25 May 2022

Longford principals 'open' to prospect of early school closures in bid to stem Omicron spread

A Longford principal has said it "makes sense" to close schools early if public health officials believe the move will have an impact on rising Covid-19 cases.

St Mel's Principal Declan Rowley said he remained open to the idea of bringing forward the date in which schools finish up for the festive holidays if it meant the move slowed case numbers on a broader scale.

"We have been on a real good run of it for the past 17 weeks in a row and  if the health experts think we should close a couple of days early in order to make that break in the chain of the transmission of this virus which seems to be travelling at a rapid rate in the UK then I think it makes sense," he said.

His comments come after a prominent Fine Gael Senator has called for primary schools to shut on Friday.

Jerry Buttimer told the Seanad that Covid was running riot in these schools and he urged the Education Minister to close them this week.

Mr Rowley, meanwhile, also indicated he had no qualms about the prospect of the Christmas holidays being extended by a couple of days given that most schools are not due to return until towards the latter end of the first week in January.

"Normally we would lose some days but that hasn't happened on this occasion and I believe we are in a good position and we are where we want to be with the curriculum and if the health experts make that call I think the Government should follow it," he said.

The St Mel's College principal's remarks were given further credence by Moyne Community School principal Des Cullen.

He too said talk for an earlier than expected end to the school calendar year was one that was a narrative he was very much conscious of, adding that it was a decision he would leave to senior health bosses.

"We have always gone by the advice of the health professionals and we will be leaving it up to them (Nphet)," he said.

"As things stand, we are here until next Wednesday.

In terms of his own take on an extended Christmas break to try and halt an expected rise in case numbers owing to the increasing presence of the Omicron variant, Mr Cullen said: "That's something for the health professionals to decide on as to where things (Covid cases) sit nationally and how that fits into the bigger plan."

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