Secondary school pupils are used to having a lot on their plates.
But Covid-19 has dished up an extra serving in the form of Omicron, and the outbreak is causing major disruptions to St Kevin’s College, and Waitaki Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools.
Waitaki Boys’ has been hit the hardest, with 193 pupils either testing positive or being close contacts. Over the past fortnight, about 70 pupils have been absent from school.
About 60 St Kevin’s pupils have been affected so far, while Waitaki Girls’ has had about 60 pupils away each day in recent weeks.
Cases of Covid-19 among pupils and teachers forced Waitaki Boys’ to ‘‘roster’’ year 12s and 13s to study at home this week.
Waitaki Boys’ rector Darryl Paterson sent pupils home on Monday, as six teachers were affected by Covid-19 and their classes could not be covered. The school would reevaluate the situation today.
Pupils became accustomed to online learning during lockdowns, but this time the school’s study rooms were open for them to use at all times if they wanted to keep coming to school.
It was ‘‘hugely disruptive’’, but Mr Paterson commended the pupils’ resilience.
‘‘This is not an easy time for this generation of learners but they continue to amaze with their get-on-with-it attitude and willingness to return to school whenever able to,’’ he said.
‘‘As always, this willingness reflects the fact that education is and will always be about having positive relationships.’’
He heaped praise on the school’s staff, who had been ‘‘incredibly supportive’’, covering classes while juggling teaching in person, online, and pupils returning to the classroom at different times.
‘‘They have been amazing. Living in this Covid world for over two years now, everyone is very accustomed to teaching and learning online and we continue to support the students in this way.’’
St Kevin’s College had also given year 12 and 13 pupils the option of studying from home over the past two weeks, due to the number of staff either ill or isolating.
Principal Jo Walshe said the college had made it a priority to have teachers in front of the youngest pupils, but seniors could still come to school if they needed help with online learning.
So far, it seemed to be going very well, and St Kevin’s staff had been going ‘‘above and beyond’’ to make sure all pupils’ needs were met, MsWalshe said.
Nine teachers had been affected by Covid, and others had taken on relief duties, coached each other’s sports teams and helped where possible.
‘‘They have a very philosophical view on it . . .and are keeping calm and carrying on,’’ Ms Walshe said.
‘‘I am also personally blessed with an amazing senior leadership team and board who have been incredibly supportive of the college at this time — that makes making decisions a lot less fraught.’’
Pupils had also been ‘‘extremely resilient’’.
‘‘They have been very mature about decisions we have had to make to slow the spread.’’
Waitaki Girls’ principal Liz Koni acknowledged pupils and staff at the school, who had looked after one another in a challenging environment.
‘‘What has impressed me the most this term is the ability of both our staff and students to remain positive and focused on the task at hand, which is the education of our young women,’’ Mrs Koni said.
‘‘This is a testament to the strength of our school values — respect, responsibility, and resilience have been visible every day, by our staff and students.’’
While the year has been ‘‘different than usual’’, Mrs Koni said Waitaki Girls’ was lucky to have had few staff away so far, which had allowed for face-toface teaching to continue, and online where required.
North Otago Youth Centre manager Amanda Acheson said young people in the region were rolling with the punches.
‘‘Our youth are actually doing better than surviving, I think our youth are knocking it out,’’ Mrs Acheson said.
‘‘My observation is if those supporting our rangatahi and tamariki are managing it well around them, [the youth] will manage as well. Our kids soak up what’s going on around them.’’