Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: Parents and schools clash over school holiday dates

Auckland parents and teachers are butting heads over the possibility of moving term three school holidays forward.

Some parents want the two-week break to start from Monday instead of October 2 so they don’t have to facilitate learning from home during alert level 4 and 3 restrictions.

But school principals believe changing the school holiday dates would be disruptive.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this afternoon that Auckland will remain in alert level 4 until next Tuesday, and Cabinet has made a decision “in principle” that it will then move to alert level 3.

Parents fear if Auckland spends a week or more in alert level 3, when children of non-essential workers still can’t attend school, then the easing of restrictions could come at the same time as the school holidays – right when they need to go back to work.

Auckland mother-of-two Kinga Hajmasi said she has been struggling with home schooling.

“The likelihood of them going back to school [will be at] the time when school holidays start,” she told the Herald.

“If school holiday start [on October 2] I will be struggling to pay a lot for childcare or a babysitter. We need to work, we don’t have much income at the moment.

“The wage subsidy is good but as soon as it’s finished we need to work, like probably most people in Auckland.”

A single mother who the Herald has agreed not to name said it was “impossible” to oversee schooling for her three children while working from home.

“Term 3 is quite a [lot of] focused learning, they’ve missed a lot of school.”

She said if school holidays line up with Auckland moving to alert level 2, it will cause childcare issues.

“At level 2 employers want us back at work, they don’t then want you to say I’ve got to take annual leave.”

But Auckland Primary School Association president Stephen Lethbridge said it becomes difficult if the country has split school holidays.

“If we were in alert level 3, and put off the holidays, the rest of the country would still have a holiday,” he told the Herald.

“I know the Minister will be under a great deal of pressure to get some answers around school holiday movement. However, from an organisation and structures point of view, it just makes sense to keep the holidays as is, moving forward.”

Lethbridge said he acknowledges how challenging it has been for parents.

“This is again a little blip, a five-or-six-week blip, in a child’s entire school life.

“A large number of teachers are parents, and they have their kids and home as well … whilst maintaining online learning for classrooms around the region.”

New Zealand Principals’ Federation executive Perry Rush said “quite a number of principals” do not want to see the school holidays date change.

“You extend that term-four term significantly and I think principals will much prefer to stay the course and see this term conclude and hopefully enable term four to be a normal length.

“A 12-week term in the last term of the year, given the year that we’ve had, is a very tall order for the teaching profession.

“The preference is to keep school holidays where they are.”

Only one of today’s 33 cases is still to be epidemiologically linked and all are in Auckland.

The one new community case announced today that has not been epidemiologically linked is a person who presented to Middlemore Hospital on Saturday. However, their seven other household members have also tested positive and are linked.

There are 21 people with Covid in hospital and four in ICU.

Today’s cases took the outbreak to 955 overall – 938 in Auckland and 17 in Wellington.

The Ministry of Health is urging people across Auckland to get tested, especially those who live in and around Massey, Favona, Henderson, Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Māngere and Manurewa.

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