Schools examining finer details of a socially-distanced new term

August 13th, 2020 10:05 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Star of the Sea Passage West deputy principal John Driscoll was checking this week that his school is ready for a safe reopening in line with government protocol and guidelines.

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School principals across West Cork are in general agreement that while they would have liked to have seen the roadmap for reopening much earlier, they are thankful that they finally have some clarity and can get on with the job of getting ready for a new term

SCHOOL principals in West Cork have given a cautious welcome to the government’s roadmap for the re-opening of schools.

While welcoming the clarity for re-opening, Ian Coombes, principal of Bandon Grammar School, said  that it remains to be seen how much will come out in terms of staffing for schools and substitute panels.

‘Because we are a fee-paying school, we will be blocked from accessing minor works, staffing measures and guidance counselling for those with anxiety issues, but we will be included in assistance for PPE equipment and sanitising products and also enhanced supervision supports for the school,’ said Ian.

Meanwhile, Eugene O’Brien, principal of Hamilton High School in Bandon said both staff and students are eager to return to school.

‘There is no doubt that there will be challenges but the school community will work towards opening in late August,’ he said.

John Driscoll, deputy principal of the Star of The Sea primary school in Passage West and a member of the central executive committee of the INTO said that while the measures are later than they would have wished for, he said it has clarified a lot of things.

‘I would say a lot of our time when we go back in September will be about settling  both the children and ourselves into a routine and we’ll be focusing on their well-being rather than the curriculum,’ said John.

‘But it will be still be extremely challenging to implement social distancing for classes that have 30 plus children of which they are many and that does need to change.’

He added that it is ‘unknown territory’ and they won’t know how it will pan out until they return.

‘Hopefully it will prove that the primary school environment is safe and I think for everyone’s mental health it will be great to be back into a routine too.’

He said the fact that  principals will all have one day a week free from teaching is good and it will allow them to monitor the running of the school.

‘It’s going to be challenging and difficult and I’m optimistic that we’ll catch up on learning.’

In Skibbereen, Alan Foley, principal of St Patrick’s Boys’ National School said they are delighted that all the pupils are all able to come back at the one time.

‘Children need to be able to go to school so that parents can go to work and that’s the bottom line and also the children want to go back to school and they want to get back to normality,’ Alan said.

‘From my point of view all absences will be covered now and I’ll be entitled to get a substitute teacher if a teacher is out sick.

‘We’ve also been given possible room plans and we’re in the middle of working this out and creating pods and we are ordering furniture too.’

Second level students should be made to wear masks says ASTI

MEMBERS of one secondary school trade union are calling for students to wear masks in classrooms when schools return at the end of next month.

Speaking to The Southern Star, Ann Piggott, the new president of ASTI, said while her members  are very glad to be going back to work she said they would prefer if students would be wearing masks at second level.

‘They are worried about their own health and safety, and the health and safety of the students, and the principals have an awful lot of work to do in the next month,’ said Ann.

‘I welcome the investment in schools, but the roadmap is not detailed enough. It should go further in instructing school management on how to deal with the specifics.’

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