You can read the latest information and guidelines from the Ministry of Education here. Kei aku nui, kei aku rahi, tēnā koutou katoa i roto i ngā āhuatanga o te wā.Welcome back after what we hope has been a wonderful summer for your whānau.In regard to COVID-19 we have moved fully into the new traffic light framework for all school and kura activities and events this year. You will be familiar with the health measures in place and it is good to know that at Red setting, we are able to support learning onsite.Events, Activities and VisitorsHui and gatherings especially when indoors continue to be one of the riskier activities. Therefore, schools have reviewed events and activities for the upcoming term to ensure they meet the health and education guidance for Red. Non-essential visitors cannot be on school sites.VentilationSchools will soon be able to use the Ministry of Education self-assessment tool to review ventilation in classes. Providing good old fashioned fresh air remains the most important thing we can do in our learning spaces to minimise risk for ākonga and kaiako. We will be sending out CO2 monitors to schools in the coming weeks to further support ventilation planning. Omicron and testing We have all seen the very large numbers of cases overseas and we will very likely see much larger numbers of cases in Aotearoa than we have previously experienced in the last two years. While Omicron is more transmissible than previous strains, most people who get COVID-19 will have a mild to moderate illness and will fully recover in their own home.However, those who are immune compromised, are ill or have other vulnerabilities, even when they are fully vaccinated, could be more affected by Omicron. So, we all need to continue to play our part to minimise the spread of the virus.In regard to testing, the health system currently has capacity to process 40,000 PCR tests a day. PCR testing is the most accurate test for COVID-19 and will continue to be used while New Zealand is in the stamp-it-out phase. Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) will begin to be used more widely over time. They are not as accurate as PCR tests and this means that some people who do have COVID-19 will get a negative test result back. There are currently 4.6 million RATs in the country and 10s of millions ordered. Face coveringsStaff and children in Years 4 – 13 must wear face coverings when inside at school when we are at Red. Public health advice is that an appropriate face covering will fit snugly and seal well around facial contours. This can include single use, disposable masks (medical masks) and re-usable fabric masks with three layers. Don’t worry if you don’t have these specific types of face coverings, as public health experts also say that any face covering is better than no face covering. The Unite Against COVID-19 website also has information on how to make a face covering.For those of you with children who might be reluctant to wear a face covering, there is some helpful advice from Michigan Health, including using simple, specific explanations about why they need to wear a face covering, adults being the role models, providing small rewards for wearing them, bringing face coverings into play such as drawing face coverings on characters in colouring books, or letting them choose/make the mask.Vaccination for five to 11-year-oldsVaccination including a booster shot, remains an important tool to help prevent the most serious harm from the COVID-19 virus. If children and young adults who have been vaccinated do develop COVID-19, they are far less likely to get seriously ill and less likely to transmit the virus to others. The free five- to 11-year-old vaccination programme is now underway and more than 100,000 children in New Zealand have had their first dose. There is some helpful information available to support you on the Unite Against COVID-19 website including How to book a vaccine for your five – 11-year-old and some great videos on the Kids Health page that can support you to talk to your tamariki about the COVID-19 vaccine.Managing cases in schoolsSchools have contact tracing systems in place so that if there is a confirmed case who has been at school while infectious, it can quickly be identified who was a close contact of that person. Only if the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Education advises to do so, will schools close and move to distance learning for everyone. At Red we will keep everyone learning onsite for as long as we can. Please make sure the contact details your school has on file are up to date, so they can get in touch with you if needed. Preparing for COVID-19You can also prepare for COVID-19, making sure you and your household have a plan and know what to do. This will mean your whānau and community can help each other if needed. Find out more here: Be prepared for COVID-19Download the COVID-19 Readiness Checklist [PDF, 121 KB] What to expect when self-isolating at home Self-isolating at home because of COVID-19Many people will be able to manage self-isolation with help from friends and whānau, but there is help available if you need it – both with health support and access to food and other essentials.What to expect when self-isolating at home | Unite against COVID-19 (covid19.govt.nz)Getting extra support if you have COVID-19 or are self-isolating | Unite against COVID-19 (covid19.govt.nz)COVID-19 positive – managing your symptoms | Health Navigator NZIf you know anyone in your community affected by COVID-19 and who may need help, such as food and other financial assistance, Work and Income has a range of supports available for individuals, families, employers and self-employed people affected by COVID-19.Work and Income supportThe beginning of the year can be a tough time for parents who are faced with many costs and it is important you are aware of what assistance you may be able to get from Work and Income. These are available to people on a low income as well as those on a benefit.Check what you might get here:School costsOut of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) SubsidyOther Childcare AssistanceSchool and Year Start-up Payment (for people getting Orphan’s Benefit or Unsupported Child’s Benefit)Help with living costs (including food and rent/mortgage) Use the links above or call 0800 559 009 to find out more, or to apply. MoneyTalks can assist with free budgeting and debt help.Getting ready to return to schoolThe Ministry of Education website has some helpful information on their Parents and Whānau website to support your tamariki to get back to school. There is also a very important reminder about how you can take care of yourself. While this might all feel a little overwhelming at times, we know that all these measures will help our children return to school, reconnect with whānau and friends and do what they enjoy.