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Latest covid cases are not so disruptive in class under phase 3

Masterton Primary School has confirmed its first positive case. PHOTO/FILE

Story by Tom Taylor

Two more Wairarapa schools have confirmed covid-19 cases in their communities.

While at least five schools in the region had closed their doors temporarily during phase 2 of the omicron outbreak, the response at phase 3 had been much less disruptive.

Kuranui College principal Simon Fuller confirmed on Monday that there were four positive cases in his school community. He expected that number to rise, with more people getting tested in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Masterton Primary School in the region’s north also had at least one positive case.

Fuller said the move to phase 3 meant there were fewer procedures a school needed to follow when a case cropped up.

At phase 3, there was no longer any need for contact tracing within schools, with only household contacts of a case required to isolate.

“You get a confirmed case, you let the ministry know who it is – whether it’s staff or student – and then you make contact with that whanau and support them while they do their isolation,” Fuller said.

“We were being ultra-cautious at the start, and now we’ve moved to where it’s recognised we’ve got it in the community, so we’re taking a more pragmatic, realistic approach. It’s certainly a lot more streamlined and simple.”

Fuller said students and parents had been supportive throughout the move to phase 3, although some had expressed concern about the lack of contact tracing.

On Monday, Kuranui had a drop-off in attendance while some parents chose to keep their children at home.

“We’re well-placed to support them in that with our digital learning programme,” Fuller said.

“All of our Year 9 and 10 students having a school-provided Chromebook helps heaps. We are actively encouraging people to still come to school but will support those whanau that make that decision at this time.”

Fuller had reminded Kuranui students of the importance of wearing masks, sanitising their hands, and other measures to protect themselves.

Masterton Primary School [MPS] principal Gene Bartlett said the phases of the omicron response had changed rapidly, bringing new directions with them.

“People were geared up in that secondary phase with those guidelines and protocols, and that all stopped when we moved to this next phase.”

Bartlett said there was still some anxiety in the community, but his message was that “we’re still open for business”.

“It’s up to us to try to instill confidence in our community, and we’re doing everything we can based on the guidelines that are presented to us from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.

“We’re trying to be nimble with our response. It is a moving situation, and we have to be conscious of the fact that our approach will need to be altered to meet those needs.”

He said the next step for schools would be adjusting to the use of rapid antigen tests [RATs] among their staff where needed to maintain staffing levels.

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