Conditions treacherous as schools reopen
Published 06/12/2010 | 05:00
A return to school and college was under way in parts of the country today after an unexpected snow break of up to a week for tens of thousands of pupils and third-level students.
However, treacherous conditions in some areas could keep many schools closed until the weather improves.
Rural areas, where many pupils depend on school buses, continue to be among the worst hit.
Bus Eireann, which carries 135,000 pupils every day, is facing ongoing disruption to services in certain areas.
With Met Eireann forecasting another bitterly cold night, a Bus Eireann spokesman said last night: "We will have to wait and see what it is like in the morning and whether it is safe to operate certain buses".
The spokesman said because of the salt supply situation, it was unlikely the minor roads would be treated, and that conditions might not improve until a thaw sets in.
Some schools and colleges brought in heavy machinery over the weekend to clear pathways and yards of snow to allow for a safe return for pupils today.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education has agreed to pay long-term substitute teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) covering statutory leave, such as maternity leave, for the period during which a school has been closed.
However, no final decision has been taken in relation to substitute teachers and SNAs who were covering for staff on certified sick leave when the school was hit by the unexpected closure.
Schools affected by such exceptional closures can seek an exemption from the general requirement to make up for school days lost arising from unforeseen circumstances.
However, the unprecedented closure so early in the winter is certain to be raised in forthcoming talks on the Standardised School Year.
The Standardised School Year fixes the dates for the Christmas and Easter holidays and mid-term breaks, and the upcoming talks are likely to consider whether schools should have greater flexibility to compensate for such closures.