THE decision behind a phased return to school reopenings has been met with scepticism from some secondary school students who confessed to being tired of false hope.
While leaving cert pupils and some primary school classes are preparing to return on March 1, second-year students of Coláiste Éamann Rís in Cork City said they will be unable to see each other until after the Easter holidays on April 15. This will be subject to review as the country remains bound by level 5 restrictions.
Edel Farrell who teaches English at the school let The Echo in on her morning Zoom class, where students gave an insight into the last few months.
Rhys Forde has not seen his classmates since last October. While he was happy with the news of an April return, he said that he won’t be getting his hopes up just yet.
“It would be great to get back but they could always push it back at any time,” he said.
The second lockdown was particularly difficult for Rhys who was frequently admitted to hospital.
“I had been in hospital for six weeks on and off,” he said. “I went in back in October with pneumonia. They later found out I had scoliosis.
“It was scary because I was always wondering if I would get Covid. I was in the children’s ward so was isolated from all the major stuff going on downstairs. I didn’t mind not having visitors. I have been isolating for a while. My year head, Ms Tippins, texted me a lot for updates. I did wish I was back in school.”
He praised frontline workers who treated him during his ordeal.
“They got me through a rough time in hospital. Every time they went outside the door you would hear them chatting about Covid. It’s so difficult what they are going through at the moment.”
Rhys hopes that the Government will be able to keep its word and restore some semblance of normality for secondary school students.
“I was happy with the news that we are going back because I haven’t been in school since October.”
Meanwhile, his peer Jason Murphy said he fears that the negativity associated with Covid may become ingrained.
“Covid has been a very negative experience,” Jason said. “I think in years to come when Covid is gone that negativity will stay and everyone will still be talking about it.”
Another student, Kai Kane, spoke of his concern for business owners who have been left in the dark. When it comes to schoolwork Kai described how his teachers are going the extra mile to deliver classes each day.
“Our maths teacher makes it feel like it’s just another normal day at school. He sets up his camera and you can see the whiteboard.”
Fionn Sheehan said he no longer tunes in to the news after growing sick of the negativity. However, he said he felt the Taoiseach made the right call on staggering school returns.
“I’m sick of the news so I don’t really watch it any more.
“It’s going to be hard not seeing people for another while but the government probably know best. If I was the Taoiseach I would do whatever is safe.”
Ms Farrell said many of her students no longer watch the news for fear of being given false hope. Davin Condon is no exception.
“A typical day for me is getting up at 8am, doing school work, and having lunch at 1pm. I don’t really watch the news.”
Charlie Facer described how interactions with his peers can be challenging online.
“Not being able to have my friends and learning is pretty hard. Usually, you have fun, but it’s still learning. That doesn’t happen so much online.”
Their teacher, Ms Farrell, said technology can present obstacles for her students. She summed the situation up with an anecdote.
“Charlie has a brother in fifth year and it’s difficult for them both as they are often in the same room trying to log in to lessons,” Ms Farrell said.
“There was one day in particular that I had Charlie for second-year English and his brother Liam, a fifth-year student, just after that. Liam had maths on at the same time so their microphones started picking each other up. At first, I thought that Mr Mannion had hacked into my class! It’s difficult having three siblings at home and trying to log in to classes.”
She said that teachers are having to find new ways of engaging their pupils.
“I’ve had to use new methods of teaching. A lot of teachers have tried to be as creative and innovative as possible.”