SCHOOLS must be given clarity on whether a grant for Covid-19 cleaning supports for schools will be continued for the next school year.
That is according to a West Cork school principal who is concerned that a decision has not yet been made on it.
Barth Harrington, principal of Scoil na mBuachaillí in Clonakilty, said that his school hired two cleaners last year for 14 hours each per week using the grant to ensure that the school was cleaned and sanitised to prevent the spread of Covid-19. He said that there had not been an outbreak of the virus in the school and believes this was because of the work done by the two cleaners.
In recent days, following a query from the school in relation to whether the funding would continue, an email from the Department of Education said: “I cannot confirm covid funding details for the 2021/22 academic year at this time, however, the Department will continue to review the position over the coming months and it is intended that details of any grant payments for the 2021/22 school year, will be made available as soon as possible.”
Mr Harrington said: “Scoil na mBuachaillí has 260 pupils and around 30 staff. We have ten classrooms, six resource rooms, a staff room, corridors and toilets that all have to be cleaned.”
He said the cleaners who were employed last year now do not know if they will be re-employed for the next school year, adding that the school will be reopening in late August. “This should be planned by now.”
Chief executive of the Irish Primary Principals Network, Padraig Clerkin, said the network is currently awaiting guidance from the department but added that there is a commitment that schools will be adequately funded to ensure they can manage all matters relating to Covid-19.
Sinn Fein’s education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said: “Last year, the reopening of schools was chaotic for principals and boards of management. It was right down to the wire and was extremely stressful. No way that this should happen this year. It is essential that schools get an outline of what funding is available and the decision must be made soon.”
The Department of Education was contacted for comment.