28 May 2022

One third of students stay home from Longford school as Omicron wave fears hit home

Covid schools

A Longford secondary school reported around a third of students being absent on its first day back from the Christmas holidays

Around a third of students stayed at home from one Longford school today for Covid-related reasons as pupils returned from their Christmas break.

Principal of St Mel's College, Declan Rowley added staff numbers had also been impacted due to the fact the vast majority are close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

"We would have been down around 35 per cent in terms of students and we were missing six teachers and two SNAs (special needs assistants)," he revealed.

Despite the fall-off in school attendance, Mr Rowley insisted the situation was one which was negotiated somewhat thanks to the presence of student teachers who were on site.

"That allowed us to cope quite well in the end which made things that bit more manageable," he said.

Children with special needs, younger primary pupils, as well as third-year, fifth-year and sixth-year classes at post-primary will be prioritised for in-person teaching if schools have to ask classes to stay at home.

In a situation where classes are not in-person, schools have been told to make every effort to provide remote learning for pupils.

Mr Rowley, who previously argued for schools to remain closed until next Monday in order to allow greater breathing space for close contacts to come out of isolation, reiterated the merits of such a move.

"In my view it would have taken the pinch point out of this and while we, as a school, have six (teachers) out now, we will be down to one or two on Monday," he added.

The Longford principal also indicated his preference to allow Leaving Cert students to sit their State examinations as normal provided the country's current wave of coronavirus does not intensify any further.

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