Covid 19 coronavirus: Neighbouring schools on high alert after latest Papatoetoe High School scare

Nearly a third of pupils at a South Auckland intermediate are staying away from class today as the Papatoetoe community is back on high alert following a fresh school Covid scare yesterday.

Results of mass testing that saw nearly 700 pupils and staff at the Papatoetoe High School take swabs yesterday are starting to come back after the college shut its doors for the second time this year when a fourth pupil tested positive for Covid-19.

The year 10 student and two siblings, including one who worked at Kmart Botany, were the latest family to succumb to the infection so far detected in three South Auckland families.

All have at least one child attending Papatoetoe High School.

The Ministry of Health has advised the 1500 households connected to the school to stay home and remain isolated until negative results come through.

Surrounding schools have immediately felt the impact, with families following guidelines and keeping their entire households in isolation.

Papatoetoe Intermediate principal Pauline Cornwell said as soon as the alert went out yesterday lunchtime around 40 pupils were picked up from class.

Today there were up to 200 children from a roll of 700 learning from home. There were also a handful of staff impacted by the announcement.

“We sent children home with Chromebooks and today we’re teaching online and in the classroom.”

Staff were also affected, with 30 resource teachers for learning and behaviour (RTLB) routinely going into neighbouring schools, including Papatoetoe High.

Cornwell said eight specialist teachers who had been at the college had been told to self-isolate and test.

She said the community, which she described as very caring and dedicated, was probably more cautious than they were expected to be due to its inter-connected nature.

“After the first lockdown, we didn’t get all of our children back to school. We had around about 100 still deciding whether or not to come back to school,” she said.

Those taking that action were living alongside vulnerable people.

Cornwell said what was happening at Papatoetoe High School was affecting the community deeply.

“The fingers are reaching out into all aspects of community life. The possible impact is huge.”

Another school, James Cook High, has issued a notice indicating nine pupils were on a course alongside Papatoetoe High School students at the Manukau Institute of Technology for the first two days of this week.

Principal Grant McMillan said the school sought advice from the Ministry of Health, which said the Papatoetoe students on the course were considered at low risk to others as they had not been at school this week.

However, James Cook High was taking a cautious approach asking the affected students to stay away.

“Even though the risk is low, we have contacted the whānau of our nine JCHS students asking that the students don’t come into school tomorrow, and instead get a Covid test.

“We expect that our students will get a negative result after which they will come back to school,” he said.

If students needed transport to get to the testing facility the school would help out, he said.

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