Virus hits schools in pocket

The coronavirus outbreak has the potential to cost Otago and Southland secondary schools hundreds of thousands of dollars of much-needed funding.

The deadly virus, now called Covid-19, prompted New Zealand to close its borders to any foreign traveller coming from or transiting through mainland China.

As a result, about 35 international fee-paying (IFP) pupils have not been able to come to Otago or Southland for their secondary education.

Given that IFP pupils pay up to $13,000 per year in tuition fees, the impact on the southern region’s schools would be "noticeable", James Hargest College principal Andy Wood said.

Schools rely on the money to provide extra teaching staff or extra learning opportunities for all pupils.

"I think for the schools that have got Chinese students, they will take a definite hit because they will have to refund fees that were prepaid.

"And then of course there’s the homestays that haven’t got students when they were expecting to have students," Mr Wood said.

"So there’s a considerable downstream effect — a definite impact."

It has been estimated each international pupil contributes about $30,000 to the local economy through accommodation, school uniforms and trips, as well as personal spending.

Mr Wood said some of the affected pupils were engaging in class work via the Google platform or correspondence, but he did not believe it was sustainable.

"It’s not entirely satisfactory. It’s not possible in all curriculum areas."

Depending on how long the borders were closed, many IFP pupils might decide to cancel their New Zealand education, he said.

Otago Secondary Principals’ Association president and Otago Girls’ High School principal Linda Miller said most IFP pupils arrived in New Zealand before the borders closed and those who did not would be sent correspondence work for as long as possible.

Of the more than 50 IFP pupils at her school, four arrived late and put themselves in isolation and one was trapped in China by the travel ban.

Bayfield High School principal Mark Jones said of 50 IFP pupils at his school, four were still in China.

Kaikorai Valley College principal Rick Geerlofs said he usually had about 45 IFP pupils each year, mainly from Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand. Few were from China.

"We do have one pupil from China who has returned [late] with family and have put themselves in self-quarantine."

He said the only issue had been with some homestay parents who had expressed reservations about accommodating IFP pupils from Asia.

"But we’ve managed to allay all of those concerns and it’s just a matter of making sure the communication lines are open."

Ms Miller said schools were providing counselling "as and when needed" to help pupils concerned about their families in virus-affected areas.
 

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