By RNZ

Schools are struggling to decide if they should go ahead with overseas trips involving thousands of students in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Many secondary schools offer overseas trips for subjects ranging from geography to classics, and some are scheduled to depart in the next month.

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Burnside High School associate principal Andrea Griffin said it had more than 60 students signed up for three trips departing during the April school holidays.

One was a trip to New York for textiles students, another to Greece and Italy for Classics, and to Argentina for a Spanish language exchange.

Griffin said the insurer for the trips had advised that it would not cover any expenses related to Covid-19 and that put the trips in doubt.

"I've probably spent the last three days solidly on this issue," she said.

"We've got three members of staff who lead these trips who have spent their time over the last three days trying to work out amendments to trips, the situations with the trips, whether the students and parents what refunds they would get if we decided to cancel the trips.

"We've had lawyers involved in terms of the insurance policies so the amount of time on it has been massive."

Griffin said the school did not want to send the students away with only partial insurance cover.

It could postpone the trips to later in the year or early next year, or it could cancel them altogether, she said.

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"The students are hugely disappointed, as are the parents, as are the organising staff. We,

I suppose in a word, are gutted that we're in a situation where we're having to make these decisions."

She said she knew of several other schools in a similar position.

Whangaparaoa College principal James Thomas said about 20 students were scheduled to visit schools in Japan in the middle of the year, but that was now on hold.

"Our host schools and others have advised us not to travel at that time, so that trip has been postponed," he said.

Thomas said the college hosted several visiting groups from overseas each year and one of those had cancelled.

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"One that was due to come next month from Japan, [at] their end unfortunately felt the need to cancel that trip."

Auckland Secondary Principals Association president Richard Dykes said many schools were wrestling with the same problem.

"Principals are working with staff, they're working with parents, they're working with the agents and saying 'where do we stand as of right now, when is the next decision-making point'," he said.

"We're probably less worried about the students getting it [Covid-19], but its implications such as getting trapped overseas."

Dykes said his own school, Glendowie College, had a trip to Europe scheduled for next month and the school was reviewing whether it should go ahead.

"Every situation is different. If you're going to China, well you're not now. If you're going to South Korea, you're not. If you're going to Europe, as in our case, at this stage we're following the safe travel website from the government."

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So far the impact of Covid-19 on schools was limited to four students at four Auckland schools who were in isolation after family members tested positive for the virus.

Principals said they were reviewing their pandemic planning and taking basic health precautions but classes were continuing as normal.