While the New Zealand Government scrapped vaccine mandates for some professions yesterday, the "unnecessary anxiety" caused to the Northland's education sector may not be reversed.
Vaccine mandates, a tool developed to fight the coronavirus and protect the unvaccinated population, came to an end yesterday as the country reaches high vaccination rates, moving through the peak of the Omicron outbreak.
Eighty-eight per cent of Northlanders over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated now.
Whangārei's Kamo High School principal, Natasha Hemara, says the school board, following the advice received from the Ministry of Education, will determine the people in the system who work with immunocompromised or unvaccinated children when staffing.
Hemara said the school lost a few staff members because of the vaccine mandate, but the reversal did not mean they would return.
"Staff that left were terminated and will not automatically get their jobs back; in some cases, those positions have been filled."
Hemara said they had a high percentage of vaccinated people in the school, fighting through the Omicron peak, and thanked the mandates for that.
"In terms of high vaccination rate ... we have only got to the space we are in our country because of the mandates."
While the school board would decide matters related to employment, Hemara said, the important thing was making sure young people were kept safe.
"Whatever we decide or the board decides to do would be what we believe is best for all and safest of all within the realms of legal spaces."
A principal from the Far North, on the other hand, was hopeful his staff would return to work as vaccine mandates dissolve.
Kaitaia Primary School principal Brendon Morrissey described the timing of the mandate as "not well thought out" and said it forced extra management tasks on board members and principals.
"There were staff not in favour of them, and I was one of them."
As a result of mandates, Morrissey had lost seven employees on fixed-term contracts at the time.
Education Ministry figures indicated 6.7 per cent of Northland school teachers, 159 people, had refused the Covid vaccination after the mandates were introduced.
The figure only represented the 90.8 per cent of the population who responded with their vaccination status, meaning the vaccination status of 241 teachers and 39 day-relief teachers remain unknown.
According to official figures, there were 2612 teachers and 422 relief teachers working in Northland in 2020. A vaccination rate of 93.3 per cent translates to more than 159 unvaccinated teachers and 89.9 per cent translates to 42 unvaccinated relief teachers.
Northland had the lowest vaccination rate in the education sector, with the national average of vaccination for teachers being 97.6 per cent, and 95 per cent for teacher aides, latest figures show.
The Far North principal said he wanted the division to end and would welcome the staff willing to join the team.
"Honestly, to navigate through all those conversations took a lot of time and caused a lot of anxiety for the staff.
"The amount of extra work and governance decisions that were forced on board members and trustees and principals was quite a lot too ... without the mandates, we wouldn't have to do any of that."
Morrissey said the mandates were introduced prematurely and resulted in protests across the country.