PRIMARY, special and post-primary schools in Cork are to receive a total of €6.97m to enable minor works to be carried out as part of additional support in the context of Covid-19.
The initiative has been welcomed by a Cork secondary school principal and a UCC academic.
The Government is providing a total of €72 million overall in funding that can be used by schools and childcare services to improve ventilation.
The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD announced the payment of a minor works grant totaling €45m for primary schools and special schools.
Once-off Covid-19 minor works funding of €17m has also been announced for post-primary schools. €10 million has also been allocated to improve ventilation in creches.
The principal of Coláiste Chríost Rí Padraig Mac An Rí said the news is welcome.
“Any funding that comes in to manage Covid in schools is welcome.
"It will also allow us to address the educational deficit that is now there for boys as Covid has had an effect. Any funding that comes along will be put to good use by schools," he said.
Each particular school principal will have full discretion over what to spend the funds on which pleased the secondary school principal.
“It will allow us to address certain things that need to be addressed in this school. The freedom to use it to meet each individual school's needs is a good thing. It allows that school to address their own particular problem.
“Each school will have rooms that will benefit from HEPA filters. In this school, ventilation is not really the issue, it is the temperature drop at this time of the year. We have the heating on one hand and the doors and windows open on the other hand. It is a vicious cycle.”
Mr Mac An Rí dismissed suggestions that sourcing HEPA filters will add hugely to the workload of school leaders.
“It is a nice headache to have. In the list of headaches that principals would meet during the day this would be well down the list.”
Professor John Sodeau Professor of Physical Chemistry at UCC also welcomed the news.
“It is good news that the government is listening to their scientific advisors because ventilation in school settings especially for children is important and necessary.”
Professor Sodeau who specialises in environmental chemistry said the two main ‘weapons’ against the spread of Covid-19 are ventilation and vaccination.
“The two main weapons are ventilation and vaccination. If they are unable to be vaccinated, ventilation has to be there and it has got to be modern and effective.
“It is simply not good enough to say open a window. Everyone can appreciate that in the older buildings that it may be the only course of action. In modern schools, there is no excuse not to have a ventilation engineer as part of the buildings team and it has to be done for the future. Ventilation is of key importance. It is good news. It will help to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” he added.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD said that the announcement allowing schools to purchase HEPA filtration devices via minor works grant funding will add hugely to the workload of school leaders in the days leading up to Christmas.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire said:
“It is welcome that the government has been forced to listen to parents, teachers, school leaders, and the opposition, and are finally moving in the right direction on ventilation in schools.
"HEPA filtration would be much better centrally procured by the Department and distributed to schools that need them. I will be writing to the Minister for Education to ask her to reconsider this and to centrally procure,” he added.