be it via electronic means) of the next meeting – Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 Section 46 (7)

For information around holding a meeting/passing resolutions electronically please go to this NZSTA Govrnance Support Resource, GSR which is available to boards on both the NZSTA website and Knowledge Hub.

For schools holding Student Representative Elections

Most New Zealand schools with students year 9 and above hold Student representative elections in September. These schools have been instructed to PAUSE Student Representative election processes during the current Alert levels (Alert Level for Auckland and Northland; Alert level 3 for the rest of New Zealand).  

A decision on providing an extension to the election timeframe will be made by the Ministry of Education once staff and students are able to return to school.

We understand there is uncertainty at this time, however we will provide information as soon as decisions are made.

In the meantime:

•  Please do not go into school to issue voting papers.

•  Schools cannot hold the voting process electronically or use e-voting.

NZSTA is committed to providing support to boards and Returning Officers to ensure they can hold compliant elections. If you have a question or concern about any election process at your school, please email us: electionsadvice@nzsta.org.nz

Health, safety and wellbeing of staff working remotely

As employers of school staff, boards must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and wellbeing of staff at work. Under Alert levels 3 and 4, home is considered a “place of work.” 

As the day-to-day manager of the school, the Principal should be the person managing communication, virtual staff meetings and ‘check ins’ with staff.  The board should ensure they are regularly checking in with the principal; typically this would be the role of the presiding member. 

Health, safety and wellbeing checklist

  • as the employer, boards are responsible for managing risks – ensure your principal has covered off risks during their staff communications and check ins
  • Know the hours staff are working – again, ensure your principal has a clear view of this
  • Ergonomics and workspace – ensure staff are supported to establish safe work spaces
  • Give staff contact details for people they can safely discuss concerns or issues with (this could be an EAP-type service, a board member, senior leadership team member etc)

For further information to support your health and wellbeing during Alert Level 4.

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