Tears and joy as students pour back into schools, with new restrictions in place

There was relief and a few nerves today as more than 800,000 children were expected back at school and early learning centres.

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It marks the end of nearly two months of closure. Source: 1 NEWS

After nearly two months out, students and parents were faced with new rules at the gate and concerns for families who may be struggling after the lockdown. 

Today kids were able to leave their bubble behind and reunite with their mates, a relief for New Zealand's young people.

"It feels awesome finally getting to get back into the classroom and do some schoolwork, because you know online school was very difficult," one teenage student told 1 NEWS.

Another young student was happy to be back, sharing all the things she's looking forward to that she couldn't do in lockdown.

"Playing with my friends and playing at the playground and eating lunch with my friends," he says.

After seven weeks at home, some of the country's youngest learners were a little apprehensive.

One boy admitted feeling a little bit anxious this morning, shedding tears while getting ready for school.

But for most whānau, it's a relief.

"It means that my husband and I can still work from home and actually get some work done," one parent says.

Another said: "We've had a lot of fun with the kids but after seven weeks I think we're both ready for a break."

While playgrounds and sports equipment can now be used, kids will be getting used to hand-sanitising and distancing where possible for some time.

"It's as safe as it can be so I think that it will be fine," one parent says.

Many schools are encouraging only students and staff to go through the gates.  

At Karori Normal School, parents can go in but have to register, signing in and out.

"Our big approach has been to allay any fears and anxiety people might have," principal Conrad Kelly says.

The Government says all schools are safe for students to return to, including Marist College in Auckland, the centre of New Zealand's second-largest Covid-19 cluster.

"The risk is very very low, if there at all, and schools have done an enormous amount to ensure they are keeping students and staff safe," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said today.

But child poverty advocates say an increasing number of families are struggling to meet basic needs, and that could be why some children are staying home.

"Right now families need an adequate welfare support system and that means adequate benefits," Child Poverty Action Group spokesman Justin Latif says.

Onehunga High School teacher Sofia Kaur says they're preparing to help students and families as best they can.

"There will have been families and students that have struggled through this time, and so every teacher is just ready to meet those students where they are and then give those considerations and work together."

With the first day out of the way, the focus now will be on helping students adjust to a new regime.