Now schools face closure because of water shortages
Published 13/01/2010 | 05:00
MELTING snow and ice gave way to fresh problems for pupils returning to classrooms yesterday as water shortages plagued schools.
Hundreds of thousands of pupils returned to schools around the country but some will remain shut because of uncertainty over water supplies.
Over 90pc of schools are back in action but a small number postponed re-opening because of lack of water. Some are relying on what is in their tanks and are operating on a day-to-day.
Local authorities are reporting supply problems caused by broken water mains and increased consumer demand.
Water rationing has been introduced in many areas to try to conserve supplies for they are most needed.
As the thaw continues and the full extent of the damage caused by the big freeze becomes evident, local authorities are anticipating the discovery of further leaks.
In some cases, schools are also dealing with their own burst pipes and heating systems. One school in Cork kept its heating system going to avoid frozen pipes to no avail: it ran out of oil and a pipe burst.
The re-opening of schools got under way yesterday after Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe reversed his decision to order them to close until tomorrow.
In light of improving weather conditions, Mr O'Keeffe announced on Monday that the decision on when to re-open was reverting to individual school boards of management.
The Irish National teachers Organisation (INTO) said that while most schools had either re-opened yesterday or would re-open today, a significant number were dealing with heating and water-related problems.
The union said many principals had spent much of the last week attempting to rectify these problems and get the schools open as soon as possible. The union also confirmed that many schools, particularly in Dublin had serious concerns over on-going water supplies.
A number of schools in Dublin had no water yesterday but were able to open because of water stored in tanks. A small number of others were forced to postpone reopening.
Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) director Sean Cottrell said: "There are certainly schools working on a day to day basis."
Mr Cottrell said he was aware of one school that had closed for 12 days since September because of flooding and ice.
Most schools could not open last Thursday and Friday because of the conditions and all schools closed on Monday on the minister's instructions.
Mr O'Keeffe wants to talk to school managers, teacher unions and parents about how the lost time can be made up.
Mr Cottrell said it may mean revisiting the agreement on the Standardised School year, which locks all schools into the same holidays and breaks.