Anxious Auckland parents are still keeping children home from school - forcing some principals to go doorknocking in the hope of assuring them it's safe to return to class.
The first Ministry of Education data for Auckland's schools since the August lockdown show that almost a quarter of all school children stayed at home last week - only 77.6 per cent attended school.
Attendance is climbing slowly this week, but thousands of children are still at home - and there are stark ethnic and decile divides.
Weymouth Primary School principal Saane Faaofo-Oldehaver said she had been knocking on parents' doors to get children back, while Mt Roskill Primary principal Mike O'Reilly is trying to reassure parents at the school gate.
"There is still anxiety out there," Faaofo-Oldehaver said.
"We are at 63 per cent. We have been going up every day. We were only about 200 out of 564 [35 per cent] last week.
"I have been doing home visits this week encouraging parents to send them back, but they are saying, 'See you at level 1.'
"I tell them we can't wait that long. I'm encouraging them to come and have a look and see that it's okay to come on back. People just act on how they are informed. We are just trying to do our best."
The school sent learning packs out last week to students who were still at home but can't keep doing it because teachers are now busy in their classes.
"This week we are expecting everybody back. We have kids telling parents they want to come back," Faaofo-Oldehaver said.
Aorere College also reported an improving trend from about 50 per cent attendance at first to an average of 70 per cent, Manurewa High School is up from 60 per cent last week to 75 per cent, and Ōtāhuhu Primary School is up from 45 per cent to 70-75 per cent.
But the ethnic pattern of the Auckland August Covid cluster - 62 per cent Pasifika and 21 per cent Māori - has affected average Auckland school attendance: 59 per cent of Pasifika students, 69 per cent of Māori students, 78 per cent of Asian students and 90 per cent of European students turned up to school last week.
The concentration of Pasifika and Māori students in lower-decile schools shows up even more dramatically in attendance by decile, ranging from just 51 per cent in schools in the poorest decile 1 communities up to 88 per cent in decile 10.
O'Reilly, whose Mt Roskill school is in the area that has accounted for most new Covid cases in the past nine days, said attendance had improved from 55 per cent last week to 71 per cent today.
"It's a little bit lumpy, some days are better than others, but overall it's an upward trend," he said.
"There are some people who are concerned, and when I've been out at the gate there are parents coming to see me saying, 'Is everything okay?'" he said.
"There are pockets that are apprehensive. The people that are apprehensive, as in South Auckland, are the Māori and Pacific communities, and also the South and East Asian communities are also wary."
Mt Roskill Grammar School principal Greg Watson said his attendance was "approaching usual levels at 86 per cent, from 62 per cent at the beginning of last week".
The region's early childhood education (ECE) attendance has been hit much less than schools - down just 2.1 percentage points from 57.8 per cent in the last full week before the Auckland level 3 lockdown to 55.7 per cent last week.
Many children normally attend ECE on fewer than five days a week.
Auckland school attendance averaged 90.5 per cent in the week before lockdown, so it is down 12.9 points.
School attendance last week was also lower than in the week before Auckland's lockdown in all other regions except Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast, reflecting some anxiety nationally. But the declines outside Auckland were all below 3 percentage points except in Waikato and Taranaki/Whanganui/Manawatū (both down 3.1 points).
Nationally, school attendance dropped by 21.1 points for Pasifika students, 10.8 points for Asians, 5.7 points for Māori and just 1.5 points for Europeans, who appear to be the least anxious about the current outbreak.
Early childhood attendance dropped most for Asians (down 5.2 points), but slipped only 2.1 points for Pasifika children and actually increased from the week before Auckland's lockdown for Māori (up 2 points) and Europeans (up 4.3 points).
Early childhood attendance was up since before Auckland's lockdown in every region except Auckland and Waikato, perhaps reflecting the rest of the country gradually returning to normal.
Even in Auckland, Evolve Education chief executive Tim Wong said attendance at his Auckland centres is now 3 per cent above where it was when the region last went to alert level 2 in May.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said this week the learning lost by closing schools for a third of this year, an average of 14 weeks across the OECD in the first half of the year, would reduce students' subsequent lifetime incomes by 3 per cent and cut 1.5 per cent off economic output for the rest of this century.
The agency said NZ schools closed for only eight weeks compared with the 14-week OECD average. But the data did not include the 13 school days that Auckland schools were closed last month.
School attendance Aug 31 to Sept 4
Decile 1: 51.3%
Decile 2: 62.1%
Decile 3: 67.9%
Decile 4: 76.7%
Decile 5: 80.0%
Decile 6: 84.6%
Decile 7: 82.0%
Decile 8: 86.5%
Decile 9: 89.3%
Decile 10: 88.1%
European 89.4% (down 1.5 percentage points from Aug 3-7)
Asian 82.6% (down 10.8%)
Māori 80.5% (down 5.7%)
Pasifika 67.8% (down 21.1%)
Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast 90.7% (unchanged)
Canterbury 89.5% (down 1.1%)
Bay of Plenty 89.1% (down 0.3%)
Wellington 88.9% (down 1.5%)
Hawke's Bay/Tairāwhiti 88.6% (down 0.5%)
Otago/Southland 88.4% (down 1.2%)
Taranaki/Whanganui/Manawatū 87.1% (down 3.1%)
Waikato 86.7% (down 3.1%)
Tai Tokerau 85.7% (down 2.3%)
Auckland 77.6% (down 12.9%)
NEW ZEALAND 84.2% (down 6.1%)
ECE attendance Aug 31 to Sept 4 - New Zealand
Pasifika 79.2% (down 2.1 percentage points from Aug 3-7)
European 76.5% (up 4.3%)
Asian 61.9% (down 5.2%
Māori 57.6% (up 2.0%)
Hawke's Bay/Tairāwhiti 62.8% (up 3.3%)
Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast 60.0% (up 5.1%)
Bay of Plenty 59.6% (up 3.7%)
Otago/Southland 59.4% (up 4.7%)
Taranaki/Whanganui/Manawatū 58.4% (up 2.4%)
Wellington 58.4% (up 2.0%)
Auckland 55.7% (down 2.1%)
Waikato 54.3% (down 1.1%)
Canterbury 54.2% (up 1.3%
Tai Tokerau 51.6% (up 5.6%)
NEW ZEALAND 56.7% (up 0.8%)
Source: Ministry of Education