Covid 19 coronavirus: Wi-Fi nightmare for Takapuna lockdown family

Eight-year-old Jaime Smith admits she got “really stressed” when she couldn’t get back into her maths app at home on the second day of Auckland’s latest Covid-19 lockdown.

Her older sister Eva, 11, couldn’t get into a 9.20am online class meeting with her teacher.

The two girls and their parents, Darryl and Maryanne Smith, were all at home in the lockdown and were all trying to have online meetings at the same time.

“We had some connectivity issues. It might have been me on my calls using the Wi-Fi,” Maryanne said.

“So we have just been dealing with the meltdowns about not being able to complete the activities by the deadline.”

The Smiths, who live at Hauraki on Auckland’s North Shore, may be typical of families trying to look after the region’s 283,000 schoolchildren and 64,000 younger kids who usually attend early childhood education.

Darryl, a gym manager, and Maryanne, chief marketing officer for a solar panel company, are both working from home as well as trying to supervise their daughters’ learning.

Both the girls’ schools messaged on Sunday night, soon after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the city’s level 3 lockdown, saying they would give families a breather on Monday but would give the girls learning to do at home from Tuesday.

Jaime, who is in Year 4 at Hauraki Primary School, received instructions via the school app Seesaw to do some learning activities about Rangitoto Island, which her class is due to visit on Friday if the lockdown ends by then, and some maths work.

“We had to learn about volcanic eruptions. That was fun and easy,” she said.

“Then we had to do some Basic Facts [maths]. That was pretty easy, that was pretty cool, but I didn’t know all of them so my dad put me on the app.”

Her dad set her up on the app and then had to go out to his work for three hours.

“He said I could have a bit of a break and watch TV, and when I got back and tried to turn it on, it didn’t reload,” Jaime said.

“We tried to fix it, and I got like really stressed about it because I love my teacher. It didn’t work at all.”

She has a maths test coming up.

“This activity was very important because if we get back to school we are going to doing a Basic Facts test, and sometimes it gets into your school report, so you really want to do well and you really want to practise in lockdown,” she said.

“If my dad’s computer isn’t working then I won’t be able to do it and I’ll lose this thing called ‘golden points’. You can lose it once, but if you lose it again, you don’t get to play with your friends and you have to wait in your class doing nothing, just writing on the whiteboard saying, ‘Do my homework, do my homework.'”

Eva, who is in Year 8 at Belmont Intermediate, also had a stressful start to lockdown learning this time when her computer kept “lagging” and she couldn’t get on to a Google Hangouts class call with her teacher.

“I was actually on a call with a friend and she Facetimed me so I could see what the teacher was saying,” she said.

Eva knew what to expect after last year’s lockdowns.

“I expected to be doing online work, since nobody had their books because of the short notice,” she said.

“I expected to be doing drafting for writing, Mathletics and reading online, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

She is finishing off writing work about a “space jump” video the class watched last week, doing prescribed units of the online maths programme Mathletics and reading a book from a kids’ digital library, Epic.

She started at 9am and finished the day’s work by 11.30am.

“I was fine with it, even though the lagging was getting really annoying,” she said.

Mum Maryanne Smith said last year’s lockdowns worked more smoothly, and she had kept on working partly from home ever since so she had a regular schedule of calls to make on a Tuesday morning.

“We have an executive call at 9am every day, and you have your formal team briefings, and then you are just in normal work. Tuesdays are normally five to seven calls back-to-back,” she said.

In the last lockdown her husband Darryl was also around to help the girls if their mum was on the phone, but Jaime’s problems happened when he was out.

“If he’s out and I have my work meetings, I have to say no to some things to make sure they are okay,” she said.

“You just want to make sure they are not stressing out, it’s okay to be late with things. But as parents we don’t have that kind of school-teaching capability that teachers do.”

Hauraki School principal Clarinda Franklin said her teachers were connecting with children to see what support they needed, but the school was “realistic” about how much work they did.

“If it’s very difficult, don’t do it,” she said. “We don’t want to put any added pressure on for families.”

She said five children attended school physically on Monday, and seven on Tuesday, because their parents could not look after them. They did the same online work as the children at home, but with teachers on hand to support them.

Belmont Intermediate principal Nick Hill said he surveyed parents after last year’s lockdowns and decided as a result to reduce the time teachers are in touch with students to 9am-1pm each day.

“From 1pm there’s a chance for the kids to connect socially, perhaps for family games, puzzles, quizzes,” he said. “Our teachers have specific resources that they use with kids that don’t require parents’ support.”

The Ministry of Education distributed 37,000 free laptops and 45,000 internet connections to families who didn’t have them in last year’s lockdowns. The laptops have been gifted to the schools that each child attended, and Belmont Intermediate gave its batch out again to 50 or 60 of its 630 students on Monday.

Dear parents and caregivers,Please check your emails for information regarding the Government announcement that…

The internet connections were originally for six months but ministry deputy head Ellen MacGregor-Reid said all student households currently connected through the ministry will now continue to have free internet access until December this year.

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