Illness cuts swath through school staffroom
An Invercargill primary school yesterday asked parents to keep their children home after nearly half the teachers were absent. Fernworth Primary School principal Anne Walker said seven of the school's 17 teachers were absent with a combination of colds, flu, stomach bugs, and course commitments that could not be changed.
The school could not find the four relievers needed so asked parents to keep children home if possible, she said.
The school would operate as usual today.
Mrs Walker said she found out the school would be short on Wednesday night but it was too late to contact parents.
A message was played on the radio, signs were put up at school, and the deputy principal spoke to parents dropping their children off, Mrs Walker said. The school was not closed, she said.
A comment on The Southland Times website said students were sent home without notifying parents, but Mrs Walker said that was not the case.
Some had asked if they could go home and their parents were contacted, she said.
Another had seen the signs at school and made her own way home, and the school had spoken with her parents when they found out, Mrs Walker said.
Of 380 students about 100 were at school yesterday.
The school would investigate a better system to notify parents, such as text messaging, so there was no miscommunication, she said.
Southland Primary Principals' Association president Peter Forde said the pool of relief teachers started shrinking at this time of year, and the shortage could be attributed to several factors.
Schools had to start extra new-entrant classes, teachers went overseas, took maternity leave, retired or found new jobs, and relief teachers were called in to fill the gaps, he said.
"There is a group of fulltime relievers but they are often absorbed as the year goes on. If students could not be spread around different classes they could watch a movie in the hall, but that wasn't always an option, Mr Forde said.
"If you can't get enough relievers there really isn't a plan B."
Mr Forde said half of Southland primary schools had been struck with the flu, while some had it last term.
"There is still quite a lot of area for the flu to cover, it is still current and it hasn't gone away yet."
Parents should follow doctors' advice and keep children home from school if they were sick, he said.
St Teresa's School in Bluff closed for two days last week when 75 per cent of the school's 34 pupils were home with the flu. It reopened on Monday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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