Coronavirus: Rural school principals fear they'll have to shut if their teachers haven't had first vaccine

Rural principals around NZ say some schools will be forced to operate online or shut altogether from Tuesday, if their teachers haven't had their first COVID shot.

The Government's "no jab, no job" mandate means teachers could be banned from schools if they fail to have their first vaccination by November 15 and their second by January 1, 2022.

Matiere School's Principal Vanessa Gotz says just two of her seven King Country teachers and support staff are vaccinated. 

"That steps over a line when I am being forced to say you're a good teacher, the kids love you but actually you're not worthy of having a position tomorrow."

She fears the school of 42 children will have to close or operate online.

"I signed up to educate children, that's our job, I didn't sign up to be an enforcer of a vaccination mandate," she says.

"My staff are entitled to have their views."

Some staff at the remote school northwest of Taumarunui have medical reasons for refusing the vaccine, for others it's personal.

Matiere School's plight is mirrored across rural New Zealand.

Every one of the central King Country’s 16 schools, will lose between 15-75 percent of their teachers and or support staff from November 15 because they're unvaccinated.

Vanessa Gotz says "we are in a crisis, we don't have staff or relievers to fill these positions across the region. It's hard enough attracting teachers to rural areas without a vaccination mandate."

Southland is in a similar position. 

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins doubts schools will have to close.

"We are working really hard to make sure those teachers get good, reliable information. It is clear there is some misinformation out there."

Newshub understands mandating vaccinations for police officers is next.

"That’s still a topic under conversation," he says.

Air New Zealand has also now confirmed anyone aged over 12 flying domestically from mid-December will need to be fully vaccinated or have a negative test.

"If you don't want to be vaccinated we want to carry you as well but you will have to get that test done before you get on the plane," according to CEO Greg Foran.