Students and staff delighted to return to school, but fears remain over further closures, says Cork principal

Students and staff delighted to return to school, but fears remain over further closures, says Cork principal

Principal Aaron Wolfe at the entrance of Coláiste Éamann Rís. Pic Larry Cummins

The return to school has been “hugely positive” for many students, with one Cork principal noting the ease of the return this week. 

Monday saw about 60,000 Leaving Cert students return to school, with fifth-year students expected to follow on 15 March.

But secondary school students in first, second, third and fourth year will have to wait until April 12 before they return to school.

Minister Norma Foley appeared before the Education Committee on Tuesday to provide an update on the reopening of schools and the 2021 State Examinations.

Ms Foley described their return to school as "hugely positive" for students, staff and families.

An 'easier' return 

According to Aaron Wolfe, Principal of Coláiste Éamann Rís, the return of in-school education on Monday was  “much easier” than previously with systems already in place and students well aware of the guidelines.

“It was much easier to reopen this time than it was in September. There was an element of the unknown in September,” he said.

“We had the masks, we had the hand sanitisers, we knew the systems in place and the closure had been much shorter as well."

He said the return of the year group alone has helped with adherence to guidelines.

“Because the building is mostly empty, we’re able to social distance a lot more than we were before. It’s masks on- some of the staff are double masking so we have given out extra masks to staff members-we have hand sanitisers, the windows are open, we’re having our breaks outside under this new shelter we had put up.”

Mr Wolfe noted how staff and students alike are hopeful that case numbers in the community will continue to decrease to ensure that the school will now remain open for good, with additional year groups capable or rejoining in-person schooling in the coming weeks.

Concerns over further closures 

“That’s the big worry. The big worry is that we would close again and the alternatives for Leaving Certs that have already been put in place would have to be changed but please God that doesn’t happen,” said Mr Wolfe.

However, staff and students alike are "delighted" to be able to return to school and their routine.

“They’re thrilled to be back. In some cases, the school is one of the few positive environments they have in their life so it restores that, it restores their routine; getting out of bed, coming in here and even seeing each other. 

"They’re happy to see each other in person again," he added.

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