COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions


 

We are still available for you to contact us directly with your queries. Here are some of the questions we’ve been asked most.

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

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.

This is being done to ensure a unified and coordinated educational response to the COVID-19 outbreak and to enable the Government and the Ministry to act quickly in the best interests of educators, parents and whānau when required.

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

Q: Did the Ministry’s message on 26 March mean that boards are now expected to do more “hands-on” work to help their principal cope with the COVID-19 crisis?

No. We understand that some boards have interpreted it that way, but we have checked with the Ministry of Education and they confirm that this message was referring to boards’ normal role of supporting the principal by governing effectively.

Q: Can the board continue to work from self-isolation?

Yes, you will still need to conduct board business remotely while trustees are in isolation. Although school campuses will be closed during the lockdown, school business is continuing. In times of crisis it is especially important for Boards of trustees to work alongside the principal, providing governance and strategic leadership while the principal continues to manage the school’s operational and teaching activities.

You can find the following advice on the NZSTA website

Q: We’ve got our board meeting next week. What should we do?

Your board is legally required to hold a meeting within 3 calendar months of its previous meeting. The best thing you can do is carry on your board business as close to normally as possible. In the first instance, this might mean

  • If your school already uses online meeting software check with your principal about giving trustees access to it for board meetings.
  • If you cannot use existing school software, check out other options for videoconferencing. There are a number of free options as well as the commercial ones. You can find reviews in a number of places including
  • Work out how you will handle processes such as circulating board papers, receiving and circulating reports, and minuting the meeting.
  • Send out instructions for how to set it up and sign in
  • Advise your school community of the change (e.g. on the school website or social media feed)
  • Hold a test-run a few days before the meeting date where everyone signs in, to make sure it works.
  • Schedule your board meeting online, and do your best.
  • Agree on a process for Public Excluded Business (sometimes known as “in -committee”).

Q: Does an online meeting work differently from face-to-face?

Yes and no. The basics of a good meeting remain the same whether you are online or in the same room. But it’s easier to ignore the flaws when you are in the same room. Good meeting ‘netiquette’ is essential to effective online meetings.

Here are two good practical guides to online meeting netiquette. They each take a slightly different approach, so it’s worth reading them both.

Q: What happens if 1 or 2 more board members can’t join electronically?

There only needs to be a quorum (50% of trustees +1) to convene the meeting. If you have your own protocols about decision-making you can work out your own ways to include or inform other trustees, but your legal obligations are met once you have a quorum.

Q: Does an online meeting still have to be open to the public?

Yes, the public still have the right to attend and observe board meetings. To do this electronically you will need to either livestream the meeting or provide anyone who wants to observe with the information they need to join the meeting. Anyone signing in to observe the meeting should mute their microphone. The rules about speaking rights remain unchanged.

You can find reviews of a range of livestream platforms below.

Q: Do we need to go through the whole agenda?

Yes, if something is on the agenda for your meeting you will either have to deal with it or table it for the next meeting.  Try to deal with all your usual board business. If it’s on the agenda, it’s because it needs your attention,  and once the Alert levels return to normal you will have plenty to do to get back to business as usual.

Q: What if we need to cancel or postpone the board meeting?

If the board needs to cancel a meeting it should make all reasonable efforts to advise its community of the cancellation in advance. Members of the public still have the right to attend and observe a board meeting that is held online.

Check with your principal about the best way to do this during the Alert Level 3 and Level 4 period The school website or social media feed are obvious possibilities if you have them. Alternatively, you could put a printed message on the local noticeboard or window of a local business that is still open.

If you do decide to postpone or cancel your next board meeting, you will need to advise the time, date, and location of the next meeting.

Q: Can we still go to the school during the lockdown?

No. There should be no need for board members to be on-site at school during the lockdown.

Q: We have a casual vacancy we are trying to fill. Is there an alternative process we can use?

No, there is no alternative process. There are two possible ways to fill a casual vacancy, election or selection.

Q: Is NZSTA still providing advice and support during the COVID-19 lockdown?

Yes. NZSTA staff are now working from home and are still available to provide NZSTA’s regular support and advice services, except for on-site visits. Please contact us by phone on 0800 782 435 or by email.

 

 

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