PICTURES: It’s class to be back, all smiles as Cork pupils return to school 

PICTURES: It’s class to be back, all smiles as Cork pupils return to school 

Fiona O'Sullivan with teacher Vickey Harnett on the first day back at St. Killian's special school in Mayfield, Cork. Pictures Dan Linehan

THERE was great excitement in St Killian’s School, Mayfield this morning when it re-opened its doors.

Special schools around the country commenced a phased re-opening today following an extended closure due to current public health Covid guidelines.

 Niamh McColl, Aaron Ryan, Sophie Mischke and Zac Anthony Liu in the company of school dog Rosie on the first day back at St. Killian's special school in Mayfield, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Niamh McColl, Aaron Ryan, Sophie Mischke and Zac Anthony Liu in the company of school dog Rosie on the first day back at St. Killian's special school in Mayfield, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Pupils will initially attend school on a 50% basis to allow for attendance of reduced numbers within the school setting.

Despite the inclement weather conditions, parents along with their children, were thrilled to be walking through the gates in St Killian’s School once again, and school principal Sue Lenihan was delighted to welcome back 33 of her pupils on their first day back.

“We were thrilled to welcome our pupils back to school. It was fantastic to see them all again. Our first day went so well. The students were delighted to be back. They all had smiles on their faces.

“One girl had a grin on their face throughout the day,” she said.

Pupils Aaron Higgins, Garrett O'Neill. and Izzy DeHora with their teacher Lizzy Fitzpatrick.
Pupils Aaron Higgins, Garrett O'Neill. and Izzy DeHora with their teacher Lizzy Fitzpatrick.

Ms Lenihan said the teachers in St Killian’s School have established special bonds with their students who missed the daily school routine and seeing their friends in recent weeks.

“Our classes are relatively small. We have six or eight students in each class. We have very strong connections with our students. They love to chat and do their lessons. They love the personal attention we give them. We have a strong bond with them.

“They missed seeing their friends in the last few weeks. They found that very hard, not socialising with their friends in the schoolyard. It was so nice seeing them back playing and chatting with their friends. We are looking forward to giving all our pupils intensive support now through the phased return to school.”

 Niamh McColl in the company of school dog Rosie.
Niamh McColl in the company of school dog Rosie.

The principal said that online teaching had proved very successful, but both the teachers and the students prefer the special connection they have established in the classroom.

“During the lockdown, all staff have engaged with pupils in online classes, one-to-one support calls, and well-being. Pupils have completed IEP (Individualised Education Programme) work with key staff on a one-to-one basis as well as engaging with group online lessons and assigned work tasks. We were fortunate to allocate laptops to pupils working from home to assist in the delivery of online learning tasks.

“Everybody worked so hard in recent weeks online and it worked so well, but you can’t beat face-to-face interaction. You can’t replace that special connection. The staff have been fantastic and given huge support to all our pupils and their parents.

“The parents have been very complimentary about the online teaching and support they have received,” she added.

Ms Lenihan said the school has also worked very hard to ensure the school environment is safe for all.

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