Tai Tokerau principals are bracing themselves for the impact of the Covid-19 vaccine mandate for the education workforce.
Whangārei Boys High School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith says the mandate has brought the best and worst in people and principals are trying their best to absorb a lot of negativities that may be directed towards the schools, teachers or other school staff.
"I appreciate that for some people it has been hugely challenging. But what some of us are experiencing is the 'kick the dog in the corner' mentality.
"I guess that is OK and is something people do in the process. But it has taken a toll on staff. It is not only principals but the other staff members who are facing vaccine-related issues.
"It has been a very difficult time and, in some ways, I am glad that the deadline has come around because there is better clarity now. There is no more speculation on who has or hasn't (received the vaccine)."
Gilbert-Smith said a vast majority of people understood, but the loud voice from the small minority was causing a lot of damage.
She was confident the school would be able to replace the school staff who opted not to be vaccinated.
"However, I am not so confident of the schools across Northland. At the end of the day, there are only so many teachers."
Gilbert-Smith could not disclose the actual number of teachers quitting because of the mandate but said whatever the number was, it was going to have an impact, and it would be on students.
"This is the part that hasn't been talked about, as far as I am concerned. The people who are impacted the most are the kids in the classrooms waiting for their teachers to turn up".
"If we are not making the students' wellbeing the priority, we are probably in the wrong game.
"School staff choice is one thing, and with every choice we know we make that knowing what the consequence of that is. However, the students end up being the collateral damage of the staff member's choice."
A Northland principal who did not wish to be identified faced verbal and online abuse for taking a "pro-vaccine" stance.
"I am getting a lot of comments on Facebook which are not that positive.
"There have been messages sent to me via social media, texts, emails, that basically have pointed out things from what I could do to my anatomy, most of them physically impossible, through to the fact that God was going to damn me forever."
Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president and Hora Hora Primary School principal Pat Newman hoped the number of teachers leaving the workforce was low but said he knew it won't be.
Newman said they have decided to concentrate on finding solutions rather than focusing on the number.
"We have been talking to principals and there are some who won't get vaccinated. We do not have the numbers yet, but there are at least a few.
"We have talked about approaching universities and other teacher training areas to pick up the new graduates coming out, to get their applications fast-tracked through the teacher's council.
"That is a win-win because instead of having to wait until April to get it done, these people will be getting the job straight out of school and it gives them a really good chance to keep it as a permanent job.
"There will be teachers that have graduated on the training and waiting for the piece of paper that says they are able to teach.
"Look at other people who may have teacher qualifications not in use, for example retired teachers.
"Within each community there are people with huge skills. They may not have the teaching qualifications but good skills that we can use to benefit the kids in the meantime.
"We have talked about the process in the teacher's council. There are people who hold LAT (Limited Authority to Teach) and we can use those.
"I would be concentrating to get that information out to people to make sure there is no panicking."
However, Newman said, the non-teaching staff – admin, caretakers, relieving teachers - were looking to find solutions.
Kamo High School principal Natasha Hemara said the school would lose five staff members and were working through the process with a couple more.
Hemara said there was disappointment but her staff had respected that people had the right to make their own decisions.
With regards to the staff leaving, the principal said the greatest impact this year would be on the colleagues and it would be on filling those positions next year.
"The only impact on students will be the lack of continuity with the same teacher.
"We have had multiple levels of consultation and meetings with the staff members. We have managed to persuade some, but there are some who just won't change their decision. They've drawn a line in the sand and are not willing to cross it.
"My role is to ensure that I adequately staff my school and I will be able to do that.
"I worry about next year. We already struggle getting quality teachers in Northland and we do not get a large pool of candidates.
"Now if every school in Whangārei or, say, Northland is looking for four or five teachers to add to the pool, then I am concerned.
Kaitaia Primary School also looked at losing five staff members.
Principal Brendon Morrissey said he had been sympathetic and empathetic with every staff member and looked at trying to navigate the rest of the year as successful as possible.
Morrissey looked at maintaining what he could, for as long as he could, because he said, "nobody should be out of pocket just before Christmas. That is just not fair".
"It is going to be hard for us, but because we have 60 staff on-site, we can help cover things better than schools that maybe have six staff on site.
"This is a really tough time for all schools around the country, a lot of us are sad that we are losing some good people. I really don't want to lose any of my staff, but I don't have a choice".