'People are anxious to have a normal Christmas': Some Cork pupils staying home from school this week

Schools are due to finish up for Christmas break tomorrow and though most students have been in attendance for the past few days, staff members who spoke with The Echo said they did expect absences this week.
'People are anxious to have a normal Christmas': Some Cork pupils staying home from school this week

Schools are due to finish up for Christmas break tomorrow and though most students have been in attendance for the past two days, staff members who spoke with The Echo said they did expect absences this week. Stock image.

PRIMARY schools around Cork are seeing lower attendance rates this week after some parents opted to keep children at home ahead of Christmas as Covid-19 cases continue to rise.

Schools are due to finish up for Christmas break tomorrow and though most students have been in attendance for the past few days, staff members who spoke with The Echo said they did expect absences this week.

“We have seen reduced numbers, particularly in classes where there have been positive cases. I think it’s evident in all schools,” said Scoil Padre Pio principal Ken Foley.

“People are anxious to have a Christmas that’s as normal as possible so we can see where they’re coming from. For the last couple of days that are in it, parents are just weighing it all up and making that decision.

“We’re open and the staff are in and we’re trying to make it a fun couple of days in school for the kids in a safe way but if parents want to keep children at home we can understand that.” 

A similar trend has been seen at Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers in Cork city.

“There was a reduction yesterday morning of kids coming in. Some of them were children who had tested positive for Covid but there definitely hasn’t been the same amount of parents at the gates in the mornings as usual,” said principal Adrian Breathneach.

“It makes sense. It can be hard to understand why we were brought back in for two and a half days.” 

Both secondary and primary schools are due to reopen on January 6 but some principals have already started preparing for a delayed return due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“I have a funny feeling we’re not going to go back on January 6. We sent all our books home with pupils last week and started practicing on Seesaw just in case,” Mr Breathnach said.

“They could delay it if cases keep rising so I told the teachers to prepare. At least all the books have gone home and we’re ready.” 

Staff in Scoil Padre Pio have also taken precautions by making sure families will be able to access their e-learning platforms in case of closures.

“We are expecting to open but we have sent packs home and we have ensured that every family has the ability to log into our system and engage with online learning,” Mr Foley said.

“We’ve been doing it all year anyway but we’re just trying to ensure that we’re ready to go with online learning if need be.” 

Earlier this week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that he did not foresee schools staying closed past the expected reopening date.

“The incidence and the number of cases in primary schools which had been very high has peaked and has been falling now for quite some time. So, there’s no case to close the schools early and we intend for schools and colleges to reopen as planned in the New Year,” he told Morning Ireland.

“If there is any change to that you’ll hear it from the Minister for Education and nobody else.”

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