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Some local schools have lost staff who have chosen not to be vaccinated, but none of the schools contacted by Ōtaki Today reports significant disruption.
The Government has mandated that all school staff – whatever their role – must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to protect the children in their care and other staff. If staff don’t get vaccinated, they lose their job. The mandate also applies to volunteers who assist with on-site school activities and trips away.
At Ōtaki School, tumuaki Rauru Walker says he’s been in the fortunate positon to have all of his staff fully vaccinated.
“We’ve actually had 100 percent of our staff get vaccinated, which is great,” he says. “The biggest issue is that there has been the odd parent who has chosen not to be vaccinated, who has been upset that they haven’t been able to support us as a volunteer on trips that we have been on.
“Other than that, our school community has been pretty supportive.”
Waitohu School principal Maine Curtis says from the outset of Covid-19 the school has taken a precautionary approach to safety for students, staff and the wider whānau community.
“In keeping with this approach, all staff have considered how to best keep students and each other safe when considering vaccination requirements,” he says. “It would not be approriate to disclose individuals’ decisions – I can confirm though that all current staff, and staff for 2022, are vaccinated”
Michelle Tate at Te Horo School said in her response to questions from Ōtaki Today:
“Teaching and support staff, contractors and parent volunteer/helpers’ vaccination status is covered by the Privacy Act. The school is compliant with the requirements of the Covid-19 Health Order, and we are not recruiting for more staff at this time.”
At Ōtaki College, Andy Fraser said he couldn’t comment on specific questions about staff, “but I can say that thankfully the impact on the college has been minimal to say the least”.
He said there could be challenges next year when the college is hosting sporting events with parents, whānau and visiting supporters attending.
“We are expected to maintain maximum numbers under the traffic light system for spectators, so I don’t know just yet how we’re going to handle that, especially when we are also supposed to make certain they are all wearing masks and be vaccinated.”
While the goal throughout New Zealand is to have as many people as possible aged over 12 fully vaccinated, colleges are required to accept all children, whether vaccinated or not.
Acting tumuaki Urutakai Cooper at St Peter Chanel School in Convent Road said as head of a small kura, commenting on how many the school had lost would victimise those people’s beliefs.
“I would rather say that we have been affected by the mandate in such a way that we felt bullied,” she said in a statement.
“At St Peter Chanel School we promote well-being so when we talk about bullying, for example, we discuss with our students reasons why we do not condone bullying, how we safeguard ourselves from bullies and how does someone become a bully.
“This is how we felt when the Vaccination Order came through from the Ministry [of Education].
“As professionals, we chose to be vaccinated, firstly to safeguard our tamariki, our mokopuna and secondly because we couldn’t lose our jobs. Our students were the reason for our decision.
“During our staff discussions, one particular comment stood out: ‘rights and freedom taken away, replaced by benefits and privileges’.
“To add, our well-being programme which we set up at the beginning of 2021 was jeopardised and for me, as a teaching principal, I felt an even heavier workload. We have been fortunate to have the support of our board of trustees and kura community.”
Meanwhile, Te Wānanga o Raukawa tumuaki Mereana Selby said the Wānanga had just announced that it would require anyone coming on to the campus in 2022, who is eligible to be vaccinated, to be fully vaccinated.
“We want to declare the campus an ‘ahuru mōwai’, place of shelter and safety,” she said. “This is always our aim, however the Covid virus threatens this. Our best protection for people coming on campus is to require full vaccination.
“The vast majority of our staff are compliant. It is our wish that we retain all staff, however, there is a very small number who may not meet our requirement and will depart.”
Hamish Barham pharmacy said it was happy to say that it hadn’t lost any staff due to the vaccination mandate. The Ōtaki Medical Centre said it wouldn’t comment.