Marist College student scared to return to school after being at centre of second largest cluster

Year 12 student Skyler knows first-hand the impact COVID-19 can have on the classroom.

"It was actually really scary once we found out, I mean I had several friends who came down with COVID," Skyler told Newshub. 

Her school Marist College was the country's second-largest cluster last year, with 96 people from her community testing positive for the virus.

"I had a lot of teachers that got really sick and that was really worrying. Not just for my education, but when you're at a school as strong in heart and spirit and community as my school is, you worry about each other - you really do," she says. 

And that worry hasn't gone away - she's in two minds about being able to return to school next week.

"[Staff] are being very reassuring to us with everything. But you've still got at the back of your mind the 'what if' that you can't control," Skyler told Newshub.

"It's a double-edged sword. I want to go back to school because I'll learn better, but I don't, because I don't think it's safe enough yet," she says. 

Her mother Jo agrees.

"I am frightened. I'm scared for my kids," Jo says. 

"Marist College went through a very difficult time being one of the first clusters last year. However, this time round it's different with Delta. It's a completely different kettle of fish," she says. 

It's not just the threat of COVID for students she's worried about - but those around them.

"My household is a three-generation household, so it's a very vulnerable household... my other teenage boy is a type one diabetic," Jo says. 

And it's not just parents and students questioning the Government's decision - principals are, too.

Macleans College Principal Steven Hargreaves says he has mixed emotions about the news. 

"We can't get a haircut, we can't have a group of more than 10 at a tangi, and we're going to have 1500 kids on site on Tuesday, so it's pretty hard to marry those two together," Hargreaves told Newshub. 

Everyone will be required to mask up and teachers will have to provide negative test results, but students won't be required to be vaccinated.

"We're going to be dealing with 16, 17, 18-year-olds who may not be vaccinated... there are going to be opportunities for spread there, so it is going to elevate the risk," he says. 

"I know I'm going to have some quite difficult conversations trying to reassure parents and students and staff in particular. Because we've led this quite sheltered existence for a while and all of a sudden we're going to be buzzing with students in close proximity," he says. 

Macleans College is instead opting for online exams for year 12 and 13 students. 

"We made the plan already and we did test it last term... we know it can work and we know that students are prepared to do it," he says. 

The main concern for Skyler is heading back to school at the peak of Auckland's outbreak. 

"This isn't just a kid going 'oh I don't want to do exams, ya know - nerves'. This is - 'how are we going to do this safely?'" 

Because no student, teacher, or family wants to be at the heart of another COVID cluster.