‘Don’t let our children be collateral damage of Covid-19 pandemic’, says Limerick principal

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Email:

nick@limerickleader.ie

‘Don’t let our children be collateral damage of Covid-19 pandemic’, says Limerick principal

Corpus Christi school in Moyross, where the principal Tiernan O'Neill is calling for a test-and-trace system

A LIMERICK principal has urged the government to adopt a “fit for purpose” Covid-19 track-and-trace system which will allow schools to remain open throughout lockdown.

Tiernan O’Neill, who is principal at Corpus Christi National School in Moyross believes the “extraordinary” efforts of staff, parents and others is not being matched by government.

The head of the 350-student northside school said the current test-and-trace system is “shambolic” and he has had to step in to provide appropriate communications with students.

Government must do better, he added.

“We want the schools to remain open. The rights of the child are enshrined in our constitution. At so many levels, we pay lip service to it in this country. But don't allow our children to be the collateral damage from this pandemic. We need a fit-for-purpose schools test-and-trace system that enables us to remain open in long term,” he said.

“There needs to be clear protocols and understanding about how to find close contacts and casual contacts,” the principal added.

With Limerick and the rest of Ireland set to enter level five restrictions tomorrow, Mr O’Neill said his school has in effect been on these rules since re-opening last month.

“The children, the parents, teachers, secretaries, caretakers, and SNAs right across the country are doing incredible work to ensure schools are remaining open. But we need something back from government. Schools are operating on a level five context. It's an extraordinary context. Teachers are doing incredible work around the country. But the work being done at schools in these extraordinary circumstances is not being met by extraordinary solutions and a focused response from government,” he said.

The principal said it’s vital the school remains open.

“The impact of potentially closing schools will not only impact on the child's education, but it will also impact on their emotional and social development. That is so so important and it's further amplified by the pandemic. I dread to think what will happen if we go back to a potential lockdown scenario where schools have to close. We need clear protocols to enable us to move forward. We are dealing with a once in a century pandemic. What we are looking for now is an extraordinary response now from the department which is very much solutions-focused. To provide schools with what's required to ensure that not only do we remain open in the short term, we remain open in the long term,” he concluded.