18 Aug 2020

Auckland principal: Students at school in level 3 puts communities at risk

9:54 am on 18 August 2020

An Auckland principal says letting schools decide whether some year 12 and 13 pupils should return to class is unnecessary.

Students of the eleventh grade sit with face masks in a classroom of the Phoenix high school in Dortmund, western Germany, on 12 August 2020, amid the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Students wear face masks in a classroom in Germany. Photo: AFP

The Education Ministry has told schools that they can allow these students back to school for face-to-face learning during alert level 3 if they want to.

It follows fears among teachers and principals that Auckland students will fall behind academically during the period the city is at level 3.

Albany Senior High School principal Claire Amos told Morning Report the school was working with students in years 11, 12 and 13 to continue learning from home and to make the most of the flexibility that came with NCEA.

"There is a lot they can get on with when they are not in the classroom."

She said letting students back into schools was unfair especially when the wider community was making sacrifices by missing weddings and funerals because of the 10-people limit.

"We don't need to put our communities at risk."

It was a challenging time, but Amos was sure students would get through.

"We know that our tertiary providers will be flexible in terms of pathways into courses next year. I really don't think the future of our young people is at risk by missing a few extra days of school in Auckland.

"But I'd hate to see our communities at risk if we rush back in and allow these bubbles of 20 in schools."

She said it was important that schools students learned to operate in remote environments because this could be life for another two to three years depending on the virus.

"I think this is a knee-jerk response to a few very noisy principals who aren't actually thinking of the safety of the wider community."

Her principal colleagues were shocked that the idea was even on the table.

She said physical distancing was difficult to maintain in a school.

"I've had a lot of support from my community for pushing the message that I worry about their wellbeing and ... that I'm absolutely confident that we're able to be flexible and support the young people in different ways.

"I've not had a single parent contact me wanting access back into the school."

Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker told Morning Report older students were more likely to behave like adults and reduce transmission of the virus.

But at level 3 face masks should be used in schools, he said.

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