Local schools welcome phased reopening from March 1st

Local secondary school principals have welcomed the news of a phased reopening of schools next month that was announced today as part of the Government's revised Living with Covid-19 plan.

The cabinet sub-committee has advocated a class return for junior and senior infants on Monday 1 March, as well as first and second classes in primary schools.

Leaving Certificate students will be the only class from secondary school to go back.

Two weeks later on 15 March the second phase will see all other primary classes return, as well as 5th year in secondary school.

First, second, third and fourth-year students due to return to secondary school on April 12th.

Paddy Carr the Principal of Navan's Colaiste na Mi in Johnstown says the school is looking forward to welcoming students back and describes how their iPad led learning has been beneficial during lockdown. He added:

“There has been a huge amount of media coverage on a daily basis on the significance of school closures and reopening and even when you are at the very fulcrum of it you have to keep reminding yourself that teaching and learning has continued to take place.

“The reality here in Colaiste na Mi is that we are an iPad school, every child has an iPad from the first day so in terms of using technology to make teaching and learning happen, we have been at a distinct advantage.

“There has been a really vibrant virtual world of education taking place.”

Bridget Bennett, Principal at Dunshaughlin Community College said that:

“We welcome the cautious reopening of the schools for the safety of our entire community.

Principal Paddy Carr: “There has been a really vibrant virtual world of education taking place.”

“We are just over the moon that we will be able to see our students again, all along we have been following national health guidelines and understand completely the importance of the closures.

“We have seen huge online engagement from our students and we are extremely proud of our entire student body.

“We are still waiting on the clarification from the department of education on the nuts and bolts of how it will actually work but as they did last year our staff will come together; we will fulfil whatever is necessary so that our students progress to third level.”

It was a good day for Beaufort College yesterday (Monday) as they reopened their doors to special needs pupils as principal Angela Crowcock explains:

“We reopened our special needs unit yesterday to great excitement, we are the only school in Navan with a special needs unit and we are opening a second one in September. It went really well and we were delighted to see our students again.”

Angela believes the proposals in regard to state exams are the right ones:

“It would be very hard to host both Leaving cert and junior cert exams at the same time just in terms of space and practicalities.

“From our engagement with our leaving certs some of the students are intending to sit the exam as well as having their accredited grades.

“Each one of our leaving cert students have lap tops and a dongle from Navan Library in an initiative sponsored by Facebook that was launched last summer. I’d like to thank Navan Library for this excellent initiative it has really helped remote learning.”

The government announced the plan for the phased reopening of schools from March 1st. Photographer: Monkey Business Images

Sharon McCarthy is a parent of a Leaving Cert student in Colaiste na Mi in Johnstown. She describes how as a parent of a 2021 leaving cert student it’s “very stressful and disheartening to see your child enduring this level of stress for so long.” She added:

"5th year is the foundation year for senior cycle students, and 6th year is to reinforce that learning and for working on revision and exam papers and filling in your CAO application and discussing your future options with career guidance teachers.

"So Teachers and SNA’s in his school and schools around the country are doing a stellar job of keeping the students up to date with work and keeping them focused and calm. The principal of my son's school Patrick Carr is also doing his best to keep parents informed of all changes as soon as he can, even though most announcements from the deptartment of education are late night Friday press releases.

“Trying to manage a leaving cert students’ expectations in hard in any given year, it's nearby impossible during a global pandemic.

“I understand as far as this year’s exams go, the minister for education is determined the written exams will go ahead, and she is providing an alternative like last year too, but to have to wait until February to have that clarified, when so many students had to have their CAO applications submitted by the end of January just isn't good enough. We have been in this situation last year, why wasn't a plan in place before we got to this stage again? What student is going to be confident in trusting a predicted grade option after the debacle last year?

Jaclyn Gurule’s son Luke is a Junior Cert student in O’Carolan College in Nobber. She commented that:

“My son is 14 and in third year. I’ve been home schooling him and the other kids since the start of the school year. The cancellation of the exams has relieved some of the pressure on us in what has been a stressful year.”

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