Covid, flu sends Auckland school back to online learning

Source: 1News

An Auckland college is going back to online learning as a new surge in Covid-19 cases and other winter illnesses like the flu keep students and teachers sick at home.

Carmel College in the North Shore had been able to keep its doors open for students up until this point in the year, principal Chris Allen​ said.

But, with daily Covid-19 cases on Wednesday passing 10,000, Allen said the school was really feeling the impact.

"We have just come to a point where this latest surge, we have just run out of staff to be able to safely staff our school and keep kids on site."

Allen said, in the past couple of weeks, an average of 20% of students and staff were away sick. But, that number shot up to 25-30% this week.

"When we have run out of relievers and we have to get a reliever for a reliever for a reliever, we know we can't continue with what we're doing."

Thankfully, the transition to online learning was "smooth and seamless" and students only needed a day's notice, Allen said.

She said some students actually welcomed the move online because they'd been overwhelmed with assessments recently. Allen said teachers also reported higher attendance rates online.

Despite the repeated disruption to learning, Allen said that didn't reflect in academic results, which stayed more or less the same.

She credited the additional effort of students and teachers for their good results but acknowledged it was "a bit of a grind" to keep it up.

"Our Year 13s - this is the third year they've had to try to do their NCEA under very trying circumstances. So, for them, I think it's much more difficult because they haven't had a clear run at NCEA."

Allen said it was hard to tell what the future could hold for the school and its students. But, she said Carmel College would continue to provide students with the support they needed.

For now, she was hoping the four-day online learning stint, which would take the college to the end of Term 2, would act as a circuit breaker.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ruled out moving New Zealand to the red traffic light setting "at this stage". That's despite the rise in Covid-19 case numbers and increasing pressure on the health system.

The Government planned to distribute more free masks in schools from Term 3 and give schools extra funding to help with ventilation over the winter.