“WE have been ducking and diving from Covid over the last few months,” said a Cork special needs assistant (SNA), who has expressed her sense of nervousness about schools reopening today.
Frances Linehan, who works as an SNA in a Cork City primary school, said she was nervous about schools reopening nationwide for a new term despite the recent huge surge in Covid-19 cases.
“I am nervous about it. Since they have given up the contact tracing in schools, nobody knows who has the virus. They say it is going to peak, but if there is no contact tracing in the schools how do you know where the disease is?
“We have been ducking and diving from Covid over the last few months. It was quite a strain before Christmas,” she said.
The Cork-based SNA said she was a close contact at present, so she would not be returning to her role until next week.
Ms Linehan said both she and her colleagues feel vulnerable at present and said the schools should have stayed close to defuse the situation.
“The stakeholders had a meeting on Tuesday over Zoom as health and safety said they couldn’t meet up while we are going into a load of children who are unvaccinated and not wearing masks,” she said.
“We found that children were coming in with masks, but they weren’t wearing them during the day and we didn’t know legally where we stood.
“We are dependent on a window being open and hand sanitizer. That doesn’t sound normal. I feel vulnerable.
“I love my job. I would like to get back, but I also love my family. I just want to do my job in a safe environment. I would prefer not to bring it back.
“We are sitting next to the children. We need Hepa filters, children to wear masks, and free antigen tests for everyone to check themselves at least twice a week.
“Having talked to colleagues, we saw that a lot of children had Covid before Christmas and they infected their parents. With everyone mixing inter-generational over Christmas, they might have left it until next Monday to reopen schools, or even another week or two,” she added.
Minna Murphy, from Kildinan Preschool, said she was unable to reopen as planned due to staff shortages at present.
“Unfortunately I don’t have enough staff to reopen. One employee tested positive, one is waiting for a PCR test, and a substitute teacher is a close contact,” Ms Murphy said.
“It is disappointing and tough, but the situation just doesn’t allow it.”
The preschool owner is currently in the process of ordering a Hepa filter. She said she was looking forward to getting back into a “routine” once again.
“I am not sure what day I can reopen next week. We will take it day by day,” she said.
“The uncertainty is stressful. The parents have been so understanding and wonderful. I am looking forward to seeing the kids and parents again. It will be nice to get back into a routine again.
“When I have the Hepa filter and proper masks, I will feel safer. We are outside a lot of the time every day. We are looking forward to getting going again.”