Staff shortages and high reliever costs have forced Whanganui Intermediate School (WIS) to implement a hybrid learning model until at least the end of the term.
Four clusters of students take it in turns to spend one day a week learning at home, with the whole school being on site every Friday.
Principal Katherine Ellery said the price for hiring relief teachers was currently around $1500 per day more than the school was funded for by the Ministry of Education.
"That's massive, especially when you start multiplying it by five for one week.
"How do we keep our head above water? The whole place will go broke if we keep going."
Ellery said she sent the school's accounts to a Ministry of Education accountant, who was set to visit Whanganui Intermediate this week.
Around 12 to 15 of the 60 staff were out of action each day.
"We did everything we could before we went to hybrid but this is what we are faced with.
"Now we are in it I think we are going okay. We are still open for five days and we are still bringing the school together on a Friday.
"We are limping to the end of the term."
The school's whānau were co-operating with the move really well, Ellery said.
Children of critical workers can attend the school every day of the week.
"Parents have to juggle what they are doing and they have been fantastic.
"We are a school of 550 and I think I've only had two or three 'moany' emails. The massive majority are helping us and we are really grateful."
Ellery said of the 150-strong clusters of students, around 10 from each were coming to school on the days they were rostered to learn from home.
Classes were reduced for two days at Whanganui High School (WHS) this week, but no hybrid models had been introduced as yet, deputy principal Jenny Langrish said.
"With the current levels of teacher and relief teacher illness, we didn't have the capacity to run a full teaching and learning programme.
"Students attended periods two, three and four, out of the usual five.
"We asked them to come at 10am and depart at 2pm."
It was the first time the school had implemented the plan and Langrish said she hoped it would be a one-off.
Nine teachers were currently involved in te reo Māori professional learning development (PLD) and students were competing in The Big Sing in Palmerston North.
"Those things are still going ahead so the students have some sense of normality and the staff have PLD.
"Combine that with Covid and general illness, and we did reduce our hours."
There was still "a lot of relief to cover".
"School are definitely under the pump. Our staff have been amazing but it hasn't been easy," Langrish said.
WIS students learning from home use the Google Classroom and Education Perfect online platforms.
"We are confident that what we offer off-site is better quality than sticking relievers in front of kids," Ellery said.
"As you soon as go to hybrid, staff exhaustion levels are dealt with as well. That means we don't have as many [staff] absences."
A parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said she had one child at WIS and one at WHS.
She worked from home or a grandparent looked after the intermediate-aged child on the rostered days away from school.
"I prefer the hybrid model. As a working, single parent, it suits me better. They [WIS] have a really good online set-up too.
"When you've got a job it's actually a massive inconvenience to have to drop your kid off at 10am and pick them up at 2pm. We live too far away for her to walk to school.
"She's come to work with me then I've had to leave 40 minutes later to drop her at school. I'll have to leave work early to pick her up as well."
Ministry of Education leader of operations and integration Sean Teddy said there was "no one solution" that would work for all schools and kura.
"There are a number of short and longer-term options that they can explore," Teddy said.
"Staff in our regional offices work with principals to consider solutions to specific staffing needs.
"We encourage schools to reach out to their local Ministry of Education office if they are facing staffing challenges."
Schools were doing an outstanding job in challenging circumstances and extra ministry funding had been added through the relief teacher fund, Teddy said.
Schools and kura only needed to fund the first four days of a teacher's absence due to illness, once.
"Any subsequent absences [for the same teacher] in the current school year will be funded by the relief fund from day one of the absence, where schools have incurred additional costs employing a reliever to backfill a teacher's position while they're off sick."
Backfilling refers to temporarily filling a position left by a specifically skilled employee.
The parent said both schools had given advance notice and had been really informative on their decision-making process.
"At the end of the day, everybody is affected at the moment.
"I would rather they [WIS] acknowledge that they can't do it than try to do it and do it badly.
"At least we know that when the kids are at school they are getting the attention they deserve."