More than 99 per cent of Auckland schoolchildren stayed at home yesterday even though schools were open for children of essential workers, as parents made other arrangements to keep their children safe.
NZ Principals' Federation president Perry Rush says an average of just 0.89 per cent of students turned up on Wednesday at 148 Auckland primary and intermediate schools that responded to a Facebook-based survey.
Almost a third (31 per cent) of the schools had no students turn up at all and the maximum attendance at one school was 23 students.
An email-based survey by the Auckland Primary Principals' Association, with responses from 30 per cent of the region's 424 primary and intermediate schools, has found an even higher proportion of schools with no students at all - 37 per cent.
"Eighty per cent of the schools had five or fewer students," said the association's president Stephen Lethbridge.
"Only 11 schools were in double figures. The projections are similar for Thursday and Friday."
Both groups said most essential workers were clearly making other arrangements for their children rather than risk sending them to school while the Covid-19 virus is loose in the community.
"It definitely says something about the degree of concern in our community," Rush said.
Lethbridge said parents were being "very cautious", but several of his families at Pt Chevalier School have told him that they will need to send their children to school if the alert level 3 restrictions continue beyond the three days announced so far.
He has only four students at school today compared with 13 to 15 last time the country was in level 3, but "three or four" families have told him they will need to send their children to school next week.
He believes some others who sent their children to school last time may not need to this time because parents have lost their jobs and are now at home.
"Anecdotally, I know in our place we have parents who have lost jobs, and that will be replicated across the Auckland region," he said.
But he said most parents were not panicking about the latest outbreak.
"From what I have seen in our community, most parents have been very calm and measured. It's a matter of fact, this is what we need to do," he said.
"We all have different reactions in a crisis, but I'd say a majority of the parents would be quite rational in their approach to this.
'"Our advice would be that if you have any concerns, anything you're worried about, please talk to your local school or send an email. That's what we are here for. We are here to reassure you that if your child is at school during level 3, we are prepared."
His survey also asked principals for their feelings about the situation and Lethbridge said 99 per cent of them said they were feeling "confident".
"They are saying either, 'Don't worry about it, we've got this,' or, 'By the end of this week we will have this'," he said.
He said most schools were not rushing into online teaching again, but were offering parents support.
"There's a feeling out there that, hey, there've been a couple of beautiful days, spend some time with your children if you can," he said.
"But I know that some schools are ripping into online learning already. We have made contact with our parents. Our teachers are talking with parents and with individual learners about what learning they can carry out over these one or two days."