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Schools masking up to slow the spread of covid


Wairarapa schools are stamping their mark on mask usage. PHOTO/ADOBESTOCK

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Wairarapa schools are stamping their mark on mask usage after the government recommended principals enforce mask-wearing in the third term.

Associate Minister of Education Jan Tinetti sent a letter on Thursday informing school boards of the government’s strong recommendation to review and enforce a mask-wearing policy as covid community cases continue to climb nationwide.

Since New Zealand moved to the orange traffic light in April, masks for staff and students were encouraged but not compulsory.

Hadlow Preparatory School principal Andrew Osmond said there was a noticeable change when mask mandates were lifted.

“In term one, we had almost all of our students wearing masks, and then as soon as they became optional, the mask usage dropped down to about one per cent.

“The kids were fantastic in term one. It will be interesting to see how they cope in winter.”

Osmond said he welcomed the rule change, which was sudden but not surprising.

“Masks work in slowing down the spread.

“Around 50 per cent of our staff, and 50 per cent of our students got covid the first time around.

“We’ve had at least one person get covid for the second time, so we don’t want anyone else to get reinfected.”

Schools would continue to provide masks for their students.

The Ministry of Education would also provide schools with CO2 monitors and cleaners, which Osmond said would be helpful while people were inside over the winter months.

Chanel College principal Myra Coley said in an email to parents that masks would be required in all indoor settings where they did not impact learning.

“Those students with valid mask exemptions will continue to be supported, and masks will be available for all students who require them. They can also continue to wear their own masks from home.

“It is important to remember, we don’t only wear masks for ourselves but for all those in our community who cannot or are vulnerable and at risk.”

Masterton Primary School said all adults on site and students year four and above would be required to wear masks inside.

However, Ponatahi Christian School would not enforce mask-wearing.

Principal Peter Bertram said the decision to wear masks would be up to individual students.

“We have a variety of views around mask-wearing at the school, so we’re not making it compulsory.

“Our students come from big families with multiple siblings at the school, so we treat the school like it’s one bubble. We have one school bus coming from Masterton.”

He said the school provided masks for children who wished to use them.

Masterton Intermediate School principal Russell Thompson took a similar stance.

“We’re not here to enforce, but we encourage them for those who feel more comfortable.

“Often, it’s harder to breathe [with a mask] and harder to hear.”

He said the school would review the decision should a large number of students become sick.

“We had quite a few people off sick at the end of term one and start of term two.

“Our worst day was 200 kids off with covid.

“Other days, we had 150-180 kids off.”

St Matthews and Rathkeale combined choir Viva Camerata would be rehearsing in masks while preparing for the national final next month.

Choir director Kiewiet van Deventer said the students were making a sacrifice to ensure they were healthy for nationals.

“In term one covid went right through the choir, section by section.

“And then in term two we had the flu. Singing with masks is tremendously hard work, but I’d rather them sing with masks, so they stay well. Hopefully, on the day, they will perform without masks.”

The government advised good ventilation where masks were impractical, including eating and drinking, playing certain musical instruments, indoor sports, singing or drama performance on stage, and physical education.

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