Thursday, December 9

Teachers anxious about going back to school: ‘It’s too early’

The government is facing backlash from teachers over plans to reopen Auckland’s classrooms after the school holidays.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Union leaders have told RNZ that their Auckland members are astonished that they are able to go back to school on October 18 while businesses in the region, such as restaurants and hair salons, remain closed.

Post Primary Teachers’ Association Auckland Region President Michael Cabral-Tarry said schools should not reopen on October 18.

“It’s too early. We just don’t feel safe to go back to normal at this point,” he said.

“We think a good prerequisite could be 80 percent double dosing in those communities where Delta is still rampant. We hope that means that schools are much safer.”

Cabral-Tarry said the government was providing guidance on how Auckland schools could safely operate at level 3 sometime next week and that it was too late.

PPTA Auckland Region Vice President Paul Stevens said he was unhappy with the prospect of going back to school in a week and a half when there was still community transmission of Covid-19.

“Like many teachers, at this moment I feel quite anxious to go back. It is not much, October 18 is approaching very quickly and I think the main thing that teachers feel at this time is the concern about the uncertainty of what a time we return. “

Stevens said teachers were as concerned about the risk of transmitting Covid to their students as they were about contracting the disease themselves.

He said the government was essentially asking schools to operate at alert level 2, while the rest of the Auckland community was operating at level 3.

“The idea that you couldn’t cut your hair or go to a restaurant, but teachers would be asked to be in a classroom and students would be asked to be in a closed classroom, which are exactly the circumstances that we know are perfect environments for For Covid to spread, you can understand the anxiety that teachers feel, “he said.

Educational Institute President Liam Rutherford said he had received many calls from Auckland elementary and middle school teachers concerned about the prospect of reopening.

“We have many members who are really nervous about what it will mean if the country is going to open schools with community transmission. There are still many unanswered questions with vaccines, with masks,” he said. .

He said the union would be guided by public health councils, but teachers, like other workers, deserved to be safe.

Support for the vaccine mandate

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the cabinet would vote on Monday to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for teachers.

The plan already had the support of the Post-Primary Teachers Association. The union executive voted earlier this week to support any public health order that requires vaccinating teachers.

The Auckland teachers RNZ spoke with agreed that they should get vaccinated.

Maori middle-level primary school teacher Luanda Milo said she had no problem requiring teachers to be vaccinated, especially if it allows schools to ease restrictions on personal distancing in classrooms.

“Honestly, I don’t see the problem in that, I don’t see the problem at all. I think it’s good to keep us and our tamariki safe,” he said.

High school teacher Aman Pillay said he supported mandatory vaccinations for teachers.

He said he was eager to go back to school, but would like to see a push to vaccinate teens.

“I think there should be an approach to getting all those students who are at least 12 years old,” he said.

But May Road School principal Lynda Stuart said convincing reluctant teachers to get vaccinated would be more effective than forcing them.

“It is always better if you can vaccinate that significant number of people who want to do it themselves. I think there is a problem when you have to impose something,” he said.

He also warned not to worry too much about the reopening of schools on October 18, and said the situation could change a lot.

“We are talking about the equivalent of 10 days, 12 days before going back to school. Right now I am quite relaxed. I think as the moment approaches, things will clear up a bit if it is the right decision for us to go back to school. school on October 18, “he said.

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