Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Rogue parent group behind freedom of choice sign outside a school

A rogue community group has hijacked a bake sale sign from a rural northwest Auckland school to push what appears to be an anti-vaccine message.

The sign, which popped up outside Waitoki School near Kaukapakapa at the weekend, reads: We support freedom of choice for our school, teachers and staff.

The sign’s appearance comes as more information around whether teaching and school staff must be vaccinated, as well as confirmation about whether schools will re-open next Monday is expected at the post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon.

A photo of the sign has been shared on social media and has received good support from some locals online. One person commented that it was a “great sight to see” and another said her “heart swelled with pride for this little community and their school” when she drove past it.

But Waitoki School principal Chris Neison said it was not communication that had come from the school, staff or the board of trustees.

Neison said the message was from an informal parent group that had been “slightly naughty” and had “borrowed” their sign and put it on a berm just outside the school’s boundary line.

“It’s not actually our communication so in reference to what it is, I can’t actually answer you.”

He did not know whether the sign was referring to the mandatory vaccination of teachers or how the school welcomed children back on Monday should the government confirm this is when schools re-open.

The sign would have to be dismantled as it had been padlocked to the post.

Neison said the school community was very much divided over the vaccine.

“I’ve had emails from parents really concerned wishing they could vaccinate their under 12-year-olds, wanting that vaccine and very concerned about the safety of returning to school and then I had others that are concerned about returning to school because a) they don’t want the vaccine and they don’t want to wear masks.

“It’s very divisive between members of family and members of the community.”

Meanwhile the school was very limited in the advice it could give and simply had to implement the guidelines from the Ministry of Education. It was now waiting for the Government’s announcement this afternoon and how it would affect schools.

However, if vaccines were made mandatory for teachers he knew of at least one staff member who had grounds for not getting the vaccine so he would have to find a solution for that person.

The interest as to whether teachers at schools are vaccinated is growing as the date when Auckland schools are due to re-open their doors draws nearer.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced last week the Government’s intention that Auckland schools re-open next week after the school holidays despite a large number of people still being infected with Covid-19 each day.

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft and Assistant Māori Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara have also supported making it mandatory for teachers to be vaccinated.

A spokeswoman for NZEI told NZME last week that the teachers’ union would continue to follow the public health guidance.

“If the Government decides to put in place a health order mandating that all staff in schools are required to have a Covid-19 vaccination NZEI Te Rui Roa will respect this decision,” she said.

“We have always encouraged our members to get vaccinated to help protect themselves, their colleagues and in particular, our younger tamariki who are currently unvaccinated. The public health evidence is that adult to child transmission of Covid-19 is more common than from child to adult.”

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