Several Ukrainian secondary school students were left standing at the side of the road waiting for a bus on the first day of class due to delays in issuing tickets, the principal of a community school in Co Wexford has said.
Rachel O’Connor of Ramsgrange Community School told RTÉ radio’s News at One that as a school principal and as a mother she was horrified at the "heart-wrenching" image of 11 first-year students left at the side of the road, one of them with a bunch of flowers for the principal.
There are 44 Ukrainian students enrolled in the school, who live in a former holiday village in Hook Head. Some 33 of the students have been attending since last Easter, with 11 due to commence in first year this week.
Ms O’Connor said she and her staff were oblivious to the situation until they noticed there were 11 students missing when they did a head count of first-year pupils. "It turned out that there were 11 first years standing at the side of the road waiting for a bus.
"As a school principal, as a mother I was absolutely horrified at the thought, I've got two kids myself starting Junior Infants today, so we know what a big deal it is.
"One of those little girls was standing there with a bunch of flowers for the principal and they were just left standing there while all of their peers were at school with us. That's when we became aware of the fact that the bus tickets were not reissued to our new Ukrainian students."
A group of volunteers in Fethard rallied together and transported the 11 children to school, but this will be difficult from later this week when all 44 Ukrainian students are due to return to school. "That's not sustainable moving forward," added Ms O’Connor.
During the last school year as the holiday village was deemed an accommodation centre, the school made a group application on behalf of the Ukrainian families directly to schools transport. "This year we were informed that we had to make that application through the ETB through the Realt coordinator so when we were requested to update our list and to send it in for school transport we did so within a matter of days. The assumption was that it was all organised, that tickets were reissued to our students, but we were completely oblivious until Monday when our first years didn't turn up."
Ms O’Connor said she was "enraged" as parents trust that there are systems in place to get their children safely to school. "Schools provide a safe place for these children in such a difficult transition."
The principal said she had been informed that the Minister for Education's office was looking into the problem. She had also spoken with schools transport who also said they were investigating the issue, but it could take weeks.