21 Jan 2022

Large number of students and teachers missed first day back at Offaly school

Large number of students and teachers missed first day back at Offaly school

Large number of students and teachers missed first day back at Offaly school

A large number of students and teachers missed first day back at an Offaly school last week.

About 35% of students and 10% of teachers were absent on the first day of school last Thursday in St Brendan's Community School, Birr.

Principal John Kennedy told The Midland Tribune that the absentee levels in St Brendan's were about the average for the country.

He admitted to staff members feeling stressed in the days leading into the first day back, “but once the day began things went pretty smoothly and it felt great to be back.

“Everybody is hoping that this is the last variant of significance and we can at long last get back to something like pre-pandemic normality.”

John pointed out that many of the students and teachers absent were not absent because they had contracted Covid, but because they were close contacts of people who tested positive for the virus. About 300 pupils missed the first day.

There were reports last week that some people want the Leaving Cert scrapped or radically altered because of the disruption caused by the pandemic. John said he hasn't heard such sentiments coming from the Leaving Cert students in St Brendan's.

“They all seem pretty well focussed and determined about it,” he remarked. He added that the Leaving Cert papers will be a bit different this year.

“The examiners, conscious of the pandemic's disruption, are trying to alleviate the situation a bit by offering a a greater choice of questions in the papers.”

He added that St Brendan's was allocated a budget by the Department for Education to create a decently ventilated environment in the classrooms.

“We have carbon dioxide monitors in all the classrooms, which go off when the carbon dioxide level gets too high. When this happens the classrooms are vacated and the windows and doors are opened.”

He added that an engineer is visiting this week to fit air filter systems in some of the classrooms.

“We are fortunate that the school is a fairly airy building. It isn't stuffy. Hopefully, omicron is now the end of the pandemic and the virus will become endemic. It's been a very challenging two years and it seems to have been going on for ever. We all need to have some light at the end of the tunnel.”

The government says that, subject to review in mid-February 2022, the wearing of face masks/coverings is recommended for children: aged 9 years and over on public transport, in retail and other indoor public settings as currently required for those aged 13 and over; and in third class and above in primary school (guidance on this has been issued by the Department of Education).

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