Coronavirus: Some Auckland schools not returning to in-person learning next Tuesday

A number of Auckland's high schools won't be returning to in-person learning from Tuesday, in a departure from what the Education Minister has advised. 

On-site learning can resume for Year 11-to-13 students next week. But the secondary principals association says about 15 percent of Auckland high schools won't be doing that, because of concern over logistics and safety.

Mount Roskill Grammar is excited about getting students back to school for face-to-face learning next week - but with worried staff and a concerned community, it wasn't an easy call. 

"They are anxious," says associate principal Karen Collins. "And I think the anxiety is because they may live in families where they have immunocompromised people, they've got young children that can't get vaccinated.

"That's why it's really important we balance the learning with the safety."

To help allay some of the fear, staff phoned around the community to convince more students and their parents to get their first dose of the vaccine.   

Earlier this week, the Education Minister advised schools years 11 to 13 could return next Tuesday, but Auckland Secondary Principals Association says about 15 percent of schools will continue online-only. 

"The strategy is hard to follow because for so long we've been told to be afraid of the virus, we've had this really measured approach prioritising health, and now we've just swung around to saying 60,000 young adults and thousands of staff are going to be pushed on-site into quite confined spaces," says Steve Hargreaves from the Auckland Secondary Principals Association.

Pacific Advance Secondary School says its Otahuhu community is just too vulnerable and its one of those holding off for now.

"Some families have lost their fathers and their mothers during COVID-19, and some of those older children have had to go to work to support the family," says the school's co-principal Parehuia Enari.

The Ministry of Education says some students have found distanced learning almost impossible, with students also needing to sit their exams before the end of the year. 

The ministry says it will support schools on a case-by-case basis to work out what's best for their communities.