Firstly, I would like to thank you for your support and cooperation with the staff in SNI over the past few weeks. The staff and I greatly appreciate your support in keeping children home when they are unwell and informing us when your children had Covid. In good news, we have not had a Covid case in the school in the past ten days – this means that Covid is currently not transmitting in the school. Thanks to our three cleaners and our caretaker, the classrooms/school is thoroughly cleaned every day and is spray sanitised every Tuesday and Thursday. Windows are open for ventilation; CO2 monitors are in place and children continue to work in class bubbles and pod groups (particularly in 3rd to 6th classes).
Since last week, there are revised guidelines for informing parents of Covid cases in schools. Parents are requested to inform the school Principal if their child has a positive PCR test (email@example.com). I will then firstly inform the children in the child’s pod and will provide each parent with the information needed to request free antigen tests for your child if you so wish. There is no obligation on parents to do the antigen tests – but the tests are available should you wish to do them. I will also inform all parents in the class that there was a covid case in that class.
Following on from my email yesterday morning, I am now sending information in relation to the wearing of face masks. The Department of Education have informed schools that children from 3rd to 6th classes are required to wear face masks/coverings. It is hoped that by wearing masks in 3rd to 6th classes, this will reduce transmission of the Covid virus in this age group. The wearing of face masks/coverings is considered another measure to reduce the transmission of the virus in schools for the collective good of all in our school community. Some children in the school have underlying health conditions and others have vulnerable family members at home. By wearing a face mask/covering in class, the children are safer and are less likely to transmit or get Covid-19. This also helps to protect families at home and in our school community. Many of the children have been wearing face masks/coverings since Halloween and today, the majority of the children were wearing face masks for much of the day. These additional measures will help us to keep the school open to ensure that the children can continue to socialise with their friends in school and continue their education.
I spoke to all the classes from 3rd to 6th yesterday to explain why they are required to wear face masks/coverings and to assure them that we understand that they may be a little anxious about wearing them and that we will support them over the coming week as they get used to wearing the face masks/coverings. They can wear any face covering/mask that is comfortable for them. The children can also take off the mask during the day for short periods in class if they need a break from it and they will not be required to wear a face/mask covering during break/lunch times, for PE/sports, for music or on the playground. I understand that some parents may be concerned that wearing face masks/coverings may be difficult for the children, especially if they are not used to wearing them. We have reassured the children that they can wear them for shorter periods in the first few days until they get used to wearing them and we will encourage and support them.
Some of the children had questions relating to what they should do if the face mask got wet from their breathing or if they have asthma. Children who have asthma and are wearing a face covering to school reassured other children that the face covering did not affect their breathing or their asthma. I assured the children that if they felt wheezy, they can take off the mask, take their inhaler and wait until they feel comfortable enough to wear the mask again. We mentioned to the children that it is a good idea to have a spare mask in their bag, in case the one they are wearing becomes wet or uncomfortable and they need to change it. We will also keep a supply of spare masks suitable for children in the classrooms.
The Board of Management are obliged to follow Department of Education Guidance and the advice from Dr. Tony Houlihan, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) but as mentioned above, we will do so in a manner that is supportive of the children. From Monday December 6th, it is school policy that all children from 3rd to 6th class are required to wear a face mask/ covering unless they have a medical certificate confirming the medical reason why they are unable to wear a mask/covering. Children are not required to wear a face covering if they are unable to take off/on the face covering/mask themselves or have special/additional needs. The Department of Education Guidance to Primary Schools outline these exemptions as follows:
A medical certificate to certify that a person falls into a category listed below must be provided to the school on behalf of, any person (pupil) who claims that they are covered by the exemptions below:
· any pupil with difficulty breathing or other relevant medical conditions
· any pupil who is unable to remove the cloth face-covering or visor without assistance
· any pupil who has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the cloth face covering or visor, for example pupils with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory concerns, or tactile sensitivity.
Children who have had Covid should also wear a face mask/covering as even though they may not get sick themselves, they can transmit the virus to others who may be more vulnerable.
It is recommended that children have a spare face mask/covering in a zip-lock bag in case their face mask/covering becomes wet or uncomfortable. Children should also have a second plastic bag to put their used face mask/covering in when they take it off. I have attached a poster outlining the advice on wearing face coverings that was sent to us by the Department of Education. I have also attached the letter for parents from the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Houlihan, who outlines the measures that parents could put in place to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
We look forward to your support and cooperation on the wearing of face coverings in the interests of the safety of all the pupils and their families.
On behalf of the Board of Management of SNI.