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St. Patrick's Primary School Mullanaskea, Garvary, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

Letter from Ms O'Neill RE September 2020

14th Jul 2020

Dear Parent,
I wish to update you with regard to re-opening the school in September 2020. You may be aware that the Department of Education has published some details in a document titled ‘Northern Ireland Re-Opening Schools Guidance - New School Day’. In this, the Department outlines the objective that all children should return to school in the new school year with a minimum of two days weekly. The document also makes reference to how children should be spaced from each other at 1m distances and that classes should be put into ‘protective bubbles’ that do not mix in the course of the day. Children should also be at a 2m distance from adults. The remainder of the child’s week should be supplemented with online learning. P.7. children must return to school on Monday 24th August and all other children should return on Tuesday 1st September. Starting and ending times may also be affected in order to ensure that large groups do not form and challenge the safety aspect. Other than staff, adults are not allowed into the school. Obviously this includes you, the parents. I feel very compromised saying this, but these are the rules and they are there for everyone’s safety. The document also provides schools with many other details.
I have considered this guidance and I have been in consultation with the Board of Governors. Firstly, the school cannot accommodate everyone back with these distances in place. However, with the help of the committee of Cavanacarragh Hall, I have come up with a possible solution. The plan would be to place P.6. and P.7. children into Cavanacarragh Hall for the duration. The Hall could safely accommodate the numbers involved whilst adhering to social distancing. The other classes could then fit into the school. Please see below:
Class Proposed Space
P.1. P.1. Classroom and Infants’ Resource Area
P.2. P.2. & P.3. Classrooms
P.3. Assembly Hall
P.4. P.7. Classroom and Corridor/Library
P.5. P.4. and P.5. Classrooms
(P.6. Classroom used for storage - a lot of equipment that children are not allowed to avail of due to the risk of spreading infection could be stored there).

In order to support the classes being spread out over larger areas I will add in as many staff as possible to support the teaching and learning.
Currently, there is no clear understanding of public transport for children. Even if buses are running there is no guarantee that they will go to Cavanacarragh. Therefore, this plan may be dependent on parents transporting the children to and from there.
A hot dinner is planned for, however, there will be no choice of meals as is the normal practice. The dinner will arrive in a disposable container and the children will eat it in the classrooms. The same will apply for children who take packed lunches.
As I have stated, children will be placed into ‘protective bubbles’ that do not mix. The school has yet to decide how to organise these bubbles. However, we have three playgrounds. It is my intention to use these for each class. Therefore, each class will have a different playtime ensuring that the class is spread out three ways during its own playtime.
In terms of uniform, the guidance states “while Coronavirus can land on fabrics and remain for some time, schools are not a high risk environment and while all children … should be encouraged to wear clean uniform or fresh clothes each day, this is not essential.”
It is my view to advise that the children wear a fresh uniform daily as far as possible. You can dip into old uniforms that you may still have, or indeed, if necessary, the child could wear his/her own clothes. However, the school will not be policing uniforms. We just need everyone to do their best and apply common sense. We will inform you about school bags/stationery later. In my opinion, do as you normally would at his time of year e.g. purchase new uniforms, new shoes, new school bags, red wallets for P.1.- P.4. You may or may not need them in September, but hopefully this situation might improve and the items would then be needed.
Ultimately, I wish to avoid a two-day week as this will prove a strategic nightmare for many parents. It is also not conducive to good teaching and learning. I hope you support me with the Cavanacarragh plan. It ensures that all children get back to school full time. It means having to make sacrifices for many, but I think, as a community, we can make Cavanacarragh cosy for children and staff and we can approach it with positivity. I want to thank the committee from Cavanacarragh for providing us with this possibility.
All of the above plans will be risk assessed in detail by myself over the summer. The risk assessment will be overseen and reviewed by the Governors. Only when it has their full approval, will I fully implement it. However, we are awaiting further information from the Minister for Education at the end of July. All of these plans could ultimately change if social distancing rules change and indeed if the virus stability changes. I am sorry that I cannot be more specific and clear at the moment. I will return to you as soon as possible. I am excited about getting the school going again. It is my view to think about what we can do as opposed to what we cannot do. Where there is a will there is a way but I do need your support. I think we have to be forward thinking and positive and get the place and the people up and running again, albeit with the utmost safety. If you have any questions, please contact me via the school e-mail.
My Very Best Wishes,

Ms. O’Neill.