Preparation for the reopening of Eyrecourt NS

Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians,
I hope you are enjoying the summer and that you are all keeping well. 
As you are aware, the Department of Education and Skills published COVID-19 Response Plan for the reopening of schools last week. It is a lengthy document and there is quite a lot of discussion about it in the media. We had a Board of Management meeting yesterday evening and I waited until then to begin correspondence with you. I plan on posting an update each week before we return to school to keep you informed as much as possible. 

Here is the key information for this week:

  • On Wednesday 5th August, the Board of Management of Eyrecourt NS ratified and adpoted the COVID-19 Policy Statement
  • Senior Infants - 6th class will return to school at 9.20am on Tuesday 1st September
  • Junior Infants will begin school at 10am on Thursday 3rd September.
  • Infant Open Day for our new pupils and their parents will be held on Friday 28th August at 1pm.
  • We finally got positive news on "The Wall" and should get funding for rebuilding soon. In the meantime, it is safe to use the main front door. This will add extra access points to the school and also will be much more secure for visitors etc. 
  • Cleaning: The school will undergo a full industrial clean and while our school was always cleaned every evening, we will be increasing the hours to allow all touch points and surfaces to be cleaned. Teachers and staff will be adhering to the guidelines set out in the response plan. 
  • Sanitisers and handwashing: We will have a strong focus on handwashing and will have hand sanatisers at all entrances and other busy points. All hot water immersions in the classrooms will be working. We request that parents send in a little bottle of hand sanitiser for their child to have at their desk to save them having to walk to the sink/sanitiser station during class. A little packet of hand wipes would also be very helpful for your child. 
  • Slippers: We will not have classroom slippers this year as changing into and out of them causes too much congregating. If pupils plan on playing soccer on the pitch we would ask that they bring boots or a change of runners. They can change into them outside.
  • Breaktime: After much discussion with staff and Board of Management, breaktimes and playing will remain the same for our pupils. As we are a small school and many pupils have siblings and/or cousins on the other classrooms there would be little value in separating breaks. We already have designated play areas for pupils. These areas will be reinforced and reviewed. Teachers will also encourage pupils to play games that have minimal contact. 
  • Pods/Bubbles: There is a lot of talk of "pods" and "bubbles". A "pod" in our school is essentially a class. In the senior classroom we will have 3 "pods": 4th, 5th and 6th class. There will be much less mixing between the classes and the children will stay within their class grouping as much as possible. The "bubble" is the classroom e.g. Ms Treacy's class.  These are more significant in large schools with hundreds of pupils.  
This is only the first update, with at least 3 more before we return to school. We have many more little issues to iron out and decide on.  Our hope for our pupils is that they look forward to their return to school.  It will be a little different with some extra routines of handwashing but overall they should slot back into the school routine and enjoy being back with their class and teachers. As per the Response Plan there will be a strong focus on pupil wellbeing and revising/catching up on learning since March. 
I read a very helpful article by Stella O'Malley, Psychotherapist.  This is the link and I have the full text below this letter. I think it is a valuable and reassuring read for parents. 
As always, if you have any concerns, please contact me on etreacy@eyrecourtns.ie

Until next week,
Kind regards,
√Čilis Treacy
Principal

Stella O'Malley
July 29 2020 02:30 AM
The good news is that children are allowed to continue with their education. The bad news is that restrictions are going to make things seem a little strange.
But with the right attitude we can take it in our stride. We lived through lockdown. We have seen the padlocked playgrounds and the silent streets. None of us wants a second lockdown and now that things are opening up it is important we grab our pleasures when we can. Although the children might be in smaller groups with added restrictions, richer experiences can emerge from this.

Lockdown forced many families to become content with less; even so, many of us had valuable experiences with our families that we would not have otherwise had. Likewise, although our holiday plans have been derailed, children are hanging out this summer in a way they simply hadn't the time to do in previous years. As a direct result of the cancelled plans, there is a leisurely sense of calmness to this summer. Children are playing with whoever they can, wherever they can, and they are - finally - making their own fun. Mental health professionals like myself have been advising for years that children were over-scheduled and overtired and needed to do less. Now that they are doing less, many are benefiting.

Although many people might say it's a tragedy the children can't go back to school like 'normal', on the other hand, many might feel better to have smaller groups and more in-depth relationships; large numbers of people can feel alienating for many. Anxious parents can be a drain on schools at the best of times and if anxiety isn't properly contained over the coming months everyone will suffer. Many people these days head straight to social media - and the parents' WhatsApp group - to find others who agree with them. Hysteria builds easily on these platforms and can cause an inordinate amount of strain on everyone.

What children don't need is to be told school will be awful and that the future looks grim.

Our role as parents is to make sure our children feel able to cope with life and - as long as their brains aren't filled with tension and fear from anxious adults - most children are pretty resilient. Confidence is directly linked to our estimation of our ability to cope and if you can imbue your children with inner confidence, you'll give them an invaluable gift that could last a lifetime.

For children to feel mentally able to go back to school, their parents need to help them to look forward to the joy that can be found in each day. In many ways we all need to take each day as it comes. The rules are changing and everyone is continually adjusting. School will be slightly different; there will be talk of class bubbles, pods and separate areas. But children are used to the weirdness by now; they know about washing their hands and keeping their distance from others. They can handle this.

During the worst days of World War II, Winston Churchill warned: "It's not enough that we do our best, sometimes we must do what's required." He realised that sometimes we have to dig really deep and do what is necessary. Although it is easy to spread anxiety and distress about this pandemic, it is more helpful if we can show our children cheerful forbearance in the face of adversity.

Irish Independent

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