THE principal of St Ronan's primary school Newry Kevin Donaghy would urge the Department of Education to consider allowing schools to leave early for the Christmas holidays, so that no child should have to self-isolate over the holiday period.
Speaking to the Democrat the local primary school principal made the comment when asked how his school is coping with the sharp rise in recorded number of Covid-19 cases alongside the chronic shortage of substitute teachers available to cover for the rising number of staff absences caused by Covid.
Mr Donaghy is of the belief that the scenario in which a child could have to self-isolate over the Christmas period is a very realistic possibility, citing the fact that “in school transmission does happen and is happening” and that “a child contracting Covid-19 in school in the run up to Christmas and then having to self-isolate on Christmas day” is a very real possibility that the Department of Education needs to take into consideration.
“According to the Department of Education there will be no kind of circuit breaker lockdown before Christmas to curb the rising number of cases of Covid-19.
“However, I would urge the Department of Education to allow schools to close that bit earlier, say on December 17, to ensure that children, especially primary school children do not have to self-isolate over the Christmas period. I would urge the Department of Education to consider the following scenario:
“What if on December 20, a child starts exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 infection, tests positive and is asked to self-isolate at home on Christmas Day?
“How do you think a parent would feel if on December 25, they had to ask a child within the age range of Primary 1 to Primary 7 to stay in their room because they have Covid because it had been contracted in school?
“This is a very genuine question to ask. Can you imagine what it would be like for a young child on Christmas Day if they had to spend the entire day self-isolating in their room and their Mum and Dad have to come into them wearing face-masks and they cannot come down and have Christmas dinner with their family. The one thing no parent, teacher or head teacher wants to see is a child sick on Christmas Day.
“Also, what happens if a child contracts Covid in school, is asymptomatic and then brings the virus home to their parents and then their parents are also sick over Christmas. This is the reality that people could find themselves in at Christmas.”
Mr Donaghy cites the increasing levels of in school Covid 19 transmission in St Ronan's as an example as to how a scenario by which a child could have to self-isolate over Christmas because they have contracted COVID 19 in school could potentially occur , stating that over the past three weeks the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 within the school has grown to 30.
“We here in St Ronan's are open until December 23, like I said, in school transmission does happen and is happening. I know from my own experience as a primary school principal that it is a reality.
“There have been a number of schools including St Ronan's where there have been a number of clusters of Covid-19 cases and where the transmission of the virus has taken place in school. It may have come from the outside community initially, but then it does spread within school.
“At the beginning of November I had only four cases of Coronavirus within the school, but over the past three weeks this has grown to nearly 30.
“Understand we are not asking schools to close for a complete lockdown, but we are urging both the Department of Education and people to consider that these are very realistic scenarios that could happen.
“What I am saying is that it may be beneficial for the Department of Education to consider allowing schools to close a couple of days earlier to prevent any child from being sick on Christmas Day. Like I said, I am not asking for the introduction of a full-on circuit breaker lockdown , but I do believe we need to take as a pragmatic an approach to this matter as is possible.”