As of next week, unvaccinated Northland teachers and early childhood educators will be allowed back to work, following the Government's announcement to drop vaccine mandates last week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday all vaccine mandates (except for health and disability, aged care, corrections and border/MIQ workforces) would be removed from April 4.
Pass use and QR code scanning will also end on the same day as Northland nears and moves past the Omicron peak.
Education trade union New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) Te Riu Roa said it would continue to follow official public health advice and support members to adapt to changes to vaccine mandates, vaccine passes, contact tracing and gathering restrictions.
NZEI president Liam Rutherford said ensuring the health and wellbeing of tamariki and staff in ECE and primary school environments would remain a key priority for educators.
"There will inevitably be some anxiety about the removal of the vaccine mandate and this needs to be acknowledged while schools and services work to ensure their health and safety processes prioritise people's wellbeing," Rutherford said.
"Schools, kura, kindergartens and early childhood centres take seriously the responsibility to provide a safe workplace.
"Having a consultative and collaborative process in workplaces to discuss and assess health and safety risks and mitigation in the light of this decision is not only a right for everyone working in schools and centres but a good process to work through the issues."
Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association chairman Pat Newman said while he believed the mandates had been necessary, he felt it was now time for his profession to recoup and move forward together.
"They [vaccine mandates] did what they intended and got people to vaccinate, which gave our hospitals time to prepare," Newman said.
"They got the population levels of all teachers vaccination to a level so we are not seeing 20,000 dead now.
"I welcome the lifting of the mandate as it will take away some of the pressure on schools regarding relieving needs and will allow the profession to start to heal."
The Ministry of Education has told schools they can require Covid-19 vaccination for certain roles even after the Government mandate lifts next Monday.
According to MoE, the vast majority of school and early childhood staff complied with the rule when it was introduced last year, but a few thousand teachers and other staff refused to be vaccinated against the virus and lost their jobs.
The number of staff affected in the education sector isn't clear, with school boards themselves holding information on affected staff, rather than the Ministry of Education.
Newman said he too was unsure how many people in Northland had left their jobs or whether they would return to their former roles.
He said whatever the case, the lift of mandates did not necessarily mean all schools would scrap them.
"People must understand, boards as employers can impose the mandate still, if appropriate," Newman said.
"The stress of this is not over … the stress out there is immense. All teachers pro and anti mandate need to respect each other's views.
"Very few [teachers] will be returning to their old job as most of those have already been filled on a permanent basis.
"However, I expect over time 99 per cent will be in permanent or long-term positions."
Kaitaia Primary School principal Brendon Morrissey expressed his relief after hearing about the mandate end which contrary to Newman, he felt had slowed down the uptake of vaccinations in the Far North.
He said he too had lost staff as a result of the mandate and was looking forward to getting on with things.
"The mandates have made it very difficult to maintain a feeling of togetherness and collegiality in recent times," Morrissey said.
"Term four last year and this term have been particularly tough as we lost three very talented teacher aides and have one teacher on study leave this year.
"I think the nationwide telethon event held late last year would have been far more successful without the mandates in place."
Morrissey said he believed the mandates being lifted would give schools a chance to re-employ staff they may have lost last year.
"This is a good thing and will help heal the division the mandates caused within our community and hopefully, right throughout the country."
Under the new "red" setting of the Covid-19 Protection Framework, indoor capacity limits for bars and restaurants were increased from 100 to 200 people and a lift to all limits for outdoor events was applied.
Those changes took effect last Friday from 11.59pm.
Meanwhile, the outcome of a legal challenge questioning the lawfulness of the Government's Covid-19 vaccination mandate for educators and health workers is yet to be decided.
The judicial review, brought to the court earlier this month by New Zealand Teachers Speaking Out with Science (NZTSOS) and an affiliated group of doctors (NZDSOS), is seeking High Court Justice Francis Cooke to strike down the vaccination order, claiming the mandate breaches the Bill of Rights Act.
The group claims the vaccination mandate was not a "demonstrably justified" breach of the Bill of Rights, namely the right to decline medical treatment.
The High Court challenge also questioned the usefulness of vaccination mandates in an Omicron environment, pointing to comments from some medical professionals suggesting the variant's extreme transmissibility rendered mandates unnecessary.
It is expected a decision will be made shortly.