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The hard lessons of covid

Kuranui College principal Simon Fuller said the school is much quieter even with one year group away. PHOTOS/TOM TAYLOR

Although Wairarapa’s daily case numbers have been plateauing since early April, some schools are still being hit by the long tail of the omicron outbreak.

The region’s daily cases had not exceeded 200 since March 29, when the Ministry of Health reported 210 new cases.

However, at Kuranui College in South Wairarapa, covid was still affecting the school to the point where it needed to roster one year group to work remotely each day for the next week.

Simon Fuller.

Principal Simon Fuller said although student attendance had returned to roughly normal levels for the beginning of term two, the school’s staff were now being hit by omicron.

“The students are here, but we don’t have enough staff to put in front of them.”

So far this term, student attendance had been sitting at about 85 per cent of the school’s roll of 770, just below the school’s ‘normal’ attendance of about 89 per cent.

However, Fuller said that in recent days between a quarter and a third of the school’s 55 teachers had been offsite due to covid.

“Our staff were pretty lucky last term; we didn’t have a huge number of positive cases in the staff,” he said.

“Our students have returned in droves this term – our attendance is really good – but our staff have gone through a big spike of cases halfway through last week and into this week.”

Fuller said there were still from six to 12 student cases cropping up each day, but the numbers were much lower than last term when about half the student population was absent each day.

“With staff, we need five to six school days to get through this, and then we’ll have them back on deck this time next week.”

Each day for the next week, a different year group was rostered to study at home, with teachers posting work online.

Teachers who could remain onsite would supervise classes where the teacher was absent.

Fuller said that students’ timetables were unaffected, whether they were working from home or onsite.

To cope with the outbreak, teachers were required to wear masks in classes, while students were encouraged to wear them. In large gatherings like assemblies, mask-wearing was mandatory for staff and students.

Fuller said most students were progressing well despite the trials of last term, where Kuranui had an average attendance of 50-55 per cent.

“It was hard in term one when you had different kids in front of you on different days.

“Getting consistency was hard, but we progressed our online learning from early March right through to the end of term.”

At Masterton’s Wairarapa College, student attendance was also back to normal levels for term two.

In the first week of term, the school had an attendance rate of 89 per cent across its roll of 1050 – just below the same time last year when the school had 89.5 per cent attendance.

“We’ve had low cases, but we still have cases among our staff,” principal Matt White said.

He said most teachers were onsite, but there were one or two cases each week among the school’s 100 staff members.

White said that his teachers had been hit harder by covid last term.

“When we came back, students and staff were more positive about term two than at the end of last term,” he said.

Wairarapa College was now prioritising the opportunities students missed out on last term, including cross country, house competitions, music, and assemblies.

“We can come together to build the sense of community and whanau of being a school.”

Across New Zealand, there were 7985 cases reported in schools in the past seven days [Waikato schools were not captured due to a processing error].

In the Wellington region, schools had notified the Ministry of Education of 757 individual cases, consisting of 638 students, 88 teachers, and 31 other staff members.

Nationwide, 702 schools, or 28 per cent of all schools, had notified the ministry of cases in the past seven days.

In the Wellington region, 86 schools, or 30 per cent, had notified the ministry of cases.

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