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Student settling in after joining during lockdown

Starting a new school can be a nervous time for any student, but Tia Mikasa had to cope with enrolling and starting online learning at Sacred Heart College in the middle of the lockdown.She had nothing to worry about because she received a warm welcome from the school community.The 13-year-old, year nine student had been living in Australia with her father, Clarence, for the past year, but Covid-19 resulted in her returning to Hastings just before lockdown to be with her mother, Karen.Tia had grown up in Hastings prior to going to Australia and had planned to go to another Hastings high school on her return. However, her mother had heard “good things” about Sacred Heart College, so she was enrolled there.Principal Maria Neville-Foster said her team completed the enrolment process from their homes – something of a novelty. “We did the full enrolment from home during lockdown,” Mrs Neville-Foster said. “I interviewed Tia and her mum over the phone and transitioned her into school. She started attending her classes online and she started for the first time on the Monday that schools returned from lockdown.”On the Friday before, a Mihi Whakatau (welcome) had been held for her, after a whakawatea (lifting of the Rāhui) was led by the school’s cultural advisor, Charles Ropitini.As per the Government’s Covid-19 rules for travellers, Tia was quarantined at home during the lockdown, but she took the adjustment to her new school online in her stride.“It was cool, but I was shy about joining the video.”Physically going to her new school for the first time was a good experience.“It’s been really good to see faces and to talk to real people.” For Mrs Neville-Foster the transition back to school for all the students went better than she had expected. They had, on average, 94 per cent attendance across the week, which is “very high” for term two. “The girls are very resilient and while we still have some challenges, they are doing really well.”She says the message she has been giving and will continue to give is to look after each other and be kind. “It is the most important thing right now, not how many credits you have got or your academic progress, that will come in time. We really need to look after each other and to be kind.”Mrs Neville-Foster said that while most events had been postponed, the Year Nine Urupa Liturgy was held, and the school had recognised Pentecost.The academic programme, for some students, had been reduced to focus on quality more than quantity of learning. This would allow the girls to still have enough credits to achieve their goals.All teachers were having individual conversations with every student in their classes to determine their readiness to continue in their learning or what extra support they needed.Mrs Neville-Foster said information was then given to the Deans, who were mapping out a new plan for their learning, with the aim to have new plans in place by the end of the term.“While that is the goal, the main focus is ‘are you doing okay, are you looking after yourself and after the people you love?’” she said. “I am conscious of families struggling with the economic fallout and that does give a certain amount of stress to any daughter in the family and they do bring that worry to school.”She says the school and teachers have very strong relationships with the girls and were having open conversations with them. “If they need extra help, we provide that through our guidance counsellor. If we identify that the family needs financial aid, St Vincent De Paul is connected to our school and we will get some assistance in place for families. Mrs Neville-Foster says she believes the girls’ faith grew during lockdown and they understand the real need for a faith.“They know that when things get difficult, we need our faith. We are not alone and that God and Jesus travel with us. ““We just need to reach out and pray a little more and it helps us through.”Deputy Head Girl Jacinta Fale’ofa Pulu, 17, said the students were enjoying being back at school but were disappointed that Covid-19 had postponed most activities.She said teachers had been very supportive and had given extensions for assessments, while the students were also reaching out to each other.“I have had girls come to me wanting to find some comfort. With assessments piling up, it is good to check in with someone and some girls come to me to release some of the pressure of getting assessments.”“As a school, we are really positive about supporting each other and as Catholics, our faith plays a big part in how we act towards each other.”   

