Coronavirus: Principals' Federation confident that schools are well-prepared for Omicron

Many schools are heading back into the classroom on Monday for another year of juggling the pandemic and the academic.

The Principals' Federation is gearing up for March and April to be the most challenging months when Omicron is expected to peak - but they're urging parents to trust their schools.

With Omicron cases climbing, it's an uncertain time for parents.

"I am feeling a little bit nervous as I think any parent would," says one parent.

"The school we are at has put a lot of practices in place for school going back, so it's good," adds another parent.

The Principals' Federation is confident schools are well prepared for Omicron. It says they've been assessing ventilation, classroom bubbles, playground set-ups, and how to reduce crowds of children during pick up and drop off times.

"Put trust in your schools, in principals, teaching staff and planning, and in the work they have done," says federation president Cherie Taylor.

And trust in the vaccine - just 33 percent of children aged five to 11 years old have had their first jab.

"We really want students to have the best start," Taylor says.

A start that could be hampered by parents so worried about COVID that they keep their kids home from school.

"It will be a percentage of parents who are highly anxious and who do consider the school a risk. All I can say is that schools are working incredibly hard," Taylor says.

Newshub asked the Ministry of Education if parents are allowed to keep their children home if they're worried about COVID. Perhaps frustratingly for parents, the ministry didn't give a definitive yes or no, but it did say all schools would be open for onsite learning.

"Being at school or kura is the best place for students to be for engaging in learning, connecting with kaiako (teachers), being with friends, and for their general well-being," it says.

If parents did keep their kids home, the ministry says: "Individual schools and kura use a wide range of approaches to work with parents to support students to return to face-to-face learning."

Sean Teddy, the hautū (leader) of operations and integration at Te Pae Aronui, says they know that schools and kura best understand the needs of their students.

"Individual schools and kura use a wide range of approaches to work with parents to support students to return to face to face learning and to reconnect with their friends and teachers," he says.

"As has always been the case throughout the COVID-19 response, some children, students or staff may be required to self-isolate or have complex medical needs, particularly if not fully vaccinated, and therefore may not attend onsite for a period of time.

"We know that for the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of students being in school is beneficial so all those students that can attend should. Their safety and wellbeing is the top priority for every school or kura, who will have their own plan that best meets the needs of their students and staff at all colour settings."