Zoom discos lifting the spirits of children in a Cork special school 

Zoom discos lifting the spirits of children in a Cork special school 
Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Ballincollig have been hosting morning assemblies, exercise, regular lessons and craft classes as well as discos over Zoom.

A global pandemic wasn't enough to get in the way of the school disco at a special needs school in Cork with pupils instead dancing to their favourite songs over Zoom.

Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Ballincollig, which caters for children with intellectual disabilities, has rallied to prevent their pupils from becoming isolated during lockdown.

They host morning assemblies, exercise, regular lessons and craft classes over Zoom.

Lorraine Desmond from Killumney is both a teacher at the school and has two sons enrolled at the facility.

She says that the Friday disco is the social highlight of the week at the school.

When they had to close, arising out of the pandemic, a decision was made to get the disco up and running on Zoom.

Ms Desmond says that certain songs are "must plays" to guarantee the success of the virtual disco.

"Oh for the Seniors Ed Sheeran or 'Shotgun' or 'Dancing Queen'. The Juniors cannot be contained when 'Baby Shark' comes on. The Seniors and Staff love it too !"

Ms Desmond says every effort is being made at the school to give the children some sort of normalcy in this surreal and frightening time.

"When this all started our primary aim was the wellbeing of the children. 

"In mainstream schools you can send home general academics but we can't do that. 

"We felt the biggest thing that was missing for them was social interactions.

"Every Friday in school the highlight of the week is the school disco at quarter past one. 

"So we decided to try it virtually. Zoom has been a learning process. 

"We had to learn to mute everybody and give everyone a chance to talk over Zoom. 

"The first Zoom class I did was forty minutes of everyone saying 'Hi' over and over!

"Everyone misses routine. It is great for us to be able to see the pupils over Zoom. 

"Structure is so important for the 68 children at the school.

"We always do Assembly so one of the teachers puts up a new Assembly every morning. 

"So they sit down and watch as if they were in school. They announce the birthdays. 

"Each teacher zooms through the day and they finish the day with yoga.

"Technology has taken over as we have a Youtube channel now too."

Ms Desmond says her boys Alex (12) and Rian (10) are coping well at home as they are able to see their classmates over Zoom.

"They are completely isolated unless we put things in place because they are not on phones or Snapchat.

"The teachers are doing things like hosting lunch. All the kids have their lunch and just chat among themselves. 

"We had a toilet roll challenge with staff and the children did their own version. 

"It brought us together while we were apart."

Lorraine says they are hoping to get back to school in September when fundraising will commence for a badly needed school bus.

Meanwhile, children aged between 5 and 18 attend the school.

Liz Sheeran from Ballincollig is mother to Katie (16) who is thoroughly enjoying all the activities put on by staff.

"They are doing some of the work they would be doing in school which is very important. 

"You are trying to hold on to what they have been learning up to now because it is so easy to regress. 

"It is not just school work. It is all aspects of living. Cooking and so on.

"What is great is that by watching Zoom we are getting an insight into how they do learn normally.

"It was a bit alien at the start but we have adapted quite well.

Katie loves the school. She has been going since she was five. 

"Any aspect of school and being with her friends is what she wants. It makes her happy."

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