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Mayo school that said it would close from today due to Covid cases will now reopen on Monday

The school board and principal were told it did not have the authority to close the school without public-health experts’ approval.

Image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

A MAYO PRIMARY school that said it would close from today until after Christmas due to a number of Covid-19 cases, has reversed its decision and will reopen from Monday.

Claremorris Boys National School had released a statement yesterday saying that the Board of Management and principal had decided to close the school from 11 December until 5 January, but that the HSE’s public health team “couldn’t provide their support to close the school”.

The statement also said that they cannot get the substitute teachers necessary to replace teachers who need to self-isolate, and that the decision was taken to close the school “to allay anxiety and fear among pupils, parents, staff and the wider school community”.

In a statement this afternoon, the Claremorris school said that school governance “has insisted that the Board of Management are not health professionals”, and so they “cannot take this decision to close and do not have the advice from Public Health to close”.

Remote learning for those who are isolating should continue and normal school attendence for everyone else should resume on Monday 14 December.

“Sorry to be the bearer of that news,” the statement concluded.

The school’s principal Mark Loftus told RTÉ’s News at One: “We are deeply frustrated at the system adopted by public health on cross infection levels, and the Department regarding Covid-19 and its effects, to insist that schools remain open at all costs.”

Containing outbreaks in schools

Since schools were reopened in September, when there is a case of Covid-19 confirmed in a school setting, local public-health teams assess the situation and decide whether the class, year, or entire school need to go home.

The Department of Education has stressed that an individual school cannot make that decision; parents and teachers have raised concerns that they are not adequately informed of the situation when there is an outbreak.

Public-health officials argue that if you are not contacted by them, then you are not at risk; and that the privacy of those who test positive for Covid-19 must be considered.

There was another case of a school closure at a Co Laois primary school – but this was after it received advice from the HSE to do so.

In a statement on Facebook, Holy Family Senior School in Portlaoise said that it would close from today until after Christmas, but that education would continue online: 

The HSE has “worked with the school, recognising the need to close onsite from today”.

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Department of Education statement

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Education says that it does not comment on individual cases, but added that schools should not close without public-health rationale to do so.

“Public health guidelines state that when a Covid-19 positive case connected with a school arises, public health contact the school and undertake a public health risk assessment to identify the actions required.

“Schools are then required to follow public health advice in these circumstances.

While we understand that schools and principals have been working tirelessly through these unprecedented times, there is no public health rationale for altering agreed standardised school breaks.

Schools will close for the Christmas holidays as arranged on Tuesday 22 December and not Friday 18 December, it emphasised, adding that it was needed to ensure that parents could organise childminders and plan around the school holidays in general.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith released a statement raising her concerns about Covid transmission in schools, and raising teachers with underlying conditions as being of particular concern.

“Repeated assurances that all schools are safe are of no comfort to parents and pupils who have family members with serious underlying conditions, nor are the assurances good enough given the facts we know about ventilation systems in 80% of schools and the willingness of the authorities to define close contacts very differently in schools as opposed to the wider community.”

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