The school year just started in New Zealand and Covid-19 is already causing disruptions to learning. 24 learning institutes are already managing COVID 19 cases. According to an RNZ report, affected schools include “nine Waikato schools, three in the Bay of Plenty, and one each in Auckland and Hawke’s Bay.” Even early childhood centers have confirmed cases including “three in Auckland, five in Bay of Plenty, one in Waikato, and one in Nelson.”
In Havelock, Te Mata School is also affected by Omicron. 55 students and 3 staff have reported being in isolation. Exposure was traced to 4 students who tested positive after attending a birthday party. “The children barely had 3 days at school but for the most part, we’re just gonna keep running. We knew that this would possibly happen and we’re just gonna make learning fun,” said Te Mata School Principal Patrice O’Connor to 1News.
In the Waikato District, nine Hamilton schools have been affected. Two were hit by the virus on the first week of school. The New Zealand Herald reported that 80 students and staff in a Waikato school are in isolation after a Year 7 student tested positive for Covid-19. Rototuna Junior and Senior High School had sent emails to families after confirming that a Covid-positive student was at school. In Hamilton Christian School, all 80 Year 7 students will be doing classes online while in isolation after being exposed to a Covid-19 positive student.
Despite the rise in Covid-19 cases linked to schools, the government assured that ample support will be given to schools affected. “The Ministry of Education has nominated for each school in the country a single point of contact that they can get in touch with when they experience COVID-19 disruption. That person can work with them to make sure they’re getting all the support they need,” said Education Minister Chris Hipkins in a press conference.
Despite Covid-19 cases affecting in-person learning, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that school closures will only be done as a last resort to prevent causing “indirect harm to children.” As of current, the Education Ministry reports that it is not aware of any schools closing due to Omicron. However, schools may be closed should there be a significant increase in Omicron cases leading to unsafe operations in school or a local lockdown.
Schools continue to deliver learning in a hybrid setup, supporting learners in-person and online.