Auckland college moves to online learning as ‘circuit breaker’ for Covid-19 and winter sickness

An Auckland college hopes a few days of online learning will help students recover from a bout of winter illness, with around 20 per cent of students sick last week.

Carmel College on the North Shore switched to online learning due to high numbers of sick staff and students.

Principal Chris Allen said the school had “really suffered” in recent weeks, with staff and pupils coming in and out with Covid-19, colds, flu and a stomach bug.

About 20% of students and 25-30% of teachers were sick last week.

Allen said a student told her she once had substitute teachers for her six classes.

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Carmel College on Auckland's north coast will switch to online learning for the last four days of the school term.

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Carmel College on Auckland’s north coast will switch to online learning for the last four days of the school term.

But on Monday there were no relief teachers available, prompting the school to revert to online learning for the final days of term.

Allen said it was not a difficult decision to make, as the well-being of staff and students was paramount.

“All of these things make it really hard for students to stay focused and keep up with the workload.”

The episode of illness occurred despite the measures taken by the school to limit the spread of Covid-19, including the ventilation of classrooms.

Allen didn’t think mandatory mask-wearing under the orange light of the Covid-19 protective framework would make a difference, as most of his students wore them by choice anyway.

She insisted that home learning was not an early start to school holidays next week, but an opportunity for pupils to fully recover from their illness and complete their schoolwork for the term without the pressure to go to school.

“The learning is still ongoing,” she said.

“They can do their apprenticeship in their pajamas if they need to, to get through.”

Allen hoped the four days of online school and the holidays would act as a circuit breaker, so everyone could start the new term feeling good.

Several schools in Auckland have made similar decisions about online learning due to Covid-19 spikes among students.

The Department for Education said in February that it was up to each school to make the decision.

Earlier this year, when New Zealand experienced a resurgence of the Omicron outbreak, at least three schools in Auckland temporarily switched to online learning or changed the way they teach due to the large number of students and staff who are sick or need to self-isolate.

In May, Albany Junior High School went online for seven days due to 200 absentees over two days.

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