A Co Tipperary Leaving Cert student, who is awaiting a Covid-19 vaccine after suffering a viral heart infection, has praised his school for closing due to an outbreak of the disease among students and staff.
Jason Quigley, 18, said his parents received a text message from St Joseph’s CBS, Nenagh last night which read: “Following on from discussions with the HSE and the Department of Education, it has been decided to close the school this evening until further notice.”
“All classes will be held remotely through TEAMS from tomorrow morning for all year groups,” the message added.
The school informed parents that it would be “in contact again in the coming days with further details about the screening of ALL students who have not already tested positive or who have not already been identified as a close contact”.
Prior to last night’s announcement about the temporary closure, sixth year students at St Josephs CBS had already been classified as close contacts and asked to self-isolate following positive tests, according to a letter sent to parents last Wednesday.
Fifth year students had also been advised to remain at their homes and await tests as part of a HSE screening process.
All staff at the school — which caters for about 570 students — were tested which resulted in a number of positive cases.
Mr Quigley, from Garranmore, Newtown, Nenagh, said: “Last night the principal texted all parents to say the entire school would be closed until further notice. We presume it will be closed for two weeks, because all the teachers are at home.”
“It’s important to say that a number of teachers were already at home because they either had Covid or were regarded as close contacts. There are around 40 teachers including SNAs [special needs assistants],” he said.
Praising the school’s quick response to the outbreak, Mr Quigley said: “If you look at the school record since we opened back up last year, we only had two cases from September up to now.”
“My personal opinion is that the school has done an excellent job, it’s just been really unlucky now. The teachers have been phenomenal to keep it going.”
Mr Quigley said he was lucky not to have been in school when the cases of Covid-19 were detected.
“During Easter I had inflammation of the heart, called Myopericarditis, so I’m recovering at home, I’m waiting for my vaccine actually, before I go back to school.”
“I was lucky I didn't go back to school last week, because god forbid, if I did get the virus.”
Doctors believe his heart condition stemmed from “a vomiting bug or virus which the doctors said they couldn't identify; they thought it was Covid, but I had three Covid tests and all three were negative.”
“I went to University Hospital Limerick, it was really difficult because my parents could not come in and check on me, but all the staff there were excellent and they treated me well.”
The keen sportsman who plays minor hurling with local team Burgess has been ruled out from playing sport for another “six months”.
Despite delays in the national vaccine rollout programme, Mr Quigley said he believes the Government are doing their best in a challenging environment: “There is a supply problem with the EU so the Government can’t do much about that, but I think it was a bit of a mess at the start.”
“I think they should have prioritised vaccines for SNA’s and teachers. My own mother is an SNA and there is no social distancing [in her work], there is constant contact with children when you are working in that sector, it’s almost impossible to socially distance.
Local informed sources said a number of other schools in the wider North Tipperary area are liaising with the HSE about more confirmed Covid-19 cases.
St Joseph’s CBS Nenagh did not respond when asked for comment.