18 November 2021 – letter to all students
Kia ora BTI students,
On behalf of BTI’s executive leadership team, I want to update you on BTI’s response to Covid-19 and the imminent ‘traffic light’ system under the Covid-19 Protection Framework.
We recognise that there may be many reasons why people choose not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at this time. We also recognise that the majority of BTI students are now fully vaccinated and that there are those who are immuno-compromised who may feel especially vulnerable around those who are unvaccinated, especially with Covid-19 in or near Tauranga and the imminent opening of Auckland’s boundary level from 15 December 2021. As much as is possible we want to hold compassion for all, whether vaccinated or not, immuno-compromised or not, anxious or not.
In broader society, the options for accommodating those who are unvaccinated are narrowing day by day. That also impacts BTI in various ways. Now, only fully vaccinated staff and students (i.e. at least two doses) can go onto school grounds and into many health settings.
BTI’s leadership are having ongoing discussions around what our obligations are and will be around our own events, like graduation. We will now livestream graduation as a matter of course for those who can’t attend for whatever reason, but we want to be transparent and say there’s a possibility that those who attend graduation in person will be required to be fully vaccinated.
The government Health Order mandates that all our current and future Teacher Education students, including those who have already applied for study from 2022 onwards, are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as that is necessary for practicum teaching experience.
For our School of Social Practice students, the Covid-19 vaccine mandate is less clear-cut and is largely determined by locations that placements are performed and if conducted with medical practitioners. Irrespective of the mandate, we note that more and more providers/third parties with whom we work are imposing their own Covid-19 vaccine mandates even if they are not captured under the Health Order ones.
So, while we will not require current SoSP students to be vaccinated and will work to accommodate the non-vaccinated with placements not requiring vaccination, we have determined that all new SoSP students who enrol at BTI for study from 2022 onwards will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. This is because it is apparent that it is going to become increasingly difficult to accommodate the mandate requirements otherwise.
As our Masters’ and Level 4 students can study entirely online, at this stage they will not necessarily need to be fully vaccinated unless their own workplaces require it of them.
We have been informed today that My Vaccine Pass will be the only permitted way of verifying students’ vaccination status under the Covid-19 Protection Framework. We will request this once our student management system has been updated, and details of how we will do this will be communicated to you at a later date.
We expect the traffic light system, also known as the Covid-19 Protection Framework, to be formally confirmed as commencing by 15 December 2021, and the framework operational by the end of November (such as vaccine passports). Once in place, we will be obligated to apply the conditions it places upon us.
Under each ‘traffic light’ it is possible for tertiary education facilities to remain open, though with tighter distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated people across a range of domains, including events, gatherings, and hospitality, to limit virus transmission as we move between the traffic lights.
Specifically, in the event of moving into traffic light red and the strict criteria it imposes, we will move BTI fully online for up to two weeks. However, if ‘red’ extends beyond those two weeks we will invite and expect fully vaccinated staff and students to return onsite, all other things considered, while unvaccinated staff and students remain working remotely until such time as the traffic light system changes.
At BTI, we have deliberately adopted a compassionate and flexible stance in response to these Covid-19 vaccine mandates. We recognise that getting a Covid-19 vaccine is a matter of personal choice and that not everyone is able to be vaccinated, for many reasons.
While we want to maintain this stance as long as we can, we feel it is wise to also review our position as we go. If, having considered the trajectory of Covid-19 in the community, assessed the risk to BTI, looked at the ongoing health and safety of our BTI staff and students, and listened to feedback, we could decide to move toward a mandated approach. If this occurs, we will let you know in good time and work with you as and if it affects you.
We appreciate the uncertainty and fear around what it will mean when Covid-19 is in our community. There is much conflicting information and limited legislation in place. We are committed to meeting our legal requirements, while also ensuring we take into account the interests of our staff and students.
We have great assurance of the sovereignty of God at all times and in all places. God has led BTI this far by his grace, sustains us still and will lead us on. As always, if you have any concerns or questions, please feel free to get in touch.
Ma te Atua tātou e manaaki,
Dr Andrew Butcher