By Cate McCurry, PA
School buildings across Ireland were filled with noises of pupils and staff as all remaining years groups returned to the classroom.
Many school children were relieved and delighted to return to class and see their peers again.
For first to fourth year students, it was their first time back in the classroom since the Christmas holidays.
Their return marked the final phase of the Government’s plan to have school children back to face-to-face learning, following a phased return throughout the last month.
Fiona Lennon, principal of St Mary’s Academy CBS in Co Carlow, said she was delighted to hear the sounds of students again.
“It’s been unnaturally quiet and the students have all been lovely and came through the gate ready to go.
“They are excited to be back and meet their teachers and peers,” Ms Lennon said.
“It’s been a wonderful day.”
Following months of remote learning, the remaining four years were welcomed back with the rest of the school.
All students have to wear masks and follow coronavirus protocols while in the school building.
Ms Lennon and her staff have been preparing for reopening since January to ensure they were ready for all the pupils.
“Teachers have been busy working online with the classes and families,” she added.
“We were making sure we were on top of everything.
“(Today) we had a longer registration to revisit the procedure and protocols.
“It went very smoothly.
“Different levels of anxiety can arise at different times of the day but the students were relieved to back through the door again.
“You could see the smiles behind the masks, this is as normal as it can be for them and they get to see their friends and get back into the swing of work again.
“It’s been a long time for them to be isolated.
“They were very happy.”
While it has been a challenging year for most students, those sitting the Leaving Certificate exams have experienced the most pressure.
Ms Lennon said the previous uncertainty around the exams left many students “subdued”.
— St. Mary's Academy CBS An Edmund Rice School (@cbscarlow) April 11, 2021
“They were exceptionally quiet but there are in much better spirts now we have some clarity,” the principal added.
The school has been lucky to avoid any outbreaks of Covid-19, which Ms Lennon hopes will remain for the school year.
“The students have adapted really well to everything, we are really proud of them,” she added.
“While they want to rip the masks off, they are getting used to them.”
She added: “I think of all things the students missed was strangely routine.
“Structure is something teenagers resist but it’s what they felt they missed the most.
“It is also being around people and their peers and they missed their relationships with their teachers.”