SAFEGUARDING family and student wellbeing must take priority over completing assigned schoolwork as pupils return to term two, says Glendale East Public principal Nathan Forbes.
He's one of more than 150 Hunter state school principals who will welcome students back to remote learning from Wednesday, ahead of a staggered return to face to face classes from May 11.
"The thing I've really taken out of it is just how well schools in general respond to change," Mr Forbes said.
"Just like every sector of the community we've had a lot of changes thrown at us and when they're first given to us they do seem a bit daunting. But... there's been no challenge thrown at us that we haven't come together and worked out a reasonably good solution."
Mr Forbes said teachers had moved before the end of last term to one consistent mode of delivery.
They'd mailed paper-based home learning packs to every student and also listed tasks on and provided feedback through Google Classroom or SeeSaw.
They also started to use Zoom video conferencing. They lent 60 laptops and iPads to families that needed them.
"We provided some guidelines to parents and that was around logging in at 9am, but I was also mindful that some people were feeling overwhelmed and that they needed to keep their child engaged in learning from 9am to 3pm, like a typical school day," he said.
"I just tried to communicate that was not the requirement and that was going to be unworkable and put lots of pressure on both parents and kids.
"We sent out a rough timetable and we said we'd like them to follow that, but it wasn't compulsory, we didn't make them feel any pressure to be online at certain times or be doing any number of hours per week.
"The biggest thing out of this is making sure everybody's wellbeing has been looked after.
"If people's mental health is in order and has been well supported, I think that's the most important thing that we look after at the moment.
"Try and do the work... but at the end of the day, at some point we'll be back to normal and when that point comes I'd rather have happy and healthy kids than stressed out ones."
Staff spent Tuesday handing out more home learning packs, to supplement or replace continuing online tasks.
Mr Forbes said he is still deliberating how to stagger the return of his 240 students.
He said he was considering - and had surveyed teachers and families - about organising attendance by the first letter of last names, or by splitting classes in half and sending for example, half a kindergarten class and half a year six class on the same day.
"I don't want to rush the decision, we still do have a week and a half to go, but I do want to have some decision reasonably soon so that I can communicate that as effectively to the community as I can."
Hunter principals' decisions about how to stagger the return vary. Redhead Public will have two classes on site every day except Tuesday, when it will have three.
Teachers will have their usual class and focus on literacy and numeracy.
Mr Forbes said teachers had made discoveries "that will transform teaching and learning for the better", around student capability for independent learning and using technology in innovative ways to promote engagement.