A MONTESSORI school owner in Cork has said faster access to PCR tests as well as the introduction of free antigen tests for staff to do before attending work would be “a massive step forward” for the childcare sector.
Lee Herlihy, who owns Horizons Montessori in Bishopstown, reopened her school after the Christmas break on Wednesday however she is down two out of six staff members this week as they have been identified as close contacts.
She spoke of the difficulties operating in the current climate.
“Every day what we do is staff check in the night before, we check in with our parents then as well just to see how many children will be accessing the service.
“For example, we would normally have 70 children and this week we don’t have a full capacity.
“We have about 45 children that actually returned this week.
“A lot of them aren’t returning until next Monday so the fact that we were down two staff members was ok, we were able to manage that then because we had less children,” she said.
She said the school has HEPA filters in both of its classrooms, which she received grants to purchase and that staff have been doing regular antigen tests before coming to work over the last number of weeks as an added precaution.
However, these are becoming increasingly difficult to come by.
“Antigen testing has been a frontliner personally for our service in Horizons, having the staff take the twice-weekly antigen tests, but that’s something we’re funding ourselves then.
“Even accessing antigen tests is difficult at the moment. Websites that I have been purchasing them on, they’re all sold out.
She also said faster access to PCR tests would be helpful.
“Definitely for us, staff being able to access PCR tests more quickly would make a huge difference.”
Early Childhood Ireland, which supports over 400 childcare members in Cork and 3,900 nationwide, is also seeking faster access to both PCR and antigen tests, along with clarification on the isolation guidance.
“Staff are struggling to access PCR testing in a timely manner, and it is increasingly difficult to find antigen tests.
“Some settings have paid for private PCR testing for staff in order to be able to open safely.
“Our sector needs faster access to both PCR and antigen tests to reduce the strain on already over-stretched services,” Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, said.
“Our sector has been on the frontline, supporting children and families since the pandemic began.
“We know from our members that children are delighted to be back in their familiar rooms and to see their friends after a few weeks apart.
“The Government must do everything necessary to allow our sector to continue doing its essential work.”