Some teachers may have left it until the final day to get the Covid-19 vaccine in protest against the mandate, a union boss says.
Those who have not been vaccinated will not be allowed in schools and although most lessons will go ahead as normal, there are concerns about remote and rural schools, which have low staff numbers and where relief teachers are hard to find.
The Ministry of Education does not know how many teachers will not be in attendance but says some schools are anticipating disruption.
* Covid-19: Govt doesn’t know how many unvaccinated teachers will quit over mandate
* Small school in limbo as all staff refuse mandatory Covid-19 vaccine
* Covid-19: Relief and concern at Government’s back-to-school plans
* ‘Teachers quit’ after Covid-19 vaccine mandate as sector mulls options for unjabbed staff
“It’s a really tough time for schools because these are colleagues, who you have worked and value and respect, but they have made this decision that they are not going to become vaccinated, and therefore they can’t remain in schools.”
Ministry of Education workforce leader Anna Welanyk said “the overwhelming majority” of employees and organisations in the education sector support vaccination.
“We recognise the vaccine mandate is a very personal issue for many people and this presents a challenge for some school and kura leaders who are anticipating they may experience some disruption,” she said.
Although schools would have compiled a list of staff who had been vaccinated, they were not required to pass the information the ministry.
New Zealand Principals’ Federation president Perry Rush questioned why the ministry did not have national data.
“The only way a school would be able to seek support is if they pick up the phone or email the local director.”
Many schools would have “a very high degree of compliance”, he said.
“We have had more reports of challenges in our small, rural and remote communities, where there’s a real absence of relief staff and that is much more of a concern.”
Steven Mustor, acting principal of Christchurch Rudolf Steiner School, said there was “strong commitment” from him and other principals to support staff to “continue to do the job they love”.
He was still working with “a number of staff” about meeting the mandate, but would not say how many.
“We feel confident that we will be able to let the school continue to run and deliver our special character as effectively as we were earlier in the year.”
The state integrated school in Opawa takes students from year 1 to 13 and has a roll of 358.
It is understood four teachers from the school and four from the kindergarten would leave their jobs due to the mandate, while two remained on the fence on Monday.
Mustor, who has been double vaccinated, said the school’s board of trustees had a legal obligation to meet the order, but acknowledged some parents “have had concerns about the mandate in general”.
“Equally, there has been families that are strongly in favour of the mandate.”
One parent, who did not want to be named, said there were “lots of emotions” at the school on Monday.
A “send off” involving flowers and singing was organised after school for teachers leaving their jobs.
Some teachers had been at the school for about 20 years and had taught some parents at the school, another parent said.
Another parent, who was fully-vaccinated and in support of the vaccine, said she was “on the fence” about it being mandated.
“The division within the community … it’s a very hot topic,” she said.
“Those who are really passionate are really passionate.”
A parent of a kindergarten student said a “strong anti-vaxx community” was “definitely part of the school”.
She felt it was “pretty extreme” to mandate the vaccine, but believed it was important to “keep people safe”.
Lake Hawea early childhood teacher Kimberley Skiller would be out of a job from Tuesday because she did not want to get vaccinated and did not believe the mandate was fair.
The choice to leave her job was not easy, she said.
“It’s so incredibly sad. I’ve only been here for six months [from the United Kingdom], but I’ve worked in an early childhood context all of my adult life.”