“Parents want this. The students want this. Society needs it."
That was the response from Kinsale Community School principal, Fergal McCarthy, following the announcement of the anticipated full reopening of all schools in time for the start of the new school year.
The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD yesterday brought a memo to Cabinet which confirms that plans are in place to support the full reopening of schools in time for the end of August/start of September 2021.
The reopening will be carried out in close consultation with Public Health and the education partners.
Speaking yesterday Minister Foley said the Department is "in constant communication with public health specialists ahead of the new school year and we can confirm that we are preparing for a full return of schools in late August and early September.”
The Minister for Education continued: “Public Health has stated that the new variants of the disease do not change the infection prevention and control measures required in schools. The evidence available from the operation of schools during Covid-19 to date shows that schools are low-risk environments due to the infection prevention and control measures in place.
“The provision of CO2 monitors for every school will be an important tool in keeping our schools safe and in addition to the mitigation measures already in place, our staff and students can be confident of returning to safe environments in our schools,” she added.
Kinsale Community School principal Fergal McCarthy welcomed the positive news.
“Parents want this. The students want this. Society needs it. We need to live with this. It is really important that students don’t miss out any more of the time that is so precious to them in accessing school, their friends and socialisation. It is a complete package. Children really need this,” he said.
Mr McCarthy said it is important all the stakeholders come together to ensure the schools will reopen as planned.
“I am planning for a full return of our 1,300 students this September. We will have all the necessary preparations in place. We will continue our message to students about wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and appropriate respiratory etiquette.
“Students need to be in school. We need to organise ourselves in the best possible way that we can. The Minister will be offered every support I’m sure by all the stakeholders to allow the full return of our students to a degree of normality,” he added.
The secondary school principal said the key to all this is ‘having a vaccination programme’ that meets the needs of all adolescents.
“The game-changer appears to have been the Delta variant which is far more transmissible amongst young people. The key to this is having a vaccination programme. We are looking forward to a vaccination programme that will allow adolescents in second-level schools to be vaccinated."
Schools have been advised that they should continue to operate with the current infection prevention and control measures in place to support their safe operation during Covid-19. When schools reopen they will continue to be supported in terms of the additional resources necessary to provide for these measures.
The Department will also undertake a communications campaign with parents and students/pupils in advance of school reopening to inform and remind them of the arrangements in place in schools operating during Covid-19.