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Brakes on face-to-face learning as Covid spreads through schools

Wednesday 6 April 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Education, National


Brakes on face-to-face learning as Covid spreads through schools
Imanuela Akatemia teacher Pita Senibiakula says the Covid-19 pandemic has been the most disruptive experience in his 15-year teaching career. SUPPLIED/22040501

As Covid-19 makes its way through the community, several schools are having to stop face-to-face learning to protect both staff and students.

Principal of Papaaroa Adventist School June Hosea said half of the school’s ten staff are isolating due to Covid-19.

“It’s been really tough,” Hosea said.

“As soon as we found out that half our staff were affected, we made the decision to stop face-to-face learning.”

Hosea said the school would be shut for face-to-face learning for at least a week, as staff make it through the isolation and quarantine periods.

“Lots of parents are really concerned, and are keeping their students away,” she said.

“Fewer than 20 turned up on the Thursday, and we have a roll of about 120.”

Hosea said staff who are Covid-19 free will be on the premises this week, in order for parents to pick up study packs.

Others would be emailed their study resources, Hosea said.

Imanuela Akatemia School, which has about 100 students, had to suspend face to face learning for two classes last week.

Office manager Dee Senibiakula said about eight of its 14 staff were affected by Covid-19 last week, including the principal.

The school was offering online services for those students who could not make it to class, while it was also dropping off study packs to those in isolation.

“We’re very conscious that we need our students to keep up their learning, and we don’t want them falling behind or missing out,” Senibiakula said.

“We’ve been very grateful for the parents, who have picked up the responsibility of assisting with home learning.”

Senibiakula said attendance at school had fluctuated between 25 to 30 students over the past week.

“Many parents are taking their children out of school due to concerns about Covid-19,” she said.

“Some students have caught the virus and have come back into class, but others are still riding it out.”

Imanuela Akatemia school teacher Pita Senibiakula said the past few months had been the most disruptive of his 15-year teaching career.

“We had some plans in place for when the border reopened, but really our approach is changing all the time,” Pita said.

“It’s been difficult for students in isolation to keep up with what’s going on in class, there is a real concern of them falling behind.”

Pita said some parents had struggled to keep up with the home-based lessons due to their own commitments.

“We have learned to be patient. We can’t really do much until the students come back. Their learning has definitely slowed down due to the pandemic,” he said.

Tereora College principal Tania Morgan said about half of its 60 staff had been affected by Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

In the early stages of the pandemic, the school had the junior classes as face-to-face and the senior classes at home-based learning.

Since then, it had rotated years so that all students could receive at least four days of face-to-face learning each week.

“We’re really grateful for the way our teaching staff have responded to this pandemic in what has definitely been a difficult time for all concerned,” Morgan said.

Secretary of Education Danielle Cochrane said schools on Rarotonga and Aitutaki have the option to activate home-based learning when needed. 

“Home-based learning has been in place for some time now and especially for those students who have been impacted by Covid-19, either through isolation or quarantine,” Cochrane said.

“Understandably, we know families are concerned about the health and wellbeing of their children at school and some families are choosing to keep their children at home during this time. 

“Our schools are open and are safe places to be for students and staff.  While learning at the moment may look quite different from what we are used to seeing our families should still have confidence in the efforts of our schools and teachers.”