Saturday, December 4

Principals, teachers and students await decision on Auckland schools

Some Auckland high school principals want students back in the classroom next Tuesday.

Chris hipkins

Education Minister Chris Hipkins will announce details on the return to school today.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Auckland schools have been closed for nine weeks due to the Delta outbreak.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins will provide an update today and has signaled that seniors will be the first to return.

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillaut said it was time for Auckland students to go back to school.

“Let’s get the kids to go to school on Tuesday and find a way to do it safely.”

That could be done by making sure there are high levels of vaccination, that masks are worn on school grounds, and restricting how many students there are at any one time, he said.

“Students are quickly becoming unmotivated … because they realize that the time we have left this year is insufficient to possibly do what they expected.”

Auckland Secondary Principals Association Chairman Steve Hargreaves would prefer the government to err on the side of caution.

“My feeling is that, yes, the exams are important, but not as important as keeping the community safe, ensuring the well-being of staff and students, people who do not bring Covid-19 to multigenerational homes, and other sick people and vulnerable. Then my feeling would be that we have to play it safe. “

National’s Paul Goldsmith wanted schools, both elementary and middle school, to reopen Tuesday.

“The main danger is not that children go to school, it is children who do not go to school. That is the real problem.

“We are seeing over 250,000 children all over Auckland losing an education and we can’t go on like this.”

Hipkins had suggested that Auckland high school students would be the first to return to the classroom.

“They have been out of school for a long time, they have exams on the way, they have assessment pressure increasing on them, so that has been the highest priority group, in terms of the work that we have been doing to see how we can get that more students from the school are present.

“It also happens to be a group of students who can largely be vaccinated.”

But the same cannot be said for elementary schools. Most of his students are not yet eligible to get vaccinated.

“This is one of the most difficult reopening areas … that we are going to face because it will become the largest concentration of unvaccinated people in the country,” Hipkins said.

Auckland Primary Principals Association President Stephen Lethbridge did not expect a date to be announced today for the reopening of Auckland primary schools.

“What we hope for are conditions that allow schools to open safely.”

Hipkins has pointed out that not all students will be able to enter school at the same time and they can be separated into bubbles.

It has also confirmed, at least in the short term, that there will be more use of masks in educational settings.

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