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Sickness keeps school students out of the classroom

Douglas Park School had a third of its students absent last week. PHOTO/FILE

School attendance rates tend to be highest at the start of each term, with the highest attendance rate at the very start of the year.

But Wairarapa’s attendance has dropped more than the rest of the Greater Wellington region throughout Term 2 – and not just due to covid-19.

In Masterton, many students were hit by illness last week, Douglas Park School principal Gareth Sinton said.

About a third of the 358 kids on the school roll were absent last week.

“Parents have been really good at not sending their kids into school if they’ve got those flu-like symptoms,” Sinton said.

He said while students had been hit hard, staff had been relatively unaffected.

“We’ve sporadically had staff off because they’re crook with the flu or whatever is going around, but I wouldn’t say it’s hugely impacted us.”

In the Carterton district, Gladstone School had two covid cases out of its roll of 162.

“Covid’s not really a thing for us at the moment,” principal Belinda Bunny said.

“But there’s definitely that heavy cold with headaches and chesty coughs.”

Bunny said Gladstone tended to lag behind other areas in the region when it came to illnesses.

“It’ll probably come. We’ve only got a handful of kids away at the moment – 10 or so – so we’re all right. We’ve had staff in and out with colds and flu, but it’s just wait-and-see.

“Once you start seeing things in other schools, it’s usually a couple of weeks before it gets to us.”

In South Wairarapa, Featherston School principal Gina Smith said staffing numbers had been under control, although several teacher aides had been away.

However, a gastrointestinal bug spread quickly through the school’s students last week.

“That just decimated one of our classes,” Smith said.

She said the number of students absent from the school’s roll of 145 had fluctuated in recent weeks.

“One of our biggest days, we had 15 to 20 kids away.”

Covid cases had slowed to a “trickle”, with about four students isolating.

“The rest of them are just with colds, flu-like symptoms, and this horrible gastro-bug.”

Smith said illnesses tended to hit Featherston two to three weeks after Masterton, as demonstrated during the omicron outbreak.

“It’s almost like it comes down in a wave. Once the older brothers and sisters get hit badly, we start to see more of our children get sick.”

Across all schools in the Masterton district, average daily attendance was 88.54 per cent in week 1 of Term 2, dropping to 79.06 per cent in week 4.

In Carterton, the average attendance was 90.34 per cent, falling to 82.84 per cent.

South Wairarapa’s average daily attendance was 85.62 in Week 1, down to 70.36 per cent in Week 4.

Across the Wellington region, the daily attendance rate dropped less than in Wairarapa, with 88.66 per cent attendance in Week 1 falling to 83.92 per cent in Week 4.

That was significantly below attendance in Term 2 last year, where the region had 92.94 per cent attendance in Week 1, dropping to 89.48 per cent in Week 4.

The statistics from the Ministry of Education covered students who were onsite. The data would be impacted by some schools deciding to roster year groups for remote work on different days throughout the week.

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