A college-branded mask has become a part of the school uniform on a voluntary basis for students at South Auckland's De La Salle College.
About 60 per cent of students at the largely Pacific decile-1 Catholic boys' school in Māngere are now wearing either the college masks or their own masks, as mask-wearing spreads across many South Auckland schools.
The Ministry of Education sent another bulletin to schools on Tuesdaysaying that face coverings are not required in schools "because the risk of infection within the school environment is low".
But several schools in South Auckland, where the latest Covid-19 "Auckland cluster" started, are now asking students to wear them.
Ormiston Senior College principal Diana Patience said all staff and "nearly 100 per cent of students" are now wearing masks at her school.
"We have requested them to wear masks, and there has been wonderful take-up," she said.
Patience put out "a strong plea" to all her families last week to get masks ready for the return to school after the World Health Organisation declared that everyone aged 12 and over should wear masks "when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area".
"We are serious about this. We are wanting to keep them safe," Patience said.
Kia Aroha College principal Haley Milne said "the vast majority" of her students are wearing masks, "in class more so than outside".
"We have provided fabric ones so every kid has their own little snap-click bag for them," she said. "We wash them regularly at school."
But she said the masks were still optional. Sutton Park School, a mainly Pacific primary school in Māngere, is still the only school known to have made mask-wearing "non-negotiable".
De La Salle principal Myles Hogarty said he ordered the college-branded masks from the college's uniform supplier, NZ Uniforms.
"We initially just got a sample set of about 100 for the staff," he said.
"Once the students saw the staff wearing them, the demand was enormous and they started going out like hot cakes. We've probably given out about 200.
"We have given out others [without college branding] manufactured by the local parish as well. It's just trying to flood the whole school with them so the boys are confident in wearing them.
"The acceptance and the uptake of the young men to wear the brand name of the college on a facemask has been enormous. It has become another addition to the college uniform."
He is now ordering enough to supply all 1000 students. Students are asked to make a small donation for them, which is being given to the college's St Vincent de Paul club to provide food parcels to the homeless.
De La Salle's sister girls' school, McAuley High School, has also given out masks made by the local Catholic parish and reports that 80 per cent of its students are wearing them.
Other South Auckland schools reported a range of proportions of students wearing masks: 10 per cent at Howick College, 20 per cent at Māngere College, and a third of students at Manurewa High School, Rowandale School and Ōtāhuhu Primary School.
Māngere Central School principal Jacqualene Maindonald said mask wearing was optional but "we intend to normalise it as soon as possible".
"Today two of our junior classes had the opportunity to make the masks they designed earlier in the week for use while at school. They are also learning how to wash and care for these," she said.
Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault said fewer than 20 per cent of his students wore masks on Monday and that was "down significantly" by Wednesday.
But Macleans College principal Steve Hargreaves said the number of students in masks has grown from 10 per cent on Monday to 30 per cent on Wednesday as mask wearing becomes normalised.
"More of them are more confident to walk into school wearing a mask now," he said.
At Mt Roskill Grammar, close to a church connected to several Covid cases, principal Greg Watson said about 40 per cent of students and a greater percentage of staff are wearing masks.
Masks are still rare in the rest of Auckland: 10 per cent at Rangitoto College, 12 per cent at Tāmaki College and 15 to 20 per cent at Northcote College.
Waitākere Area Principals Association president Donal McLean said: "Lots of children and parents are wearing masks to school, and we are encouraging that. In the playground probably a handful try to keep them on. It is not discouraged and if it makes the children and families feel safer we are happy to support wearing of masks in the playground."