This happened due to the incredible hard work and determination of school communities, parents and staff who have been under severe pressure to ensure this feat could be pulled off.
Sinn Féin has been very keen to ensure that schools remained open, in a way that is safe, and sustainable.
There can be no doubt that children’s education has been badly disrupted by the pandemic. It is so important that schools remain open safely, as the best place for children to learn is in the classroom.
But getting schools open isn’t just about one day, it is about keeping them open, and safely.
To ensure they can keep doing that, the Government cannot keep pretending that their mitigation measures are adequate, they simply are not.
I wrote to the Minister before Christmas, urging her to take the Christmas break to ensure that the measures necessary were taken. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and it was left to the 11th hour.
Within hours of schools reopening this week, the magnitude of the issues schools are facing became very clear. I am getting reports from teachers of schools with over 20 staff missing. Of schools where almost half the children are absent. Of schools where the temperature has fallen below what Department guidelines say is acceptable. That is not good enough.
We need HEPA filtration systems in every classroom. We need medical grade masks for staff. We need proper support for schools including HSE contact tracing, rather than placing extra burdens on already over-stretched principals.
It is obvious what is needed, we now need the Minister to do her job and get on with it.
Political rhetoric and wishful thinking are not enough, we need urgent action to keep schools open safely.
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