The head boy of Papatoetoe High School has put out a heartfelt message as schools re-open across Auckland under alert level 2.
"There's been enough negativity, enough hardship, enough pain and hurt from Covid... and the rest of the craziness going on in lockdown," Flo Akauola said in a Facebook video posted on Monday morning.
"It's been a shared experience of hardship, and on top of that people have been struggling with their own things at home," said the year 13 student.
"I want us to continue to be kind to one another."
At the centre of the country's latest Covid cluster, Papatoetoe High students have been away from school longer than students elsewhere.
The school was effectively closed since the outbreak on February 14, when a family of three tested positive, one of them a Papatoetoe High student.
Classes resumed for a brief 1.5 days on February 22, only to close again the next day after more positive cases emerged.
"We've lost things to Covid, things cancelled, events, camps, and time has been lost," Akauola said.
"But I've also seen a lot of strength, resilience and leadership," he said, asking his peers to take these lessons back to the school to make 2021 a great year.
A number of Papatoetoe High students and their close contacts had tested positive for Covid-19 in the February outbreak.
"Our entire community was asked to test twice in two weeks, some of us three, four, five tests depending on what the circumstances were," said principal Vaughan Couillaut.
Lockdown has hit the South Auckland community hard with people losing their jobs, not being able to afford food, fear and anxiety of the virus, and actual infections. But there's also a silver lining.
Couillaut says the school has received supportive emails, donations and at least one unexpected offer.
"We've had half a dozen people wanting to donate a thousand here, five hundred there to support families in need.
"And an organisation wanting to put up a free sausage sizzle once the kids are back, to make them feel welcome, loved and supported."
Attendance on Monday is just over 60 per cent, similar to when school re-opened after New Zealand came out of level 4 lockdown last year, taking some time before returning to the usual 85 to 90 per cent, he says.
Meanwhile, student leaders are staying upbeat while keeping their fingers crossed in their welcome video.
"At last we're back. Let's get straight into it and make every moment count," says head girl Rhonda Nguyen.