Nobody more than teachers will be happier to return to a classroom setting with students, but it must be done correctly and safely, while minimising risks to both students and teachers.
So affirmed Padraig Curley who is the Donegal representative of Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI).
He told the Democrat: “The online teaching before summer was both time intensive and frustrating in many respects because of the quality of broadband and computers.”
“It was good, but not the real thing as being in the classroom and face-to-face with pupils.”
He added that schools returning was coming with an awful lots of “hassle and work”.
He is just going through the huge amount of material and literature which teachers and mangement are having to acquaint themselves with, just to be up to speed with the safety requirements when schools return.
He also said there was concerns over social distancing in schools which is to be one metre yet the general public are being told to stay two metres apart on public health grounds.
“We don't need this Covid to be shutting down the country for the second time and I think that the government have been pretty slow coming out with this plan.”
He suggested that they took a “wait and see approach” when much of the plan could already have ben implemented.
Meanwhile the Donegal representative of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) Joanne Donaghy also spoke of the huge challenges.
“Donegal TUI welcomes the overdue roadmap for the reopening of schools and the announcement on additional funding,” she said.
“The reopening of schools in Donegal and elsewhere will be complex and will require vigilance for unexpected events. Although comprehensive, the roadmap however does not cover every eventuality and there will inevitably be unforeseen issues that will arise.
“Schools' initial focus will be on the utilisation of all available space in the school and may include the hiring of local halls as well as additional prefabs. However there are many logistical challenges within the short time-frame available.
“Health and Safety must remain the key priority that guides all decision making. Schools must adhere to public health advice regarding the safe reopening of our schools.
“Physical distancing has been identified by the public health authorities as being absolutely critical in ensuring health and safety in workplaces, and whatever resources are required to ensure adherence to this must be provided. Should the initial budget set out today not be sufficient in this regard, additional resources must immediately be made available if and when required.
“Staff and students are obviously very anxious about their return and it will take time to adjust to being back in the school environment especially as the environment will be considerably different to what they are used to.
“It is recognised that in the initial period that a focus will need to be placed on the well-being of students for learning to happen.
“It is important to take this time to let everyone settle back in. Students will be excited about reconnecting with their peers but will be anxious at the same time.”
Commenting on the announcement from a primary school perspective, Donegal native John Boyle, who is the General Secretary of the INTO said: “Over the last six weeks we have worked intensively to inform the development of guidance to support our members in reopening their schools.
“We have pushed to ensure adequate substitution, sufficient funding and practical guidance be made available to schools.
“The beginning of the academic year will be the most challenging ever experienced by everyone in school communities.”
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