'Very hard' - Schools battling with mask mandates

With all schools in the country back in session this week, students and staff are continuing to adjust to the new rules under red light restrictions. This includes the wearing of masks indoors at all times.

For students at and staff at Mount Roskill Grammar School, it's proving to be increasingly difficult.

“It has been very hard, especially with focus and stuff because you have to look at your mask and that kind of distracts me,” says year 13 student Harrison Tipa.

More than 350,000 young people across Aotearoa are having to wear masks for over four hours a day but Mt Roskill Grammar School deputy principal Callum McGibbon says students and staff have adapted quickly.

“It's definitely hard but people have just gotten on with it. We've learned to adapt and it's about us being confident together in the classroom and having a mask on gives that for everyone.”

Life for students has been all but easy since the first lockdown nearly two years ago, and McGibbon says he has been impressed with how his students have handled these unprecedented circumstances: “I'm super impressed with all our rangatahi not just our school but across the country. Young people have had to learn to adapt and show resilience.

"There has been a lot of disappointment, especially for senior students who have had to miss out on events like senior balls, Polyfest, and some of those opportunities our young people have looked forward to from the time they stepped into our doors, and it's been really hard having to deliver that news to them.”

With Omicron cases on the rise, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that she will only shut down schools again as a last resort. Mount Roskill Grammar is one of many schools hoping that doesn’t happen.

“I think the plan is to keep the school open as much as possible this year to lessen the disruption for students and their learning,” McGibbon says.