Children as young as 6 years old are being told to wear masks when they head back to school this week.
A number of schools around the country with Year 3 and Year 4 composite classes are making it compulsory for those younger learners to also put masks on in the classroom.
The Government requires Year 4 students and up to wear masks, but further advice from the Ministry of Education says schools can make a "pragmatic decision" around managing a mix of year levels between 0-3 and 4 and over.
"We would encourage you to take a cautious approach given the benefits of wearing masks to reduce risk," a Ministry of Education bulletin published last week said.
Ormiston Primary principal Heath McNeil, who runs the biggest school in the country, said they had four learning spaces with between 75 and 100 Year 3 and 4 children in each and all of those kids were expected to wear masks.
When the school reopened under level 3.2 for the last six months of 2021, McNeil said it consulted with parents and "made the most sensible decision" that from Year 3 upwards masks would be worn.
"The community has been very supportive of that decision and I suppose it is giving them and the children clarity around expectations to keep everyone as safe as possible."
And it was not just those age groups putting masks on, between 30 and 40 per cent of its younger learners in Years 1 and 2 had also chosen to wear them this year.
All the school's teachers with the exception of those welcoming in new entrants were also wearing masks. McNeil said this was because it was extremely hard to build a relationship with its 67 new 5-year-olds in a totally new environment if they couldn't see the educator's face.
A lot of Ormiston Primary's students were first or second-generation New Zealanders so wearing masks hadn't been a big deal as they were already used to doing it when they visited their homeland, he said.
McNeil's advice to students wearing them for the first time was to experiment and find one that was comfortable and easy to put on whether it be cloth or disposable.
Auckland Primary Principals' Association president and Point Chevalier School principal Stephen Lethbridge said in a class where there were more Year 4 than Year 3 students, it was not unreasonable for all of the class to wear them because they were a contact.
"In bigger environments where you've got innovative learning environments it does make sense to wear masks as well for those younger age levels."
Lethbridge said schools were relying on parents to look at the rules set and follow them.
"It's really important to note that we can teach kids to do pretty much anything. Effective mask use and wearing masks is something we can focus on and teach kids how to use."
Schools were also building in time across the school day to make sure children got a break from wearing them.
Lethbridge's own school had predominantly single-cell classes, but he had been pleased to see high compliance around mask wearing from Years 4 and up when students returned to school this morning for the start of term.
Those students who didn't have masks were provided them and a number of Year 1 and 2 students had also decided to use them to keep themselves safe, he said.