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Sun shines as school returns

WHILE the sun was shining and temperatures were well over 20 degrees, the children of Ennis National School were in their classrooms on Wednesday, their summer holidays over once again.
Under normal circumstances very few people, either teachers or pupils, would look forward to going back to school, but with so little time having been spent in the classroom since Covid jolted everyone out of their old routines, the late August/early September blues might be a little softer this year.
Ennis National School principal Brian Troy said that while much work had to be done to get his school ready, it wasn’t nearly as severe as when reopening in 2020. “There was a lot of preparation, but it wasn’t as intense as last year with all the changes in relation to Covid-19. All of those changes are remaining in place, we’re advised by the Department to keep those going and we have all the normal stuff, there’s the maintenance of the school, cleaning up outside, getting the road cleaned by the Council, which we’re very grateful for.”
Of course going back to school after a long break is a change, but he says everyone adjusts very quickly. “After a few days it’ll be like we never left.”
While it seems like a lifetime ago, social distancing, mask wearing and constant sanitising were all unheard of in March 2019, and getting schools ready to reopen for the first time after Covid hit was an absolutely huge challenge for everyone with the responsibility for doing so.
The hard work around that is long done now, but Brian said that schools still have to be very mindful of the new realities. “It’s kind of keeping everything going, last year you had to separate kids in the yard, there were certain seating arrangements for the staff room, we had to get the PPE ordered and back in. There was co-operation from the parents, a big document was put together and that has to be updated in relation to collections and drop offs and all that. A lot of thought went into that last year and it had to be rejigged a bit this year as well.”
The 2019/20 and 2020/21 school years were pockmarked by long closures brought about by Covid, with pupils, teachers and frustrated parents all having remote learning foisted upon them.
As 2021/22 begins most people are vaccinated and it is expected that the country will get through the year without further forced closures.
“I don’t think anyone wants another lock down for schools; parents, teachers or even students. It has been a tough two years on everyone in that regard, so you’d be hoping.
“Numbers are high, but you’d be hoping that the Government would see the benefit of keeping the schools open for everyone’s sake and we can continue on.
“I feel here that the school is very safe once the students are inside.
“Last year the parents were excellent in their co-operation and so were the wider community when it came to following guidelines that were in place. I’m presuming that we’ll get the same co-operation again this year to try and keep Covid out as much as we can,” says Brian.
There is no doubt that it has been a hard time for schools, but he said that there has been a very good level of co-operation.
“It has been difficult, but it has been difficult for everybody, not just for schools, it’s every aspect of life. As principals around Ennis we’ve all supported each other, we’ve passed on ideas, we’ve passed on advice, everyone has been helping each other out.
“We’ve been well supported by the Department as well in relation to funding, getting ready for last year and this year as well. We’re in a good place going forward.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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