Covid-19 in BOP schools “pretty taxing” on staff

Oropi School principal Andrew King. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

“We are exhausted” is how Oropi School principal Andrew King describes how staff are faring, whilst managing Covid cases in the school.

This is no surprise, with 53 per cent of schools in the Bay of Plenty reporting positive Covid cases in the last 10 days, according to Ministry of Education data released on Monday.  

A week ago this number was only 19 per cent.

“So much has changed in a week. I’m at the point of questioning, ‘How long can we sustain this level of at-school learning with this impact?'"

Out of the 340 students enrolled at the school, only 150 are learning on site. Six staff, including himself, and 75 students are isolating or have Covid.

For the Year 1 to 8 school, this means teachers are providing a mix of classroom, at home and online learning.  

The two new entrants’ classes are closed until March 21 because both the teachers for the classes are away, he says.

“For little kids to have a different reliever every day is not good for them, in terms of their wellbeing and when they had only been at school for a few weeks.”  

He says they are using relief teachers where possible but the “reliever pool was drying up rapidly” and using part time teachers from other programmes in the classroom.

“It’s now starting to have an impact on all the other programmes we offer and relief the teachers get.”

Andrew says this is “pretty taxing” on staff.

“We are tired and exhausted with it, but you just have to carry on and adapt.”

The Western Bay of Plenty secondary schools Local Democracy Reporting spoke to says online learning is part of their plan for manging Covid.

Tauranga Girls College principal Tara Kanji. Photo: Supplied.

Tauranga Girls College principal Tara Kanji says the key for the school is that students’ learning isn’t interrupted anymore than it needs to be.

She says there are many students away with Covid or isolating as a household contact.

“We have a contingency plan which outlines who is remote learning and what would trigger that should we have a staffing shortage or minimum health and safety needs couldn't be meet,” says Tara.

“Fortunately, we only needed to use this for a few days and this was some time ago now.

“The current environment is very dynamic and fluid and our ability to respond is something we feel we are doing well,” she says.

Te Puke High School moved the entire school to online learning at the start of last week and on site learning resumed yesterday.

Principal Alan Liddle says they try to have students and teachers work onsite as much possible and those that need to will isolate as per the Ministry of Health requirements.

Pāpāmoa College acting principal Pere Durie says there have been Covid cases in the school for the past two weeks.

In terms of the impact of Covid and isolation on teaching capabilities, Pere says “for now we had been managing with our regular relievers helping to fill gaps.

“A number of staff have been in isolation, but we are fortunate that many will return soon from their 10 day isolation,” says Pere.

“Hopefully that will mean we can continue to have an adequate number of staff available for learning on site.”

He says managing cases amongst students involves regular communication with the community and every class was set up to provide online learning at the start of the school year.

Andrew says the Oropi School community is “very understanding” of the changing situation.

“Everyone just accepts it is what it is,” he says.

“It's not time for disagreeing over how things are done because we're inventing things as we go.”

“It’s nothing like lockdown days, it’s harder, much harder,” says Andrew.

Tara agrees.

“I must admit, it isn’t easy and I don’t think any principal out there is enjoying being a Covid managing one," says Tara.

“It’s really relentless and the rules keep changing to reflect the changing situation in NZ,” she says.

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