Schools join forces for Level Three learning

Many families found that Covid-19 Alert Level 3 lockdown brought them closer together and this was no different for Sacred Heart College and St John’s College, with cooperative learning taking place during that time.Around the country, essential workers’ children in Years 9 and ten who did not have anyone to look after them at home, were able to go to school where they were cared for by teachers and in many cases their school’s principal. They participated in their school’s online learning programme but were kept in their own bubbles at the school. For many schools, there were often under ten students coming in each day, with some schools reporting one or two.This unique situation called for strategic thinking, which is why the principals of Sacred Heart College and St John’s College decided to pool their resources. The idea was that any St John’s College student who lived in Napier and needed to attend school would do so at Sacred Heart College. For any Sacred Heart College student from Hastings, her new temporary place of learning was St John’s Collge. The idea worked well, with up to seven students in total attending both schools each day, including one St John’s boy, Devon Williams, at SHC. Having attended St Patrick’s School up until moving to St John’s this year, Devon is no stranger to a co-ed environment. Despite being “forced” by his essential working parents, Devon says he “thoroughly enjoyed” being at school. “I had loads of fun. I got to hang out with some of my old friends from primary school and we did lots of learning,” the 14-year-old said. Because I have 12 or so friends at the school but sadly only one of them turned up but I wanted to catch up with them all because I hadn’t seen them in a very very long time.Each morning, Devon, along with his seven-year-old sister, Autumn Sobek would be dropped off at St Patrick’s school from their home in Pirimai, where SHC’s deputy principal would then pick him up and take him to his temporary school.At school, each student had their own desk, appropriately spaced out from each other. Despite slightly different timetables, Devon was able to join the girls’ in doing PE and have lunch with them.  Year 9 SHC students Makaela Fisher, Arliyah Rangiaho-Clay along with year 10 student Bella Leonard joined him. While they all enjoy “normal school” more as they get to see their friends and teachers, the students said it wasn’t too bad. Bella said it was a "lot more" structured than when she was at home. She was still able to call her friends to "check-in" with each other. For Makaela, going to school during level three was non-negotiable, but it was made better by having her primary school friend, Devon with her.  “He was like you’ve got to go because he didn’t want to be alone at a girls school and I was his only friend who was a girl,” she said. Being the only students at school proved to have its perks. “We got to go on walks with the teacher and explore the hill and other areas,” she said. The online learning environment provided a prime opportunity for the two school’s Māori departments to collaborate for the first time.  Whaea Henrietta Hillman, T.I.C Te Reo Māori and St John’s College’s H.O.D Te Reo Māori, Maia Solomon, discussed student motivation just after Anzac Day and decided that by hosting a combined lesson this would “hopefully” improve student motivation.  On May 13, after a week of studying Kīwaha – proverbial sayings, on Education Perfect, with both teachers' guidance, they had a zoom conference where the 20 students competed in a Kahoot quiz. “We kept it very simple,” Whaea Hilman said. “It was about introducing the students to each other, to new learning and this current form of learning which is online.” The group comprised of year 10 to 13 students with a mix of ability in te reo. Whaea Hilman said it was a “nice competition” between the students.In the combined class, they even had a brother-sister combination. “That was quite cute. They were both in separate rooms in their house and they were certainly competing against each other,” she said. "The feedback from my girls was they were keen to do it again. We are now in the process of discussing what that will look like now schools have gone into Alert Level Two." "The end goal is that the students achieve success and are comfortable talking." Year 11 SHC student Aroha Tawhiri won the quiz. “I found it pretty easy and it was a really fun experience to do it with the boys,” the 15-year-old said.  Having attended a Kura Kaupapa before high school, Aroha is currently doing NCEA Level Two in te reo Māori. “I knew some terms from my old school because we used to say them all the time. I was kind of nervous but then I was kind of not.” She says she found online school “good” and noticed that she had been finishing her work “a lot quicker than usual”.  Mr Solomon said it "definitely" helped with student motivation and being able to see students they don't usually see was a bit of a "novelty".  He hopes this is the “start of something”."We've been talking about getting our schools together and doing more with things like kapa haka and Matariki celebrations, and they are in the pipeline, but this is the first time both of us have come together."   

Virtual competitions a success for students

A virtual marathon organised to keep Sacred Heart College students active and motivated during lockdown was won by a novice runner.Having only started running three days prior, Baylee Sharp was surprised to have not only taken out the Intermediate age group for the run with a time of 14.55, but to have come first place overall. “I usually hate running but prior to the marathon I decided that I was going to run every morning,” the 16-year-old said. Over the weekend of May 8-10, more than 20 students participated in the virtual event held with the help of Triathlon Hawke’s Bay.Junior girl Amelia Murphy came second place overall with a time of 14.56 and Lucia Urquhart finished in 15.12 seconds to come third.Head of PE, Kate O’Malley said they were fortunate to have Triathlon Hawke’s Bay General Manager Bruce Richardson supporting them with the software needed to facilitate the run. Students chose the route they wanted, tracked their run and then uploaded their results to the Trident website, which Tri HB uses. Realising there was a gap in the market where people couldn’t do events due to Covid-19, and having set up their own virtual events series, Richardson said he had the idea to help the school, when he saw his daughter Sophie, who attends Sacred Heart College doing a virtual house challenge. He said it had worked “really well” for Sacred Heart College and was a great opportunity for schools.While it took a “bit of work” at the back of the software, Richardson said it was a very easy platform for the user to work. They are now also looking at developing an App.“We realised that not only Sacred Heart but lots of other schools are in the same situation where Covid-19 is making life a bit hard. Going forward, he hopes to see it developed for more schools to create opportunities for students to be active. “The opportunities are endless. You can do everything from snowboarding, swimming cross country, cycling running multisport, triathlon, it doesn’t matter what it is I can set it up in the background and make it work for the school.” The idea by the school was born out of a virtual house fitness challenge which was held for three weeks, finishing on May 17. Sports Leader, and year 13 student, Abby Bell said she got inspiration from other schools who had done running challenges and wanted to do something similar. “I thought we could incorporate walking, running and biking, so it would be more diverse for the school to get everyone out and moving,” she said.  Both staff and students got on board with the challenge, with some going out every day. Abby said popular spots included the beachfront at Bayview, Pandora Pond, and Bluff Hill. Using the free fitness app called Strava, participants recorded their exercise and Abby then added the total amount of kilometers for each house. Abby says she was “surprised” by how many people got involved. In the end, Holderness won with a total tally of 748.89km, just 23km ahead of second-place Barbier at 725.27km. Marian house came third with 313.85 and Aubert came fourth with 227.52km. With no sports being held due to Covid-19 restrictions, O’Malley said they “needed something that the girls could still be involved in as a school”. The house challenge proved to be a way to get students to understand how they can track their exercise. “Quite a lot of girls got involved and it gave them a sense of motivation to get out and be active and support their house,” Ms O’Malley said.  

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