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Rising Covid cases poses challenges for local schools

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John Murphy, principal of St Kilian's Community School, Bray.

John Murphy, principal of St Kilian's Community School, Bray.

Tom Sargent, principal of St Fergal's National School.

Tom Sargent, principal of St Fergal's National School.

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John Murphy, principal of St Kilian's Community School, Bray.

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Rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in the community are creating additional challenges for schools, according to local principals.

Tom Sargent, principal of St Fergal’s National School in Bray, said he had noticed that the school community faced particular challenges following the return to school after weekends and holidays. While the school is considered a low-risk setting, he pointed out that cases in the community are increasing.

The school community itself faced a number of Covid-19 cases during the week of November 15 and this had been a major challenge for the school. Mr Sargent said one case of Covid-19 had been confirmed within the school community since Monday, November 22.

“The school community includes teachers and I’m facing a colossal problem trying to get staff and subs,” he said.

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Mr Sargent said parents are generally pro-active and “err on the side of caution” if a child is unwell. In relation to the use of antigen testing, Mr Sargent said he had concerns that it would not be mandatory.

"I think they should all participate, then we know the children have been tested and are okay to return to class.”

Mr Sargent highlighted that while the vast majority of people in the school community and the wider community follow public health guidelines, “It only takes a small percentage not to comply and we are all in trouble.” 

John Murphy, principal of St Kilian's Community School in Bray said the strain of the Covid-19 pandemic is being felt by the entire school community.

“There is fatigue and frustration from both students and staff that we are still in this predicament. There has been a lot of good will and people have worked really hard to make things work, but there is frustration about where we are.”

Mr Murphy said he is also frustrated by the limited guidance provided to schools by the Department of Education and the withdrawal of supports, including contact tracing.

“It feels a bit in limbo," he said, noting that schools were waiting for updated advice from the Department. 

Mr Murphy said he was not sure about the use of antigen testing in schools, pointing out that it is unclear what role schools will be expected to play in the administration of testing.

Mr Murphy said there had been a very small number of Covid-19 cases in the school community during the 2020/2021 school year, which was a “credit to everyone”. However, there had been more Covid-19 cases in the school community this school year, despite the same measures and precautions being in place. Mr Murphy expressed the view that the increase in cases is a reflection of the incidence of Covid-19 in the wider community.

“There has been no suggestion of a close contact at school level and the HSE are happy that we have sufficient measures in place but it’s a worrying and difficult time for everyone.”

Mr Murphy added that the long-term consequences of the disruption to the education of students, particularly those with additional needs remains a concern.


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