New student Tia Mikasa started at Sacred Heart College during lockdown.

Student settling in after joining during lockdown

Published on Thursday, 4 June 2020, 7:02 p.m. Print Article

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.”