Covid-19 Update – November 2021

As you’ll be aware, there are many, many aspects of the Covid pandemic which continue to impact heavily on schools and their communities. As your Principal, I am endeavoring to make sure staff and parents get the information they need. In most instances the advice from the Ministry of Education is clear, but at times we find gaps in the information, requiring to seek further clarification.  Please find below some additional information which may affect you.

In schools, who does the vaccination mandate apply to?
The Public Health Order requires staff to be vaccinated, but this also applies to volunteers (e.g. Parent Helpers). Naturally this creates a significant workload for schools. Below is the information supplied to us from the Ministry of Education:

Everyone who works for a school who may have contact with students or will be present at a time when students are also present must have had a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 15 November and be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.

From 1 January 2022, schools must only allow those that are fully vaccinated to provide onsite services.  This includes: principals, teachers, relief teachers and casual staff, administration staff, caretakers and cleaners, contractors and other tradespeople, service managers, caregivers and other staff.

It also includes unpaid workers, such as volunteers and any members of the community who are regularly on site during a time when students may be present. Throughout this guidance we have used the term staff member to refer to paid staff members, unpaid workers, volunteers, contractors and other workers at your school.

The vaccination requirements apply wherever ‘in person’ (face to face) learning/schooling occurs, such as on the school site, but also at school camps, swimming pools, museums, or where other education outside the classroom (EOTC) programmes take place. This means that both school staff and volunteers who are involved in EOTC should have had a first vaccination by 15 November and be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.

The vaccination requirements do not apply to those who are performing services remotely (digital interface), or who are onsite only when children and students are not present (such as a contractor who is performing maintenance during the weekend or over a term break). The requirements also do not apply to people who are visiting your school or kura, such as for a learning conference or a parent, whānau and community evening.

This means that parents/caregivers/whānau members who are helping in classrooms, in the school library, on trips, on camps, coaching sports teams etc will need to be vaccinated. We realise that many coaches are working with teams off site and after hours, but because you have face-to-face contact with students this rule still applies.

I am very, very appreciative that as a community you have shown kindness and support since the start of this pandemic. Elements of this mandate have the potential to divide school communities and I would hate that to happen to us. I also request that any upset or frustration you may feel is not taken out on me or my staff personally – as we are public servants following the Public Health order.

What would happen if we had a Covid case at PBS?
Yesterday I received an email from the Wellington Office of the Ministry of Education alerting me to the fact that there are now cases of Covid in the greater Wellington area (Wairarapa). The Ministry has indicated that with the community spread of Covid 19 across the country, it is likely that schools may have some students or staff who test positive. We have been asked to act on confirmed cases only and reminded not to close the school as a result of unconfirmed information or rumours of positive Covid 19 case contacts.

As always, we will remain vigilant for symptoms, ask parents to keep sick kids at home, encourage good hand hygiene, require parents and visitors to the school to wear face coverings and use our school’s QR tracing app. If we do get a confirmed case of Covid at our school, please be assured that we will work closely with Regional Public Health.

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