A CORK performing arts teacher has called for urgent clarification on how the sector can re-open in September.
Careen Wolfe, co-owner of Studio Wolfe said that while there are clear guidelines on how activities such as sport can return in the autumn, that there is a dearth of advice when it comes to the performing arts.
Studio Wolfe normally offers classes in dance, drama, acrobatics, cheerleading and singing to almost 1,200 students each week from its studios in Douglas and Blarney.
The family-run school had briefly re-opened during the summer months with social distancing measures, temperature checks and increased hygiene measures.
There were plans to re-commence classes in the coming weeks however, Ms Wolfe said these plans are in limbo because of a lack of, or because of confusing guidance for the sector.
“We are due to reopen our doors on September 7 and now with the Government’s announcement, it would seem that although we can still open we are now limited to five students plus a teacher per class [for dance],” she explained.
Ms Wolfe said advice from Sport Ireland suggested multiple pods of six children are permitted if space allows while she said there is no guidance on the number of children allowed to attend a drama class.
“No one has any clarity for us. No one is advocating for us. The Performing Arts Sector has been singled out for no apparent reason,” she said.
“For the majority of our students, we are their only after school activity. They don’t play sports. Their preferred medium of expression is the arts,” she added.
Ms Wolfe has sought clarification on the issue and has contacted her public representatives on the matter.
She said she doesn’t want special treatment, but that she does not want to open until she is assured that she would be Covid-19 compliant, adding that as a family and as a business they had done everything that the Government had asked of them to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
“We obeyed the rules in every phase. We have been obedient and patient. I had such respect for and faith in our Government but with last week’s new conditions, I feel that we’ve been foolish. I feel that as a business we are being unfairly targeted.
“How can the Government suggest that children cannot attend a really well organised, socially distanced, zero physical contact dance or drama class in a controlled environment yet can continue to attend full contact sports including rugby, GAA, and soccer? Gymnastics, Swimming and piano lessons can operate. Why not us?”
Ms Wolfe also said she was “cross” that adults can continue to attend restaurants and pubs but children cannot attend a dance class with more than six people present.
The Cork performing arts teacher said not re-opening would not only have significant impacts on their students but on the business itself.
“This is my livelihood. I support my family with this income. I have all of my students registered for the next term and they are eager to start back. Throughout lockdown my studio rent, electricity bills etc never stopped coming.
“We have been treading water ever since trying to keep our business afloat and we finally felt like things were going to be ok and now this.
“What do we do?
“Do we now adhere to this ridiculous restriction, go to even more expense and make more adjustments to our studios to divide it up into smaller rooms so we can teach, only to be told on the 13th that the restrictions are changing again?
“Don’t open on the 7th, put all the staff on Covid payment and wait for more coherent advice on the 13th? Or open as planned ignoring this latest information but continue implementing the measures that were deemed more than acceptable eight weeks ago?”
Ms Wolfe said she believes that when it comes to the guidance, there should be blanket advice that applies to children’s activities rather than singling out activities such as drama.
“I’m sure that I speak for all performing arts schools in the city and county when I stress that all we want to do is get back to teaching, allow young people to experience their beloved activities in this new normal.
“We aren’t looking for any special exemptions from distancing measures, we want to be socially responsible but we also want and need to be acknowledged, recognised and heard,” she said.