Vaccination-resistant teachers are creating headaches for principals as the deadline for the government’s vaccination mandate approaches.
They are figuring out how to cover classes on Tuesday when staff who have not received at least their first injection can no longer enter the site.
Those in rural areas realized there were not enough respite teachers to fill the gaps in the short term and feared they might not be able to hire permanent replacements next year.
Nelson Princpals Association President Symon Beattie said the vaccine mandate was creating challenging situations.
“This is huge, I mean we are the front-line messengers facing the obvious shock of having staff with career paths that for some will be blocked and terminated.”
Most schools in the region had only a small percentage of staff who were hesitant about vaccination, but one couple could lose more, Beattie said.
Schools couldn’t be sure who would get the vaccine on or before Monday, making it difficult to prepare for next week, he added.
“A big challenge for us, as directors, is to be prepared for what happens on the 16th and to have coverage on hold, ready if necessary, but also to be able to welcome those people and continue as normal if they choose to be vaccinated.”
Southland Elementary Principals Association president Simon Bell said nearly 60 percent of its 73 member schools expected to lose staff next week.
“We do not have, not to our knowledge, any schools in Southland where the staff is opting out [get vaccinated], it’s just one or a pair, or you may know of a pair, but there may be five others that aren’t sure. The principals are trying to gather that information and talk to the staff, “Bell said.
It could equal roughly 100 people in the entire region, but it was difficult to get an exact figure.
The Education Ministry had spoken with schools about the possibility of principals taking classes or using learning support coordinators as teachers to temporarily fill any gaps, he said.
But principals were concerned that they could not find permanent replacements for teachers who refused to be fully vaccinated before January 1.
“We traditionally fight to attract teachers to our positions, so this was always going to be difficult when the term came up and I think the biggest concern for principals was, starting on the 16th, where are we going to find additional teachers to fill some of these? posts, “he said.
Many Southland schools had to repeatedly advertise teacher and principal vacancies.
Principals could provide information to vaccine-resistant teachers, but were not allowed to pressure them, Bell said.
The early childhood sector faced similar problems.
In Golden Bay, an early learning center told RNZ it was closing Friday because half of its staff would not meet the vaccine mandate and it was impossible to replace them.
Nelson Tasman Kindergartens CEO Craig Vercoe said the problem was the most divisive he had seen in 30 years because it affected both parents and teachers.
“Certainly the feedback that we are getting is that there are community groups that are really struggling with the mandate and its implementation, particularly in that parenting space where they were traditionally there as helpers, but potentially now they are seen as volunteers on site that then it has implications for them around the vaccine. “
Only 10-15 percent of the organization’s teachers seemed hesitant about vaccination and did not expect to shut down any of their sites, Vercoe said.