School is left in the dark about cleaning budget for September

A Cork school principal revealed his school doesn’t know if they’ll get the funding to hire extra cleaners in September, writes Ailin Quinlan
School is left in the dark about cleaning budget for September

Ailin Quinlan is aware of at least one school whose staff don’t know if they will have an extra budget for cleaners this September, despite rising cases of the Delta variant. Picture: Stock

DON’T bother asking what I want for my birthday, lads; I know what I want and I’m telling you now. I want the flying car. The one on the news that flew between two airports on a tank of petrol. That one.

I wouldn’t worry about the mechanics of it. Operating a flying car would be a doddle compared to getting your head around the Reopening Postponement Fiasco, the workability of a Dining Vaccination Certificate or the safe re-opening of schools next September in the midst of a surge of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

I’m not pushed on indoor dining these days, given the staggering transmission levels of the variant, but there are lots of people who don’t have a problem with it and lots of struggling restaurants and pubs in favour of it.

So just give me the flying car, I’ll go alone and feed myself; no travel or dining vaccination certificate required. I’ll aim for somewhere remote. Preferably somewhere that I won’t have to listen to Norma Foley.

In his calamitous address last Tuesday, Micheál Martin said basically that (although massive crowds of the un-vaccinated, young and old can linger inside big food and clothing retailers and without time constraints) only the vaccinated or the immune should be allowed to dine inside a public eatery for the foreseeable… and that indoor dining has to stay closed for a couple more weeks while they figure out how to do it.

They need until at least July 19 to decide how a cold, hungry customer can prove to harassed, over-worked and utterly stressed-out receptionists, waiters or restaurant owners that he or she has been vaccinated or is immune and should be allowed to eat inside.

Can you imagine how that will go down on the streets of Cork. Dublin. Galway. Limerick. It’s bananas.

Then, on Wednesday, things became even clearer in banana-land. I heard the Minister for Education, Norma Foley, talking about school re-openings to Bryan Dobson on the lunchtime news. Not to worry, was the gist. Norma has it all sorted well ahead of September. Herself and the lads have been planning forever to deal with any potential impact the high transmission levels of the Delta Variant might have on school reopening next autumn.

As you probably know by now, the Delta is about 80% more transmissible than the other variants. It also has an 80% higher chance of putting you into hospital if you’re not vaccinated when you contract it. And even if you’re fully vaccinated, you can still get the Delta variant.

In the UK, the Variant is predominantly spreading through older school-age children, which in turn brings it into older and younger age groups, so over there they’re seeing a higher rate of children being hospitalised. And when the UK catches a cold…

But fear not, Norma and the Department are on the ball. Long before all this current furore about the re-opening of indoor dining or not, the Minister reassured radio listeners, the Department of Education was planning ahead. It was, she said, putting additional measures in place in terms of “mitigation measures” to facilitate the re-opening of schools next August/September.

“So anything that is required will be put in place for the schools,” she told Bryan Dobson. Well. My eyes opened wide. I must have turned into Alice and fallen down a rabbit hole into Wonderland. I thought I was hearing the Red Queen.

Because that very morning, only hours prior to Minister Foley’s interview on the RTÉ lunchtime news, I heard a very different story straight from the horse’s mouth. 

A Cork school principal revealed his school doesn’t know if they’ll get the funding to hire extra cleaners to carry out the required daily anti-Covid sanitising measures when schools reopen in September.

This school had inquired, and with no small urgency, whether the grant it got last year enabling it to hire these cleaners would be available again for September — given, naturally, the much higher transmission of the Delta variant and its er, reputed effect on children and impact on school reopening.

The Department of Education replied that it was unable to confirm Covid funding details for the next academic year. Full stop.

So no matter what Norma’s telling Bryan about all the planning and preparation, there’s at least one sizable school that doesn’t know if it will be able to hire the cleaners whose diligence helped keep its pupils safe last year.

It seems with all that planning Norma talks about, the Department hasn’t even managed to make a decision on the one thing it knows for sure that schools need — sanitising measures.

So, we should take the apparent concern about measures being taken to enable the safe reopening of classrooms in the midst of a predicted surge of the Delta variant with a great big pinch of salt.

Norma might be patting our heads and telling us that it’s okay; relax, they know what they’re doing. But out there is at least one experienced school principal who really does know what he’s doing — and he’s tearing his hair out.

As the Red Queen infamously commented to Alice: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

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