Eighty-person 'bubble' of Nelson boarding school students and staff isolating together

Kaitlin Ruddock
Source: 1News

While students around the country are getting to grips with distance learning, some boarders haven't even left school grounds.

Nelson College has a 'bubble' of 80 students and staff who are isolating together, with most unable to return to their families overseas.

Acting headmaster Tim Tucker says their amusement, their activity, their care and their wellbeing “is being 100 per cent provided by the school”.

When the country went into lockdown, Nelson College had to act fast to find their boarders the safest bubble.

“It's one of those things where there's absolutely no script whatsoever,” explains Mr Tucker.

The Ministry of Education told 1 NEWS it was aware of 489 school students isolating in hostels across the country at the beginning of lockdown. However, many of them were international students who may have now returned home.

But at Nelson College, almost all internationals decided to stay.

Student Mac Harris says he was trying to return to his parents in Japan, but “I had a chance that I couldn't come back into New Zealand because of coronavirus so I didn't want to risk it”.

Instead, he’s spent the past three weeks sharing space with a group of 60 students and 20 staff. That includes former All Black Kane Hames, a supervisor at the college, who has been recording daily video updates and sending them to families.

“It's a whole lot of fun for the parents. They get to see their boys as safe and happy and that’s what a lot of parents have commented, that they're so happy that they get to see their boys not stressed, not down, not 'locked down' but having a ton of fun.”

As term two gets underway, Mr Tucker says the students are experiencing “possibly the most unusual distance learning”.

“They sit down in their classrooms and do their work in the classrooms, at a distance from the teachers they would otherwise have, supported by teachers from the school."

They can't have visitors onsite or leave the grounds, so the students are thinking of what they will do first when its safe for them to freely move around again.

Jaewoo Park says he’d probably go to a Korean restaurant, while Mariano Aranda Cordova is planning to “hang out with my friends that are not boarding” downtown.

For now, though, its a lesson in patience.