A small King Country school expects all of its staff to be kicked out of their classrooms when the government’s vaccination mandate takes effect next week.
The Matiere school is one of several rural schools that warn they will not be able to replace teachers and other workers who refuse to receive their first injection before Monday’s deadline.
The school’s principal, Vanessa Gotz, told RNZ that her school had three teachers, three support staff members, and an assistant teacher, and none were vaccinated.
She said none of her employees intended to get vaccinated before the Monday, November 15 deadline, so they would not be allowed to work Tuesday.
“Some of this is because they can’t actually medically have it, and the other reason is that they are really forcing us. We feel like they are forcing us to leave, that here we are on the 15th without vaccinating, the 16th – Wait a minute when You can’t be in front of a class, you can’t take students, “he said.
Gotz said none of the school’s board of trustees was vaccinated either.
She said she was not opposed to getting vaccinated herself, but as the only fully registered teacher, she hadn’t been able to take time off to get vaccinated.
Gotz said that even if she was vaccinated, she would not be able to open the school on her own and the school would have to return to remote or online learning starting Tuesday.
He said he doubted anything could persuade his staff to get the injections and that he wanted the ministry to waive the vaccination mandate and instead require weekly testing.
The Central King Country Principals Association estimated that around a third of the staff at 16 schools in the region rejected Covid vaccination.
Association president Maria Gillard said individual schools would lose 15 to 75 percent of their staff next week and that was creating headaches.
“The situation that Taumarunui faces is that we only have one reliever in the entire city. Come next week that reliever will not be able to fill all the places that we are going to face, we will simply be doubling the classrooms at this stage or we have to find one. alternative, but we don’t know what the alternative is, “Gillard said.
She said schools in the area had a lot of trouble hiring teachers at best and were very concerned about replacing staff who refused to be fully vaccinated before the start of next year.
Gillard said a support group had tried working with those who didn’t want to get vaccinated, but convincing them to change their minds was difficult.
He agreed that the situation was putting the school’s staff rooms a bit tense.
“It’s really difficult and you have to talk about it, you can’t help it,” he said.
New Zealand Headmasters Federation President Perry Rush said King Country schools were not alone.
“We are seeing a growing number of smaller principals’ associations expressing concern about the absence of staff after the 15th who are not vaccinated. In some cases, in small schools, this can be very influential, as it can be the majority. of the staff “. he said.
“We are certainly not seeing large numbers, I think in large urban settings, it is our small, rural and remote communities that have the greatest challenges because they simply do not have the staffing resource to cover any loss of frontline teachers.”
Rush said that a great effort had been made to provide high-quality information about the vaccine to school personnel.
Schools now needed clearer guidance on what to do with staff who refused vaccination.
The Education Ministry also needed to take stock of the situation so that it was clear how many schools were facing serious staffing problems and should also provide support to those schools, Rush said.
The ministry’s hautu, Education Workforce, Anna Welanyk, said the overwhelming majority of education sector employees and organizations supported the vaccination effort.
“The actual impact of the vaccine mandate on teacher supply will not be known until the vaccination deadline has passed and the numbers are clear. Meanwhile, regional staff are working with their local schools and kura leaders to anticipate supply challenges and agree on possible solutions, “she said.
“Processes are already in place to address supply challenges and these will be further developed as needed to ensure that students are well served and services continue to function.”